Turning California Totally Blue

In case you missed it, on November 6th, a blue wave washed over California. Democrats took all major statewide offices, elected a second Democratic Senator, and seized 46 of 53 congressional districts. Nonetheless, California Democrats won’t be satisfied until the Golden State’s congressional delegation is totally blue.  What will it take to accomplish this?

64 percent of California’s eligible voters cast a ballot on November 6th — more than 12.3 million.  Most statewide races weren’t close: Democrat Gavin Newsom won the governor’s race with 61.9 percent of the vote.  California’s most controversial ballot initiative — GOP-sponsored proposition 6 that would have repealed a fuel tax — was defeated by a 13.6 percent margin.

In preparation for the midterm elections, California Democrats focussed on seven congressional districts where, in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton prevailed but a Republican incumbent was retained: CA 10, 21, 25, 39, 45, 48, and 49.  When the dust settled, Democrats had taken all these seats.

It’s useful to consider what it will take for Democrats to win the remaining seven Republican congressional seats: CA 1 (La Malfa), CA 4 (McClintock), CA 8 (Cook), CA 22 (Nunes), CA 23 (McCarthy), CA 42 (Calvert), and CA 50 (Hunter).  Most of these are historically Republican rural districts.

The largest of these congressional districts is CA 1 which covers the northeast portion of California: Butte, Lassen, Modoc, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, and Tehama counties — plus portions of Glenn, Nevada, and Placer counties; its largest city is Redding.  It’s notoriously conservative; if you travel through this area — on interstate 5 — you’ll encounter signs welcoming you to the independent state of “Jefferson.”

In 2016, Doug La Malfa won this district with 59.1 percent (Trump had 56.2 percent).  In 2018, La Malfa got 54.9 percent of the vote.

Republican La Malfa is a conservative Republican who has faithfully followed the Party line; he voted against Obamacare and for tax cuts.

CA 4 covers much of eastern California, along the Sierra Nevada range; Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Mariposa, and Tuolumne counties — plus portions of Fresno, Madera, Nevada, and Placer counties. Its largest cities are Auburn and Truckee.

In 2016, Tom McClintock won this district with 62.7 percent of the vote (Trump had 54 percent).  In 2018, McClintock got 54.2 percent of the vote.  (By the way: McClintock does not live in CA 4.)

McClintock is a conservative Republican and faithful Trump supporter.  He voted for Trump’s tax cuts and supports his immigration policies.  Nonetheless, McClintock has been an uninspired congressman and, overtime, has lost favor in his district.

CA 8 encompasses most of California’s eastern desert regions; it consists of Inyo and Mono counties plus most of San Bernardino County. It largest city is Victorville.

In 2016, Republican Paul Cook garnered 62.3 percent (Trump got 54.7 percent).  In 2018 Cook did not have a Democratic opponent.

Cook is a conservative Republican who has had a predictable but undistinguished congressional career (for example, he voted against Obamacare and for tax cuts).  He’s done nothing for the bread-and-butter issues confronting his impoverished constituents.

CA 22 is an agricultural district in the lower San Joaquin valley: areas of Kings and Tulare counties.  Its largest cities are Clovis, Tulare, and Visalia.

In 2016, Devin Nunes garnered 67.6 percent (Trump had 52.1 percent).  In 2018, Nunes garnered 52.7 percent.

Republican Nunes is a long-term conservative and one of Donald Trump’s strongest supporters in the House of Representatives.  Nunes was on Trump’s transition team and strongly defended him while chair of the House Intelligence Committee.  CA 22 residents have criticized Nunes for spending too much time defending Trump and not enough time on local issues, such as water distribution concerns.

CA 23 is the most Republican district in California.  Located at the bottom of the San Joaquin valley, it spans parts of Kern and Tulare counties.  Its largest city is Bakersfield.

CA 23 is represented by Kevin McCarthy, the House Minority Leader and, at the moment, the most powerful California Republican.  In 2016, McCarthy garnered 69.1 percent of the vote (Trump had 58.1 percent).  In 2018, McCarthy had 63.7 percent.

McCarthy was an early Trump supporter and backs him across-the-board

CA 42 is in Riverside County, in southern California.  Its largest city is Corona.

CA 42 is represented by Ken Calvert.  In 2016, Calvert garnered 58.8 percent (Trump had 53.4 percent).  In 2018, Calvert got 56.7 percent of the vote.

Calvert has been in office since 1992 and has little to show for it.

CA 50 lies primarily in central and eastern San Diego County.  Its largest city is Escondido.

CA 50 is represented by Duncan Duane Hunter.  (In 2008,  he succeeded his father, Duncan Lee Hunter.)  In 2016, Hunter garnered 63.5 percent of the vote (Trump got 54.6 percent).  In 2018, Hunter was narrowly reelected with 51.8 percent after he accused Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar — a Christian — of being “an Islamist” and “security threat.”

In August, Duncan Duane Hunter, and his wife, were indicted by the Department of Justice for allegedly spending more than $250,000 in campaign funds on personal expenses.  Their trial is scheduled for September of 2019.

Summary:  These seven Republicans are vulnerable on three issues: the first is climate change — they’re all climate-change deniers even though there’s ample evidence in California: drought and horrendous fires.  (La Malfa continues to deny climate change even though the Paradise fire happened in his district.)

All seven voted against Obamacare — which is very popular in California.

Finally, all seven voted for the Trump tax cuts and, in general, have represented the special interests in their district and neglected their less affluent constituents.  This is particularly a problem for La Malfa, McClintock, Cook, and Calvert, who represent very poor districts and have shown no interest in job-creation initiatives.

In 2020, it’s easy to imagine Democrats picking off Calvert (CA 42) and Hunter (CA 50) because they have personal issues and undistinguished records.  (White non-Hispanic voters will soon be in a minority in CA 42).

With good organizing, and a 24-month campaign, it’s reasonable to imagine Democrats winning CA 1, CA 4, and CA 8.

The most difficult targets are Nunes (CA 22) and McCarthy (CA 23).  They both have strong connections to wealthy GOP donors and, as a result, millions to spend on reelection.  Their vulnerability is their tight connection to Trump.  If Donald goes down the drain, it’s possible to imagine Nunes and McCarthy going down with him.

Ten Action Items for Democrats

The 2020 presidential campaign began on November 7th, the day after the midterm elections; many Democrats are prepared to work every day for the next two years in order to oust Donald Trump from the White House. For this prolonged effort to be effective, national Democratic leaders should heed these words of friendly advice.

1.Develop a 50-state strategy: In 2016, the national Democratic leadership abandoned whole swaths of the U.S. and focused primarily on the coasts and the rust belt. In 2018, the Party began to move away from this model and, as a result, fielded competitive candidates in — what had been regarded as — deep red states such as Georgia and Texas.  (Although a lot of support from candidates like Stacey Abrams and Beto O’Rourke came from organizations outside the traditional Democratic framework — such as Way to Win (https://waytowin.us/ )).

In 2020, Democrats must compete in every state at all levels.

2.Learn from 2018.  There are valuable lessons to be learned from the 2018 elections; the national Democratic leadership should spend the time and money to study what worked and what did not work.  For example, Montana Senator John Tester was Trump’s number one target; yet Tester won by 3 percentage points in a red state.  How did Tester accomplish this when other  red-state Democratic Senators got stomped?

As another example, in Ohio. incumbent Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown won by more than 6 percent while Democratic gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray lost by 4 percent — competing for an open seat.  Why the discrepancy?

Each state has races that deserve a detailed study.  For example, in California where Dems captured 46 of 53 congressional seats, two dreadful Republican incumbents won: Devin Nunes (CA 22) and Duncan Hunter (CA 50).  Why?

3.Deal with voter suppression.  In several states, notably Georgia, voter suppression was a major problem for Democratic candidates.  (Democrat Stacey Abrams lost the Georgia gubernatorial race by 55,000 votes and there’s reason to believe that several hundred thousand votes were suppressed by Republicans.)

As part of their 50-state strategy, Democrats need to assess the voter suppression problem on a state-by-state basis and start working to combat this.  For example, on November 27th, the Georgia “Fair Fight” PAC. “filed a federal lawsuit against Georgia election officials asking a judge to order fixes to what it says are deep-seated problems in the state’s election system.(https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2018/11/27/stacey-abrams-fair-fight-action-georgia-election-lawsuit-brian-kemp/2128540002/ )

4.Convince their (unelected) “stars” to run again.  Several charismatic candidates, such as Stacey Abrams and Beto O’Rourke narrowly lost in 2018.  National Democratic leadership should convince them to run again: Abrams for Georgia Senate versus Republican incumbent David Perdue and O’Rourke for Texas Senate versus incumbent John Cornyn.

The demographic tide is running in a direction that favors Democrats.  Candidates such as Abrams and O’Rourke can win if they start their campaigns now, by registering new voters and dealing with voter-suppression issues.

5.Recruit exciting candidates.  This was a change election and one of the primary changes was the election of many women and people-of-color.  This trend must continue.  The Democratic Party needs to look like America.

National Democratic leadership needs to embrace diversity.

6.Expand the use of ballot initiatives.  In 2018, one of the many reasons that Democrats prevailed was their intelligent use of state ballot initiatives,  For example, in Michigan, a state where Democrats retained a Senate seat (Stabenow) and added a governor (Whitmer) Dems boosted their turnout with three initiatives: legalizing marijuana for recreational use, creating an independent redistricting commission, and adding additional voting policies to the state constitution — including automatic voter registration.  These ballot initiatives furthered Democratic objectives and increased voter participation.  (The statewide turnout was 57.5 percent, the highest midterm-election participation in more than 50 years.)

7.Develop a rural strategy.  A recent Alternet article (https://www.alternet.org/its-official-first-time-history-gop-has-become-party-rural-white-voters?src=newsletter1098031 ) declared: “If there was one demographic group that blunted the force of the ‘blue wave’ in this month’s midterm elections, it was rural white voters.”  The CNN exit polls indicate that 56 percent of rural voters favored Republicans (versus an even 49-49 percent split in the suburbs and only 32 percent in suburban areas).

Alternet notes: “As the suburbs have turned against the Republican Party of President Donald Trump, rural whites have embraced the Party’s new message of economic protectionism, immigration restrictions, and an ‘America First’ foreign policy.” [emphasis added]

There’s a way for Democrats to sway some rural voters: convince them that Donald Trump’s economic policies are not working.  In other words, change them frame of the discussion from ideological to practical: “Donald Trump has deceased your income and opportunity.”

8.Talk to White Evangelicals.  One of the most surprising 2016-election statistics was that 80 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump.  In 2018, Pew Research found that 75 percent of white evangelical Christians voted for Republican candidates (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/11/07/how-religious-groups-voted-in-the-midterm-elections/ ).

Writing in the Washington Post, Sociologist Janelle Wong explains Donald Trump’s hold over this segment of his base: “I find economic anxiety isn’t [their] primary reason for supporting Trump. Rather, white evangelicals fear losing racial status. White evangelicals’ perceptions they’re the targets of discrimination – more so than other groups — influence far more than simply their votes for Trump.”

There’s no simple strategy for appealing to white-evangelical Christians except to find ways to talk to them and seek common ground.  We know that conversations about Trump, immigration, and feminism are unlikely to succeed.  Possible positive topics are health insurance (pre-existing conditions), education, and infrastructure-related jobs.

9.Anticipate Trump’s fear initiative.  Trump’s go-to strategy is to appeal to fear.  At the conclusion of the 2018 election campaigns, when Trump thought that Republican control of the Senate was in doubt, he invented an immigrant “invasion,” blew it out of proportion, and used this fear to motivate his base to vote.

Why didn’t the Democrats anticipate this?  Why didn’t they come up with an effective counter measure?

10.Counter Trump’s Tweet of the Day.  It’s part of Trump’s persona to dominate the news each day.  Usually with a series of early morning tweets but sometimes with impromptu news conferences.  Heading into the 2020 presidential election, Democrats have to find a way to counter this.  (Sigh.)  Democrats have to have more message discipline.

Looking Forward to 2020

The 2018 midterm-election results are in and it’s clear the anticipated “blue wave” happened; Democrats rolled to a convincing victory in the House of Representatives — gaining at least 39 seats.  But it’s also clear that Republican voters didn’t give up; where he needed to, Donald Trump turned out his base.  As a result, Republicans held onto the Senate and won key governor’s races.  This sets the stage for a very competitive race in 2020.

Looking forward to 2020, there are several factors to consider:

1. A lot of Americans voted on November 6th.  More than 116 million Americans voted; 49.3 percent of the voting-eligible population — the highest midterm percentage since 1914 (https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/11/19/18103110/2018-midterm-elections-turnout ).   Voters turned out where there were competitive races — for example, Montana (62.1 percent) where there was a competitive Senate race — and often where there wasn’t — for example, in my congressional district (CA 13) where 66.7 percent voted and Congresswoman Barbara Lee got 88.3 percent of the vote.

538’s Nate Silver estimates that more than 60 million voters cast ballots for Democratic congressional candidates — compared to 63 million Trump voters in 2016.

2.Democrats regained an Electoral College advantage.  As we learned in 2016, in a presidential contest it’s not sufficient to win the overall popular vote; the key is to prevail in enough states to win the electoral college.  After the midterms, 538’s Nate Silver did a projection of what the electoral college would look like in 2020 (https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-2018-map-looked-a-lot-like-2012-and-that-got-me-thinking-about-2020/ ) — Trump versus an anonymous Democrat.  Dems win with 314 electoral votes.

Silver’s analysis is complicated but he notes the key to a 2020 Democratic win is the fact they appear to have regained political control in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin — states that Trump narrowly won in 2016 and that provided him with his electoral college win.

In the 538 analysis, Silver says Dems can win even if they lose seven swing states: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, and Texas.  But, it seems unlikely that they would lose all of these states in 2020; for example, Democrats are surging in Arizona and just won a Senate seat (Sinema) and 5 of 9 congressional races.

3.There’s an urban-rural divide.  Writing in Mother Jones, Kevin Drum noted that among 2018 white voters, support for Democrats went up by 22 points among those with a college education — compared with 2016 — and down by 8 eight points among those without a college education (https://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2018/11/heres-how-different-groups-really-voted-in-2018/ ).  (The New York Times reported that, unlike 2016, 50 percent of white women voted for a Democrat.)

A recent Alternet article (https://www.alternet.org/its-official-first-time-history-gop-has-become-party-rural-white-voters?src=newsletter1098031 ) declared: “If there was one demographic group that blunted the force of the ‘blue wave’ in this month’s midterm elections, it was rural white voters.”  The CNN exit polls indicate that 56 percent of rural voters favored Republicans (versus an even 49-49 percent split in the suburbs and only 32 percent in suburban areas).

It’s easy to see this rural/non-rural divide in California.  The Golden State has 53 congressional districts.  In 2018, Republicans lost several seats — notably those in Orange county — and now control only eight.  (Districts 1, 4, 8, 21, 22, 23, 42, and 50; BTW, 21 is still “too close to call.”)  These are rural districts; primarily on the eastern border of the state.

While Democrats could win the 2020 presidential election without rural voters, it’s important to understand their perspective, if Dems want to unify the nation and take control of the Senate in 2020.

4.The urban-rural divide is a proxy for a new tribalism.  Alternet notes: “As the suburbs have turned against the Republican Party of President Donald Trump, rural whites have embraced the Party’s new message of economic protectionism, immigration restrictions, and an ‘America First’ foreign policy.” [emphasis added]

A recent large survey of 8000 voters helps to understand the emerging split between urban and rural voters.  The Hidden Tribes Survey (https://hiddentribes.us ), conducted by the More in Common Institute, identified seven “tribal” groups: Progressive Activists (8 percent of the population); Traditional Liberals (11 percent of the population); Passive Liberals (15 percent of the population); The Politically Disengaged (26 percent of the population); Moderates (15 percent of the population); Traditional Conservatives (19 percent of the population); and Devoted Conservatives (6 percent of the population).

The strongest views are those held by the Progressive Activists, Traditional Liberals, Traditional Conservatives, and Devoted Conservatives.  That’s where the big ideological divides occur.  As one would one expect, 99 percent of Progressive Activists disapprove of Donald Trump and 98 percent of Devoted Conservatives approve of him.

The most notable divisions occur on hot button topics, such as immigration.  99 percent of Progressive Activists agree with the statement: “Immigration is good for America, helping sectors of our economy to be more successful and competitive.” On the other hand, 90 percent of Devoted Conservatives agree with the statement: “Immigration nowadays is bad for America, costing the welfare system and using resources that could be spent on Americans.”

The Hidden Tribes researchers did not ask direct questions about Trump’s economic policies, such as economic protectionism.  But they did ask a question that serves as a proxy: the role of personal responsibility in life outcomes.  For example, 92 percent of Devoted Conservatives agree with the statement: “People who work hard can find success no matter what situation they were born into.”  Whereas, 90 percent of Progressive Activists agree: “Some people’s situations are so challenging that no amount of work will allow them to find success.”

Summary: Considering the information in the Hidden Tribes study, it seems obvious that Donald Trump played to traditional conservative beliefs to turn out rural voters in the 2018 midterms.  This strategy worked in Florida, Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, and Texas.  (For example, Beto O’Rourke would have won the Texas Senate race if rural white voters had not voted overwhelmingly for Ted Cruz.)  Obviously, it did not work in many other areas; the areas with the most voters.  Thus, Democrats start the 2020 campaign with positive momentum.

Ten Midterm Takeaways

The results of the 2018 midterm election are in. Democrats achieved some, but not all, of their objectives. Here are ten takeaways from the November 6th results.

1. The Resistance worked.  Even before Donald Trump was coronated, Democratic protest groups — such as Indivisible — sprang up across the United States.  One of their objectives was to flip congressional districts where, in 2016, Hillary Clinton prevailed but a Republican won the congressional contest.  This objective was accomplished: Democrats won at least 225 seats (of 435) with 13 to be determined.

Now Trump is forced to deal with Democratic members of Congress.  To say the least, this is a huge accomplishment; for example, it will block any further Republican attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

2. Nonetheless, a lot of work remains to be done.  Republicans retained control of the Senate with at least 52 seats.  They continue to have the exclusive power to determine appointments to the Federal judiciary — which means that Trump and Senate Majority Leader McConnell will continue to pack the courts with conservative judges.

Democrats came close but failed to win a majority of gubernatorial races; they now hold 23 with one race (Georgia) yet to be decided.  (Democrats did not win in Florida, more about that below).  Nonetheless, Dems now control most of the populous states — such as California and New York.  And they control key swing states, such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin — states that Trump unexpectedly won in 2016 (Democrats did not prevail in the Ohio gubernatorial race).

3. Big voter turnout didn’t necessarily translate into winsThe New York Times estimates, “Approximately 114 million votes were cast in U.S. House races in 2018, compared to 83 million in 2014.”  Most Democrats believe that when there is high voter turnout, their candidates win; but this fails to take into account the electoral college effect, that is, it depends where the voters turn out.

A record 80 million voters participated in Senate contests — not all states had a Senate race.  Democrats cast 57 percent of the votes and still lost 3 seats.(!) Because Republicans turned out where they had to.  For example, in Texas, Democrats had an excellent candidate, Beto O’Rourke, and Republicans had a loathsome candidate, Ted Cruz.  Democrats turned out in record numbers — more than 4 million voters — but Cruz won (50.8 percent) because Republican voters also turned out.

Giving credit to the devil: Trump abandoned House races and, instead, focussed on Senate races that Republicans absolutely had to win.  For example, he went to Texas and cajoled Republicans to vote for Cruz — even though Trump and Cruz detest each other.  This strategy also worked in Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, and Tennessee; and, maybe, in Florida.

Notably, Trump’s strategy did not work in Montana, where Democrat John Tester — Trump’s number one target — won with 50.1 percent of the vote.  The New York Times analyzed: “Tester has prevailed as a Democrat in a state that leans Republican largely on the strength of his local appeal: he flies back from Washington, D.C., to work on his farm nearly every weekend, and emphasizes the value of knowing your neighbors.”  There was also record turnout in Montana and Tester overwhelmingly won the female vote and 67 percent of the youth vote — it helps that he’s friends with the members of Pearl Jam.

4. Florida remains a mystery:  Before November 6th, polls showed Democratic Senate candidate Bill Nelson up 3-5 points over Republican Rick Scott; the polls also showed Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum up 3-5 points over Republican Ron de Santis — who is a turkey.  De Santis apparently won by 35,000 votes and Scott apparently won by 15,000 votes — there will be a recount in both contests.  Like the situation in Georgia, the Florida vote feels like there was malevolence involved.

5. Republicans like crooks.  Remember when Republicans were the “Family Values” Party?  Now they’ve become the Trump Values Party; “It’s not how you play the game, it’s whether you win.”  In New York (CD 27) voters apparently re-elected Chris Collins who is under indictment for securities fraud.  In California (CD 50) voters re-elected Duncan Hunter who is under indictment for campaign corruption.  (BTW, in the classless move of the election, Hunter accused his opponent Ammar Campa-Naijar of being a muslim terrorist.)

6. Georgia has voter suppression issues. Democrat Stacey Abrams, an African-American, managed to garner at least 49 percent of the vote.  the problem is that her opponent, Republican Brian Kemp, is also Secretary of State and has done a bunch of things to suppress the vote — particularly that of African-Americans.  (On November 8th, a lawsuit forced Kemp to resign (https://protectdemocracy.org/update/breaking-georgia-voters-lawsuit-forces-brian-kemp-to-resign-secretary-of-state-role).)  Looks like this election will end up in court.

7. Trump’s popularity tracked the Senate races. The biggest key to the Senate results was Trump’s popularity in the state the contest was held in.  Morning Consult (https://morningconsult.com/tracking-trump/ ) has a chart that shows where Trump is most popular: In North Dakota he was +15 and the Democrat lost.  In Indiana Trump was +9 and in Missouri +8; Dems lost.  In Texas Trump was +7 and that was too much for Beto O’ Rourke to overcome.  (The exceptions to this rule are West Virginia, where Democrat Manchin won even though Trump was +24 and Montana where Tester won even though Trump was +10.  I think Manchin had local authenticity, like Tester.)

8. Trump motivated his base with immigration horror stories –the “invasion” from Central America.   This had an impact in Texas.  CBS News reported: “Voters in Texas are relatively split about what they think the most important problem is facing the country, according to exit polls. More than one-third of voters believe that health care is the most important problem and among them, more than two-thirds voted for Democrat Beto O’Rourke.  Of the third of voters who believe that immigration is the most important problem, about three-quarters support Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. Nearly a quarter of voters things the economy is the country’s biggest problem, and among them, the majority voted for Mr. Cruz.” [Emphasis added]

ABC News reported that immigration was the most important issue for one-third of Arizona voters.  “[Republican Senate candidate] McSally overwhelmingly is winning voters focused on the issue of immigration.” (84 percent)

9. Trump voters belong to a cult. They resolutely hold onto their justification for voting for Trump (immigration, abortion, guns…) and close their eyes to his ethical shortcomings,  They’ll do anything to win.

10. Democrats prevailed because of the female vote.  Pew Research noted: “Nationally, voters favored Democratic candidates for Congress over Republican candidates by a margin of about 7 percentage points… [However] Women favored the Democratic candidate in their district by 19 percentage points (59% to 40%) while men voted for the Republican 51% to 47%.”  (White women split 49 percent to 49 percent; while college educated women favored the Democratic candidate 59 percent to 39 percent.)

This was a blue wave.  It’s a tremendous accomplishment to take back the House of Representatives and to elect so many qualified Democrats throughout the country.  Congratulations!

Now get to work preparing for the 2020 presidential election.

What We Are Fighting For

If you are reading this, it’s very likely that you are going to vote. The purpose of this column is not to convince you to vote but rather to urge you to convince every eligible voter you know to cast their vote. This is a crucial election.  Let’s consider what Democrats are fighting for and why it’s so important that we turn out every eligible voter we can reach.

The results of this election will determine the future of our country, the viability of our democracy.  Two years of Donald Trump have demonstrated that his basic instincts are non-democratic and that congressional Republicans will not stand up to him.

Trump is a dreadful person.  Nonetheless, it is theoretically possible for Trump to be a jerk and still be a champion of democracy.  Sadly, this is not the case.

Donald Trump is a tyrant.  His basic instincts are undemocratic — he’s focussed on what’s best for him and absolutely willing to trample on the right of others in order to accomplish his objectives.  For Trump, winning is everything; he believes the ends justify the means and that might makes right.

But it’s not only Trump’s operational style that is undemocratic, Donald’s morality is similarly warped.  Trump’s conduct demonstrates that he doesn’t believe in the Golden Rule; nor does he spend any time seeking “win-win” solutions where everyone comes out ahead. Donald ruthlessly seeks wealth and power.

Trump lies.  And lies.  And lies.  On October 30th, the Washington Post reported that in 649 days in office, Trump made 6420 “false or misleading claims.”  (https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/politics/trump-claims-database/? )  The average number of false claims per day keeps climbing the longer Trump stays in office.  Since June the number has escalated.  On September 7, the president reached a new daily high of 125 false and misleading claims. In October, Trump , made more than 1000 false claims

Trump lies in order to further his ambition.  He will say and do anything to win.  And he will attack anyone that gets in his way.

It goes without saying that Trump is a sexist.  (He’s an unrepentant sexual predator.)  He’s also a racist.  These traits are consistent with his dominant behavior as a full-throttle bully.  Trump doesn’t believe in collaboration or compromise; he believes in running over people.  As President, he has made no attempt to reach out to Democrats or to those who did not vote for him.  Donald’s entire focus has been to motivate his base.  He is not President for all the people, only those he perceives as being on his side.

Therefore, it is true that this election is about Trump.  But it’s also true that Trump is not on the ballot.  In state after state, Democrats are going after Republican incumbents because they will not stand up to Trump — they will not defend Democracy.

After the presidential election, many of us hoped that congressional Republicans would stand up to Trump; we hoped that they would limit his most egregious actions.  Our hopes were dashed.  Republicans have united behind Trump — with a few notable exceptions such as the late Senator John McCain.

A recent NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist poll asked voters about what their top issues were, heading in the 2018 midterm election.  20 percent responded “Economy, jobs;” 17 percent healthcare; 17 percent immigration; 9 percent “taxes, spending:” 7 percent climate change; and 5 percent guns.  Trump and the GOP are on the wrong side of all these issues.

On August 11th, Forbes magazine (https://www.forbes.com/sites/chuckjones/2018/08/11/trumps-economic-scorecard-higher-inflation-flat-wages-and-a-ballooning-federal-deficit/#55feedfe22fa ) noted that Trump’s economic legacy is “higher inflation, flat wages, and a ballooning federal deficit.”  Trump has managed the economy to benefit himself and his wealthy supporters.

Trump campaigned on the promise to “repeal and replace Obamacare.”  Republicans came within one vote of completely repealing Obamacare.  (The latest Kaiser Poll (https://www.kff.org/interactive/kaiser-health-tracking-poll-the-publics-views-on-the-aca/#? ) finds that 50 percent of respondents support Obamacare and 40 percent oppose it.)  Trump and Republicans continue to attack Obamacare but have offered no replacement and no protection for 0those with pre-existing medical conditions.

Trump’s signature issue is immigration.  At the conclusion of his midterm campaigning, he’s warning for an “Invasion” of immigrants from Central America and ordering thousands of troops to the border.  Despite his strong rhetoric, Trump has had no impact on immigration.  Mother Jones   (https://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2018/11/chart-of-the-day-ytd-border-apprehensions/) reported that under Trump “southwest Border Apprehensions” — the proxy for border crossings — are about the same as they’ve been for the last 10 years.  (In 2018 the number will be around 400,000.)

Trump and his Republican cohorts passed a massive tax cut that benefits corporations and America’s wealthiest one percent.  As a consequence the national debt increased to more than $21 Trillion.  The fiscal year deficit will be approximately $1 trillion.

Trump’s attitude about climate change has softened.  Originally he called it a hoax.  In a recent 60 Minutes interview (https://www.theverge.com/2018/10/15/17977596/donald-trump-climate-change-hoax-60-minutes-interview ) he equivocated: “I think something’s… changing and it’ll change back again.  I don’t think it’s a hoax… But I don’t know that it’s manmade… I don’t want to give trillions and trillions of dollars. I don’t want to lose millions and millions of jobs.”  He’s not going to do anything.

Finally, with regards to guns, Trump and his Republican cronies are beholden to the IRA.  They don’t want any change in gun laws.

In the November 6th election, Democrats are fighting for Democracy.  We are struggling to replace a Republican Congress that has been unwilling to standup to would-be dictator Donald Trump.  We moving forward with commonsense solutions to America’s most critical problems.  Vote.

Voter Suppression in the 2018 Midterms

We’re less than two weeks away from the November 6th midterm elections and the strategies of each Party are well defined. Democrats are determined to rally their base and to encourage Independents and inconsistent voters to go to the polls. Republicans are determined to get out their base and to suppress the vote of everyone else.

The GOP voter-suppression strategy has two parts.  At the national level, Donald Trump fans fear by suggesting there is widespread voter cheating.  In a recent Tweet, Trump wrote: “All levels of government and Law Enforcement are watching carefully for VOTER FRAUD, including during EARLY VOTING. Cheat at your own peril. Violators will be subject to maximum penalties, both civil and criminal!”  (A recent report from The Brennan Center (https://www.brennancenter.org/issues/voter-fraud ) found that voter fraud is “very rare.)  The Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights observed: “President Trump’s statement regarding vote fraud is one of the most naked attempts to promote voter suppression that we have seen in modern times.”

The second part of the GOP voter-suppression strategy is at the state level.  There have been Republican voter-suppression laws enacted in 15 states (Arizona to Texas).   The Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights noted; “This administration and the Justice Department’s silence regarding widespread voter suppression has been deafening. To date, this Justice Department has failed to file a single case to enforce the Voting Rights Act and has failed to take any action to protect the rights of minority voters.”

The State of Georgia has a particularly egregious campaign of voter suppression. There’s a tight race for Georgia Governor that pits Democrat Stacey Abrams against Republican Brian Kemp.  (The 538 website forecasts that Kemp will get 49.6 percent of the November 6th vote and that Abrams will get 49.2 percent — if this happens, no candidate gets 50 percent plus of the vote, there would be a runoff in December.)

Republican Kemp happens to be Georgia’s current Secretary of State.  He has not recused himself from decisions about Georgia voter eligibility; that’s resulted in a variety of voter suppression issues.  The most recent is Kemp’s invocation of the “exact-match” law to deny 53,000 voter-registration applications.  (This law requires that citizens’ names on their government-issued IDs must precisely match their names as listed on the voter rolls.)  Kemp has thrown out applications for infractions as minor as a hyphen missing from a surname. (By the way, African-Americans make up thirty-two per cent of the state’s population, but they represent nearly seventy per cent of the suspended applications.)

In a separate action, investigative reporter Greg Palast alleges that Kemp incorrectly purged 340,134 voters from the Georgia data base after dinging them for “no activity.” ( https://www.gregpalast.com/we-sued-brian-kemp-this-morning/)  (By the way, in 2016, Brian Kemp was the only Secretary of State to refuse election-security assistance from the Department of Homeland Security.)

Writing in The New Yorker, Jelani Cobb observed: “The events in Georgia are part of a broader political project. The xenophobia and the resentment that Donald Trump stirred up during the 2016 election are fundamentally concerns about the future of the American electorate. (His reported comment that too many people are immigrating from “shithole countries” in Africa and the Caribbean was paired with a lament that not enough are coming from Europe.) He has repeatedly stated that he lost the popular vote because non-citizens voted for Hillary Clinton.”

Thom Hartmann agrees that Trump and Republicans, in general, are conspiring to suppress the vote.  Writing in Common Dreams (https://www.commondreams.org/views/2018/10/22/stop-gop-voter-suppression-or-else ) Hartmann noted: “In North Carolina, for example, 158 polling places were permanently closed in the 40 counties with the most African American voters just before the 2016 election, leading to a 16 percent decline in African American early voting in that state. An MIT study found that, nationwide, Hispanic voters wait 150 percent longer in line than white voters, and Black voters can expect to wait 200 percent longer in line to vote.”

Many of the new Republican voting laws complicate the notion of a “valid id.”  The New Hampshire Supreme Court just struck down a GOP-led effort targeting students.  Alternet reported, “[The] court struck down a law the GOP had passed in 2017 to impose additional residency restrictions on voters that was crafted to suppress the votes of Democratic-leaning college students.”  There have been similar victories in Iowa (http://www.governing.com/topics/politics/tns-iowa-voting-rights.html) and Wisconsin.

Even in Georgia, the courts are moving to protect the right to vote.  On October 24th, a Federal judge stopped Secretary of State Brian Kemp  from rejecting mail-in ballots under Georgia’s exact match law.  PoliticusUsa (https://www.politicususa.com/2018/10/24/georgia-federal-judge-illegal-gop-mail-ballot-attack.html ) reported that Kemp must, “Notify voters of problems with their ballots and [give] them the opportunity to verify their eligibility to vote.”

Georgia Republican Kemp is going to extraordinary lengths to thwart the gubernatorial campaign of Stacey Abrams because she is a formidable candidate with a good chance of winning.  Recently, at a campaign event, Kemp expressed alarm at the success of Abrams’s campaign in generating “an unprecedented number” of absentee ballots, continuing “[this is] something that continues to concern us, especially if everybody uses and exercises their right to vote — which they absolutely can — and mail those ballots in.”

Kemp, and Republicans in general, should be scared.  Throughout the nation, Democrats have fielded a huge number of competent candidates and Dems have mounted an aggressive effort to get out the vote.  As long as they keep demanding the right to vote, in the courts and at the polls, Democrats will prevail on November 6th.

Jamal Khashoggi’s Murder

The murder of Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, spotlights the moral depravity of Donald Trump. Khashoggi was an outspoken journalist — an exemplary member of a profession  Trump deplores.  Khasoggi opposed the Saudi rulers — friends of Trump.  Given this background, it’s no surprise that Trump is avoiding meaningful response to Khashoggi’s assassination.

In 2017, Jamal Khashoggi, perhaps the most famous journalist in the Arab world, left Saudi Arabia after being banned from publishing or appearing on television because he had criticized the Saudi rulers and Donald Trump.  Khashoggi relocated to the United States and began writing for the Washington Post.  On October 2nd, Khashoggi entered the Saudi embassy in Istanbul, Turkey, and has not been seen since.  There are numerous reports that he was killed by a 15-person assassination team dispatched by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

To understand how this killing became a major Trump scandal, we must follow three threads.  The first is the relationship between Jamal Khashoggi and his country.  In 1958. Khashoggi was born into an affluent Saudi family.  He went to Saudi schools and then came to the U.S.,  receiving his college degree at Indiana State University in 1982.  Khashoggi returned to Saudi Arabia and became a journalist; during the next twenty years he traveled extensively, interviewing many Middle East luminaries including Osama bin Laden (https://www.businessinsider.com/missing-saudi-journalist-jamal-khashoggi-ties-to-osama-bin-laden-islamists-2018-10 ).

In 2003, the Saudi Ministry of Information removed Khashoggi from his post as editor of Al Watan and he moved to London.  In 2007, Khashoggi moved back to Saudi Arabia and again became editor of Al Watan.  In 2010 he was fired for criticizing the government.  Nonetheless, he continued to write columns, and provide TV commentary, for a variety of media outlets.  In December 2016, the Saudi authorities banned him from writing columns or appearing on television.  Early in 2017 Khashoggi moved to the United States and began writing for the Washington Post.

Khashoggi’s Post columns were sharply critical of the Saudi government, particularly Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman — next in line for the Saudi throne.  In April 2018  Khashoggi wrote that Saudi Arabia, “should return to its pre 1979 climate when the government restricted hard-line Wahhabi traditions. Women today should have the same rights as men. And all citizens should have the right to speak their minds without fear of imprisonment.”  He criticized Saudi intervention in Yemen and the government crackdown on media and dissent.  Khashoggi even established a Saudi political party, Democracy for the Arab World Now.

There’s strong evidence that Jamal Khashoggi was murdered, on October 2nd, at the direction of Mohammad bin Salman.  The Crown Prince doesn’t like to be challenged.  Neither does Donald Trump.

Trump has made no secret of his contempt for the press.  At his campaign rallies he’s encouraged his followers to heap abuse on nearby members of the press.  He regularly calls out journalists in his Tweets.  (By the way, Trump has particular contempt for The Washington Post, Khashoggi’s employer.  He’s called out various Post reporters and the owner,  Jeff Bezos.)  One of Trump’s objectives is to diminish freedom of the press by expanding libel laws to permit more law suits against journalists (https://nypost.com/2018/09/05/trump-wants-to-change-libel-laws-in-wake-of-woodward-book/ ).  Since becoming President, Trump has railed at alleged “fake news.”  In August he began call journalists “enemies of the people.”  (More than 300 U.S. media outlets have published editorials condemning Trump’s words.)

Given this background, it was to be expected that Trump minimized the importance of Khashoggi’s murder.  On October 11th, when queried about Khashoggi, Trump responded, “This took place in Turkey, and to the best of our knowledge, Khashoggi is not a United States citizen.”  (Khashoggi was in the U.S. as a lawful immigrant,)

However, Trump has stronger reasons to avoid a strenuous inquiry into Khashoggi’s death; Trump has financial ties to Saudi Arabia.  During the 2015 presidential campaign, Trump boasted: “Saudi Arabia, I get along with all of them. They buy apartments from me… Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much… They buy all sorts of my stuff. All kinds of toys from Trump. They pay me millions and hundred of millions.”(https://www.cnbc.com/2018/10/16/trump-says-no-financial-interests-in-saudi-arabia-but-makes-money.html )  By the way, Trump now denies these financial ties; on October 16th, Trump tweeted: “For the record, I have no financial interests in Saudi Arabia.”  (There’s also evidence that Trump’ son-in-law, Jared Kushner has ties to the Saudis. (https://www.npr.org/2018/10/16/657923244/jared-kushner-faces-scrutiny-for-his-ties-to-the-saudi-crown-prince )

Not surprisingly, Trump shows no interest in putting pressure on the Saudis.  It’s been suggested that he should threaten to withdraw from his touted “$110 billion” arms deal, to force the Saudi’s to cooperate.  He’s unlikely to do this.  Since May of 2017, the White House has touted “a $110 billion Saudi-funded defense purchase … which will grow to $350 billion over the next 10 years.”  But it turns out that most of the $110 billion consists of “memorandum of intent” and only $14.5 billion are covered by the firmer “Letters of Agreement.” (https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/trumps-110-billion-saudi-arms-deal-doesnt-actually-exist )  In other words, Trump is lying about this arms deal.

The Trump Administration isn’t going to do anything about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.  Just like they haven’t done anything about the murders of other brave journalists in Russia and other parts of the world  (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/oct/09/the-guardian-view-on-the-killing-of-journalists-the-truth-in-peril ).  They don’t support freedom of the press.

Jamal Khashoggi’s last column was published posthumously by The Post (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/jamal-khashoggi-what-the-arab-world-needs-most-is-free-expression/2018/10/17/adfc8c44-d21d-11e8-8c22-fa2ef74bd6d6_story.html?).  Khashoggi observed: “Arab governments have been given free rein to continue silencing the media at an increasing rate… The Arab world is facing its own version of an Iron Curtain, imposed not by external actors but through domestic forces vying for power.”

Donald Trump isn’t going to do anything about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi because the crime was consistent with Trump’s attitude about the press.  He wants to impose his own Iron Curtain.  Who will be the first American journalist to die?

Global Climate Change Comes Home

There are many reasons to dislike Donald Trump. He’s an unrepentant sexual predator, who lies without remorse. In addition, Trump is a bigoted bully whose only moral precept is “might makes right.” Nonetheless, the most important reason to dislike Donald is that he refuses to protect our children and grandchildren.  Trump is obsessed with immediate gratification and. therefore, has chosen to ignore global climate change. Now it’s coming home to bite all of us.

If you blinked, you missed the October 8th report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (http://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/).  It’s very disturbing; if we don’t take immediate action to control emissions, we’re screwed.  More about that later.

You may have not seen the IPCC climate change report because the mainstream-media focus quickly shifted to the fight between Donald Trump and Taylor Swift.  And then to sexual predator Brett Kavanaugh’s first day on the Supreme Court — by the way, he has four female clerks.  Or, if you live in the southeast, you may have been preoccupied with Hurricane Michael bearing down on the Florida panhandle.

If you’re among the unfortunates living on the coast of Alabama and Florida, I sympathize with your situation.  Perhaps, as your considering the hurricane damage, you’ll have a moment to reflect that you, too, are a victim of global climate change.  These days, that’s the pattern: people don’t pay attention to climate change until it comes to their neighborhood.

Every American has an opinion about climate change, but few of us rank it as an important concern when deciding who to vote for.  Instead, prospective voters focus on the near term: healthcare costs, jobs and the economy, or guns.  This is the recurring pattern when Americans ponder climate change: they decide it’s too abstract or difficult and they don’t do anything about it.   Unless you are fortunate enough to live in California.

In August, Quinnipiac ran a small poll (175 respondents) that asked: “Do you think the United States is doing enough to address climate change, doing too much, or do you think more needs to be done to address climate change?”  64 percent responded “more needs to be done;” the highest number since Quinnipiac started asking the question.  (And “doing too much” or “doing enough” were at all all time lows.)  The pollsters added a new follow-on question: “The wildfires in California are the worst in the state’s history. Do you think climate change is a factor in making these fires more extreme, or not?”  53 percent of respondents believed climate change was a factor.

In California, we take climate change very seriously and a strong majority believes that climate change was a factor in our fires.  A recent Public Policy Poll ( http://www.ppic.org/publication/californians-views-on-climate-change/) found that 80 percent of Californians view climate change as a serious “threat to the state’s future economy and quality of life.”  (California Democrats and Independents view climate change more seriously than do Republicans — only 22 percent of Trump’s Party see it is a threat; they’re more worried about Taylor Swift.)  Californians have to take climate change seriously; a recent report indicated that the frequency of major fires will increase by 77 percent by the end of the century.

In California we’re taking a variety of actions to stem the tide of climate change — such as limiting our carbon emissions — because we understand that  we don’t have a choice.

Meanwhile, the October 8th IPCC report indicates that the world is rapidly reaching the point of no return:  “We are on track to cross a key threshold of danger —1.5 degrees C or 2.7 degrees F—much earlier than anticipated: 2040.”  (A 1.5 degree Celsius increase is the point at which irreversible sea level rise, massive coral reef extinctions, and food shortages begin to occur.)  In California, this would increase the severity of fires and the probability of drought.  It would also increase flooding along the coast and raise the probability that salt water would intrude into the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta — an event that would have cascading consequences, threatening drinking water supplies and impacting farm land.

California is taking steps to deal with this and it’s likely Florida will join us.  The day the IPCC report appeared, Florida got news that Hurricane Michael was heading their way.  (On the afternoon of October 10th, Michael hit the Florida panhandle with winds between 115-155 mph.)  It’s the third major hurricane to hit Florida in the past 3 years.

It’s not Florida’s only global climate change event.  For almost a year, Florida has been beset by the “red tide” (https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2018/8/30/17795892/red-tide-2018-florida-gulf-sarasota-sanibel-okeechobee ), which has killed: “At least a hundred manatees, a dozen dolphins, thousands of fish, 300 sea turtles, and more have died or washed along shores in putrid-smelling masses.”  The red-tide has become a factor in Florida’s election:  Republican Governor Rick Scott exacerbated the situation by cutting Florida’s water-management budget.

Meanwhile, the Trump Administration chose not to respond to the IPCC report.  When queried, Donald said, “It was given to me, and I want to look at who drew it… Because I can give you reports that are fabulous, and I can give you reports that aren’t so good. But I will be looking at it. Absolutely.”  Trump isn’t going to read the report and he isn’t going to lead an effort to protect our children and grandchildren from future harm.

Response to the IPCC report will have to happen at the state level.  In the meantime, move to higher ground.

Righteous Anger: Kavanaugh and Trump

The confirmation process for Brett Kavanaugh began on September 4th, quickly devolved into a demolition derby, and finally has reached it’s ultra-partisan conclusion. Kavanaugh will be confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice. Republican actions will live on in infamy. And Democrats are united in righteous anger.

This 33 day process established several things.  First, Brett Kavanaugh is unfit to be a Supreme Court Justice.  At first, many of us opposed him because we thought his views were too extreme — he will, I’m sure, oppose Roe v. Wade and any other law that lets women make their own health decisions.  (And he is a corporatist who will side with corporations, and the wealthy, in cases that pit these interests against working folks.)  But, as he we got to know Kavanaugh — through the determined efforts of Senators like Cory Booker and Kamala Harris — we realized that he’s a liar; that he had lied to Congress (https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2018/09/five-times-brett-kavanaugh-appears-to-have-lied-to-congress-while-under-oath/ )  And then, because of the courageous efforts of Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and other women, we learned that Kavanaugh had (or has) a drinking problem and, when he drank to excess, assaulted women.

Finally, when Kavanaugh was asked to defend himself from the Blasey-Ford accusations, he lost control of his temper: “This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election. Fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record. Revenge on behalf of the Clintons. and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.  This is a circus.”  Kavanaugh does not have “judicial temperament.”

Watching the hearings, millions of Americans came to the conclusion that Kavanaugh is unfit to be a judge.  Among these was retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/04/us/politics/john-paul-stevens-brett-kavanaugh.html )

The second thing the Kavanaugh hearings established is that the Republican Party, run by old white men, will say and do anything to win.  The GOP has embraced the morality that “the ends justify the means.”  This shouldn’t come as a surprise; after all, the Republican Party decided to invade Iraq because they needed a wining issue for the 2002 mid-term elections.

What’s so disappointing is that the entirety of the Republican Senate — with the exception of Senator Lisa Murkowski — has gone over to the dark side.  No longer can we find a handful of Senators — such as the late John McCain — who, on occasion, were willing to do what’s right; who were willing to declare that Emperor Trump has no clothes.  The Republican party has lost its moral compass.

The third thing we learned from the Kavanaugh hearings is that the Republican Party is Trump’s Party.  Trump pushed through a totally unfit Supreme Court nominee and, in the process, he forced the GOP to submit to his will.  With the exception of brave Senator Murkowski — and for a few minutes Senator Jeff Flake — no Republican was willing to stand up to Trump.  They will not stand up to an unrepentant sexual predator and habitual liar.

The fourth thing that was established during the 33 day ordeal is that Democrats, and like-minded voters, are angry.  The website 538 reported that Kavanaugh was the least popular choice for the Supreme Court in 100 years ( https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/a-final-look-at-where-voters-stand-on-kavanaugh-before-the-senate-votes/)  Kavanaugh was supported only by Republican voters.  (Overall, women were strongly opposed to Kavanaugh.)

There’s strong feeling about the Kavanaugh confirmation process.  Watching Christine Blasey Ford’s September 27th testimony, many sexual-assault survivors were re-triggered.  They were not pleased with the way the Republican-controlled committee handled Professor Ford — or Kavanaugh’s other accusers — and they were angered by Donald Trump’s mocking Professor Ford on October 2nd.

As a result of this painful process, Democrats, and their allies, are angry at Donald Trump and his Republican Party.  Now they plan to channel their anger into work related to the November 6th midterm elections.  The 538 website (https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/is-kavanaugh-helping-republicans-midterm-chances/ ) just cited a poll that concluded: “more voters would be angry than enthusiastic if Kavanaugh was confirmed.”  That confirms what we’re seeing on the Left Coast.  There’s a big money and determination gap between Democrats and Republicans.

Nonetheless, two incumbent female Democratic Senators were hurt by their opposition to Kavanaugh: Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill and North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp.  Their bravery merits support.

Finally, the Kavanaugh hearings established once and for all that the Republican Party can no longer claim to represent orthodox Christians.  Surely no political Party that consistently lies and supports the moral tenet that the ends justify the means, can claim allegiance to the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus said: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”  On October 6th, 2018, it’s the Democratic Party that hungers and thirsts for righteousness.  With 30 days of hard work, our quest for righteousness will be fulfilled.

 

A Tipping Point: Kavanaugh and Trump

20 percent of U.S. women have been raped and another 40 percent have experienced some other form of sexual violence.  I mention this because as the Kavanaugh confirmation has veered from his conservative beliefs to his veracity and then to his sexual behavior, the contentious hearing entered territory that was traumatic for many women.  For this reason, September 27th represents a tipping point in American politics.  A point where U.S. women declared they have had enough abuse.

In retrospect, it’s not surprising that Donald Trump, an unrepentant sexual predator, would nominate a Supreme Court Justice from the same mold.  At first we thought that Kavanaugh was a clone of Justice Neil Gorsuch, a deeply conservative jurist hand-picked by White House Counsel Don McGahn and a few other archconservatives.  (Gorsuch and Kavanaugh knew each other in high school, Georgetown Prep, and both clerked for Supreme Court Justice Kennedy.)  It was not until Dr. Christine Blasey Ford came forward that we realized that Kavanaugh suffered from a sinister pathology — as an (alleged) sexual predator.

Trump and Kavanaugh’s decision to dispute Blasey’s accusations — and the accusation of other women — and push forward with Kavanaugh’s nomination, led to the September 27th Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.  That all-day hearing triggered traumatic memories for many women who have been the victims of sexual abuse.  (https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2018/09/28/sexual-assault-victims-are-reliving-their-trauma-triggered-by-kavanaugh-hearing/? ) If this weren’t bad enough, Kavanaugh and Republican (all male) members of the Senate Judiciary Committee insulted female Democratic Senators Feinstein and Klobuchar.

As a result, the women I know are incensed.  They feel that continued Republican support for Kavanaugh’s nomination is a another attempt by Republican men to minimize and dismiss the trauma of sexual assault.  These women have been reminded that Donald Trump is an unrepentant sexual predator.  American women are mad and want to even the score.

Whatever happens to the Kavanaugh nomination — at this writing it’s been postponed pending an FBI inquiry — it’s likely that Republicans will suffer at the ballot box.

Before the Kavanaugh debacle, we knew that a record number of women are running for office in the 2018 mid-term elections (https://edition.cnn.com/2018/09/16/politics/house-women-update-september/index.html ) — overwhelmingly as Democrats.  Furthermore, a June CNN poll found that 58 percent of likely female voters planned to vote for a Democratic candidate in November — versus 33 percent of women that planned to vote for a Republican candidate and 9 percent who were undecided.  (The 25 point gender gap is unprecedented — and this was before Kavanaugh’s hearing.)

Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony is a turning point in American politics.  It’s a moment where American women collectively re-experienced their trauma and decided: “This has gone on long enough.  It’s time to put an end to sexual violence… It’s time for women to take power.”

Donald Trump is too dense to understand this.  And, for whatever reason, most male Republicans don’t get it, either.

There’s a blue wave coming.  A blue tsunami.  Many elements have contributed to this — one of which is Trump’s feckless behavior.  But Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony was the tipping point.

 

Rape and Redemption: Trump and Kavanaugh

Presidential elections reflect voter concerns, as well as candidate personalities.  In addition, national election results often reflect changing American norms. While the 2018 mid-term election has been touted as the year of the woman, it also mirrors our collective concern about violence against women — the rape culture. This heightened awareness has impacted the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh.

It’s useful to consider how we got to this moment.  The 2016 presidential campaign pitted two unpopular candidates: Hillary Clinton with a reputation for lying and calculated ambition; and Donald Trump with a reputation for sexual abuse and bullying.  Crooked Hillary versus “pussy grabber” Trump.

In retrospect it would have been better if voters had pushed the “none of the above” button and left the US without a president until two more acceptable candidates were presented.  Sadly, that wasn’t an option and Donald Trump narrowly won the election.  One way to interpret this outcome is that voters disliked crooked Hillary more than “pussy grabber” Trump.  Whatever the reason, Trump, in effect, got a pass on his sexist behavior.

608 days of a Trump presidency indicate that Donald hasn’t changed his ways.  He hasn’t grown into the job as many voters hoped.  He’s still the same bully, liar, racist and sexist he was during the presidential campaign.  He still has the same poor judgment and problems with impulse control.

Since moving into the White House, Trump has coarsened the public discourse and normalized what most of us believed — before the election — was outrageous conduct.  He’s brought a whole range of deviant behaviors out of the closet and into primetime.  Among these behaviors are varieties of sexual abuse — Trump’s interpretation of the rape culture.

Many of Trump’s defenders, when asked about a sordid Trump incident — such as his “grab them by the pussy” comments or his affair with Stormy Daniels — reply that because the events happened before the election they do not count.  The GOP position seems to be that since Trump is now President his episodes of sexual abuse no longer matter.  Republicans claim that Trump was redeemed by the 2016 election.

This is the same logic used by the GOP to defend Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh from accusations that, as a teenager, he assaulted a young woman.  Republicans argue: whatever happened, it was a long time ago and Kavanaugh has been redeemed by his work as a lawyer and judge.

As a liberal Christian, I believe in redemption.  But not redemption by magic.  Not the blanket type of redemption that says, “Jesus died for your sins and therefore, whatever you do, you are forgiven.” (Redemption without repentance.)  And certainly not the form of redemption that says, “The GOP forgives you and, therefore, all your sins are washed away.”

I believe in redemption through good works.  First an individual acknowledges their sin or transgression or offense.  Next they seek to make amends by, among other things, apologizing to the person they offended.

This is the same process described in the AA twelve steps: 4.) Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. 8.) Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. 9.) Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

I do not believe that Donald Trump has been redeemed. (This shouldn’t be open for debate.)  Trump is an unrepentant sexual predator.  (Among other things.)

When confronted with evidence of a transgression, Trump’s modus operandi has not been to accept responsibility, but instead to aggressively deny the charges and attack the complainants.  Trump has not made amends, unless one considers monetary payoffs — such as those negotiated by Trump attorney Michael Cohen — as amends.  (They’re not.)

Donald Trump is an unrepentant sexual predator.  (I know I’m repeating myself but I believe we should all be shouting this from the rooftops.)  Rather than seek redemption, Trump has continued his deviant behavior, augmented by lying and bullying.  He has not been redeemed and he doesn’t deserve “a get out of jail free” card.

Neither does his Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.

It’s time to declaim the rape culture that normalizes sexual assaults on women.  It’s time for American men to call out sexual predators such as Trump and Kavanaugh.  It’s time to treat women with respect.  And it’s time for real Christians to stand up for the morality of Jesus of Nazareth.

Suspicions Confirmed,Woodward on Trump

It’s no solace, but the recent revelations about Donald Trump, and his Republican enablers, confirm our worst suspicions: Trump is a clear and present danger.

Of the new sources, Bob Woodward’s Fear (http://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Fear/Bob-Woodward/9781501175510) is the most illuminating.

1.Trump is incompetent: Woodward’s book, coupled with the anonymous New York Times op-ed, “I am part of the resistance…” (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/05/opinion/trump-white-house-anonymous-resistance.html ), and Omarosa Manigault’s tell all Unhinged (https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/trump-omarosa-book-summary-review-latest-tweets-white-house-unhinged-a8493286.html ) paint a chilling picture of Trump’s mental state.

It’s fashionable to declaim Trump’s demeanor: the lies, bluster, and unrelenting narcissism.  As a result, it’s often difficult to separate Trump, the media figure, from Trump, the erstwhile chief executive of the United States of America.  Nonetheless, it’s possible for Trump to be totally obnoxious, as an individual, and still competent as a CEO.

But Trump’s far from competent.  Woodward’s book paints a detailed portrait of Trump as unable to function as President.  The anonymous New York Times oped notes, “there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president.”  (The 25th amendment permits removal when the President  “suffers from an impairment that prevents him from fulfilling his duty.”)

It’s unclear whether Trump has a neurological or psychological impairment — Omarosa believes Trump suffers from senile dementia.  What is clear is that Trump is not an effective leader.  When there is an important decision to be made, he doesn’t read his briefing material, so he doesn’t come to the decision meeting prepared.  At the meeting, Trump doesn’t focus; he doesn’t lead meetings, in the normal sense, he (metaphorically) wanders in and out of them.  As a result, meetings often conclude without a clear decision or, worse yet, with a decision that Trump promptly forgets.  Woodward notes, “Trump seemed not to remember his own decision because he did not ask about it.  He had no list — in his mind or anywhere else — of tasks to complete.”

Most damming is evidence of Trump’s inflexibility; his inability to process new information and and adapt to novel situations.

2. The Republican Leadership uses Trump:  The relationship between Trump and top Republican leaders is mysterious.  Some say McConnell and Ryan and other GOP leaders go along with Trump’s whims because they are afraid of alienating his base — despite Trump’s impairment, his base continues to support him .

When we look at Trump’s record in office, it’s clear that he’s become a puppet.  Most of the time, the GOP leadership uses Trump to accomplish their objectives.  Trump kept his campaign promise of cutting taxes because the GOP leadership supported this.  In the 600 days since the inauguration, there’s been a tug-of-war between Trump and the Republican leaders.  On the major issues, McConnell and Ryan won.  For example, they supported strong sanctions against Russia and Trump didn’t; these sanction passed Congress with a veto-proof majority.

If you’re familiar with the family dynamics involved in living with an abuser, the Trump-GOP leadership interactions seem familiar.  McConnell and Ryan, and the other Republican leaders, placate Trump so he won’t come unhinged, and then manipulate him to keep the “family” semi-functional.

3. There’s no governing ideology:  Beyond cutting taxes and regulations, there’s no discernible ideology of the Trump Administration.  “Make America Great Again” hasn’t translated into coherent policy.

This is most apparent in the Trump Administration’s foreign policy.  Trump isn’t governed by an overarching philosophy such as “make the world safe for Democracy” or “Isolate America from the barbarian hordes.”  Instead the Trump Administration is driven by Trump’s fears and grudges.

Woodward’s book indicates that Trump’s foreign policy derives from his sense that Obama, and previous presidents, cut lousy deals with the country in question: lousy trade and security deals, where the US ends up footing too much of the bill.  According to Woodward, Gary Cohn (at the time, Trump’s economic adviser) quietly saved the South Korea-U.S. trade agreement, known as Korus, when in 2017 he removed a “letter off Trump’s desk” that the president planned to sign that would have ordered a U.S. withdrawal.  Despite the national security implications, and against the advice of his top advisers, Trump planned to scuttle Korus because he was convinced the South Koreans were screwing the US.

4. Trade policy divides the GOP.  Woodward makes it clear that while Trump and the GOP leaders agree on many issues — tax cuts, repeal of Obamacare, restrictive immigration — they don’t agree on trade.  From the onset of his presidency, Trump has wanted to abrogate trade agreements.  After an extended meeting, where Trump’s advisers tried to keep him from cancelling NAFTA and other trade agreements, Woodward reports that (former Secretary of State) Rex Tillerson muttered, ” [Trump]’s a fucking moron.”

After the meeting, a senior aide noted: “It seems clear that many of the president’s senior advisers, especially those in the national security realm, are extremely concerned with his erratic nature, his relative ignorance, his inability to learn, as well as what they consider his dangerous views.”

5. Trump is deteriorating,  Omarosa writes, “I seriously began to suspect that the president was delusional or had a mental condition, that made him forget from one day to the next. Was Donald like Ronald Reagan, impaired while everyone around him ran the show and covered up for him?”  She recalls Trump speaking “gibberish” and careening from subject to subject.

Woodward reports a disturbing pattern: “[Trump] won’t face what’s real…[when confronted with a disturbing fact, Trump replies] I don’t want to hear it…he will say, ‘I’ve had [these ideas] for 30 years, they’re right and if you disagree, you’re wrong.'”

The Woodward book makes clear that Trump is running from demons.  He’s fearful of the Mueller investigation and grouses about it every day.  As a result of the recent tell-all books he’s become less trusting of his staff.  He has few friends in the White House.  He’s tormented.

Woodward quotes one of Trump’s ex-aides: “This was no longer a presidency.  This is no longer a White House.  This is a man being who he is.”