Archive

November 19th, 2016

Now the Democrats must rebuild from the ashes

    Hillary and Bill Clinton have been at the center of U.S. politics for the last-quarter century; for more than 100 years only Richard Nixon showed such durability.

    Now, as Democrats face their worst crisis since the 1920s, it's time for the Clintons to ride into the political sunset. New ideas and new faces need to emerge. Despite Hillary's graceful concession speech and some of the virtues of her campaign, many Democrats believe her shocking loss to the unpopular Donald Trump was in no small part self-inflicted.

    The Democrats, who see themselves as the governing party, are in deep despair. Republicans will control the White House, both chambers of Congress, with the prospect of making the Supreme Court more conservative. Republicans also control two-thirds of the state houses.

    The losing party faces an internecine ideological battle, as the Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders left-wing insist they need a sharper, better-defined populist agenda and more moderate Democrats argue for a more centrist message.

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Protect Democracy First

    The most fragile part of the country right now is our democratic values. Yes, we face other serious problems — the physical condition of our planet, above all. But the fate of those other problems will be decided in the months and years to come. The condition of our democracy is acute.

    We’ve just finished an election that included unprecedented violations of America’s long-held democratic values, like calls to overturn civil liberties and the interference of a hostile foreign government. And, of course, the candidate who violated those values won the election.

    So the question becomes: Will the country start adjusting to a new, less democratic reality, or will Donald Trump adjust his own approach as president-elect?

    It would be a grave error to believe wishfully that Trump must change. The best working assumption about any candidate is that he will try to do what he campaigned on. Studies show that presidents usually do.

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In defense of the great Washington swamp

    It's not a great moment for permanent Washington. You know who I mean: the policy analysts, the journalists, the deputy assistant secretaries, the consultants, the legislative directors, the former Congressmen, the lobbyists, the think tank executives.

    Americans just elected Donald Trump, who has promised to drain this cozy swamp. And even though Trump did not win the popular vote last Tuesday, many voters on the left and right agree with him on the swamp issue. Remember, Bernie Sanders nearly won the Democratic nomination with the same message.

    Speaking as a resident of the swamp, I can tell you this isn't the first time we've seen this. Before Trump, there was Barack Obama. In 2008 he ran on "hope and change." He tried (and quickly failed) to ban lobbyists from his administration. Before Obama, there was George W. Bush. During the New Hampshire primaries, the soon-to-be 43rd president ran an ad that said: "You mark my words: You leave money sitting around the table in Washington -- Washington politicians will spend it."

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Conceding one day only to morning-after despair

    One day. One 24-hour period. One sunrise, one sunset.

    I felt as bad as one could feel without needing hospitalization. My head hurt. I was in a fog of exhaustion. I hadn’t eaten well. All day I emoted clenched anger in a thousand sighs. My shoulders hurt from a thousand shrugs.

    Then, that night, after a blessedly good meal, I said to myself: That’s it. One day. That’s all that these events, the new national reality enunciated on Nov. 8, will take from me.

    I’ll surrender no more days to the shock and injustice of losing the presidency to a loser. As a citizen, I will commit the days henceforth to righting things, principally our democracy.

    I’ve lost two other days this way. The first was in 2001 after the Supreme Court awarded the presidency to the candidate who had gotten fewer votes. The other was after U.S. rolled tanks into Iraq on criminally bogus pretenses. (And they say Hillary Clinton should go to jail for emails.)

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Against Trumpian triumphalism

    Let's be clear: The United States of America is not Donald Trump's country.

    When all the returns are in, Hillary Clinton will emerge with a popular vote lead of some 1.5 million to 2 million votes, according to estimates by both Nate Cohn of The New York Times and Henry Olsen, a conservative voting analyst whose pre-election predictions were close to the actual results.

    To point this out is not a form of liberal denial. It's a way of beginning to build a barricade against right-wing triumphalism -- and of reminding immigrants, Muslims, African-Americans, Latinos and, yes, our daughters that most Americans stood with them on Election Day.

    It is also not true that the emerging political coalition that elected President Obama died on Nov. 8. That alliance maintained its national advantage, as the popular vote shows, and came within a whisker in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan of delivering the election to Clinton despite an onslaught of partisan congressional investigations, Russian meddling and the last-minute political intervention of the FBI.

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Which Trump will emerge as president?

    Herblock, the legendary Washington Post cartoonist, spent decades depicting Richard Nixon as a sinister figure with a five o'clock shadow. The day after the 1968 election, Herblock sat down to draw the cartoonist's office as a barbershop, a paper taped to the wall: "This shop gives to every new president of the United States a free shave." Signed, "H. Block, proprietor."

    Herblock later explained his decision to employ a healing razor: "In spite of his past, it seemed to me that an incoming president, particularly at a time of national divisions and crisis, was entitled to his chance to lead."

    So is President-elect Donald Trump.

    His clean shave does not mandate our empty mind. Not about the repulsive things Trump has said and done, nor about his manifest unfitness and unpreparedness for office. Nor does it signify naive optimism about Trump's willingness -- or even his capacity -- to change. As Herblock discovered, which surely did not surprise him, "it turned out to be the same old Nixon."

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Trump’s Rural White America

    As I watched last week as protesters took to the streets in big cities, what struck me was the vast and growing divide between America’s rural and urban populations and their politics and sensibilities.

    One look at county maps of this year’s election results and you see what looks like a handful of blueberries sprinkled on an endless spread of red sauce (between the blue coasts). And yet, it is likely that the final result will be that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, although Donald Trump won the electoral vote and therefore the election.

    Part of the reason for this is that, as a census report noted last year: “U.S. cities are home to 62.7 percent of the U.S. population but comprise just 3.5 percent of land area.”

    Indeed, a 2013 analysis by Business Insider found that “half of the United States population is clustered in just the 146 biggest counties out of over 3000,” according to census data.

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Trump Slump Coming?

    Let’s be clear: Installing Donald Trump in the White House is an epic mistake. In the long run, its consequences may well be apocalyptic, if only because we have probably lost our last, best chance to rein in runaway climate change.

    But will the extent of the disaster become apparent right away? It’s natural and, one must admit, tempting to predict a quick comeuppance — and I myself gave in to that temptation, briefly, on that horrible election night, suggesting that a global recession was imminent. But I quickly retracted that call. Trumpism will have dire effects, but they will take time to become manifest.

    In fact, don’t be surprised if economic growth actually accelerates for a couple of years.

    Why am I, on reflection, relatively sanguine about the short-term effects of putting such a terrible man, with such a terrible team, in power? The answer is a mix of general principles and the specifics of our current economic situation.

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Reality sets in on Trumpworld

    As the shock of Donald Trump's election settles in, an uneasy electorate faces the reality of a shattered American politics.

    With the executive branch falling to a loose cannon driven by impulse, the nation is headed for a threateningly authoritarian era. Trump exudes the dictatorial odor of a man on a white horse.

    At the same time, who will speak and act in behalf of the unglued Republican and Democratic parties in and out of Congress? In the GOP-controlled Senate, the pliable Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can be counted on to be Trump's instrument. In the House, Speaker Paul Ryan will strive to manage his conservative flock emboldened by the new, like-minded president about whom Ryan himself has reservations.

    The Democrats will have a new Senate leader in New York's Chuck Schumer, along with the stolidly liberal Nancy Pelosi of California in the House. Both will have to dig in against an anticipated Trump onslaught against Barack Obama's legislative accomplishments, beginning with undoing Obamacare.

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Of course Bernie Sanders could have beaten Donald Trump

    Presented with only the following two quotes, it's easy to tell which member of the Sanders family is the politician.

    Asked by The Washington Post if he thought he could have beaten Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders was temperate in his reply.

    "I hesitate to be a Monday morning quarterback," he said. "In my heart of hearts, I think there's a good chance I could have defeated Trump, but who knows."

    When his wife Jane was asked a similar question on CNN last week, her answer was more pointed.

    "Do you think your husband would have had a better chance at beating Donald Trump than Hillary Clinton did?" CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked.

    "Absolutely," Jane Sanders replied, "but it doesn't matter now."

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