Archive

August 14th, 2016

Hillary Clinton may be headed for a blowout. But can she bring other Democrats with her?

    If you go to a Donald Trump rally in the next week or two, chances are you won't hear something you heard at earlier Trump rallies: the candidate discussing, at much more length than anyone could possibly be interested in, just how great he's doing in the polls. However, you might hear him mention that the polls are all rigged against him, because since the conventions, those polls have taken a dramatic turn in Hillary Clinton's favor. In fact, we've reached a point where it no longer looks like a "bounce" but like a lasting shift in Clinton's favor. That raises the possibility that we could be headed for a genuine blowout in November. What would that mean for Congress and for a potential Clinton presidency?

    Before we go on, let me be clear that I'm not claiming that what the polls say right now allows us to predict exactly what will happen on Election Day. There will most likely be movements up and down between now and then. The race could tighten considerably. Clinton's lead could grow even bigger. Trump could pull ahead and win. All those scenarios are possible.

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China isn't threatening to overturn the world order

    A bit of China-bashing is inevitable in any U.S. election year. Over the past month, though, after China roundly dismissed an arbitration ruling that rejected its claims in the South China Sea, a chorus of voices has angrily denounced the country as an international outlaw. Western pundits have likened China's reaction to imperial Japan's decision to quit the League of Nations, which eventually led to war in Asia, or even to Hitler's trampling of the global order.

    This is pure, unwarranted hyperbole. And it's no more helpful than eruptions from Chinese right-wingers, who see the ruling as part of a conspiracy to hem in their country's rise. If the West wants to change China's attitude, it also needs to reexamine its own.

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August 13th

How employers broke unions by creating a culture of fear

    Why are there no labor unions in America? This is, of course, an overstatement - millions of Americans still belong to unions. But the size of the unionized workforce has declined every year for 40 years. And even at its mid-20th-century peak, it was lower than in most European countries.

    Many explanations for low union density turn on the distinctiveness of American culture. Americans are deemed individualists, with self-interest trumping any sense of the common good. They are driven wild with consumer longings, willing to do anything for low prices. They are entrepreneurial, identifying with their employers and always dreaming of upward mobility or striking it rich rather than claiming solidarity via working-class identity.

    One might question whether this is really an apt description of American culture. But to the degree that it is accurate, it may have grown out of our history of employer intransigence and hostility to labor.

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Brace yourself for an even uglier campaign

    It may be hard to imagine, but I fear this election campaign is going to get worse - maybe a lot worse - before it gets better. By the time it's done, the whole nation may feel like it needs a shower.

    I base this depressing prediction on three assumptions: Polls showing the Obama coalition coming together behind Hillary Clinton are correct; Donald Trump does not want to be embarrassed as a massive loser; and the Republican Party cares more about keeping its majority in the House than about Trump's tender feelings. Any of these premises can be wrong, but I think they're sound.

    The logical result is not pretty. Those who believed this campaign hit rock-bottom long ago should keep in mind one of Sen. John McCain's favorite sayings: "It's always darkest before it's totally black."

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Black Lives Matter is 'woke' to old problems - but still sleeping on solutions

    There was a time when Black Lives Matter was committed, principally, to protecting black people from being killed by police. They have expanded their purview lately.

    Last week, a consortium of over 60 independent Black Lives Matter organizations released a platform addressing issues facing African Americans. They've come a long way, indeed, from a cluster of activists demonstrating and tweeting from Ferguson, Mo. Their platform has six main planks, each with several sub-planks, constituting a list of demands that would make the heart of any progressive civil rights leader swoon.

    It's all there: criminal justice reform, education reform, jobs programs, upending politics-as-usual, more and better mental health services. And on top of all that, reparations.

    By the time the platform gets to breaking up big banks and getting big money out of politics, it becomes clear that Black Lives Matter has grown from a very specific - and noble - mission into a call for an entire leftist revolution. In the parlance of contemporary social media discourse, Black Lives Matter is the quintessence of "woke."

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A noble alternative to today's euro system

    A new book by Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz suggests that the best way forward for the euro area is a "flexible euro," a system of different currencies under the same name fluctuating within certain limits. It's a new, ingenious riff on an idea that keeps popping up in discussions of the currency bloc's future, but probably doesn't promise much improvement to the weaker European economies.

    An excerpt from the Stiglitz book, "How a Common Currency Threatens the Future of Europe," published in Vanity Fair, frames the proposal as a compromise between a full European fiscal integration -- politically unfeasible today -- and a full breakup of the euro, with all the countries going back to their own currencies, which, according to Stiglitz, "could have profoundly negative consequences on many fronts." Euro zone institutions, Stiglitz writes, aren't a total failure but they are insufficient as a basis for a fully fledged single-currency system. The "flexible euro"

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When federal and local leaders work together

    During the next several months of the election season, we're likely to hear a lot about what's not working in the federal government. But in fact, much is going right across the country, especially when federal and local leaders work closely together on common goals.

    My organization, the Partnership for Public Service, recently collaborated with more than 20 federal agencies to create a new training program for their employees who work directly with local governments, nonprofits and businesses tackling issues such as economic development, education, transportation and public health.

    At the local level, citizens are directly affected if problems like high crime and school drop-out rates are not addressed. At the federal level, big problems often take time to research, to get appropriate funding and ultimately to implement-though often from a distance and without direct involvement.

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Unions could make a comeback - if we help them

    You won't hear opponents admit it, but unions are popular and have been for a while. Last year Gallup found that 58 percent of Americans approved of unions. Since Gallup first asked people about their support for unions in 1936, approval dipped below 50 percent just once - when it dropped to 48 percent at the height of the Great Recession in 2009.

    Anti-union advocates prefer to focus on the long-term decline of union membership in the United States, which can suggest that unions are unnecessary or in an inevitable decline. It is true that union density has shrunk from its peak of 35.4 percent of the workforce in 1945 to 11.1 percent in 2015. But the erosion in union membership is not a natural, pre-ordained outcome - the reality is that intentional policy choices significantly contributed to fewer people becoming union members.

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Trump, Clinton have very different relationships with the truth

    The latest polls from CBS/New York Times and ABC/Washington Post show Hillary Clinton with a secure lead, but they also show that voters believe her to be roughly as honest as reality-show veteran Donald Trump. This has clearly nettled close observers of this presidential race. Over the weekend two prominent columnists have attempted to outline the relationship between the major party nominees and the truth.

    On Sunday, the New York Times' Nick Kristof argued that when comparing Trump and Clinton as liars, Trump wins and it's not close:

    "The idea that they are even in the same league is preposterous. If deception were a sport, Trump would be the Olympic gold medalist; Clinton would be an honorable mention at her local Y. . . .

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Thanks, Trump: The Muslim community benefits from an unexpected spotlight

    I, an American Muslim, want to thank Donald Trump.

    I am not one of his supporters. No way, never. He might even think I am one of his many nemeses: Born in Baghdad and brought to this country by my parents in 1964 as they fled the persecution of a military dictatorship, I believe that Islam's place is America. In America, Muslims can practice their religion more freely than any other country in the world, including Muslim countries.

    I am both Muslim and American. I don't have to choose one or the other. Yet many Americans don't understand that.

    It's only starting to make sense to many of my fellow citizens - and for that growing clarity, I have Trump to thank.

    We all agree that we live in dangerous times. Terrorism and xenophobia are fires that exponentially fuel each other. As Americans, we live in the nightmares of what has been happening since 9/11 and what can happen. As American Muslims, we add another layer of fear with the thought of deportation for immigrants and internment camps for the native-born.

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