The Virgin Birth of Obama’s Wonk Core

There’s a telling paragraph in this post from Ezra Klein, one of a series of posts written lately by self-described “wonks” defending the electoral and political approach Hillary Clinton embraces.

It’s a vision that is intuitively plausible to many liberals because it resonates with their own experience. They remember being excited by the promise of Obama’s agenda and then disappointed by the compromises he made, the fights he backed away from, the deals he cut with industry. They remember being organized in 2008 and demoralized in 2010. They remember feeling like they could accomplish anything, only to be told they needed to stop hoping for so much.

The argument is that something about the first years of Obama’s Administration led people to be more realistic in their political expectations. It comes after two more paragraphs characterizing Sanders’ vision of his own break with Obama: mobilization of voters.

“The major political, strategic difference I have with Obama,” Sanders told Vox’s Andrew Prokop in 2014, “is it’s too late to do anything inside the Beltway. You gotta take your case to the American people, mobilize them, and organize them at the grassroots level in a way that we have never done before.”

This is the vision Sanders is selling in Iowa. It’s a vision that is hopeful both in its diagnosis of the problems in American politics and in its prescription. It’s a vision that says liberals were right all along, and the American people have always been with them, and it’s the corrosive influence of corporate donors that has snapped that bond and confused the country.

But Ezra then turns that vision of mobilization into something with a very short history: just back to 2008, when Obama mobilized voters to get elected but then disappointed them in 2010.

Curiously, Ezra doesn’t describe what demoralized liberals in 2010 — I’m not actually sure whether he means the final shape of the health insurance reform or the electoral losses that year (the size of which were exacerbated by the politics of the health insurance reform). That, of  course, is critical to any consideration of the efficacy of pragmatism, because if making pragmatic choices ends up losing historic majorities in Congress, pragmatism will always be a loser for liberals.

But it’s the assumptions Ezra makes in the paragraph that really strike me (they seem, in part, to be based on a story Norm Scheiber wrote in 2014 about former Obama precinct captains from Iowa, which is crazy in that the story and Ezra’s interview based on it were entirely premised on Hillary being unstoppable this time around): that something about Obama’s campaign was uniquely exciting, uniquely promising to liberals and therefore his compromises in office were newly disappointing. That assumption that Obama’s campaign was uniquely exciting really puzzles me. After all, presidential candidates have been exciting voters, including newly active voters, since at least JFK (or, in Hillary’s case, Goldwater). And while those inspired by Kennedy are unique (in that he didn’t live long enough to disappoint them), for all others, there’s always a hangover, after which people take many different paths: disillusionment, integration within the larger party, or excitement by some other candidate in some future race. So why would Obama be different (aside from the fact he’s black, which is important, but certainly not the main thing that inspired even black voters)?

I was so puzzled I actually double checked Ezra’s age because it seemed like something someone who had never voted before 2008 might say, but (as I vaguely recall), even Young Ezra was not only old enough, but quite active, in the 2004 campaign, where a guy named Howard Dean lost in Iowa, but went on to dedicate four years to mobilizing Democratic voters across the country, until Obama replaced the man whose efforts helped to get him elected.

Those years that came before are critically important, too, because they represent a period when the decline of unions — the Democrats’ former method of mass mobilization and still very much a crutch for the party — and the rise of the mobilized Christian right made Republicans newly competitive in presidential elections. And while Hillary’s husband definitely inspired his own share of newly excited voters, the response to the decline of Democrats’ natural mobilized base led to a new kind of Democratic politics, reliant on big donations and lots of TV. We needed Dean to refocus on organizing because the Democratic party had led local organizing to atrophy, which was all the more devastating given the rise of ALEC and with it a machine to help conservatives dominate legislative elections at the state level.

Which brings me to the other curious admission in Ezra’s piece: that even as Hillary-favoring “wonks” beat up on Bernie supporters for their foolish idealism, Hillary herself doesn’t have a plan to challenge Republican dominance.

The problem for Clinton is that the immediate future looks grim for the progressive agenda, and she knows it. Republicans are likely to hold both the House and the Senate. They have a 5-4 majority on the Supreme Court and, at least for the moment, huge majorities in governorships and state legislatures. Americans are, if anything, growing more divided. Money is an ever more powerful force in American politics. The fact that voters don’t want a fight doesn’t mean they’re not going to have one.

Clinton doesn’t have an easy answer for any of this, and, perhaps to her credit, she’s refused to pretend otherwise. Democrats were bitterly disappointed by the compromises Obama made when he had huge Democratic majorities. The compromises the next Democratic president will have to make, given the likely Republican dominance of Congress, are going to be even more brutal for liberals — and if they’re not, it will likely be because nothing of importance gets done in the first place.

Let me clear: there’s not an easy answer to reverse the work Republicans have been doing since Reagan “changed the rules.” There’s definitely not a quick answer. But if liberals don’t start doing the work now, the apparent blind faith among some in the Democratic party that 2020’s census will magically reverse the political order will fail (if the country doesn’t fail worse before then). Though, as I note, Trump’s candidacy is itself changing the rules, in ways Democrats could well capitalize on if they stopped ignoring it.

The thing is, it’s no secret how to change things: it does remain organizing, and outside of some pre-existing institution of civil society (whether that be unions or evangelical churches), that organizing is going to require both inspiration and a commitment to issues that will benefit the masses of ordinary people.

Pessimism about how much the current Congress will get done may be realistic, but it is no more realistic than the assessment that mobilizing the people who’ve gotten screwed by Republican policies is a necessary antidote.

Wonks and Trump

Back in July, I wrote that if and when Republicans, having worked their way through the 5 stages of Trump grief, came to accept him as their party’s standard bearer, I hoped that “they may well recognize that their ideological celebration of the rich and of demagoguery have delivered them precisely the candidate they’ve asked for.”

Republicans have worked their way through their grief — especially in the face of even more destabilizing Cruz grief, seem to be coming to grips with that their party seems poised to do.

The pundits who said it would never happen, however, are having a bit more difficult time.

Nate Cohn, still imagining a Marco Rubio (and not John Kasich, who’s the best polling non-nut right now) resurgence, is shocked that Republican leaders have helped Trump shore up his IA advantage, and with it chances he’ll get the nomination.

There’s still a lot of time before the caucuses on Feb. 1. The debate on Thursday could change things, as could the belated airing of attacks on Mr. Trump from Mr. Cruz’s allies. Mr. Cruz is also thought to have a considerable organizational advantage over Mr. Trump, who may be dependent on low-turnout voters.

But the increasing possibility that Mr. Trump will win the state — in no small part because of an improbable alliance with the party’s establishment — makes Mr. Trump’s path to the nomination far more plausible than ever before.

[snip]

Astonishingly, Mr. Trump’s attacks were successful in part because they were amplified by some of the G.O.P.’s most prominent leaders, like John McCain and Mitch McConnell. The chorus of opposition to Mr. Cruz didn’t end there; Terry Branstad, the six-term Iowa governor, said he wantedMr. Cruz “defeated,” and the former presidential nominee Bob Dole said he preferred Mr. Trump.

[snip]

A Trump win in Iowa could make it more difficult for a mainstream candidate, like Marco Rubio, to mount a comeback later in the season — even if the establishment does intend to fight Mr. Trump after dispatching Mr. Cruz.

Cohn points to Nate Silver for his judgment (including on whether the book The Party Decides has been disproven by Trump) that the GOP party is not so much backing Trump yet as it is working first to defeat

[I]t may be that Republicans think of Cruz as the more immediate threat, and then plan to turn around and attack Trump later. But that’s a high-degree-of-difficulty caper to pull off. For one thing, Trump, who’s in a much better position in the polls than Cruz in states after Iowa, could rack up several wins in a row if he takes the Hawkeye State.

[snip]

Things are lining up better for Trump than I would have imagined, however. It’s not his continued presence in the race that surprises me so much as the lack of a concerted effort to stop him.

And Jonathan Chait piles on, arguing with the others that his past predictions that Trump would go nowhere was based on the assumption that, “I didn’t think the GOP was suicidal.”

All three of these pundits are still missing the key part however (which carries over into Chait’s other badly wrong punditry). The reason Trump is winning this year (and the reason Bernie is competitive) is because the promises of the elite have gone undelivered for so long. It may be that the GOP is trying to accommodate to themselves to this, or still have plans to get save Rubio’s campaign. But ultimately, the GOP has no choice, because Trump proved immune (partly because of all the free press he has gotten, not to mention his own wealth) from their controlling mechanisms, but to let a man who exploited their own demagoguery exploit it one last time, because the master the GOP has been serving in its name — unrestrained capitalism — is not helping the high school educated white voters who make up the key part of Trump’s success. And yet, Trump’s voters like his authoritarianism, something else the GOP has encouraged more and more since 9/11.

The pundits are still looking at sacred fundamentals for their analysis, without considering that underneath them all are actual human beings who were bound, one day, to revolt over the undelivered promises.

The elite pundits are still operating — on the election itself, but also on health care and economic policy — on the assumption that no one will or is holding them responsible for their undelivered promises.

Update: I hope (well, actually, may reluctantly after much procrastination) return to this issue, but this great post hits at a lot of what I would also hit at on the pundits’ lack of awareness about the revolt over unfulfilled promises.

Compare Hillary’s 5 Phishing Emails with DOD’s 602 Million Spam and Phishing Emails a Month

As usually happens, more journalists are examining the latest tranche of Hillary emails for gotchas than for interesting policy discussions. The latest is AP’s report that Hillary received 5 emails from Russian linked hackers attempting to phish her.

Russia-linked hackers tried at least five times to pry into Hillary Rodham Clinton’s private email account while she was secretary of state, emails released Wednesday show. It is unclear if she clicked on any attachments and exposed her account.

Clinton received the infected emails, disguised as speeding tickets from New York, over four hours early the morning of Aug. 3, 2011. The emails instructed recipients to print the attached tickets. Opening an attachment would have allowed hackers to take over control of a victim’s computer.

BREAKING! Out of almost 20,000 emails released thus far, 5 were phishing attempts.

Compare that to this report on DOD’s spam and phishing woes from earlier this week.

You could be one of the 1.6 million users on Pentagon email systems where only one in seven of the more than half a billion monthly emails received are actually legitimate.

The rest are a mixture of malicious password phishing attempts, chock full of viruses, or the bane of modern humanity’s existence: spam.

“Out of 700 million emails we’ll get in a month, only about 98 million are actually good emails,” said Lt. Gen. Alan Lynn, director of the Defense Information Systems Agency, speaking at a Washington, D.C., area event Wednesday hosted by Defense Systems.

“The rest,” he said, “are spam and worm attacks.”

According to General Lynn, DOD gets 602 million spam and phishing emails a month, with just 14% of their mail actually being real email. Granted, that’s across 1.6 million users. Still that says every user averages 376 junk emails a month.

I’d say Hillary’s 5 phishing emails so far don’t look so bad by comparison.

In Political Press, Hillary Clinton Gets Subjected to the Thomas Drake and Jeffrey Sterling Standard

clintonpodium_600_1[First posted at ExposeFacts.org]

The political press is abuzz with news that the State Department (State IG) and Intelligence Community Inspectors General (ICIG) have asked the Department of Justice to review whether the Department’s handling of the personal email from Hillary Clinton was proper. The story was first reported in sensational fashion by the New York Times, revised somewhat overnight, and then reported in more measured form — making it clear that Clinton herself is not being investigated — by the Associated Press this morning.

The report has put the practice of retroactive classification of information — of the type that convicted Jeffrey Sterling and DOJ tried to use to convict Thomas Drake — at the forefront of presidential politics.

The referral to DOJ arises out of State IG’s review of the use of private emails and the response to Freedom of Information Act requests for Clinton’s email. After consulting with the ICIG, State IG reported that a number of the emails reviewed so far, including one released to the public, included classified information. The ICIG criticized State for using retired foreign service officers with extensive FOIA experience to review Clinton’s email before release, rather than conducting an interagency process (though according to a response from Patrick Kennedy, the CIA and ODNI had already approved the arrangement).

The referral pertains to State’s actions, not Clinton’s. “[T]he referral doesn’t suggest wrongdoing by Clinton herself,” AP noted. None of the emails in question were marked as classified when she sent them and one of them — pertaining to the FBI’s investigation of the Benghazi attack — was not classified at time she received it. Nevertheless, this news has led to a flurry of stories implicating Clinton in a potential DOJ investigation.

Clinton supporters are dismissing this as election year frenzy. The former DOJ Director of Public Affairs, Matt Miller, even tweeted, “If you examined the entire email [account] of any senior official, someone in [government] would later argue something was classified. Absurd standard.”

But Clinton is not the first this has happened to. After all, DOJ attempted to use five retroactively classified documents to convict Thomas Drake on Espionage charges; once DOJ had to admit that fact, their case against Drake fell apart.

And the only hard evidence DOJ presented that Jeffrey Sterling had improperly handled classified information were documents seized from his home that had nothing to do with the nuclear program he was accused of leaking. When the government introduced three of those documents under a silent witness rule limiting what Sterling’s lawyers could ask about them, CIA’s top classification official admitted they had not been classified as secret at first.

“When originally classified were these documents properly classified as secret,” the prosecution asked of the three documents.

“They weren’t,” [CIA Chief of Litigation Support Martha] Lutz responded.

“But they are now properly classified secret?”

“Yes,” Lutz answered.

The defense team made statements revealing that these documents offered instructions on how to dial rotary phones to call into CIA headquarters, hardly a cutting edge secret. Nevertheless, those documents were a key piece of evidence used to send Sterling to prison for 42 months.

Clinton deserves a good deal of criticism for using personal email that has made it more difficult to access via FOIAs. But retroactively classified information should no more be used to prosecute her — in reality or in the press — than Drake and Sterling.

When asked about the double standard via email, Drake did not join the frenzy. Rather, he described “having really bad flashbacks” given the calls to criminally investigate the former Secretary of State because release of the emails put “unauthorized classified information … in adversaries’ hands.”

Perhaps there’s room for agreement here. Via email, Miller noted, “the entire classification system is a mess: overly complex, riddled with ambiguity, and used at times for inappropriate reasons. And because of that you get perverse outcomes.”

Secretary Clinton surely should have made her emails more secure and accessible, via the formal FOIA process, by using official email. But that doesn’t mean retroactively classified information should be used against her anymore than it should be used against Drake and Sterling.

Beautiful Equality Comes To Marriages In America

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 8.10.49 AMLove will find a way, and it finally has. There are many, many friends I am thinking of right now, and they all know exactly who they are. Congratulations, and it was far too long coming. Here is the opinion.

EQUALITY

There is so much to say, that it is hard to know what to actually say. There are many quotes like this one, but it is indicative of the decision:

“laws excluding same-sex couples from the marriage right impose stigma and injury of the kind prohibited by our basic charter.”

What I don’t find in the majority decision, as wonderful as it is, is discussion of heightened scrutiny, strict scrutiny, or other clear cut, across the board protection for the status of sexual identity. And that is disappointing. Also why I cried bit when SCOTUS, two years ago to this very day, callously refused to take the incredibly wonderful tee shot that Vaughn Walker gave them in the Proposition 8 case previously.

I guess the handwriting was on the wall when even the old liberal lion Steve Reinhardt, a man I have met, and a judge I truly love and revere, pulled up short and did not have the balls to take the root concept of sexual identity “equality” where it naturally flowed when he had the pen in his wise hand. But he didn’t then, and his old friend Tony Kennedy has not today.

So, while there is so much to cheer right this moment, we, and this country, are still far from where we need to be with regard to inclusion of all our citizens in the concept of equality. It is more than black and white, it is straight, gay and trans too. We are all on this patch of earth together, and we all are equal, and that needs to be admitted legally by the highest court in the land and understood by all the people it serves.

So, there are still miles to be traveled. Let the four, count them four, spittle laced, bigoted, backwards, and disgusting dissents in the Obergefell decision speak for themselves. Honestly, they make me want to puke. For all that were celebrating the enlightened liberal thought of Chief Justice John G. Roberts yesterday, today is a rough reminder of who and what he really is. And you really have to read Scalia and Alito to understand the fucked up pathology of the dissenters. Wow.

The Coming Trump Legacy On Immigration

donald-trump-bad-hairHere is a bloody secret about blogging: The best ideas you express often come from others, even if you value add on to them. Welp, there will be no value adding on here, this post is 100% the work of our longtime friend at both Emptywheel and FDL, the one and only Peterr:

I had this vision of Donald Trump taking down the Statue of Liberty, replacing it with an even larger figure of himself, with a new poem inscribed on the base befitting his views on immigrants.

The New New Colossus

Not like the New Colossus, French-built bile
With calling torch and open arms so grand;
Now on this isle a Grander One shall stand:
A mighty huckster with a scam, whose smile
is a racist, hateful sneer, with his pile
of ego-sculpted hair. From his grasping hand
comes a devil’s contract; his beady eyes demand
payment ‘ere any travel one more mile.

“Keep, foreign lands, your homeless poor,” cries he
with flapping lips. “Give me your greedy, your rich,
Your coddled wealthy yearning to pay me,
the grasping powers drawn here by my pitch.
Send these, the makers, ready with my fee;
I snuff the lamp of Liberty, that bitch.”

I leave it to your imagination to envision the figure of The Donald standing astride New York harbor for yourself.

Okay, Peter is a long time friend, and his take totally merited publication. But Lady Liberty takes some attending to. You have to want the freedom of this country, you have to want it bad, and you have to be willing to fight for it, even when that freedom makes your blood curl (props to Sorkin’s American President). But wanting the American ethos is easy for an apparently gerbil topped pretender like Donald Trump. Trump wants the limelight, wants all the glory, and never wants to answer for the hell of stupidity, bankruptcy, loss of jobs and ignorance that he really stands for. Troll on Donald.

So many have given their lives for the right of a hollow shill to troll the American electorate. So many have died for that. So many just to give a blowhard clownshow jackhole the right to parade around like he is diddly shit other than the court jester and a sideshow amusement huckster.

The American people can propagate and tolerate an enormous amount of stupid, but not enough to let a pompous, bankruptcy generated, pompous jackass like Donald Trump through the door. Just an opinion, and a sincere hope.

Nope. George Bush was one thing, Trump is a bridge too far.

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