Author Archives: Bob Burnett

Trumpty Dumpty Sat on a Wall…

On January 8th, Donald Trump made his first “oval office” speech to the nation; a plea for his wall.  It didn’t work, but we learned ten things:

1.The oval-office format didn’t flatter Trump.  He read from a teleprompter and, to say the least, seemed uninspired (some would say soporific).  Trump repeated the “red meat” immigration claims he routinely throws out to his rabid fans, but in a monotone, as if he’d rather be somewhere else.  (Mar a Lago?)

2. Trump advertised the event with a fundraising blast to his base: “I will be addressing the nation tonight at 9 PM EST on the Humanitarian and National Security crisis on our Southern Border… I want to do something so HUGE, even Democrats and the Fake News won’t be able to ignore… We need to raise $5OO,OOO in ONE DAY.”  

It’s not clear if the response was HUGE, but Trump’s Nielsen ratings were lower than those for the Pelosi/Schumer rebuttal (https://qz.com/1519766/trumps-nielsen-ratings-were-lower-than-pelosis-and-schumers/ )).

3. By my count, Trump’s nine-minute oval-office speech contained 14 lies.  The mainstream media anticipated this, and immediately after Trump concluded, rigorously fact checked his claims.  For example, The Washington Post fact checker (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/01/09/fact-checking-president-trumps-oval-office-address-immigration/?utm_term=.98dfe040f31e ) observed: “The first misleading statement in President Trump’s Oval Office address Tuesday night came in the first sentence.  Trump…warned of a “security crisis at the southern border” — even though the number of people caught trying to cross illegally is near 20-year lows.”

As another example,  “[Trump stated] ‘The wall will also be paid for indirectly by the great new trade deal we have made with Mexico…’ During the campaign, Trump more than 200 times promised Mexico would pay for the wall.”  (Show me the pesos!)

4. Trump’s speech was mostly about the wall; he ignored the consequences of his shutdown.  Towards the end of the speech, Donald said, “The federal government remains shut down for one reason… because Democrats will not fund border security… How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job?’

Trump unapologetically acknowledged that he is holding the government hostage in order to get his wall.  He didn’t seem to care about the 800,000 federal employees that are not being paid.  (Trump isn’t known for his empathy but even by his (already) deplorable standards this speech was a new low.)

5. This was Trump’s standard immigration rant with two twists:  Trump has softened his demand that Mexico pay for the wall and he is now threatening an indefinite government shutdown until Congress approves the funding.  (Perhaps Trump’s muted affect was due to his belated realization that he’s backed himself into a corner.)

6. The website 538 indicates that most voters blame Trump for the shutdown (https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/trump-has-lost-ground-in-the-shutdown-blame-game/ ): roughly 50 percent place the responsibility with Trump versus 32 percent that blame Democrats.  The oval-office speech was an attempt by Trump to swing public opinion in his favor.  It didn’t work.

7. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer delivered the rebuttal to Trump’s oval-office speech.  They were VERY grim; as if they were police officers dispatched to inform you that your loved one had been run over by a bus.

8. Pelosi had two themes: “Much of what we heard from President Trump throughout this senseless shutdown has been full of misinformation and even malice.”  And, “President Trump has chosen to hold hostage critical services for the health, safety, and well-being of the American people, and withhold the paychecks of 800,000 innocent workers.”

9. Similarly, Schumer had two themes: “[Trump] having failed to get Mexico to pay for his ineffective, unnecessary border wall… has shut down the government.”  “We don’t govern by temper tantrum.  No president should pound the table and demand he gets his way or else the government shuts down.”

10. Trump’s running out of options.  Democrats aren’t going to back down, and the longer Trump’s shutdown goes on the more harm it does and the higher the probability that something dreadful will happen — like an airline accident because a bunch of flight controllers didn’t show up for work.

What’s most likely is that Trump will be declare “a state of emergency” and tell his base that he’ll reallocate DOD funds to build his wall.  The government will reopen and the locus of action will shift from the oval office to the Federal courts — where Democrats will argue that there is no state of emergency and Trump is abusing his power.

So, we haven’t heard the last of Trump’s wall.  But Donald’s had a big fall.

2018: Ten Reasons to be Thankful

New Year’s Day was clear and sunny on the Left coast and it was easy to imagine that 2019 would be “all green lights and smooth sailing,” as unlikely as that seems at the moment.  Nonetheless, while 2018 ended with a government shutdown, and a flurry of ugly Trump Tweets, the year wasn’t all bad. Here are ten reasons to be thankful.

1. The Blue Wave:  Democrats won control of the House of Representative and Nancy Pelosi became Speaker of the House.  (Pelosi is the right person to lead the Democratic Party up to the presidential convention in July of 2020.)

Meanwhile, Democrats are energized.  More than 116 million Americans voted in the midterm elections; 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 ).   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.  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 and Dems win with 314 electoral votes.

2. The Resistance:  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 235 seats (of 435), with one to be determined.

In the first days of 2019, Indivisible groups were back at work.

3. Female Democrats: After November 6thPew 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.)

In the 2018 midterms, 116 women were elected to Congress, bringing the total to 126 (23.6 percent).  There are now 102 female members of the House of Representatives — the highest number in history.  89 of these women are Democrats, 37.9 percent of the Democratic majority.

The Democratic wing of Congress is beginning to look like America.

4.Brave women continue to talk about sexual abuse:  The #MeToo movement began In October of 2017, with the allegation about movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.  Reuters reports that over the next 365 days more than 425 prominent men were accused of sexual misconduct (https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2018-me-too-anniversary/ ).

There were many #MeToo stories during the year.  None more dramatic than the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford before the Senate committee deliberating on the fate of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.  Blasey Ford testified that, as a teenager, she had been assaulted by a drunken Kvanaugh.  (Ultimately Republicans confirmed Kavanaugh, following the logic that whatever happened, it was a long time ago and Kavanaugh has been redeemed by his work as a lawyer and judge.)

Thank you, Christine Blasey Ford, and the other brave women who came forward.

5. The Press:  Throughout the year, Trump complained about “fake news” and non-laudatory news sources — everyone except for Fox News.  The reality was that the U.S. mainstream media did an exemplary job covering the various outrages of the Trump Administration.

At the end of the year, Time Magazine’s “person the year award was given to a group of journalists it called “The Guardians,” referring to individuals “who have taken great risks in pursuit of greater truths.” (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/time-2018-person-of-the-year_us_5c0ed93ee4b08bcb )

Thank you, Jamal Khashoggi and the other journalists who daily risk their lives to tell the truth about Trump and the rise of Authoritarianism.

6. The Mueller Investigation:  Dating from Watergate (1972-74), the average length of a special counsel investigation, involving a President, is 904 days.  Robert Mueller’s investigation has gone on 597 days.   So far it has produced 36 indictments and five major plea deals.

At year end, the Mueller investigation was one of 17 investigations involving Donald Trump and his closest associates.  (https://www.wired.com/story/mueller-investigation-trump-russia-complete-guide/ )

Thank you, Robert Mueller and the other investigators who slogged through the legal jungle determined to reveal the truth about Trump.

7. The Parkland survivors:  On February 14, 2018, a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing seventeen students and staff members and injuring seventeen others.  It was the most horrific U.S. school shooting.

In the aftermath, student survivors formed an anti-gun-violence group, “Never Again,”culminating in a March 24th, “March for Our Lives,” in Washington, D.C.  At year-end, national sentiment had shifted towards “common-sense” gun-control legislation.  ( http://www.people-press.org/2018/10/18/gun-policy-remains-divisive-but-several-proposals-still-draw-bipartisan-support/ )

Thank you, Parkland survivors and the many others who are changing the dialogue about gun violence.

8. The Immigrant defenders:  Beginning in April, the Trump Administration changed their stance on illegal crossings at the Mexican border. The result was the separation of parents and children — sending them to separate facilities rather than keeping them together in detention centers.

There was a strong response to this policy — which continues in a slightly different form — and many American aid organizations provided support to the immigrant families.  In August, CNN asked, “When immigrants and their children are detained at the U.S. border for coming into the country illegally, do you think the U.S. should do everything it can to keep such families together, even if it means that fewer face criminal prosecution, or should the U.S. do everything it can to prosecute immigrants entering illegally, even if it means their families are separated?”  66 believed our policy should be to keep families together.

9. Climate Change Truth Tellers: 2018 was a year of extreme weather-related events: hurricanes, forest fires, floods, and ice storms.  In December, Quinnipiac asked, “Do you think that the extreme weather events in the United States over the past few years are related to climate change, or don’t you think so?”  61 percent of respondents think they are.

Thank you, Climate Change truth tellers working to save humanity before it is too late.

10.  And many others:  Thank you to all those who worked to protect voting rights.  And, of course, thank you to the (under-paid and under-appreciated) teachers who work to educate America’s children so that they can appreciate our Democracy.

Trump’s Slow-Motion Breakdown

To say the least, Donald Trump is a polarizing figure.  For this reason, it’s easy for the Left to dismiss his behavior as “crazy.” Nonetheless, even by Trump standards, the last few weeks have been unusually bizarre. It’s time for Americans to consider that Trump may have crossed the line from congenitally obnoxious to clinically insane.

If Trump has had a nervous breakdown, it occurred in slow motion after the November 6th election; signaled by angry tweets, repetitive lies, and extreme actions.  His behavior meets the definition of nervous breakdown:

  • depressive symptoms, such as loss of hope and thoughts of suicide or self-harm.  New York Times reporters, Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman, recently described Trump as isolated in the White House ( https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/22/us/politics/trump-two-years.html“)  The president has told associates he fells ‘totally and completely abandoned” … complaining that no one is on his side and that many around him have ulterior motives.”  On December 24th, Trump tweeted: “I am all alone (poor me) in the White House…”
  • anxiety with high blood pressure, tense muscles, clammy hands, dizziness, upset stomach, and trembling or shaking.  There have been rumors that Trump has high blood pressure; in addition his daily diet is terrible — he prefers McDonalds (“a full McDonald’s dinner of two Big Macs, two Filet-O-Fish sandwiches, and a small chocolate shake”) and 10-12 diet cokes —  and is at least 25 pounds overweight.
  • insomnia.  Trump’s last physical (January 2018) indicated that he typically gets only 4-5 hours of sleep each night.  (The typical person gets 7-8 hours each night.)
  • hallucinations.  There’s no evidence that Trump has had classic hallucinations, such as seeing an extraterrestrial, but there’s ample evidence that he tells tall tales that he believes.  It’s well established that Trump lies at an unprecedented rate.  A recent Washington Post article (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2018/11/02/president-trump-has-made-false-or-misleading-claims-over-days/? ) noted that Trump had made 6420 false statements over 649 days and in recent months had lied at the rate of 30 false claims each day — with 84 false claims on October 1st.  There’s abundant evidence that Trump believes his most common falsehoods: the Washington Post compiled a list of Trump’s repetitive lies ( https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/politics/fact-checker-most-repeated-disinformation/? ) such as the claim that the Trump tax cut was “the largest in history.”  Trump imagines these wild distortions to be true.
  • extreme mood swings or unexplained outbursts.   New York Times reporters, Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman, described Trump as, “a president who revels in sharp swings in direction, feels free to disregard historic allies and presides over near constant turmoil within his own team as he follows his own instincts.”  “When President Trump gets frustrated with advisers during meetings… he sits back in his chair, crosses his arms and scowls.  Often he erupts, ‘[f***ing] idiots.'”

If Trump has had a nervous breakdown, then he meets the constitutional definition of “inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of [his] office.”

The 25th Amendment of the Constitution specifies the procedure to be followed if there is a disabled president: “Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.” (It’s more complicated because the President can appeal; and this part of the process has never been used.)

In the current case, Vice President Pence and as least eight of the fifteen cabinet secretaries would have to transmit to the Senate pro tempore — who was Orrin Hatch (retired) and is now Chuck Grassley — and the Speaker of the House — likely Nancy Pelosi.

To summarize, there are three ways for Trump to leave office before January 20, 2021.  He can resign — as Richard Nixon did (August 9, 1974); Trump can be impeached; and he can be removed due to mental (or physical) disability.

What could push Republican leaders to declare Trump as mentally disabled?  The most likely scenario involves Trump’s abuse of his power as commander-in-chief.  At the beginning of the Trump administration, there were three senior generals — John Kelly, James Mattis, and H.R. McMaster — that “moderated” Trump’s notions about how to use the military.  (For example, Trump wanted to assassinate Syrian ruler, Bashar Assad.)  Now these generals are gone, replaced by less able men — who have little or no military experience.

Sadly, it’s easy to imagine Trump doing something like sending the military to surround the U.S. Capitol building in an attempt to force the new Congress to appropriate money for his border wall.  One can also envision Trump, when faced with impeachment proceedings, launching a reckless war in an effort to distract the nation.

It’s difficult to imagine Vice President Pence invoking the 25th Amendment, declaring Trump unfit for office, without the support of all of the leaders of the Republican Party — donors as well as political leaders such as Mitch McConnell.  But if Trump did something truly awful, we can foresee a conversation where GOP leaders confront Trump and say: “Donald, there’s strong support for removing you from office either by impeachment or a declaration of disability.  To avoid this, why don’t you resign and ‘President’ Pence will grant you a full pardon.”

Winter is Coming


As we approach the solstice, San Francisco beaches are being hammered by 40-foot waves.  It’s an apt metaphor for the troubled times we are living in.  Borrowing a phrase from Game of Thrones, “winter is coming;” with a vengeance.  Here are some predictions for the next three months.

Trump Slithers Towards Impeachment:  Dating from Watergate (1972-74), the average length of a special counsel investigation, involving a President, is 904 days.  Robert Mueller’s investigation has gone on 580+ days.  My prediction: the Mueller inquiry will end in the Spring, around the two-year anniversary.

In the meantime, the mainstream media is going to be dominated by revelations of Trump’s evil deeds — my prediction: Trump will be implicated in dozens of felonies.

Eventually, evidence of Trump’s treachery will be so overwhelming that the House of Representatives will have no choice but to initiate impeachment proceedings.  Normal congressional work will halt.  The U.S. will be transfixed.

The White House will stop functioning.  From the beginning, the Trump White House has been dysfunctional: it’s been inadequately staffed, constantly “leaked” information to the Washington media, and been unable to rein in the President.  Much of this is the responsibility of Donald Trump: he’s a terrible executive.  Donald is not good at attracting and retaining knowledgable staff members.  He’s bred a toxic culture of lying, name-calling, and back-biting.  He’s a “maverick” in the sense that he wears his ignorance as a badge of honor; Trump won’t read briefing materials and typically makes decisions impulsively, depending not on a clear-headed assessment of the facts, but rather how he happens to feel at the moment.  He has no long-term vision for America beyond filling the coffers at Trump, Inc.

In 2019, under siege by the American legal establishment, the Trump White House will shut down.  The Administration will be consumed by Donald’s legal difficulties and, therefore unable to formulate any policy — unable to do much of anything but Tweet.

That’s a problem for two reasons.  First, there’s a lot of serious work to be done: fixing Obamacare, resolving immigration, and passing an infrastructure plan — to mention only the obvious.  Second, 2019 is liable to be a difficult year for the United States; my prediction: the U.S. is heading into a a big storm.

When the going gets tough, Trump will be absent — sequestered in his White House quarters, watching Fox News while meeting with his lawyers.

“It’s my (Republican) Party, and I’ll cry if I want to.”  At the same time that “leader” Trump will disappear from public view, he will be strengthening his hold on the Republican Party.  (For example, Trump has dissolved the distinction between his re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee.)  The result: in 2019, the GOP will have no national agenda other than “re-elect Donald.”

Prediction: the Republican-controlled Senate will turn mute and the news-making initiatives will come out of the Democratically-controlled House.  As a result we’ll see significant legislation roll out of the House — Obamacare improvement, immigration reforms, and common-sense gun control — only to die in the Senate.  (By-the-way: in 2019 we’ll continue to see Trump’s crazed tweets; they’ll be countered by the calm words of Speaker Pelosi, reminding us all how grownups behave.)

2019 will see gridlock at it worst.  One side of the Congress will function and the other will be quiescent.

Take Me to Your Leader(!)  Having Trump as President has always been a risky proposition.  Obviously, it’s dangerous having an amoral narcissist occupy the Oval Office.  In 2019, that problem will be dealt with in the courts and in the impeachment process.

It’s equally dangerous to have “the commander-in-chief” be someone who incapable of handling that responsibility.  In his first two years in the White House, Donald Trump has not had to handle a major crisis.  The closest incident has been the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi by the agents of Saudi Arabia.  Trump mishandled this, saying in effect that it doesn’t matter whether or not the Saudi rulers were responsible because: “The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region.”  (During this writing, Trump’s steadiest adviser — Secretary of Defense James Mattis — resigned.)

What will happen if there is a major crisis?  We’re surrounded by signs that something cataclysmic could happen.  The economy could collapse.  (God forbid) there could be another terrorist attack.  (More likely) there could be a horrendous series of climate change events.  There likely will be a major international problem.

During the past 12 months, Foreign Policy hasn’t been a major feature of the Trump Administration.  Now, two of Trump’s senior foreign policy advisers are gone — Mattis and former Secretary of State Tillerson.  Unfortunately, there are plenty of international hotspots that could blow up in 2019.  Russia.  Saudi-Arabia.  China.  England (Brexit).  The European Union.  India-Pakistan.

What’s Trump going to do when Russia invades Ukraine?  What’s going to happen when China starts selling off its Treasury portfolio?  What’s going to happen when Saudi Arabia launches a nuclear attack against Iran?  What’s going to happen when England crashes into a “hard Brexit” on March 29?

Winter is coming and Donald Trump is a dysfunctional mess.  Happy New Year!

Searching for Trump’s Tipping Point

Twelve months ago, Donald Trump’s presidential approval rating averaged 38 percent.  Now, the 538 website suggests that Trump’s approval rating has improved to 42 percent. (https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/trump-approval-ratings/).  Thus, after two chaotic years, a significant segment of the electorate continues to approve of Trump’s White House performance.  What accounts for this?

The Economy:  When I talk to Trump supporters, they say the same thing, “I don’t approve of Trump’s behavior but he has been good for the economy.”

Since the 2016 presidential election, the US economy has done well.  Overall it has grown at a rate greater than 3 percent; in the 2018 second quarter it grew at 4.2 percent and in the third quarter at 3.5 percent.  Even though the economy was growing when Obama was President, it’s reasonable for Trump supporters to laud economic growth,

Nonetheless, there are signs the economy is slowing.  (Over the past month the Dow Jones Industrial Average has dropped about 1500 points.)  How will Trump supporters feel about Donald when the economy slumps?

Immigration: Perhaps, if the economy slumps, Trump voters will be mollified if he begins to build “the wall” along the border with Mexico.  After all, many Trump supporters are satisfied with his stance on immigration; when Donald warned of an immigrant “invasion,” before the midterm election, his base showed up at the polls and saved the Republican Senate majority.

Nonetheless, it’s unlikely that Trump is going to get congressional support to build his wall.  (Although. at the moment, he seems intent on a partial government shutdown to force this issues.)  In fact, it’s unlikely that Donald is going to have any major legislative accomplishment in the near future.  Will this lack of accomplishment get through to Trump voters?

Fox News: Many Trump supporters only talk to other Trump groupies and get their news from the Fox News Network, which puts a pro-Trump spin on everything.

For this reason, Trump supporters refuse to believe negative reports on Trump’s behavior; they dismiss it as “fake news.” No matter how many felonies the Department of Justice links to Donald, Trump’s supporters are unlikely to turn on him until Fox News tells them to.

Recently, we’ve seen signs that the Trump-Fox News relationship is fraying.  Earlier this month, Fox News host Tucker Carlson criticized Trump (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/tucker-carlson-turns-on-donald-trump_us_5c0a33ade4b0b6cdaf5dc43e) for failing to keep his major campaign promises, such as building the wall and defunding Obamacare.  “I don’t think he’s capable of sustained focus. I don’t think he understands the system,” Carlson said.  On December 12th, Fox legal analyst Andrew Napolitano observed, “The American public ‘learned’ on Wednesday that federal prosecutors have evidence President Trump committed a crime.”

Resentment:  Trump’s base is fueled by “white resentment.”  Arlie Hochschild’s book, “Stranger in Their Own Land,” described the viewpoint of Trump devotees:  They feel they have been unfairly denied their shot at the American dream.  They turned to Trump because they saw him as someone outside the government who could shake things up.

Trump voters are similar to women who, in a desperate search for love, make terrible relationship choices.  Even after their partner becomes abusive, they cling to him; saying, “I know he loves me and I believe over time he will change for the better.”  Even after Trump voters are confronted with evidence of his lies and abusive behavior, they continue to support him.  Trump supporters call evidence of malfeasance “fake news.”

In an abusive relationship, it’s difficult for a woman to set limits with her abusive partner.  Often, she is only able to separate after a horrendous event — such as a beating that sends her to the hospital.  Similarly, it’s difficult for Trump voters to set limits with Trump; witness the typical comment, “I don’t like how Trump behaves but he has been good for the economy.”  This suggests that most Trump supporters will stay with Donald until the economy tanks.

The Cultural Divide: Living on the Left Coast, it’s difficult to find hard-core Trump supporters; the vast majority live in other parts of the country, such as Mississippi or North Dakota.  They live in a sympathetic rural culture.

Many observers, such as veteran political reporter Ron Brownstein, (http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2017/politics/state/2016-election-anniversary/ ) feel that we are in the midst of a cultural “civil war”:

Over roughly the past two decades, attitudes toward these [cultural] changes have become the fundamental dividing line in American politics. In both presidential and congressional races, Republicans rely on what I’ve called a “coalition of restoration” that revolves around older, blue-collar, and evangelical Christian whites, mostly outside of urban areas, who feel most uneasy about these changes. Democrats mobilize a competing “coalition of transformation” centered on minority, millennial and college-educated white voters (especially women), who are mostly clustered in major metropolitan areas and the most comfortable with the changes…. More explicitly than any other recent Republican nominee, Trump ran as a candidate of restoration.” [Emphasis added]

From this perspective, Trump’s voters are holding on to him because he’s the most powerful national politician representing their culture.  These voters are not going to abandon Trump until he leaves office.  In many instances Trump supporters see him as their last and best hope to restore the American dream.

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?