Archive

December 4th

How Democrats can check Trump (beyond prayer)

    I asked some top Congressional Democrats what they can do to check Donald Trump and the Republican House and Senate majorities. The answer: prayer.

    OK, that was a joke. Sort of. With a 23-seat majority in the House, Republicans can push through most measures without support from any Democrats. In the Senate, Republicans can confirm executive branch and judicial nominees, except for the Supreme Court, with a simple majority; they hold a 52-to-48 advantage. Through a shortcut in the budget process called reconciliation, they can pass important spending and tax measures.

    Still, congressional Democrats, especially in the Senate, have some weapons. They include:

 

- Divide and try to conquer

    There are potential schisms to exploit between congressional leaders and the president. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, is a principled ideological conservative with some fringe right-wingers in his caucus. Trump believes in Trump.

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Entrapping the Dreamers; Trump will face limits

    President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to rescind many of President Barack Obama's executive actions, including above all Obama's controversial immigration programs. That will largely be Trump's prerogative, but there are constitutional limits on how much he can undo. In particular, the Fifth Amendment's due process clause prevents the new administration from seeking deportation based on information that immigrants themselves provided in applications for Obama's programs.

    Under the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the administration provided work authorization and a promised reprieve from deportation to hundreds of thousands of immigrants who arrived in the United States without authorization as young children and met certain other criteria.

    There is no question that Trump can cancel this program and even resume enforcement against its intended beneficiaries, however heartless that would be. Yet recent news reports suggest that many fear he could go further and use information from these immigrants' own DACA applications to launch a deportation sweep that targets them.

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Can the Democratic Party rise again? Yes - and here's the first big thing to watch.

    If you care about whether the Democratic Party can rebuild itself anytime soon out of the smoking wreckage left behind by the disastrous 2016 elections, something very important is happening a lot sooner than you think.

    There are more than three dozen gubernatorial races taking place in the next two years. And they could do a tremendous amount to set the party on the path out of the wilderness in the Age of Donald Trump -- with potentially significant national ramifications that could stretch well into the next decade, for instance by having a substantial influence over the redistricting of House seats, which could help determine control of the Lower Chamber in the 2020s.

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Breitbart isn't 'just a publication.' It's a pestilence.

    To President-elect Donald Trump, Breitbart -- the racist, sexist and all-around offensive website once overseen by his campaign chairman and designated White House chief strategist Steve Bannon -- is "just a publication."

    Breitbart's editors and writers, Trump told The New York Times, "cover stories like you cover stories." Granted, Trump said, "they are certainly a much more conservative paper, to put it mildly, than The New York Times. But Breitbart really is a news organization that's become quite successful, and it's got readers and it does cover subjects that are on the right, but it covers subjects on the left also. I mean it's a pretty big, it's a pretty big thing. And he [Bannon] helped build it into a pretty successful news organization."

    Referring to Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., Trump observed, "I mean, I could say that Arthur is alt-right because they covered an alt-right story."

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December 3rd

Before Donald Trump, there was Menachem Begin

    So shocking was the electoral upset that Israeli television created a word for it: mahapakh. Derived from the root that means "revolution" or "turning upside down," the word was fashioned because Menachem Begin's 1977 election as prime minister was such a game-changer in Israeli politics that no existing word seemed to suffice. From independence in 1948 until 1977, Israel's political left had ruled with an iron fist. Begin, a leader of the right widely seen as a "terrorist" because of his decisive role in the Jewish underground that ultimately forced the British to leave, had languished in the opposition -- often in the political desert -- for 29 years. Having lost eight consecutive times, Begin was expected to lose again and, at age 63, to exit the political stage.

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Anniversary of 1st strike finds Fight for $15 growing stronger

    The Fight for $15 has been incredibly successful since 100 fast-food workers first went on strike on Nov. 29, 2012, in New York City. The movement they helped create went 5-for-5 during the most recent election, winning ballot initiatives in Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington, while defeating a subminimum wage law for teenagers in South Dakota. And with the anniversary of its original strike approaching, that movement is only gaining steam.

    As Bryce Covert of the news site ThinkProgress recently reported, workers in more than 340 cities will go on strike again on Tuesday, while "fast food employees, airport workers, childcare and home care providers, and university graduate students" will engage in "civil disobedience at McDonald's and 20 of the nation's largest airports." The workers have also upped the ante: In addition to their calls for minimum wage increases, they're "demanding no deportations of undocumented immigrants, an end to police violence against black people, and the protection of health care coverage."

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America needs both nationalism and globalism

    Attaching labels to people is all the rage in the U.S. Current favorites include "nationalist" and "globalist." Those designations aren't much use -- and not just because people don't like being labeled. The bigger problem is that the categories aren't mutually exclusive. Moderate nationalist sentiment and outward-looking liberalism can overlap. In America, especially, to be partly nationalist and partly globalist comes naturally. It's what you'd expect of a nation of immigrants.

    Isaiah Berlin called nationalism a pathological expression of national consciousness. Aggressive nationalism caused terrible harm in the 20th century -- but Berlin's point was that national consciousness (or some functional equivalent) is not just less harmful than the pathological form, it's also valuable in its own right. It might even be essential in building a just, compassionate and well-ordered society.

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5 myths about the alt-right

    The phrase "alt-right" was conceived as a catchall for various unsavory subcommunities of the anti-establishment conservative right by Richard Spencer. The baby-faced white nationalist founded AlternativeRight.com in 2010 and now serves as president of the National Policy Institute, a Virginia-based think tank that cloaks extremist ideas in airy, academic language. For several years, the movement festered on the periphery of mainstream political discourse on message boards such as 4chan and 8chan, where its acerbic spirit and menacingly goofy aesthetic developed, partially through memes. Now, with the election of its "God Emperor," Donald Trump, as president, the alt-right has become a subject of fascination -- and revulsion -- nationwide. Still, confusion about what exactly this group is and how it differs from other types of conservatism abounds. Here are the five most commonly repeated myths.

 

Myth No. 1:

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The selling of the White House

    Everybody knew that, sooner or later, this would be a problem. There's no way that Donald Trump, with his name emblazoned on dozens of business properties around the world, could escape conflicts of interest if ever elected president.

    What we didn't know is that it would happen so soon. Less than two weeks after he was elected, Donald Trump is already pimping the presidency, treating it like any other Trump product or property -- up for sale to the highest bidder -- and doing so unabashedly.

    Last week, while he was supposed to be putting together his new administration, Trump took time out to meet with three developers of Trump Towers Pune, twin high rises in Pune, India -- a meeting which Trump's office dismissed as purely social, but which Indian newspapers reported as a serious business meeting. Later, Sagar Chordia, one of the partners, confirmed to The New York Times that the developers discussed undertaking even more real estate projects together with Trump and members of his family.

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The Populism Perplex

    Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by more than 2 million, and she would probably be president-elect if the director of the FBI hadn’t laid such a heavy thumb on the scales, just days before the election. But it shouldn’t even have been close; what put Donald Trump in striking distance was overwhelming support from whites without college degrees. So what can Democrats do to win back at least some of those voters?

    Recently Bernie Sanders offered an answer: Democrats should “go beyond identity politics.” What’s needed, he said, are candidates who understand that working-class incomes are down, who will “stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industry.”

    But is there any reason to believe this would work? Let me offer some reasons for doubt.

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