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Category: General

Why Paul Ryan Wants to Destroy the ACA

[ 207 ] February 17, 2017 |

Ryan-invites-Trump-to-address-joint-session-of-Congress

Alas, he doesn’t seem to have gotten the alternative fact that it’s a neoliberal sellout to insurance interests, and instead seems to think that it was a substantial redistribution in wealth and increase in regulation:

Republicans in Congress have been saying for months that they are working on a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare in the Trump era. Now we have the outline of that plan, and it looks as if it would redirect federal support away from poorer Americans and toward people who are wealthier.

A white paper drafted by House leadership and the staff of the House and Senate committees that oversee health policy details a structure that could replace large sections of the Affordable Care Act. Crucially, the proposal largely contains provisions that could be passed through a special budget process that requires only 50 Senate votes, and fulfills President Trump’s promise that the repeal and replacement of the law would take place “simultaneously.”

The plan would make major changes in how health care is financed for Americans who don’t get coverage from work. It would greatly expand the number of Americans who could benefit from federal help in buying health insurance, but it would change who benefits most from that support.

Obamacare, as the A.C.A. is known, extended health coverage to 20 million Americans through two main mechanisms. It expanded Medicaid coverage to Americans below or just above the poverty line in states that participated, and it offered income-based tax credits for middle-income people to buy their own insurance. Obamacare was a redistributive law, transferring money from rich to poor.

It’s still more the sketch of a plan than a plan, but the fact that it seems to be designed to avoid the filibuster shows that Ryan isn’t going to abandon his dream of taking away healthcare from millions of people and making it much worse for many millions more to pay for upper-class tax cuts without a fight. Here’s what people can do to try to stop him.

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Central and North American Border Crossings

[ 11 ] February 17, 2017 |

7032168939_9e2632e063_bI recently discovered that an article—written by Noelle K. Brigden—in the journal that I edit is available for free. I mention this because it’s based on ethnographic work with Central American migrants. In particular, it explores border crossings with a focus on the journey of a Salvadoran boy.

An excerpt:

In Mexico, a country where the ‘mestizo’ of mixed Spanish and indigenous heritage represents the dominant racial ideology, profiling renders black migrants most vulnerable to identification. Of course, since it standardizes practice in a dynamic strategic setting, racial profiling may also create opportunities for smuggling. Smugglers sometimes blend high-paying Peruvian clients into travel groups with indigenous Guatemalans, because of their similar phenotype (smuggler, El Salvador, 7/5/10). The Peruvians pass as Guatemalan, and if they are captured, they only need to travel to Central America rather than returning to South America. This minimizes financial risks for the smugglers transporting them. Therefore, racial stereotypes can be harnessed, not only by state authorities, but by migrants and smugglers as well.

Like state authorities, criminals identify potential victims for kidnapping, rape, robbery, and extortion by trying to detect the accent, migrant clothing, and phenotype of Central Americans. In part because of racial profiling, Hondurans, and in particular black Hondurans, are most likely to rely on the dangerous train route where mass kidnappings and muggings occur with frequency, thereby avoiding buses that travel through migration checkpoints. The proportion of migrants reporting Honduran nationality on the registration rolls of the shelters has been the highest of any national group since Hurricane Mitch in 1998, often by a very large margin (Ruíz 2001). One rumor circulating among migrants suggests that organized criminal groups particularly seek out Salvadorans, who are known to be better connected to established families in the United States and thus fetch higher ransoms, than the poverty stricken Hondurans, who throng the migrant shelters and crowd the most desperate routes to the US. Whatever the preference of kidnappers might be, any identifiable Central American nationality invites legal, illegal, and extralegal violence en route.

Social scientists and academics in the humanities should find the piece pretty accessible. Non-academics—well, you can skim the denser academic prose at the top; once you hit the substantive sections, its easier going. Still, it’s not a work of journalism, so be forewarned. Given the rise of Trumpism, and its concurrent devaluation of empathy for immigrants, I thought some readers might be interested.

I’m going to make an effort to call attention to work of interest in my field—from International Studies Quarterly, but also more broadly. Hope that’s okay.

[Image by Peter Haden (CC-2.0)]

Trolling Wrapped in Riddling Wrapped in Enigma…ing

[ 55 ] February 17, 2017 |

I’m lucky in that I’m rarely trolled; it just doesn’t happen in any volume or with any frequency. But on rare occasions I get some bizarre, trolly comments in my threads. In my last entry, I posted the art project I collaborated on with my son. I got this comment in response:

BobBobNewhartNewhartSpecial says:

He wanted to do a “craft.” So we did.

#stayathomefeminism

 

I’m sure this is a super-sweet burn; I just can’t figure out precisely what the burn is. Can any of you help? I’m genuinely baffled.

Who Says House Oversight Isn’t Doing Its Job?

[ 101 ] February 17, 2017 |

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You might think that the presidency of the United States was enough of a prize for the EMAILS! faint echo of a scandal, but you can’t serve America a cyanide-and-shit omelet without breaking a lot of eggs:

The Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, who has refused Democratic requests to investigate possible conflicts of interest involving President Donald Trump, is seeking criminal charges against a former State Department employee who helped set up Hillary Clinton’s private email server.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday asking him to convene a grand jury or charge Bryan Pagliano, the computer specialist who helped establish Clinton’s server while she was secretary of state.

To paraphrase Justice Harlan, straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel is the governing credo of House Republicans. I mean, the camel might have a bad weave job but it contains upper-class tax cuts.

Today in the Republican States of America

[ 110 ] February 16, 2017 |

(The topic is anti-Semitism, which may be a thing some people would rather not read about right now.)

In Myrtle Beach, S.C., the FBI arrested a white supremacist who may have been planning an attack on a local synagogue.

A man with connections to a white supremacy group was arrested in Myrtle Beach Wednesday after purchasing a gun from an undercover FBI agent, apparently intending to commit an attack “in the spirit of Dylann Roof.”

[…]

On December 26, 2016, McDowell posted to Facebook a message: “I love love to act what u think,” followed by a link to the Temple Emanu-El Conservative Synagogue in Myrtle Beach, according to court documents. Horry County Police indicated to the FBI that McDowell had established White Supremacy Extremist connections while serving in prison in South Carolina for various criminal offenses. He also had tattoos indicating an affiliation with these groups.

According to the federal complaint document, on January 5, 2017, McDowell posted to Facebook an anti-semetic screed referencing Dylann Roof, which included the statement: “they should be Feasting on the enemy that stole their Heritage and their bloodline and trying to run us off of this Earth you can post pictures of f****** Viking and swords all the s*** you want to post if you ain’t got the heart to fight for Yahweh like dylann roof did you need to shut the f*** up…”

In Washington, D.C. the rogue cheddar told an Orthodox reporter from a Jewish magazine to sit down and called him a liar after the reporter asked about the increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes.

“What we are concerned about, and what we haven’t really heard being addressed, is an uptick in anti-Semitism and how the government is planning to take care of it,” Turx said.

As Turx continued, Trump interrupted, “See, he said he was going to ask a very simple, easy question, and it’s not.”

The reporter said, “It’s an important one.”

“Not a simple question. Not a fair question. OK, sit down. I understand the rest of your question,” Trump said. “So here’s the story folks. No. 1, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life. No. 2, racism. The least racist person. In fact, we did very well relative to other people running as a Republican.”

Any question more difficult than Are you a great president or the greatest president? is UNFAIR.

Turx raised his hand again and spoke up.

“Quiet, quiet, quiet,” Trump replied. “See he lied about — he was going to get up and ask a very straight, simple question. So, you know, welcome to the world of the media.”

[…]

“But let me just tell you something: I hate the charge. I find it repulsive. I hate even the question because people that know me — and you heard the Prime Minister, you heard Benjamin Netanyahu, did you hear him, Bibi? He said, ‘I’ve known Donald Trump for a long time,’ and then he said, ‘Forget it.’ So you should take that instead of having to get up and ask a very insulting question like that.”

This is an example of the “lot of love” the jaundiced orangeutan said we’re going to see?

I can’t read minds. If I could, I wouldn’t peek at the rotten fruit and cockroaches tRump has stuffed between his ears on a bet. However, I can read his response to Turx and compare it to his response to other reporters who ask him about anti-Semitism and connect, as they say, the two yuge dots.

Later on in the press conference, another reporter said, “I’ll follow up on my colleague’s question about anti-Semitism. It’s not about your personality or your beliefs. We’re talking about a rise in anti-Semitism around the country. Some of it by supporters in your name. What can you do to deter that?”

Trump said, “Some of it is written by our opponents. You do know that? Do you understand that? You don’t think anybody would do a thing like that?”

He went on to insist anti-Semitism was coming from his political opponents, who were doing it to generate anger: “Some of the signs you’ll see are not put up by the people that love or live Donald Trump.

Still gibberish, but because white supremacy’s greatest spokesmodel didn’t go after the reporter, I don’t fear for the reporter’s safety.

Thursday Night Links

[ 33 ] February 16, 2017 |
Nightmare Golden Freddy

Nightmare Golden Freddy

General Strikes

[ 6 ] February 16, 2017 |

33f67f059784d21f6ddf16ef6011c8e3

I have an interview in the Denver-based publication Denverite, presumably in no way connected to our Bronco fan commenter, about this idea of general strikes. Again, I’m skeptical.

Erik Loomis is an assistant professor of history at the University of Rhode Island and his areas of study include the American labor movement.

The first thing he told me is that he’s pretty skeptical about Friday’s general strike, in large part because it’s directed by activists and radicals, not workers, and doesn’t seem connected to existing worker movements.

“They seem to be saying, ‘Let’s shut things down,’ because that’s what they want to do anyway,” he said.

Loomis wrote about the most famous American general strikes — in Seattle in 1919 and in Oakland in 1946 — for In These Times back in 2011 when Occupy Oakland was calling for a general strike. Both of those strikes were incredibly threatening to people in power and were crushed. The Oakland strike started with a strike by department store clerks for better wages and working conditions, and in December of that year, members of the typically more conservative American Federation of Labor joined them.

AFL workers from 142 unions around Oakland walked off their jobs — bus drivers, teamsters, sailors, machinists, cannery workers, railroad porters, waiters, waitresses, cooks. For over two days, Oakland shut down. Over 100,000 workers participated in the strike.

The strikers controlled Oakland. All businesses except for pharmacies and food markets shut down. Bars could stay open but could only serve beer and had to put their juke boxes outside and allow for their free use. Couples literally danced in the streets. Recently returned war veterans created squadrons to prepare for battle. Union leadership took a back seat to rank and file actions.

Loomis said the term “general strike” calls up radicalism, but the goals of the Oakland strike were not particularly extreme. They wanted the department stores to meet the demands of the striking clerks, and they also wanted to break the Republican political machine that controlled Oakland at the time, which had close ties to the department store owners.

On the other hand:

On Monday, thousands of people in Milwaukee held a “Day without Latinos, Immigrants and Refugees” rally to protest immigration crackdowns by Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr., an outspoken supporter of the president. People then called for a national “Day without Immigrants” shutdown on Thursday, with immigrants, regardless of legal status, staying home from work and school, not opening their businesses and not spending money in any way.

Dozens of prominent restaurants in Washington, D.C., plan to close. In Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Austin and other cities, workers have said they’ll stay home, and restaurant owners are closing their doors out of necessity but also solidarity for their largely immigrant workforce.

There’s not a lot of evidence online of immigrants in Denver planning to participate, and a few activists I spoke to hadn’t heard much either. But it’s also not the kind of thing that requires a Facebook group to organize. So we’ll just have to see what happens today.

Loomis said this protest — if a lot of people participate — would have more in common with a general strike than the events calling themselves general strikes.

Why?

“The workers themselves are leading it,” he said.

Immigrants as a group share common interests and common vulnerabilities, and working together to make the impact of their absence felt, they have collective power, Loomis said.

“It’s very organic,” he said. “It’s very real to those workers. They’re saying this is an expression of our power and our interest. It’s not a bunch of radicals telling people what to do.”

The Dangers of Trump’s Approach to Burden Sharing

[ 59 ] February 16, 2017 |

It seems a bit anti-climatic after today’s Presidential performance, but I have a piece (co-authored with Abe Newman) at Vox’s “The Big Idea” section on burden-sharing. The title is somewhat misleading: the crux of our argument is that the benefits of burden-sharing are overblown, the context in which the Trump Administration is pushing for it are dangerous—especially in Europe, and the US derives important benefits from the asymmetry in capabilities it enjoys with its security partners.

The argument for “burden sharing” — that American allies, who are much richer in both absolute and relative terms than when the United States established the current global security architecture, should pay a larger share for their own defense — is far from new. During the primaries, Bernie Sanders called for American allies to do more, and Hilary Clinton pledged to work with NATO partners to get them to meet the 2 percent of GDP spending targets affirmed at a 2014 NATO summit in Wales. (In fact, there is considerable variation on how much NATO members spend on defense. Some, including Greece, Estonia, and Poland, easily meet the target. Others — such as Hungary, Canada, or Slovenia — spend closer to 1 percent of GDP.)

But the Trump administration’s statements and dispositions seem to go further than previous calls for burden sharing. Many allies — especially those on the front line with Russia, like the Baltic States and Poland — are extremely worried that Trump intends to in effect abandon long-standing commitments.

Go read, if so inclined.

I think I’m still in denial that this is actually happening

[ 269 ] February 16, 2017 |

Even though I suggested a year and a half ago that it very well could.

Therefore I’ll outsource to the always essential Josh Marshall:

 

This is that rare time when I think the cliched phrase is appropriate: That press conference speaks for itself. There’s very little I can think to add. It all amounts to a confirmation of what most of us already know. This man is not emotionally or characterologically equipped to serve as President. He lacks the focus, the ability to commit to even a passable amount of work without immediate emotional gratification. Thus his decision to hold a campaign rally in Florida on Friday. (It’s literally a campaign event, put on by his 2020 reelection campaign). Trump lacks the emotional resilience or toughness to deal with what is the inevitable criticism and difficulties of being President, which – lets be clear – are great.

These different deficits all feed upon each other. He lacks the steadiness for the job.

There are credible reports of Richard Nixon being in this sort of state in the final weeks of his presidency. But Nixon, to give him his due, was at the center of the greatest political scandal in American history, bearing down on him for months and pushing him toward the greatest political disgrace and humiliation in his nation’s political history. He was overseeing the Vietnam War, witnessing various domestic civil disturbances, grappling with foreign policy blowups which neared superpower confrontations. There was a lot going on. Trump has been President for less than four weeks. Aside from domestic, media driven and other crises of his own making, virtually nothing has happened.

But the man who just appeared before the press for a free-ranging airing of grievances looked tired, sullen and half broken. His bracing insistence that everything is going perfectly in his White House sounded desperate and bizarre.

He’s coming up on one month down and 47 to go.

If there’s any justice in the world, most of the Trumpkins will be far enough away from the nuclear explosions to die slow deaths from radiation poisoning.

Another New, and Bad, Equilibrium

[ 87 ] February 16, 2017 |

Eric Levitz has an amusing post that also has a serious conclusion:

Screen Shot 2017-02-16 at 2.02.45 PM

He continues:

This is a point that the president’s critics should take seriously. Even if one thinks that the FBI served the public interest by leaking in this specific case, the principle that our unelected law-enforcement agencies should not publicize the details of ongoing investigations is one worth protecting. For now, the FBI’s leaks are merely alerting the public to possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence agencies — and, thereby, making it more politically difficult for the president to quash existing inquiries into that matter.

But how else might the FBI use its power to selectively reveal investigatory information in the future? It is not impossible to imagine the agency actually swinging an election over baseless insinuations, by disclosing bits of information in a misleading way.

Even if it hadn’t swung the election, Comey’s grossly irresponsible and unethical actions served to demonstrate the substantive value of the rules and norms he violated. His selective interventions into the election undermined American democracy with horrible results. But obliterating the norms is also going to mean more actions by factions within the FBI to undermine elected officials. It would be much better if the old norms had held, even now that interventions are more likely to hurt Trump than help him. But expecting unilateral disarmament is unrealistic, so once the norms go it’s generally impossible to restore them. The damage Comey inflicted on American democracy will have repressions that extend well beyond the bad outcomes of the Trump administration.

No, it Really is that Bad

[ 206 ] February 16, 2017 |

Crisis

My default blogging mode is pretty snarky. I guess, in that respect, I’m an old-school academic blogger. The common approach now seems to be professional and scholarly. But sometimes it’s appropriate to set aside the snark—not in favor of scholarly detachment, but to articulate warranted fears.

The United States is facing a major institutional crisis.

While at least some of the leaks we’re seeing about the Trump Administration emanate from factions within the White House, others are coming from the professional civil service—most notably the intelligence community. All of these leaks suggest a White House plagued by incompetence, insularity, and paranoia.

People are searching for scapegoats. But the Cossacks work for the Czar and a fish rots from it’s head down. Trump, as E.J. Dionne wrote yesterday, is simply “unfit to serve.” It’s not just the leaks that suggest this. It’s what we witnessed, through the eyes of patrons paying for access, at Mar-a-Lago. It’s the unhinged Tweets through which Trump riles up his supporters, disrupts diplomacy, and showcases his authoritarian dispositions. It’s a senior White House advisor channeling Carl Schmitt while he reads from cue cards on national television.

But the leaks are, in fact, at the heart of the current crisis. Various conservatives claim that this is a war of the “deep state” against a ‘change agent.’ Some argue that that the revelations about Flynn were a dead-hand effort by the Obama Administration to save the Iran nuclear-weapons deal. This is a profound misreading of many things, including what an actual deep state looks like. But it’s how dysfunction and civil-service blowback play out in a highly polarized environment.

Indeed, some GOP officials are doing their best to avoid serious oversight. Representative Jason Chaffetz has signaled a preference for going after those leaking information. The House GOP voted against even closed-door evaluations of Trump’s tax returns. Because, GOP officials claimed, it would create a slippery slope.

This may be the “standard playbook” with unified government, but nothing is “standard” about the current moment.

Democrats, in general, see the leaks as the only way to get to the truth given Republican and White House intransigence. Many key disclosures have come in the wake of Trump administration falsehoods, or attacks on the intelligence community. The difficulty here is simple. There’s nothing “good” about the status quo. Members of the civil service should not be at war with a new administration. Members of the civil service should not have to be at war with a new administration. And recall that Trump played a major role in starting this conflict by making clear that his priors—and need to avoid cognitive dissonance—take precedence over US intelligence findings.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that Trump wants to put a completely unqualified loyalist in charge of a “review” of the intelligence community.

Bringing Mr. Feinberg into the administration to conduct the review is seen as a way of injecting a Trump loyalist into a world the White House views with suspicion. But top intelligence officials fear that Mr. Feinberg is being groomed for a high position in one of the intelligence agencies.

Mr. Bannon and Mr. Kushner, according to current and former intelligence officials and Republican lawmakers, had at one point considered Mr. Feinberg for either director of national intelligence or chief of the Central Intelligence Agency’s clandestine service, a role that is normally reserved for career intelligence officers, not friends of the president. Mr. Feinberg’s only experience with national security matters is his firm’s stakes in a private security company and two gun makers.

This kind of action would look strange—even foolish—in normal times. In the Trump administration, it seems downright sinister. Multiple press outlets report that long-standing communication between Trump advisors and Russian agents goes well beyond Flynn. While defenders focus on the lack of evidence of active collusion, this is a bit of a red herring, especially. but not only, given that Trump publicly called for Russia to help defeat Clinton.

Beyond that, we have many reasons to believe that Trump’s business interests are becoming intertwined with the Presidency. Not simply in the form of crass moves to “cash in,” such as hiking the price of Mar-a-Lago membership or trying to assist Ivanka Trump’s line of apparel, but in the kind of ways that affect US national security.

These operations reflect a serious breakdown in the long-standing faith in the direction of American policy by some of the country’s most important allies. Worse, the United States is now in a situation that may be unprecedented—where European governments know more about what is going on in the executive branch than any elected American official. To date, the Republican-controlled Congress has declined to conduct hearings to investigate the links between Trump’s overseas business partners and foreign governments, or the activities between Russia and officials in the Trump campaign and administration—the very areas being examined by the intelligence services of at least two American allies.

Some details about Trump’s business partners were passed to the American government months ago. For example, long before the president’s inauguration, German electronic surveillance determined that the father of Trump’s Azerbaijani business partner is a government official who laundered money for the Iranian military; that information was shared with the CIA, according to a European source with direct knowledge of the situation.

Of equal concern to our allies is Trump’s business partner in the Philippines, who is also the special representative to Washington of that country’s president, Rodrigo Duterte. This government official, Jose E.B. Antonio, is the head of Century Properties, which in turn is a partner with the president’s business in the construction of Trump Tower at Century City in Makati, Philippines. According to people with direct knowledge of the situation, a European intelligence service has obtained the contracts and other legal documents in the deal between the Trump Organization and Antonio. That deal has already resulted in large payments to Trump’s business, with millions of dollars more on the way—all coming from an agent of the Philippine president.

The financial relationship between an American president and the Philippine government comes at a time when the historic alliance between the West and the Southeast Asian country is under great stress. Since the election last year of Duterte, a campaign of slaughter has gripped the Philippines, with death squads murdering thousands of suspected drug users in the streets. The carnage, which intelligence officials have concluded is being conducted with Duterte’s involvement, has been condemned throughout the Western world; the Parliament of the European Union and two United Nations human rights experts have urged Duterte to end the massacre.

There are a number of directions all of this could go. Consider three broad possibilities.

In the first, things worsen. The damage to the United States—at home and abroad—proves profound. One scenario: continued disruption and paralysis, while Trump enriches himself. This results, whether in 2018 or 2020, in sufficient Democratic victories for deadlock, investigations, and other forms of ‘harm mitigation.’ Another possibility is a slide toward soft authoritarianism, starting with the eviscerating of the intelligence community and spreading into other branches of the civil service. As we jump from shock to shock, Trump, as well as Bannon, Miller, and other loyalists, ratchets up the threat level—for example, they scapegoat Muslim Americans, engage in diversionary uses of force, launch investigations against their opponents—until we reach an inflection point. Then, who knows?

In the second, things get better’ Adults take firm control over the National Security Council. Eventually, Trump’s inner circle decides that they need seasoned hands to oversee the White House. We get an increasingly normal Republican administration, albeit with a Justice Department more committed than any before to rolling back civil and voting rights. Perhaps the economy is doing well enough that Trump wins a second term, and the GOP becomes increasingly “Trumpist”—but that Trumpism looks not all that different from where the GOP was in the first place.

The third looks like the second, but is really a variation of the first. That is, the adults solve the day-to-day competency problem, but can’t ameliorate the fundamental dispositions of Trump and his inner circle. So we get kleptocracy, ethno-nationalist governance, and much greater democratic backsliding—but with trappings that make it possible to attract a stable plurality, or majority, of support.

Regardless of how we look back at this period in four years, we should not forget that, right now, on Day 26 of the Trump administration, American democratic institutions are in crisis. We need to mobilize, and organize, to defend them. We must demand oversight, and we must demand that the public learn to what degree this smoke hides raging fires.

Morality Plays Need Cartoon Villains, Even if They Have to be Invented

[ 453 ] February 16, 2017 |

Tom-Perez-AP-IAMGASJH

I fully endorse everything Erik says about 1)the contest between two ideologically indistinguishable left-liberals over who will take a position whose importance tends to be vastly exaggerated, and 2)how re-ligating the primaries — from the perspective of support for either candidate — is both counterproductive and tends to turn people’s minds into mush.

This interview contains the reductio ad absurdum of seeing the DNC race through the prism of the Assassination of Saint Bernard Sanders by the Neoliberal Coward Hillary Clinton. Most of the words here aren’t really worth engaging with. I’ll leave it to you to determine whether Democrats are DOOOOOOMED stories will hold up better than the identical stories told about Republicans in 2008, and the argument that “Hillary Clinton sucks” is the only acceptable thing to discuss about the 2016 elections is obviously useless retrospectively (many variables determined the outcome of the election in addition to the limitations and tactical errors of the Democratic nominee) and prospectively (Hillary Clinton will not be the Democratic nominee in 2020, so problem solved!) But this is revolting:

You’ve got Keith Ellison, [who] in many ways is a very promising figure. He has an idea of remaking the party from the ground up and registering people to vote. Rebuilding the party at the base. Ellison is being challenged by Tom Perez, the secretary of labor under Obama — soon to be replaced by a fast-food executive. It’s all so grim. Perez is a guy who wanted to race-bait Bernie Sanders, but now is running against the black Muslim guy on some kind of white identitarian grounds — it makes no sense at all.

[…]

Right! It’s like termites eating the house from within. It’s about to collapse. Democrats were very complacent about it during the campaign. They were convinced that the Republican party was a “dumpster fire,” a party in meltdown. No, the party meltdown is their own. Ellison has at least a strategy for building from the bottom up. Perez is a top-down kind of guy. Very Clintonite. He pretends to be very pro-labor, but not really. We now just parenthetically see the SEIU, which has been a very important part of the Democratic coalition, about to cut its budget by a third.

Much of this — like the idea that there’s a disagreement between Ellison and Perez about whether it’s desirable to register voters — is just silly. The idea that Perez wanted to “race bait” Sanders is a ludicrous distortion of some banal political observations. But what’s appalling is the assertion that Perez isn’t “really” pro-labor. This is either risibly ignorant or flatly dishonest. As Erik has said, Perez is almost certainly the most progressive and effective Secretary of Labor since Frances Perkins. He used his regulatory powers to advance the interests of labor in many important ways. (Of course, when your stock in trade is minimizing the differences between the Democratic and Republican parties at a time when differences are massive and getting bigger, ignoring this is crucial.) Before that, he was a very progressive and effective head of the Civil Rights Division. To assert that Perez is a phony who isn’t really pro-labor is an absolutely disgusting smear completely at odds with his record, as disgusting as portraying Ellison as an anti-Semite or claiming that Ellison isn’t a real midwestern populist because you know.

But, of course, since this isn’t really about who will be the DNC chair, anything as mundane as Perez’s actual record and actual positions is beside the point. Bernie is truth, Bernie is beauty, Hillary is the antithesis of truth and beauty, that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. In this context Perez and Ellison are just stock figures in an ongoing re-enactment of the 2016 primaries, and people engaged in this rather lame hobby will project what they need to onto the actors. If you need to morph Tom Perez into Rahm Emmanuel to make the fantasy more vivid, I guess that’s what you have to do.

Ellison and Perez are both excellent as American public officials go, and I have no idea which is a better fit for the (not really very important) DNC job. Symbolically, the fact that the head of the DNC is coming down to two candidates from the left of the party should make it clear that the question of whether the direction of the party should be left of 2008 and way left of 1996 has been settled in the affirmative. That some people on the left for whom despising the Democratic Party is a central element of their political identities will refuse to take “yes” for an answer shouldn’t distract the rest of us going forward.

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