Archive

December 6th

Trump has already defeated the news media, and it's unclear what we can do about it

    Donald Trump is either a mad genius who has cracked the media code in a way no politician before him was able to do, or he's a kind of political Mr. Magoo, stumbling randomly about yet achieving one success after another. We may never know which it is.

    But if we're going to maintain our democracy, we have to figure out how to deal with the way Trump successfully manipulates the media.

    Perhaps, as some have suggested, Trump tweeted his ridiculous lie about millions of fraudulent votes on Sunday in order to distract people from this lengthy investigation in the New York Times of the overseas partnerships that present unprecedented conflict of interest problems for his foreign policy. But even if that wasn't his intent, it's what happened - and he accomplished some other things as well.

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The most likely explanation for Donald Trump's fraud claims is the simplest one: Ego

    There are two questions underpinning Donald Trump's Sunday afternoon tweets in which he clearly hoped to undercut confidence in the results of this month's presidential election. First, are his claims accurate? And, second, why claim that the results of an election you won were tainted?

    The first question is the easier one to answer, because it involves no mind reading. Trump's tweeted claim that "millions of people ... voted illegally" earned four Pinocchios from The Washington Post's fact checkers. It appears to have stemmed mostly from one tweet issued by one person, which then made its way to the conspiracy site InfoWars.

    Trump followed that up with another tweet:

    "Serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California - so why isn't the media reporting on this? Serious bias - big problem!"

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The coming clash on Trump's immigration plan

    Perhaps no battle in Donald Trump's presidency will be as pitched, or public, as the coming fight over undocumented immigrants. If he pursues his stated goal of deporting 2 to 3 million undocumented immigrants, a network of pro-immigrant cities, institutions and activists is poised to make the process as visibly contentious as possible.

    Trump will have authority to deport millions. While individual cases can be contested and prolonged in immigration court -- the system is already overloaded -- lawsuits against Trump's executive powers or the implementation of his plan appear to have little chance of success.

    Resistance to Trump will be highly variable. The entirety of California, which is home to more undocumented immigrants than any other state, seems to be moving to high alert. In Los Angeles this month, board members for the nation's second-largest school district unanimously reiterated their commitment to "protect the data and identities of any student, family member, or school employee who may be adversely affected by any future policies or executive action that results in the collection of any personally identifiable information."

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Put your faith in Constitution, not 'democracy'

    When Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig argued at Medium that members of the Electoral College should break faith and vote for Hillary Clinton instead of Donald Trump, I chalked it up to the brilliantly contrarian Larry being brilliant and contrarian -- even if wrong. But when, over the holiday weekend, The Washington Post published his op-ed making the same argument, it made me think serious people might take his argument seriously -- which would be dangerous for democracy and bad for the republic. So with great respect for Larry's ideals and values, here's why faithless electors would subvert, not sustain, the democratic values that underlie the U.S. presidential election system.

    Start with a thought experiment: What if Donald Trump had won the popular vote and lost in the Electoral College? How would Democrats respond if prominent scholars and public figures argued that Clinton's electors should break their pledges and elect Trump?

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Push for transparency may have cost Clinton the election

    Hillary Clinton thinks James Comey cost her the presidency.

    Eleven days before the election, the FBI director informed congressional leaders that newly discovered information might be relevant to the investigation of Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. That inquiry was never formally closed, but months earlier, Comey made it clear that he would not seek prosecution. His new message was vague but provocative, and the campaign of Republican nominee Donald Trump immediately used it to reinforce its claim that the email story was "worse than Watergate."

    At the time Clinton was surging in the polls, and Trump's campaign seemed to be imploding under the weight of poor debate performances and accusations of sexual assault. Some observers argue that Comey's intervention stopped the decline and reduced Clinton's national lead by up to three points. Although it is impossible to prove causation, the letter may have depressed turnout on her behalf. Late-deciding voters broke for Trump in large numbers.

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If you're even asking if Russia hacked the election, Russia got what it wanted

    Recently, New York magazine set the Internet on fire with a piece speculating that hacked voting machines may have tipped November's presidential election.

    This is dangerous, and not just because there's no evidence that Russia "stole the election." Talking about these voting machines distracts us from what such speculation represents: the success of a broader Russian strategy to weaken Americans' trust in democracy.

    This election cycle, that strategy manifested itself in the Russians' strongly alleged involvement in promoting "fake news" and disseminating hacked emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee. These emails hurt Hillary Clinton's campaign and weakened Americans' trust in the Democratic primary.

    Why would Russian agencies want to undermine U.S. elections in the first place? The answer begins with Russian President Vladimir Putin's survival instinct. A s Yale historian Timothy Snyder writes, Putin has tried to weaken democracy and civil society around the world to make Russian authoritarianism more appealing in comparison.

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How Russian propaganda works in the West

    Until recently, the phenomenon of Russian government propaganda was only interesting to a small group of Russia experts, news junkies and counter-propaganda fundraisers. It was mainly seen as a tool for keeping Russians supportive of Vladimir Putin. No longer. Thanks to post-U.S. election blame games, and the upcoming election season in Europe, how the Russian state pushes its messages to Western audiences is a hot political topic. It's also woefully misunderstood.

    As the Russian journalist Alexey Kovalev, who started this own project to debunk Russian government propaganda, puts it: "The fight against fake news has itself turned into fake news. It's a kind of meta-propaganda."

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Here's how I explain my Muslim faith to fearful Americans

    "Do you want to kill us?"

    It's a question I get a lot. I'm a Muslim Somali-American living in Saint Cloud, Minnesota. My family of 10 emigrated here in November 1993, and I became American by the old-school system called assimilation. It's been a sprint with no discernible end. It's even more challenging in places like Saint Cloud, a Catholic town that's earned the nickname "White Cloud" because of its demographic make-up.

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Donald Trump is making a strong case for a recount of his own 2016 election win

    On Sunday morning, President-elect Donald Trump assured us all that a recount of the 2016 election wouldn't change the outcome and was a waste of resources. In a tweetstorm, he quoted Hillary Clinton:

    "Trump is going to be our President. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead." So much time and money will be spent - same result! Sad"

    Later Sunday, though, he made a real case that we should have no confidence in those same election results, alleging massive voter fraud:

    "In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally"

    "Serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California - so why isn't the media reporting on this? Serious bias - big problem!"

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Where charitable giving may be headed with Trump

    The holidays and year-end tax considerations make this the season of giving. And there are indications Americans will be more generous than ever.

    In 2015, Americans donated a record $373.25 billion in charitable contributions, up a little more than 4 percent from the year before, according to Giving USA, the most reliable chronicler of philanthropy.

    More than 7 in 10 donations were made by individuals, and about 15 percent came from foundations; corporations and bequests accounted for the rest. A little less than a third went to religious entities, with about 15 percent for education. Services for the poor, such as food banks, homeless shelters and legal assistance, got a little less than 12 percent.

    Looking beyond this year, there is a divide about where giving is headed, particularly because of recent political changes.

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