Archive

August 21st, 2016

Young voters live online. That's where the future of politics will be.

    Whether on a subway, a sidewalk, or a living room couch, life for millennials is lived in two worlds. There is the physical world around them, but also the online world that exists just out of sight, but must remain squarely in view for political professionals looking to capture and keep their attention.

    For anyone aiming to truly move the needle this election cycle, the trick is to greet the largest and most diverse generation of voters in our nation's history in a language they understand, using technology that already feels like home. This means advocating for and facilitating digital opportunities for voter registration and reminders, and using digital engagement to urge action in the physical world of ballot boxes and election events.

    The digital world is where the battle for the hearts and minds of a newly powerful generation of voters will begin. Paid ads and earned promotion through social media organizing are different but highly intertwined, and both are much more effective when done in coordination. They are also much more effective when tied to a simple call to action that young people can make - such as registering to vote - immediately and in the moment.

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Why Bowe Bergdahl's 'Serial' interviews should be off limits in his court martial

    When Mark Boal spent 25 hours interviewing accused U.S. Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl, he didn't plan on those hours of recorded interviews becoming part of a hugely popular podcast. He was just reporting, as he had many times before - whether for his magazine articles or his filmmaking.

    But in collaboration with the producers of "Serial," he and journalist Sarah Koenig teamed up. As a result, the story of the Army sergeant, who left his Afghanistan base in 2009 and was held captive by the Taliban for five years, became the basis of Season 2 of the spinoff of public radio's "This American Life."

    Nor did Boal plan on his interviews becoming part of the prosecution's case in Bergdahl's court-martial at Fort Bragg in North Carolina next February.

    That's what a military prosecutor has in mind, according to court papers. The former soldier faces life in prison if he is found guilty of the charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. Bergdahl was freed in 2014 in exchange for five Taliban fighters being held at Guantanamo Bay.

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August 20th

Empire of the Setting Sun

    In Japan, recent elections that have given Prime Minister Shinzo Abe supermajorities in both houses of the Diet, the country's parliament, may have implications for alliance politics across the Pacific. So too do Donald Trump's trash talking of American allies in the region and the dim prospects for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal in Washington that Abe has supported more for China-driven geopolitical benefits than economic reasons. Although Hillary Clinton is not all that popular in Japan - where the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has found it easier to work with Republicans - Trump is toxic.

    Relying yet again on a bait-and-switch strategy, Abe campaigned on his economic platform, known as Abenomics, asking voters to give him more time to get it revved up - and then claimed that his victory gave him a mandate to amend the constitution. Following his resounding victory, he immediately announced that he would seek advice from Diet committees on constitutional revision.

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We're still arguing about trickle-down tax policy

    For all his anti-establishment posturing, Donald Trump's tax plans are standard Republican fare: big tax cuts that favor the wealthy by lowering top marginal rates (on individual, corporate, and pass-through income) and eliminating the estate tax.

    While it hardly seems newsworthy to point out that a Republican presidential candidate introduced yet another supply-side, trickle-down tax plan, in this unique election-cycle, it raises a few questions. First, why are we still arguing about the viability of this failed approach to tax policy, and second, why is Trump, a candidate who's trying to appeal to working-class voters hurt by a "rigged" system and surely not helped by eliminating the estate tax, going there, too? (Note: the estate tax hits 0.2 percent of estates; for couples, estates worth less than $11 million are exempt; the average beneficiary from this cut gets $3 million.) Finally, is there an alternative conservative vision on taxes that's less untethered from reality?

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Thought the U.S. was divided already? Just watch as elections go digital.

    2016 will be noted as the year in which the Internet came into its own in U.S. political campaigns. While it has long been the technology for the back-end operations of political campaigns, this year online media have broken through as one of the primary sources for information about the election.

    Throughout the primaries, social media often eclipsed paid media and coverage by traditional news organizations. Donald Trump's tweets often became the story, drawing all media coverage to his message and disarming his opponents without relying on significant fundraising. As the general election begins, some analysts project that Internet political advertising will exceed $1 billion.

    That projection seems optimistic to me. One billion dollars would represent a shift from about 1 percent or 2 percent of all political advertising spending in 2012 to more than one-fourth in 2016. Campaign techniques rarely change so quickly. That said, online advertising will continue to grow. But how does it fit with political campaigns?

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The tea party has gone to meet its maker

    The Tea Party was always tragically miscast. The angry oldsters who formed its white-hot core fancied themselves tax protesters. Their self-image was informed, inflamed and more than occasionally exploited by conservative operations ranging from Fox News to FreedomWorks and a phalanx of right-wing grifters who dealt themselves into the action.

    There is a long tradition of supporting state spending on yourself (hands off my Medicare) while opposing the allocation of tax dollars to someone else (Obamacare is tyranny). The Tea Party covered this mundane transaction in a powdered wig.

    Until Donald Trump came along.

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The final insult: Trump is a bore

    If he doesn't ultimately win the election and shred our Constitution, the most annoying thing about Donald Trump may end up being this: He forced us to devote so much of our lives to a man who is, fundamentally, a bore.

    Don't get me wrong: I'm as addicted to coverage of his train-wreck, oh-no-he-didn't campaign as everyone else. Even if we wanted to avert our eyes, as citizens we would have a duty not to, to learn as much about the man and his potential presidency as we can. As Trump pinballed last week from "rigged election" to "Second Amendment people" to "founder of ISIS," I crashed from one bumper to the next along with the rest of America.

    But one reason this feels like such an imposition is that Trump is, in the end, so uninteresting.

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Is Trump destroying the GOP?

    Not long after Donald Trump delivered his acceptance speech at the festival of rage, hate, and megalomania otherwise known as the GOP convention, leading Never Trump conservatives despaired that the GOP's nomination of Trump could cost the party a generation of young voters. As former Jeb Bush adviser Tim Miller pointed out, the two conventions did not give the average 18-year-old any reason to be a Republican. Miller added: "We're giving away a generation."

    A new USA Today/Rock the Vote poll released Monday will not do much to assuage those fears.

    The new poll's toplines are alarming enough for Republicans: They show that Hillary Clinton is beating Trump by 56-20 among voters under 35. By contrast, according to exit polls, John McCain won 32 percent of voters aged 18-30 in 2008 and Mitt Romney won 36 percent of them in 2012, though this is an imperfect comparison of age groups.

    Here's what this all means, per the USA Today article accompanying the poll:

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How the Internet could democratize campaign spending

    The prospect of billions of dollars moving opaquely through the Internet and aimed at influencing our votes can sound ominous, especially as the Web is increasingly a tool that Americans use to communicate both personally and politically. In the broadest sense, allowing this flood of ad money feels contrary to our usual efforts to ensure that we know who is spending large sums to try to influence the makeup and actions of our government.

    But the world of campaign finance regulation has always been fuzzy and complex, especially as we try to balance the values of fairness and transparency with the equally fundamental principle of freedom of expression. These new advertising tools, from email and websites to Facebook and YouTube and more, clearly offer both opportunities and challenges in an already fraught landscape.

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Free speech has been very good to Donald Trump

    If only those First Amendment people could do something about Donald Trump. His latest attack on their sacred cow is the assertion that "It is not 'freedom of the press' when newspapers and others are allowed to say and write whatever they want even if it is completely false!"

    That's wrong as a matter of constitutional law. But it's not crazy. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has recently accorded a high degree of protection to falsehoods. And the kinds of justices that the Republican presidential nominee might appoint could well reverse it.

    The landmark case for the constitutional protection of lies and the lying liars who tell them was decided in 2012. It involved a prosecution under the Stolen Valor Act, a federal statute that made it a crime to say you have military medals you never earned -- and bigger crime to claim falsely to have received the Medal of Honor.

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