Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Republican Abortion Bans Give Democrats Major Opening for 2020

Women. They were the biggest factor in allowing Democrats to flip 40 seats and gain control of the House of Representatives in 2018. If the Democrats are to win in 2020, women are the constituency most likely to provide the margin of victory. Republicans lost them by 12 points in 2016 and by nearly 20 in 2018. If that happens again in 2020 Trump won't get re-elected. The run of abortion bans being passed by GOP legislatures might be really popular in Alabama but plays right into our hands in swing states. Read this article showing just how unpopular a total ban on abortions is nationally. 

A successful Democratic campaign must pound women's liberty, in addition to health, education and jobs.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Will Trump Have to Release His Tax Returns?

We are about to find out whether any truth remains in the statement of principle carved into the facade above the entrance to the US Supreme Court Building: EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW. With Democrats now in the majority in the House of Representatives, President Trump is about to be subjected to the kind of scrutiny lacking under the previous Republican-controlled House.

In one such case, moves are underway to get Trump to do something every president has done voluntarily since the days of Nixon: show the American people his tax returns. Section 6301(f)(1) of the tax code is unequivocal in its authority. It states:

"Upon written request from the Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives...the (Treasury) Secretary shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified in such request..."

The current Ways and Means Chairman, Congressman Richard Neal of Massachusetts, has sent such a request to IRS through Treasury. It comprises the past six years of Trump's personal taxes, from years 2013 through 2018, and the returns of eight of his companies. Note that there is no uncertainty or ambiguity in the statute. The chairman can request "any" return. The Secretary of the Treasury "shall furnish" the returns or information requested.

That hasn't stopped Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, a Trump appointee, from refusing to comply. The committee deadline for receiving the documents was April 10. Instead, Mnuchin returned a message to Congressman Neal referring to "serious issues concerning the constitutional scope of Congressional investigative authority, the legitimacy off the asserted legislative purpose, and the constitutional rights of American citizens." In other words, to him, the plain letter of the law is meaningless. The Trump Administration will fight the request, tie things up in the courts, and attempt to run out the clock on transparency until after the 2020 election, the end of Trump's projected second term, or likely in perpetuity if possible.

So, does the clear wording of the law have any meaning, or does the fact one is president nullify any obligation to adhere to it? In the coming months we will get a clear answer to that question, along with a good indication of whether we are still a republic, or are evolving into something else.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Intriguing New Presidential Candidate

Here is a possibility for the new, charismatic face many Democrats have been looking for in the Democratic 2020 presidential field. Pete Buttigieg (pronounced Bootajedge) has surged to the top rank in the polls and trails only Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris in the amount of money raised through small contributions so far. The South Bend, Ind. mayor appeared on "The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell" recently and was, I felt, pretty impressive. This isn't an endorsement; I'm tentatively supporting Sen. Harris, but Mayor Pete merits a look.  Watch the interview linked below if you have some time. It's 15 minutes.

Monday, March 25, 2019

First Take on Mueller Report

So now at least Attorney General William Barr's summary of the Mueller Report is before us. It was far-fetched to think Trump himself actually was on Putin's email list sending instructions to Vladimir's Moscow troll farm. That's the bar Trump set and from which he declares total vindication. I never expected that to be discovered, and I'm sure you didn't either. Numerous other obstruction events took place, though perhaps in Mueller's view not necessarily rising to the level of prosecutable--though not necessarily not, either, according to Barr's summary. He is neither indicted nor exonerated on those, according to Barr's summary of Mueller's report. That's not exactly a ringing endorsement of probity, but it's not immediately getting cuffed, either.

So Trump can declare victory, and of course, he has. Hopefully now the Democratic investigations in the House can proceed with a tinge less breathless publicity, which is just how we and Speaker Nancy Pelosi want it. If they find damning evidence of a character serious enough to impress 20 Republican senators (the number that would need to vote for conviction were Trump to be impeached by the House and tried in the Senate) then all well and good. If not then let the 2020 election proceed on the lines of the issues, and let us get out our base and the moderate suburbanites whom Trump disgusts and the educated folks who are appalled, and women, along with an effective enough appeal to working class whites to get a few of them back (health care, social security, medicare, education, job training, some cultural sensitivity) and win the election on its merits. Trump hasn't actually accomplished much of anything that doesn't primarily help the wealthy and corporations.

If Reagan was the "Teflon President" Trump is the "Houdini President" for his escapes from conduct and predicaments that would have sunk any other politician.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Why Authoritarianism Is On the Rise

Historian Robert Kagan has put his finger on the resurgence of authoritarianism in the US and around the world with a brilliant article, "The Strongmen Strike Back." Kagan's explanation of why we are where we are makes clear that authoritarianism represents the great challenge to the liberal democratic order. By liberal democratic order we mean a society organized along the lines laid out in the Declaration of Independence, where individual rights and citizen participation in governance are the paramount values.

What Kagan points out is that this construct doesn't specifically deal with a range of security impulses common to humans, impulses that are traditionally met by such institutions as tribe, culture and ethnicity, among others.

His argument is the best I've seen. The article is rather lengthy but you will get the gist in the first few pages. After that it rings with tremendous insights throughout. Unless these issues can be addressed human freedom, already in retreat in many quarters of the globe, may face an increasingly uphill fight  in the years ahead.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Dems Unusually United for 2020 Campaign

A very interesting Monmouth poll has come out. Monmouth has a good reputation for accuracy.

Pertinent facts:

1. Democratic voters substantially prefer someone who can beat Trump to someone who shares their ideological perspectives, and by a much larger margin than usual. Dems are apparently united in focusing on beating Trump and more likely to coalesce strongly around the eventual nominee than in the average election year. 

2. Trump is wildly unpopular. He would lose an election today by 19 points. 


The election is still more than 19 months away. Only the ignorant would make firm predictions this far out. Still, the upcoming election is eminently winnable. These indicators are a lot more promising than if Democrats were rock-hard in their insistence to have their ideological mirror be the nominee or else, and if Trump were already ahead by 19 points. 

Certainly, many new events will transpire and we can count on Trump to make use of his full bag of tricks. The Democrats or their nominee's campaign could seriously bungle things. But so could the GOP. For example, Trump's introduction of a budget that slashes Medicare and Social Security plays right into the hands of the Democrats; it's the principal issue they rode to gaining forty seats in the House just four months ago. This is already scheduled to play prominently in their 2020 ads. 

So we'll see what happens, and anything still could. But the terrain is promising at this point. Check out the poll here:

Saturday, March 9, 2019

House Passes Historic Voting Rights Extension

The Democratic-majority House of Representatives has just passed what would be the greatest extension of voting rights since the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Every Democrat voted for it and every Republican voted against it. The For the People Act will not become law this year, because Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he will not even bring it up for a vote in his chamber. What it does show is what the Democrats would do if they win the Senate and Presidency in 2020 and retain their majority in the House. Everything in the bill would make voting easier and redistricting fairer. It includes automatic voter registration, an Election Day holiday for federal workers, paper ballots so that election results can be verified, and would end gerrymandering by establishing nonpartisan redistricting commissions, among many other things. The piece below, including a thorough synopsis of the Bill's provisions, is reprinted from the Daily Kos Voting Rights Roundup.

The Daily Kos Elections Voting Rights Roundup is written by Stephen Wolf and edited by David Nir.
• Congress: On Friday, House Democrats passed the For the People Act, the most far-reaching voting rights legislation to strengthen democracy since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. This groundbreaking bill, which was given the symbolically important designation of "HR 1," aims to preserve and expand the right to vote, reform campaign finance laws to deter corruption, and change the way the election system works by banning gerrymandering at the federal level.
The bill passed exactly along party lines, demonstrating just how hostile national Republicans are to the idea of protecting the right to vote in free and fair elections. That's why it doesn't stand a chance of becoming law so long as Mitch McConnell is in charge of the Senate, since he has vowed not to even bring it up for a vote. However, the legislation's passage underscores how serious Democrats are about protecting our democratic institutions, and it could become law if Democrats gain control of the Senate and presidency in 2020.
As we explained when the bill was introduced, the proposal takes a four-pronged approach to protecting free and fair elections by (1) removing barriers to expand access to voting; (2) securing the integrity of the vote by mandating paper ballots; (3) establishing public financing in House elections to level the playing field; and (4) banning congressional gerrymandering by requiring that every state create a nonpartisan redistricting commission.
Below we list each of the bill's major provisions and a few of its smaller but still important requirements, including measures that were included as amendments to the original bill:
  • Automatic voter registration at an array of state agencies
  • Same-day voter registration
  • Online voter registration
  • Allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register so they'll be on the rolls when they turn 18
  • Allowing state colleges and universities to serve as registration agencies
  • Banning states from purging eligible voters' registration simply for infrequent voting
  • An Election Day holiday for federal workers
  • Two weeks of in-person early voting, including availability on Sundays and outside of normal business hours
  • Standardized hours within states for opening and closing polling places on Election Day, with exceptions to let cities set longer hours in municipal races
  • Prepaid postage on mail ballots
  • Allowing voters to turn in their mail ballot in person if they choose
  • Requiring states to establish nonpartisan redistricting commissions for congressional redistricting
  • Ending prison gerrymandering by counting prisoners at their last address (rather than where they're incarcerated) for the purposes of redistricting
  • Ending felony disenfranchisement for those on parole, probation, or post-sentence, and requiring such citizens to be supplied with registration forms and informed their voting rights have been restored
  • Expressing support for D.C. statehood (which is the subject of a separate bill)
  • Public financing for House campaigns in the form of matching small donations at a six-for-one rate
  • Expanded campaign finance disclosure requirements to mitigate Citizens United
  • Banning corporations from spending on campaign purposes unless the corporation has established a process for determining the political will of its shareholders
  • Making it a crime to mislead voters with the intention of preventing them from voting
One proposal that did not make it into the bill also merits attention even though lawmakers voted it down: lowering the voting age to 16 for federal elections. Though it was rejected by a vote of 305-126, that tally nevertheless means that a majority of Democrats supported this proposal(as did a lone Republican). No state or major city has yet moved to implement this policy locally, but given how much support House Democrats just showed for the idea, it's possible that things could begin to change over the coming years in blue states and cities.
Lastly, Democrats are also planning one other key voting rights measure as a separate bill, which would restore a critical part of the Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court struck it down in 2013. Democrats must first compile a lengthy factual record in support of that bill to help avoid a similar fate before the Supreme Court.