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Category: General

Wayne Barrett on Trump

[ 69 ] December 3, 2016 |

TNR has a fascinating interview with Wayne Barrett, long-time Village Voice investigative reporter, and author of a 1992 book that depicted Donald’s Trump’s initial rise and all-too-temporary downfall in meticulous detail.  A few excerpts:

On the failure of the media, and specifically television journalism:

I was at Columbia Journalism School in 1968. It was the first year that they had a broadcast journalism program at the greatest journalism school in the world. Fred Friendly, who had been Edward R. Murrow’s producer, was hired to run it. And the concept of broadcast news, which was effectively written into law, was that if you get free airwaves, granted by the United States government—a trillion dollar asset at least—your only compensation is, you give us a little news. You give us a little fair news that meets journalistic standards. It wasn’t supposed to be a profit center. It was supposed to be a payback to the public for the free franchise. And now all it is is a profit center unguided by any journalistic principles. Guided purely by ratings and advertising. Television journalism proved in the course of this campaign that it has no ethic. It’s not like everybody who is on it is a bad guy. Some people are outstanding. But the industry as a whole has no ethic, owes us nothing. All it owes us is the same as what any other sitcom owes us, which is a product we are willing to consume.

On Donald Trump’s key role models:

What was it like having lunch with Roy Cohn?

Roy Cohn ate with his fingers. I kid you not. He brought a little glass inside of his coat pocket. He would pop little white pills when he thought you weren’t looking. He was the most satanic figure I ever met in my life. He was almost reptilian. I think he’s going to handle the swearing-in at the inauguration. They’re not going to bring a judge, they’re going to have Roy. And then Roy’s going to go back to the White House and fuck a 12-year-old. In the Oval Office.

I think Roy was the second-most important figure in Donald’s life, next to Fred. The point is that if you could meet the guy and say to yourself, “I want to be with this guy … ” Roy was already representing the heads of all five crime families in the city of New York. And the FBI affidavit said that the five crime families would meet in his law office because the feds couldn’t eavesdrop. It was lawyer-client. That’s where the bosses got together, in his office. The feds couldn’t do anything. That was an attraction to Donald.

So these were signs from the get-go, Donald was looking for the dark side. He was angling for the dark side.

On Trump’s likely relationship with Congress:

In your bookyou write about Trump’s talent for side-stepping bodies and extricating himself from damaging situations. What do you think that will portend for his relationships in government, whether they be in his cabinet or in Congress—people like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell? 

I don’t think they’re going to get fleeced. Ryan’s going to get his dream. He can go into every poor person’s kitchen and take out whatever’s in the refrigerator. He’s been waiting for years to do this. Now he’s going to have two houses of Congress and a president who will just … “OK, you wanna do the budget? OK, that’s fine with me, you just do the budget, Paul. When it comes to poor people, you’re in charge.”

If you’re looking for potentially good news, there’s this:

There’s no check on his power except reality. That’s what I’m saying about Obamacare. He would like to figure out a way to do what he said on 60 Minutes. He doesn’t want 32 million people off of health benefits. He’s a realistic enough politician. And so Donald is restrained. Yes, he’s putting [Michael] Flynn and this crazy woman [K.T.] McFarlane in his cabinet—I mean complete warmongers. If Rudy Giuliani gets in, these are all people who you would think would put us on a pathway to war. But I don’t think Donald has any interest in war. He doesn’t own a munitions factory. It’s too late for Donald Jr. to start one.

I’m saying, not that Trump is a rational actor, but that reality will rationalize him. If he starts a war with Iran it can bring down his presidency. Let’s give him credit for one thing. He understood his own voters. He ran against endless international adventures at such great cost.


Events Have Multiple Causes And Joint Responsibility Does Not Eliminate Individual Culpability

[ 227 ] December 3, 2016 |


In this Thursday’s NFL game, two things happened:

  • Sam Bradford put on a clinic for why the Vikings were idiots to trade 1st and 4th round picks for him — you don’t need to give up very valuable resources to find a QB who can make 3-yard throws to wide open receivers, including on 3rd-and-long. At the end of the game, he did put together one of the intermittent shows of competence that have caused people to make excuses for him during a career of consistently below-average play, leading a potentially game-tying TD drive. And then, on the 2-point conversion, he out-Bradforded himself, heaving the ball out of the endzone when he didn’t immediately spot an open receiver. (Since the game ends on any failed attempt, you’re better off throwing into triple coverage than throwing the ball away.) This wasn’t the only mistake that cost the Vikes the game despite a brilliant defensive performance, of course — under the temporary head coaching stylings of noted bigot Mike Preifer, their punting was awful, and a low-upside high-downside punt return deep in their own territory in the 4th quarter led to a critical game-altering fumble.
  • The Vikings were completely screwed on the missed two-point try that ended the game, with the refs somehow missing a direct blow to Bradford’s head. We’re not talking here about a marginal arguably missed holding or pass interference call, were the distinctions are always going to be somewhat arbitrary, but a call that under NFL practice is black-letter. Bradford should have had another chance to lob the ball into the 3rd row after not seeing a completely wide-open receiver in the end zone.

To state the obvious, it can be simultaneously true that 1)Bradford played badly and 2)the refs blew a critical call that materially affected the outcome of the game. Pointing out one does not eliminate the responsibility of the other. The Vikings players and coaches can be primarily responsible for winning the game, but that doesn’t mean that the refs can’t be criticized for blowing a critical call or that it didn’t potentially affect the outcome.

And yet, when it comes to politics, people like to pretend not to understand this obvious point:

(TBF, Glenn did follow up by conceding that “Pointing out that primary responsibility for winning & losing lies with the campaign/candidate doesn’t preclude media critiques,” which OK, although since 1)I had no role whatsoever in the Clinton campaign and 2)as anyone familiar with my work knows, my belief that people massively overrate the effects of campaign tactics and messaging in the context of presidential elections long predates the 2016 elections, I’m not sure what the point of the first tweet was if it wasn’t to say that we should yadda yadda the role of the media and the FBI because it distracts from the central fact that Hillary Clinton sucks.)

My analogy is actually too generous to people who think that the failed institutions other than the Clinton campaign should be given a de facto pass. Players and coaches actually are primarily responsible for winning, and we know that the marginal relative quality of a team’s passing game is the most important variable determining the outcome of contemporary NFL games. Campaigns, conversely, are not the primary determinant of election outcomes. The vast majority of votes are not gettable for one campaign or the other, and even with swing voters since they tend to vote retrospectively rather than prospectively, messaging is not really effective at affecting many of their votes.

Admittedly, in a context of an election as close as 2016, this qualification is less important; it was certainly possible that better messaging and resource allocation by the Clinton campaign could have affected the outcome. But there’s another problem here. In football, there are good measures of both team and individual quality. We can very accurately measure how good a team’s offense and defense are and how they influence outcomes. Apportioning individual responsibility is more complicated, but at most positions we can tell a good player from a bad one, and even where context makes measurement imprecise we’re not totally at sea — any remotely sophisticated observer knows that you couldn’t plug Dak Prescott into the Rams or 49ers or Vikings and expect the same results he’s producing behind the league’s best offensive line and with a lot of weapons in Dallas, and if you think that the superior Dallas personnel is solely responsible for Prescott’s strong performance, I have two words: “Brandon Weeden.” When it comes to political campaigns, however, arguments about “messaging” are mostly just unfalsifiable speculation, with a strong tendency to mask ideological arguments as tactical ones. I have nothing against this speculation, per se, and some arguments have more basis than others, but I do object to people placing great confidence in their just-so stories about how if candidate X had just done one magic trick Y they absolutely would have won.

All this, though, is beside the point. You can agree with the political science that in presidential elections the effects of campaign tactics are very marginal and what the effects are is very difficult to establish, or you can agree with Mark Halperin that campaign tactics are of immense importance and with countless pundits that messaging aligning with the pundit’s ex ante policy views is, by pure coincidence, also always a winning political strategy. Either way, mistakes made by the Clinton campaign (of which there were surely any number) and the deficiencies of Clinton as a candidate (of which there were surely many) are neither here nor there when assessing the role of the media or the FBI. It is self-serving for the Clinton campaign to focus on the Comey letter and how it was covered, but it’s equally self-serving for the media to want to focus on Clinton’s flaws rather than their own, so that’s just a wash. What matters is whether the arguments are right. And, in fact, there is very good evidence that the Comey letter materially affected the election. (And it’s not just a simple post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy — there’s not only the otherwise inexplicable magnitude of her decline in the polls after October 28th but the fact that she had a similar decline after Comey’s grossly inappropriate editorializing in July, and the demonstrable, massive shift to negative coverage about Clinton after both.) No such counterfactual can be proven with dispostive evidence, of course, but if you wan’t to say it’s not enough you really can’t proceed to assert with no evidence whatsoever that Clinton totally would have won had she just campaigned on the single-payer health care program that Rob Portman and Ron Johnson and Pat Toomey voters were clearly desperately aching for.

If you have a defense of the media’s hyping up of inane trivia about Clinton while almost entirely ignoring policy, then make it. If you have a defense of James Comey’s intervention into the election or a serious rebuttal to the strong evidence that it swung the election, go ahead. But “Hillary Clinton made mistakes” or “Hillary Clinton wasn’t a good candidate” are not relevant rejoinders. Hillary Clinton’s mistakes do not exonerate the media’s gross malpractice or James Comey’s reprehensible and unethical foot on the scale, and vice versa.

Fighting Child Labor in the Global Supply Chain During the Trump Era

[ 12 ] December 3, 2016 |


One of the many things I’ve personally been reckoning with in the past few weeks is how the shocking (although I am disappointed in myself for being so shocked) election of Donald Trump is how it impacts my larger mission of trying to reform the global supply chain and create international accountability to hold corporations responsible for what happens in those supply chains. But I realized that it actually doesn’t really matter very much. Yes, Donald Trump is going to be terrible on these issues, just like every other matter of both work and international relations. But you know what? It’s not like Barack Obama was exactly good on taming the exploitation in the global supply chain. Reclassifying Malaysia’s human rights rating even after mass graves of migrant labor were found just so it could be included in the Trans-Pacific Partnership was pretty bloody awful. The inclusion of the Investor State Dispute Settlement courts in said agreement, Obama’s top late-term foreign policy priority, was another. In international labor and trade agreements generally, the U.S. government is the single biggest obstacle to meaningful reform, even under a Democratic administration. The fight might be a little harder on this issue under Trump than under Hillary Clinton, but I never had actual confidence that Clinton would do the right thing on these issues either.

So this Amnesty International report on child labor in Indonesian palm oil plantations, with kids providing the goods for big western companies like Unilever, Nestlé, and Proctor and Gamble is as depressing as always, but doesn’t really affect me too differently at this point than it did before the election. Ultimately, we still have to articulate the just world we want to see and fight for that. We can’t let all of our energy just go into fighting the outrage du jour. Of course, we do need to fight those outrages with everything we have, but we also need to keep our eyes on the prize of a truly just world and keep talking about what needs to happen for children in Indonesia and how to hold Proctor and Gamble accountable for their role in exploiting them. Because someday, maybe, we will actually have the ability to make that world happen.

Trump’s Economic Message

[ 202 ] December 3, 2016 |


Despite the attempts by many people to say that economics and economic messaging had nothing to do with Trump’s victory on November 8, as I have stated repeatedly, Trump’s victory had to do with both race and class, as well as with misogyny, with evangelicals seeing (correctly probably) that Pence is going to be driving a lot of policy and thus God has created in Trump a vessel for Him, and of course rich people and policy hawks voting for any Republican. There’s a lot of factors at play here. That does indeed include appealing to white working class voters over economic issues, with enormous shifts in the vote in traditionally Democratic cities like Scranton and Erie strong evidence for the effectiveness of this message.

Mike Konczal has an excellent piece on Trump’s economic messaging. He went back and watched a whole bunch of Trump speeches from before the election to analyze how he talked about economics. His conclusions are that Trump had a very simple, if false message, that touched the lives of some white workers, whereas Clinton simply did not have simple message that low-information voters that going to attach themselves to. Two excerpts here. First, Konczal’s analysis of how Trump’s message appealed to white working-class voters precisely because it did not blame the rich for their economic problems.

Trump never blames the rich for people’s problems. He doesn’t mention corporations, or anything relating to class struggle. His economic enemies are Washington elites, media, other countries, and immigrants. Even when financial elites and corporations do something, they are a combination of pawns and partners of DC elites.

It’s important to watch that trick, of who has agency under runaway inequality. From a June speech in western Pennsylvania: “Our politicians have aggressively pursued a policy of globalization — moving our jobs, our wealth and our factories to Mexico and overseas. Globalization has made the financial elite who donate to politicians very wealthy. But it has left millions of our workers with nothing but poverty and heartache.” The rich buy politicians (and Trump can’t be bought) but he doesn’t turn around and denigrate those rich people.

Trump was smart to do so. As Joan C. Williams noted in an important essay, “the white working class (WWC) resents professionals but admires the rich.” The WWC doesn’t encounter rich people, but “professionals order them around every day. The dream is not to become upper-middle-class, with its different food, family, and friendship patterns; the dream is to live in your own class milieu, where you feel comfortable — just with more money.”

Now even if the WWC doesn’t resent the rich, Trump is likely to push it as far as it can go with a plutocratic administration. But there’s a reason his appointments aren’t sounding alarm bells right away, and it’s this logic. The media messed this up, assuming random vindictive statements amounted to policy, or not understanding how his tax plan worked, instead of seeing this consistent, deeper message.

We’ll need to do better putting populist energy against the bosses and owners. The mechanical, bloodless algebra of Piketty and income statistics probably won’t be enough by itself. We need a story of owners and investment to go with it. We need to talk about monopoly power, especially as Trump doesn’t take it up. Meanwhile we should feel out our own case against professionals. Tying professionals to commodification, the people who get in the way of needed goods (especially with whatever TrumpCare ends up looking like), might be a way to go there.

There sure isn’t any easy answer there. After analyzing Hillary’s unclear message on economic issues, Konczal tries to think through where to go from here:

There are a lot of reasons Clinton lost. There was some made-up wishful thinking in retrospect: her unfavorables were “priced-in”, I heard, which isn’t a thing. What I haven’t seen an answer for is that for all the money and tech, they didn’t know their blue wall was much less safe from the people on the ground than the polling numbers in Brooklyn HQ would see. Something broke down there and it’s urgent to understand why.

But even without that loss there would have been a need to reboot. As Ezekiel Kweku writes in an excellent article, “The lesson we should draw from Clinton’s loss is not that white supremacy is unbeatable at the polls, but that it’s not going to beat itself…If the Democratic Party would like to keep more Donald Trumps from winning in the future, they are going to have to take the extraordinary step of doing politics.” Politics is informed by analysis and policy, and though it is clear we need policy to move beyond neoliberalism, that is only the first step. The journey to find this new path is just beginning.

And of course, given the extremely tight races in the relevant states that tipped the election to Trump and Hillary’s large win in the popular vote, as far as winning the 2020 elections go, Democrats might not really have to change much at all, although the likely overwhelming voter suppression of people of color will make it harder. However, on economic messaging, Democrats need to realize something that Bernie Sanders figured out really quick–people don’t care about complex policy. They want to feel in their gut that a candidate is going to make their lives better. That means couching complex economic issues in simple terms that everyday voters can understand. As Konczal notes, that’s doing politics. That’s not only getting white working class voters to vote for Democrats again, but it’s also getting black and Latino voters to the polls, excited about the Democratic candidate, which they were not in 2016.

I don’t necessarily have an easy answer to this either, but it’s something that Democrats need to start taking seriously, as opposed to making cheap jokes every time some racist does a horrible thing that it’s about “economic anxiety.”

JOB-KILLING $15 Minimum Wage Fails To Kill Jobs

[ 76 ] December 3, 2016 |


Remember when the $15 minimum wage was going to devastate Seattle’s job market? Well, funny thing about that:

The unemployment rate in the city of Seattle – the tip of the spear when it comes to minimum wage experiments – has now hit a new cycle low of 3.4%, as the city continues to thrive. I’m not sure what else there is to say at this point. The doomsayers were wrong. The sky has not fallen. The restaurant business, by all accounts, is booming (in fact, probably reaching a saturation point when one looks at eateries per capita). I think it’s safe to say we’ve got enough data – over almost two years now – to declare that Seattle has not suffered adverse consequences from its increases in the minimum wage, and has certainly not experienced the dire effects foretold by the anti-min wage crowd.

But not every single restaurant in Seattle remained open for all of 2016 so the critics were right QED!!!!!1!!!

Seattle is a prosperous city with a lot of high-paying jobs, and reasonable people can disagree about what the optimal national minimum wage is. But the C- Econ 101 idea that a significantly increased minimum wage inevitably results in job losses can be safely put to bed.

[H/T Howard]

Lighthearted (If Heavygutted) News

[ 25 ] December 2, 2016 |

In more amusing news than most of what we are seeing in the world these days, I’m glad the person in charge of the great 70s Dinner Party Twitter feed has published a book based upon it.

Today in Trump’s America

[ 136 ] December 2, 2016 |


Example #1: The execution of former Jets running back Joe McKnight.

Ronald Gasser, the man authorities say shot and killed former NFL player Joe McKnight, was released from custody overnight without being charged, Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office authorities said Friday morning (Dec. 2).

Gasser, 54, has not been formally charged, said JPSO spokesman Col. John Fortunato. Investigators are consulting with the district attorney’s office on the decision whether to formally charge Gasser, Fortunato said.

As the investigation into McKnight’s death continues, Fortunato asked anyone with information about the shooting to contact department homicide detectives at 504-364-5393.

McKnight, 28, was shot about 3 p.m. Thursday (Dec. 1) at the intersection of Behrman Highway and Holmes Boulevard in Terrytown. A witness, who declined to give her name, said she saw a man at the intersection yelling at McKnight, who was trying to apologize. The man shot McKnight more than once, the witness said. She said he shot McKnight, stood over him and said, “I told you don’t you f— with me.” Then the man fired again, she said.

He murdered an unarmed man execution style and the cops just let him go. That my friends is what you call a racist nation with a racist “justice” system allowing for whites to kill black people and be treated with kid gloves. Maybe he and George Zimmerman can go on the road together.

Example 2: Trump giving white men the room to do whatever they want to Muslims.

Three men physically attacked a Muslim teenager at a Manhattan subway stop on Thursday night while shouting the name of the President-elect, police told the New York Daily News.

Police said the unidentified 18-year-old victim was waiting alone for the uptown 6 train at the 23rd Street and Park Avenue station when three young men approached her shouting “Donald Trump.”

Officers told the Daily News that they followed her onto the train, continuing to shout Trump’s name and allegedly calling her a “fucking terrorist.” The men, who the victim said appeared intoxicated, also allegedly told her to “get the hell out of the country” and said she didn’t “belong here.”

When she did not respond, they ripped her purse off her shoulder, breaking the strap, and attempted to pull off her hijab, police said.

What is terrible here is also that no one intervened and stood up for this woman. When we see this, we must do the right thing, even if that places us in physical danger ourselves. When we cower in terror, understandable as this may be when it happens, we enable fascists to act ever more boldly, leading to increasingly horrible crimes. I know it’s easy for me to sit here and write this and I’m not trying to act as a keyboard warrior. I’m just saying we all have to figure what we are going to actually do in these situations if we see them. And some people are doing the right thing and intervening.

Did Trump Win Because Swing State Voters Preferred Him On the Economy?

[ 253 ] December 2, 2016 |


The answer is no:

The driving narrative for the results of the November election has run contrary to that. According to a broad swath of popular understanding, Donald Trump will be the next president because he narrowly won three critical states — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — powered by working class voters frustrated with economic intransigence.

But that’s not what exit polling shows in those states, to Southpaw’s point. Exit polls show Hillary Clinton winning a majority of the vote from people who told pollsters that the economy was the most important issue facing the country. What’s more, in each state, a majority of voters said that was the case.

In fact, if we extend that out to every state for which we have exit polling, in 22 of those 27 states a majority of people said that the economy was the most important issue. And in 20 of those states, voters who said so preferred Hillary Clinton. In 17, in fact, a majority of those voters backed Clinton.


In nearly every state, Clinton did better (and Trump worse) with voters worried about the economy than with the overall pool of voters. (Notice how the blue slices in the smaller circles extend further than the blue slices in the larger ones.)

How can that be? How can she win a majority of the majority and still lose? Because she lost with other groups worse.

The exit poll questionnaire gave voters a choice between four options for the most important issue. Clinton was generally preferred by those who said foreign policy was the most important issue, too, but Trump was preferred by those who saw immigration or terrorism as most important. The key is the margins. On average, about 13 percent of people in the 27 states said foreign policy was most important and they preferred Clinton by an average of 30 points. On average, voters who said the economy was most important preferred Clinton by 7.3. But on terrorism, rated most important by a fifth of voters, on average, Trump led by an average of 21.8 points. On immigration (most important to an average of 12.2 percent of respondents)? A huge 42.1 percentage point lead for Trump.

If I’ve read Mark Lilla correctly, however, the fact that Trump voters were likely to prioritize immigration and terrorism in the wake of Trump’s appeals to white resentment cannot be identity politics.

Anyway, the idea that Clinton was only different economic messaging away from winning is a nice story, but the evidence supporting the theory is notably scant.


[ 65 ] December 2, 2016 |


The chances of a recession are pretty high in the next 4 years, just looking at historical trends. Given the incredible length of time it took for jobs to recover after the last recession, a trend that has been vastly increasing in recent recessions, we as a nation are really not ready for the next one. Now imagine what a recession looks like with Donald Trump in the Oval Office.

Is it too early to start drinking?

White Privilege and the Democratic Party Elite

[ 85 ] December 2, 2016 |
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., center, and Senate Democrats gather outside the Capitol to urge Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other House Republicans, to break the impasse on a funding bill and stop the government shutdown that is now in its second week, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, in Washington. With so many furloughed federal workers living in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs outside Washington, senators from those states made special pleas. At right is Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. At far left is Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., center, and Senate Democrats gather outside the Capitol to urge Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other House Republicans, to break the impasse on a funding bill and stop the government shutdown that is now in its second week, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, in Washington. With so many furloughed federal workers living in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs outside Washington, senators from those states made special pleas. At right is Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. At far left is Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

This story about the racial makeup of top Democratic staffers in the Senate is more than a little dismaying:

“They are all so phony,” the staffer told me. “Every time I hear any of the Democratic senators, including my own boss, talk about diversity, I cringe, because it’s all one big lie. That they’ve been allowed to enjoy this reputation as a party that values diversity, while doing next to nothing of substance to align their actions with their words, is expert-level deception.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

The staffer went on to detail a private network of conversations being held by staff members of color in the U.S. Senate which they half-jokingly call the “Underground Railroad.”

“Democrats in the Senate use demographics as their excuse for the fact that they only have one African-American member in their ranks. They’ll tell anyone who listens that they wish this wasn’t the case and to the untrained ear, it sounds true. It isn’t. The Senate looks just the way want it,” the staffer told me.

I must admit that I had also bought the lie — hook, line, and sinker — that only two current U.S. Senators out of 100, Cory Booker, a Democrat, and Tim Scott, a Republican, were black because state by state demographics just made it too hard for African-Americans to win statewide elections.

“No, that’s not it. Of course demographics are a factor in every election, but the Senate looks the way Senators want it to look. Let me prove it to you.”

What I learned next made my jaw drop.

“Do you know how many black Chiefs of Staff exist in the Senate? The whole Senate? One. Out of one hundred chances they had to hire a black chiefs of staff, they hired just one African-American,” the staffer said in disgust.

“But hold up, hold up,” the staffer continued. “I haven’t even given you the punchline yet. Guess who the one black Chief of Staff works for?”

“Who?” I asked — having no idea what the answer was.

“Tim Scott,” the staffer replied. “The lone black chief of staff in the entire United States Senate works for South Carolina Republican, Tim Scott. His office may be the most diverse in the entire Senate.”

That’s, um, not good. And while I have no way to access the educational backgrounds of Senate staffers, it takes no great leap of faith to expect that many of them come from elite schools and wealthy families that basically recreate the aristocratic class in Washington, on Wall Street, and in every other bastion of power in America. While you’d expect this from Republicans, it’s deeply dismaying but not surprising from Democrats. This is how white privilege works. You say you are for greater diversity and for greater opportunities for people of color. And your probably are. But then in your personal hiring practices, you are part of the problem.

2016’s Dumbest Argument

[ 97 ] December 2, 2016 |


That title suggests a high bar. As you might expect though, an essay in The Federalist is going to be able to clear it. And here we have this pablum telling liberals to stop whining about the electoral college. This is mostly just dumb for all the reasons you expect. And then this pops up about the Three-Fifths Compromise. Because, you see, it discriminated against slaveowners:

How does a specialist in constitutional law miss the word “compromise” in “three-fifths compromise”? How does one of America’s most-cited legal scholars fail to consider that five-fifths (that’s one) and three-fifths weren’t the only options available?

It wasn’t pretty that day around the Constitution. Northern and Southern states fought bitterly over how to count slaves, who couldn’t vote, in population numbers. Since population numbers determined legislative power, Southern states of course wanted to count slaves like they counted everyone else. Abolition-conscious Northern states wanted to eliminate slaves from population counts completely.

Northern states argued that if Southern states could count their property (slaves), Northern states could count theirs (horses, chickens, etc.). Because executive fiat by phone and by pen had not yet been invented, the two sides had no choice but to compromise. That’s why it’s called “the three-fifths compromise.”

As Reed points out, the three-fifths compromise “discounted” the value of slaves relative to white men, but it enhanced the power of slaves relative to white men in reducing by two-fifths the South’s power to preserve slavery legislatively. The Electoral College set the stage for legislative abolition of slavery, so you can say it was about slavery if you want, but tell the whole truth.

Yes, that is tragic to only allow the South to count slaves at 60 percent of a human when in fact the law did not even consider slaves human in any legal way! And this only allowed the Slave Power and their northern sympathizers to control nearly the entire federal government between 1789 and 1860! Why can’t you libs tell the whole story!!!!

On Tuesday, the last speaker in the amazing series of speakers I co-organized this fall at the University of Rhode Island on the theme of Inequality and the American Dream was on campus. This was the great Jelani Cobb. He noted that in fact after Reconstruction, southern whites actually benefited from Jim Crow more than they had from slavery. African-Americans couldn’t vote during either period, but during Jim Crow, apportionment counted 100 percent of black people instead of 60 percent. Thus the control of the South over the government after Reconstruction was at least as entrenched as during slavery. That’s effectively what this Federalist piece is longing for, even if it gives it a soft sell under the guise of modern Americans being stupid whiners. Finally, southern white men had their deserved power. And sadly, that’s the goal for all too many whites in Trump’s America.

I do not recommend searching for additional mangoes here.

The People Had Their Say

[ 84 ] December 2, 2016 |

Remember when the Republican Senate shredded the only norm—luck of timing—that stands between the Supreme Court’s standing as an institution and the implications of its complete politicization?

Here are some examples of the core logic that Republican officials used to justify their actions:

…. A lifetime appointment that could dramatically impact individual freedoms and change the direction of the court for at least a generation is too important to get bogged down in politics. The American people shouldn’t be denied a voice. —Grassley

…. We should let the American people decide the direction of the court. —Ryan

…. The only way to empower the American people and ensure they have a voice is for the next President to make the nomination to fill this vacancy. —Cornyn

…. The American people are perfectly capable of having their say on this issue, so let’s give them a voice. Let’s let the American people decide. The Senate will appropriately revisit the matter when it considers the qualifications of the nominee the next president nominates, whoever that might be. —McConnell

Well, the American people did have their say. They cast, by a 2.6 million vote margin, a plurality of votes for a major-party candidate with, for instance, the most expansive views of reproductive rights in decades. Clinton and Trump both made clear position on Supreme Court appointments. The public made it clear, by 48%-46%, that they preferred Clinton. While the libertarian ticket sent contradictory signals on the Court, you could make a strong case that over 50% of the public explicitly, and easily, rejected Trump’s and his party’s promises on Court nominations.

The point, I think, is obvious. No one need argue that Trump’s tiny margin of victory in the Electoral College—and his decisive defeat in the popular vote—renders his Presidency illegitimate. But the GOP made very clear that they wanted to give the American public a voice in the process. Democrats should, likewise, make it very clear that the Republican party must listen to that voice. Trump must nominate a moderate. If he won’t, the Democrats should filibuster and force McConnell to choose between, on the one hand, the nuclear option* getting rid of it for Supreme Court confirmation and, on the other, convincing Trump to choose a more bipartisan candidate.

There’s a larger issue here. Democrats have every right to use Clinton’s “mandate” as an integral part of their message when they oppose extremist Republican policies. And where they can hoist the Republicans by their own rhetorical petard? All the better.

*See Emmryss’ comment.


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