Archive

March 1st, 2016

Why black voters are in Clinton's corner

    With the Democratic primary in South Carolina upon us, the question isn't whether the presumed firewall of African American voters for Hillary Clinton will hold. I firmly believe that it will. The question is why. Yes, a lot of it has to do with fealty to President Obama. But it also has to do with what Clinton is saying to African Americans and how she says it.

    "Any discussion of the Democratic base must include the acknowledgment that that base is heavily Black," explains Steve Phillips in his insightful new book "Brown is the New White." Phillips argues that a "New American Majority" has formed within the voting-age population in the United States: "Progressive people of color now comprise 23 percent of all the eligible voters in America, and progressive Whites account for 28 percent of all eligible voters," he writes. "The New American Majority electoral equation requires securing the support of 81 percent of people of color and 39 percent of Whites."

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Twilight of the Apparatchiks

    Lack of self-awareness can be fatal. The haplessness of the Republican establishment in the face of Trumpism is a case in point.

    As many have noted, it’s remarkable how shocked — shocked! — that establishment has been at the success of Donald Trump’s racist, xenophobic campaign. Who knew that this kind of thing would appeal to the party’s base? Isn’t the GOP the party of Ronald Reagan, who sold conservatism with high-minded philosophical messages, like talking about a “strapping young buck” using food stamps to buy T-bone steaks?

    Seriously, Republican political strategy has been exploiting racial antagonism, getting working-class whites to despise government because it dares to help Those People, for almost half a century. So it’s amazing to see the party’s elite utterly astonished by the success of a candidate who is just saying outright what they have consistently tried to convey with dog whistles.

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Donald Trump's bigotry has inspired Muslim American voters like no candidate before

    Through the driving rain, past the flood watch, the stalled cars and the tornado warnings, they pushed onward Wednesday night to get to the mosque in Northern Virginia. They had a Super Tuesday mission, and time was running out.

    "Abstaining from voting is also a vote," read one of the talking points in their action plan.

    "If Muslims do not vote, openly Islamaphobic leaders do not pay a price," said another one.

    Even the kids who just finished Arabic class -- like the girl whose pink hijab matched her Hello Kitty backpack -- knew that something big was happening in Virginia next week, and the adults at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, better known as ADAMS, were talking about it.

    "My dad said he don't know who he's voting for yet, but he said he's going to vote against Trump no matter what," one of the girls declared.

    Guess what, Donald Trump? Your bigotry has inspired Muslim American voters like no presidential candidate has done before.

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How Dixie rules the GOP

    The Super Tuesday primaries underscore how super Southern our presidential nominating process has become. This makes our way of picking standard-bearers unrepresentative of the country as a whole. In particular, it sharply reduces the influence of the great American Midwest even though the region's states are among the most important general-election battlegrounds.

    Southernization is a special problem for Republicans because their Southern supporters tend to be far more socially conservative than the rest of the party or the country. Southern politics is also more deeply polarized around race, giving backlash candidates a leg up. The GOP's slide rightward creates electoral difficulties for it in presidential elections and is the central factor in Washington's inability to find consensus on much of anything.

    True, the whole carnival starts in Iowa, which is as Midwestern as you can get. But the caucus system gives more conservative Iowa Republicans an outsized influence because white evangelicals play a disproportionate role in what is a relatively low-turnout contest.

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February 29th

No nation should fight global atrocities alone

    Fifteen years ago, the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (I was one of the 12 commissioners) presented the innovative doctrine of the responsibility to protect - widely known as R2P - as the principle around which the world could forge a new consensus on how to rescue civilians under threat of atrocities.

    No one would claim that the world has been free of mass atrocities since then. Yet no country has called for R2P to be rolled back, and it would be unlikely that such a call would be heeded by the United Nations. Those competing tensions sum up the indispensable attraction and considerable limitations of R2P.

    R2P both reflected and contributed to the shift from power competition between nations toward international norms as the pivot on which history turns. But it has not made this competition obsolete. Major powers will still try to muscle into regions and exploit one another's weaknesses at the expense of small states in the world's hotspots.

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To beat Trump, stoop to his level

    Is Hillary Clinton ready to rumble against Donald Trump? The nation and the world had better hope so.

    The question is premature but not unreasonably so. Perhaps Bernie Sanders will stun Clinton in the South Carolina Democratic primary this weekend and then pick off a couple of delegate-rich Super Tuesday states. Maybe Trump's main challengers, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, will start training heavy fire on the guy who's running away with the Republican nomination.

    Such things are possible but do not seem very likely. The Democratic Party's process of selecting convention delegates is less democratic than the GOP's; elected officials who serve as "superdelegates" -- and who constitute the party establishment -- give Clinton a substantial built-in advantage. Sanders' big victory in New Hampshire, sandwiched between defeats in Iowa and Nevada, hasn't been enough to start any kind of Obama-style stampede.

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Biden and the Supreme Court vacancy

    In a television interview the other night, Vice President Joe Biden was asked point-blank whether, if President Obama asked him to accept nomination to the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy left by Justice Antonin Scalia's death, would he say yes. This was his response:

    "You never say to a president for certain you wouldn't do anything, but I have no..." -- here he leaned over into the face of interviewer Rachel Maddow -- "look at me now: I have no desire to sit on the Supreme Court. None."

    Maddow, the MSNBC liberal advocate, seemed to accept that, and then asked him: "Who do you think the president should pick?"

    Biden replied: "I haven't even had a chance to sit down with him yet to talk about the potential candidates. When we do, as in the past, (we will) lay out all the people, go out and survey a little bit and see who we think -- who meets those criteria and we think could have a chance of being confirmed."

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Why we can now declare the end of 'Christian America'

    Political elections are as much about those doing the electing as it is about those eventually elected. If each vote represents what a voter believes and hopes for, then the person elected is really a magnification of the desires voters happen to have.

    This is why national elections are so fascinating. Every four years, Americans collectively paint and present to the world a picture that communicates their aspirations and fears. It is a picture that enables us to see the character of a nation.

    When I first moved from Canada to the United States 30 years ago, I was told repeatedly that America is a Christian nation. It isn't simply that America has many self-professing Christians living within its borders. The identity of America as a whole, its history and its destiny, are somehow tied to Christianity.

    Political leaders feel the need to appear Christian, say Christian-sounding things, show up at Christian institutions, and end their speeches with "God bless America!" American money proclaims "In God we trust." What could be more Christian than that?

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Trump is the GOP's Frankenstein monster. Now he's strong enough to destroy the party.

    When the plague descended on Thebes, Oedipus sent his brother-in-law to the Delphic oracle to discover the cause. Little did he realize that the crime for which Thebes was being punished was his own. Today's Republican Party is our Oedipus. A plague has descended on the party in the form of the most successful demagogue-charlatan in the history of U.S. politics. The party searches desperately for the cause and the remedy without realizing that, like Oedipus, it is the party itself that brought on this plague. The party's own political crimes are being punished in a bit of cosmic justice fit for a Greek tragedy.

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The useful side of Trump

    If the durability of Donald Trump's presidential candidacy has taken the political world by surprise, the sources of his electoral strength are no mystery. And the support he's winning reflects a crisis not only for the Republican and conservative coalitions, but also for the political system as a whole.

    Let it be said that Trump is not (yet) winning support from anything close to a majority of Americans. On the contrary, polling shows that a significant majority of Americans are anti-Trump. His unfavorable ratings have reached or approached 60 percent in many surveys.

    But as the results from Tuesday's Nevada caucuses confirmed again, Trump has built a large constituency inside the Republican Party based on a set of positions that marry two streams of thought not typically brought together by liberal or conservative politicians.

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