Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

The Democratic Establishment Thinks the Lesson of This Election Is That the Way For Democrats to Win Over White Voters In the Industrial Midwest Is to Switch Sides in the Culture Wars. I Guess. [Updated.]

The race to be the next head of the Democratic National Committee has quickly turned into a proxy fight between liberals and establishment types about where the party needs to go in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s stunning loss at the hands of Donald Trump on Tuesday.

Liberals are insistent that Clinton’s defeat was the result of nominating a candidate who failed to excite the party’s base of progressives, African Americans and Hispanics. Establishment voices fret that nominating a liberal to run the party misses the point of an election in which Clinton’s loss can be directly traced to her inability to win over white voters in the industrial Midwest.

“The next DNC chair needs to understand what became painfully obvious in the election — that there are two different Americas and that Democrats are really struggling to bridge the gap between the two,” said Mo Elleithee, a longtime Democratic operative who runs the Georgetown University Institute of Politics and Public Service. “The fundamental problem is that the party stopped really communicating what it means to be a Democrat.” …

“This is suddenly a really important gig as one of the centers of opposition,” said one longtime Democratic strategist who spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly assess the DNC race. “You can’t do it part time, and you shouldn’t do it while sitting inside one of the most despised institutions in the country.”

What the DNC chair race tells us about the fight for the Democratic Party’s future, Chris Cillizza, Washington Post, yesterday

Tags: , , , , , , , , Comments (25) | |

I’m with Brian Fallon

Campaigns are complicated things. No one gets every piece of them right. Some candidates are great at big rallies. Some are good only at small events. Some are terrific TV communicators but bad on the stump. Some delegate well, and others don’t. Some never waver from a message, while others can’t seem to find one with a 10-foot pole. It’s a high-wire balancing act every day with tens of millions of people watching.

Trump is making a real mess of his campaign, Chris Cillizza, Washington Post, Jul.10

Okay, I nearly fell out of my chair when I read that 10-foot poll line two weeks ago, which is why I remembered it today.  It was no mystery which two candidates Cillizza had in mind in drawing that contrast in that sentence.

Throughout Clinton’s campaign pundits and ordinary voters alike have wondered what exactly her justification is for running for president.  But I am not among them.  Her justification, from its outset, has been that she’s a woman and that this particular glass ceiling must be broken, now, and by her.  That was, and remains, it.

Thus her cringe-inducing statement at that debate last winter that she doesn’t understand why people think she’s a member of the establishment.  After all, she’s running to become the first woman president.

And thus the focus of her speech on the night of the California primary, which it turns out troubled a number of her advisors as much as it did me.  Which is, a lot.

Amy Chozick has an article in this morning’s NYT titled “Hillary Clinton’s Team Seeks a Balance: Celebrating Women Without Alienating Men” that begins:

PHILADELPHIA — When Hillary Clinton clinched the Democratic presidential nomination last month, her campaign put together a video that framed Mrs. Clinton’s victory as a giant leap in the women’s movement. Scenes of suffragists, Gloria Steinem and little girls in their mother’s arms flashed on the screen.

The footage brought some of Mrs. Clinton’s advisers to tears, but others asked a practical, and delicate, question: What might men be thinking?

Good question. But I’ll amend it: What were women, as well as men, thinking?  The ones who think this election is really, or at least mostly, about the economic and political-power issues that Bernie Sanders has built his campaign around.  That Elizabeth Warren (no less a female than is Clinton) has built her public career around.  That Donald Trump has so fraudulently coopted, these days interspersing his claim to fight the economically and politically powerful on behalf of working class whites with his actual fiscal and regulatory policies written—literally—at the Heritage Foundation.**

Trump is now openly seeking donations on behalf of a superPAC operated by and for some of the most fiscal and regulatory regressive billionaires and multimillionaires in the world.  

Yet he’s apparently winning among white working class men who aren’t all that enthused about Building a Wall, Barring Muslims From Entering This Country, and, now—again, literally; unabashedly—turning this country into a fascist state because five police officers in Dallas were murdered by a mentally disturbed man after he lured them with a 911 phone call.

Yet the Clinton campaign, according to Chozick’s detailed article, now debating “how much her nomination this week should be focused on women.”  Chozick writes:

Some advisers believe that overemphasizing Mrs. Clinton’s historic achievement as the first woman to accept a major party’s nomination could backfire, driving away men who favor her Republican opponent, Donald J. Trump, and alienating younger women who are less motivated by gender. The result is what Democrats describe as a cautious mix, attaching the women’s movement to issues like the economy and health care. …

“This has been a long, drawn­-out debate,” said Tracy Sefl, a Democratic strategist who worked for Mrs. Clinton in 2008 and has been involved in discussions with her 2016 campaign about women’s outreach.

The debate inside the campaign about the focus on women during the convention was described by a person involved in the planning who requested anonymity to discuss private conversations.

The discussions date to the start of the campaign, when some advisers suggested she choose Seneca Falls, N.Y., the birthplace of the modern women’s movement, to hold her kickoff rally.

Others questioned whether she should visit the town at all. In the end, she started her campaign in New York City, and in April, her daughter organized a “Women for Hillary” event in Seneca Falls in her mother’s place.

A campaign spokesman, Brian Fallon, did not respond to questions on Sunday about the internal discussions, other than to say, “It will not be lost on anyone that she is a woman.”

So here’s something Clinton should understand: Every time she suggests that the purpose of her campaign is to make history as the first woman to become president she also suggests that she truly doesn’t get this election—that she doesn’t understand the economic populism of this moment.  That is true even though some of the traditional women’s policy issues she will talk about also are very much economic ones.

Brian Fallon is not, I’ll just say, a favorite among Clinton spokespeople, and I know that other fervent Sandinistas shared that sentiment over the last year.  But I think I can speak for all Sandinistas—Sanders Bros and Sanders Sisses alike—in supporting his advice to the candidate: “It will not be lost on anyone that she is a woman.”

And if she really thinks we’re stronger together she should let that speak for itself.  It will not be lost on anyone that she is a woman.

A huge problem for Clinton and her campaign has been that its unremitting focus on things everyone already knows, and its failure to educate the public about things most or at least many people don’t know about Trump’s actions.  Their specifics.  His very modus operandi.  And, for heaven’s sake, his fiscal and regulatory policy proposals.

Also from the Chozick article:*

She drives me crazy with this woman thing,” Misty Leach, 43, a high school teacher who voted for Senator Bernie Sanders in the primary, said of Mrs. Clinton. “‘I’m going to be the first woman president’ to me just feels like she’s entitled.

To me it just feels like she wants to be sure no one misses that she thinks this is what is most on most people’s minds.  Excuse me, on most women’s minds.

Clinton should think back to her husband’s War Room’s famous mantra: It’s the economy, stupid.  This time the campaign’s internal mantra should be: It’s the economic and political power, stupid.

I think Trump made a serious mistake last week in “pivoting” from a (faux) anti-establishment-economic-and-political-power theme to a (bizarre) law-and-order one, which I found bizarre. (I didn’t watch any of that convention, but have more than enough about what transpired.)  In Clinton’s case, the opposite is necessary: She needs to pivot away from her campaign’s raison d’être, and toward the raison that matters.

*The quote and comment about it that follow were added on 7/26 at 1:44 p.m.

**Paragraph rewritten to make sense, 7/26 at 8:10 p.m.

Tags: , , , , , Comments (25) | |

Clinton admits she failed to do her homework, and therefore misunderstood, when she stated at the February debate that Dodd-Frank already authorizes the Treasury Dept. to force too-big-to-fail banks to pare down and that therefore no further legislation authorizing it is necessary. That’s quite an admission by her, and the New York Daily News editorial board (and the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza) should take note.

A notion is rapidly crystallizing among the national media that Bernie Sanders majorly bungled an interview with the editorial board of the New York Daily News.His rival, Hillary Clinton, has even sent a transcript of the interview to supporters as part of a fundraising push. A close look at that transcript, though, suggests the media may be getting worked up over nothing.

In fact, in several instances, it’s the Daily News editors who are bungling the facts in an interview designed to show that Sanders doesn’t understand the fine points of policy. In questions about breaking up big banks, the powers of the Treasury Department and drone strikes, the editors were simply wrong on details.

Take the exchange getting the most attention: Sanders’ supposed inability to describe exactly how he would break up the biggest banks. Sanders said that if the Treasury Department deemed it necessary to do so, the bank would go about unwinding itself as it best saw fit to get to a size that the administration considered no longer a systemic risk to the economy. Sanders said this could be done with new legislation, or through administrative authority under Dodd-Frank.

This is true, as economist Dean BakerPeter Eavis at The New York Times, and HuffPost’s Zach Carter in a Twitter rant have all pointed out. It’s also the position of Clinton herself. “We now have power under the Dodd-Frank legislation to break up banks. And I’ve said I will use that power if they pose a systemic risk,” Clinton said at a February debate. No media outcry followed her assertion, because it was true.

As the interview went on, though, it began to appear that the Daily News editors didn’t understand the difference between the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve. Follow in the transcript how Sanders kept referring to the authority of the administration and the Treasury Department through Dodd-Frank, known as Wall Street reform, while the Daily News editors shifted to the Fed.

Did Bernie Sanders Botch An Interview With The Daily News? It’s Not That Simple., Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief at The Huffington Post, yesterday

The subtitle of Grim’s article isThe interview exposes as much about the media as it does about Bernie Sanders.”  And indeed it does.  It exposes this particular editorials board as profoundly ignorant about virtually every subject the interview addressed—not just the specifics of Dodd-Frank but (astonishingly) also about this country’s decades-long position on Israel’s policy regarding new settlements in occupied Palestinian territories and also on the general nature and legal effect of treaties and United Nations resolutions pertaining to them, and a few other things.

It also exposes the board members as high-school-amateurish, not just as journalists but as, well, people.  Not just in the adolescent questions they asked but also in their mysterious inability to follow their own questions, which on the banking issue they were unable to recall from one question to the next whether they were asking about current law (Dodd-Frank) or instead about possible new legislation.  Not to mention, although Grim did, their failure to distinguish between the role of the Fed and the role of the Treasury Dept. on this issue under Dodd-Frank.

And it exposes a slew of other mainstream-media political analysts as just ridiculous.  But particularly, it exposes the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, the chemist who started the crystallization shortly after the Daily News released a transcript of the interview, for what he is: a robot, or maybe a computer, whose algorithms are programmed to forecast specific public reactions to certain words, phrases or clauses uttered by politicians in interviews, debates or off-hand responses to a reporter or to a voter at, say, a town hall-type campaign appearance. “I don’t know the answer to that,” or “I haven’t thought much about it,” or “the banks should be allowed to determine what means they will use to pare down in accord with banking-regulation edict” or “I can’t provide the specific citation to the fraud statute in the federal Criminal Code” are definite career destroyers.*  Or at least presidential candidacy destroyers.

And since Cillizza is highly regarded among mainstream political analysts who themselves lack those algorithms and must get by with baas, Clinton had a ball she thought she could pick up and run with.  So, interviewed yesterday morning on “Morning Joe” yesterday, and asked about Sanders’ responses to the Daily News editorial board members’ too-big-to-fail questions, she had a script prepared not by her consultants but by Cillizza, et al., that included this:

I think he hadn’t done his homework and he’d been talking for more than a year about doing things that he obviously hadn’t really studied or understood, and that does raise a lot of questions.

She went on to question whether Sanders was qualified to be president.

So the Daily News interview debacle serves handily also to highlight what’s wrong with Clinton.  Characteristically, she echoed a statement by members of that editorial board that she knew was false and also alluded to Sanders’ befuddlement (incredulousness, really) at other misstatements of fact by the editorial board members—it hasn’t been U.S. policy, for decades, to insist that as part of a two-state solution brokered by the White House or State Dept., Israel must withdraw its West Bank settlements on certain specific lands?—as disqualifying Sanders as a presidential candidate.

Grim’s piece links to the RealClear Politics headline from February 4, posted shortly after the February debate, headlined “Clinton Agrees With Sanders: ‘We Now Have Power Under Dodd-­Frank To Break Up Big Banks’”.  The article links to videotape.  Clinton said, “We now have power under the Dodd-Frank legislation to break up banks. And I’ve said I will use that power if they pose a systemic risk. ”

So Clinton failed to do her homework, either before that debate in February or before that “Morning Joe” interview yesterday.  And that does raise a lot of questions.  A lot of questions.  Which presumably the New York Daily News editorial board will seek answers to when they interview her.

The aforementioned post by Peter Eavis, in the New York Times blog The Upshot on Tuesday, is titled “Yes, Bernie Sanders Knows Something About Breaking Up Banks.”  Time to find out whether Hillary Clinton does.

___

*These aren’t actually direct quotes. They’re my paraphrases.

____

ADDENDUM: This is an entry posted yesterday at the New York Times Fact Checks of the 2016 Election blog:

Discussing climate change on Monday, Mrs. Clinton cited her “very vigorous record” on the subject. Then she proceeded to express bafflement about a stance she said her opponent had taken.

“I couldn’t believe it when Senator Sanders opposed the Paris agreement — the best chance we have to actually reverse climate change and deal with the consequences,” Mrs. Clinton said in an interview on “Capital Tonight,” an upstate New York cable news show.

The Paris agreement, reached in December, commits nearly every nation to take action to combat climate change. Given that Mr. Sanders has made climate change a major issue in his campaign, his supposed opposition would indeed seem odd.

But Mrs. Clinton’s characterization was misleading.

It is true that Mr. Sanders did not warmly embrace the Paris agreement. But his lack of enthusiasm was for the opposite reason that Mrs. Clinton suggested.

“While this is a step forward, it goes nowhere near far enough,” Mr. Sanders said in a statement in December. “The planet is in crisis. We need bold action in the very near future and this does not provide that.”

— Thomas Kaplan

So Clinton doesn’t believe her own hallucination.  She just wants Democratic primary voters to.

Then again, maybe she really can’t distinguish between a lament by someone that something doesn’t go far enough or isn’t strong enough and one that objects that the thing goes too far or is too strong.  This seems to be a recurring type of confusion for her.  So she may not be faking it after all.  Maybe she really can’t tell the difference.

Addendum added 4/7 at 8:35 p.m.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Comments (14) | |

Forget ‘Women and Children’. Women ARE Children. Right?

Okay, y’all know about the controversy: At Sunday night’s debate in Flint, Clinton interrupted Sanders, repeatedly, and tried to talk over him.  And at one point Sanders said to her, “Excuse me. I’m talking,” and, then, when Clinton again interrupted him, said “Wait a minute. Wait. Could I finish? You’ll have your turn, all right?”

Oh, the horror. At least according to an army of political journalists.  Most of whom work for the Washington Post.

Clinton is A WOMAN CANDIDATE.  And she’s running to become the first WOMAN NOMINEE OF A MAJOR POLITCAL PARTY FOR PRESIDENT.  Ergo, commentaries titled “What Bernie Sanders still doesn’t get about arguing with Hillary Clinton,” in which Janell Ross mentioned that Clinton’s campaign was equating Sanders’ comments to the infamous conduct by Rep. Rick Lazio, Clinton’s 2000 Republican senate-campaign opponent, and who seems to agree with that.  And ‘Excuse me, I’m talking’: Bernie Sanders shuts down Hillary Clinton, repeatedly,” the title of a blog post by Peter W. Stevenson, also a Fix-er.  And this from The Fix blog leader writer Chris Cillizza in his post-debate Winners and Losers take on Sunday night:

Losers

Bernie Sanders: The senator from Vermont had effectively walked a fine line in the previous six debates when it came to attacking Clinton without coming across as bullying or condescending. He tripped and fell while trying to execute that delicate dance on Sunday night. Sanders’s “excuse me, I’m talking” rebuttal to Clinton hinted at the fact that he was losing his temper with her. His “Can I finish, please?” retort ensured that his tone and his approach to someone trying to become the first female presidential nominee in either party would be THE story of the night.

Well, it was THE story, I guess, among journalists and others who never forget that Clinton is running as a WOMAN but who don’t consider in these writings that she’s campaigning on a platform of equal treatment for women.  Equal pay for equal work.  Break down glass ceilings and other barriers.

Well, at least the glass ceiling that supposedly still exists that would be trying to keep, say, Elizabeth Warren from the White House, had she sought it.  And who, I’m betting, does not consider herself such a delicate flower that she shouldn’t be treated, on the campaign trail or elsewhere, that same a man would be treated in the same circumstances.

And who can actually distinguish between a male campaign opponent who repeatedly physically approaches his female opponent on a debate stage and shoves a document in her face and demands that she sign it, and a male campaign opponent who finally draws the line on a debate stage that his female opponent has repeatedly crossed.

I do not believe that Sanders would not have said exactly the same things to a male opponent.  And I do believe that the criticism is the very height of hypocrisy by a candidate whose primary shtick has been that her election is necessary in the service of equality for women.  And, for that matter, by political commentators or anyone else who professes concern about double standards for women and men

But I also think Clinton came into that debate Sunday night with the very intent to be in-your-face-obnoxious.  And some pundits caught this:

Sanders shot back that if people truly had a problem with the comment that Sanders made, they should look at the speaking time Clinton was given and at the number of times she interrupted the Senator.

“Well, I think that given the fact that during that debate she ended up going on many occasions [over the time allotment] – and when I was speaking she interrupted me. I didn’t interrupt her, despite the fact that she spoke longer.”

Bernie Sanders Responds To Debate Interruptions: Says Clinton Is the Rude One, trofire.com

The actual link is http://trofire.com/2016/03/08/bernie-sanders-responds-to-ridiculous-debate-tone-policing/, so I’m assuming that the original title of the article was “Bernie Sanders responds to ridiculous debate-tone policing”. They shouldn’t have changed the title.

Clinton thinks this type of stuff and her habitual sleight-of-hand misrepresentations of Sanders’ record–a special feature of her debate performance on Sunday–are the path to wrapping up the nomination.  We’ll see about that.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , Comments (8) | |

Hillary Clinton just handed Republicans a devastating ad against her? Really, Chris Cillizza? Devastating?

Hillary Clinton had a clear strategy going into Sunday night’s fourth Democratic presidential debate: Hug President Obama — at all costs.

“We have the Affordable Care Act,” Clinton said. “That is one of the greatest accomplishments of President Obama, of the Democratic Party, and of our country.”

“I’m going to defend Dodd-Frank and I’m going to defend President Obama for taking on Wall Street, taking on the financial industry and getting results,” she said.

“I was very pleased that leaders of President Obama’s administration went out to Silicon Valley last week and began exactly this conversation about what we can do, consistent with privacy and security,” she said.

Hillary Clinton just handed Republicans a devastating ad against her, Chris Cillizza, the Washington Post, today.

Clinton, of course, was pandering, early and (very) often, mainly to African Americans—whom she made clear especially in her ridiculous assertion, stated at least twice last night, that Sanders in 2011 wanted a primary challenge to Obama’s reelection but in other respects as well, that blacks are deeply offended by any criticism of Obama.

Sanders, like me and many other progressives, was livid at Obama’s handling of the Republicans’ debt-ceiling shakedown.  All Sanders needs to do is remind people of, say, budget sequestration and its specific effects.  And (as he does regularly and did last night) of Obama’s Justice Department’s failure to indict any human major player in the finance industry’s financial frauds connected to the industry’s teetering on the brink of collapse in 2008.

I kept wondering as I watched the debate last night whether significant numbers of African Americans would find the brazenness of her pandering offensive.

But, really.  I know that the Republican establishment candidates—those who are so, openly, and those who try hard to hide it—think that most Americans think the finance and securities industry is too lightly regulated.  After all, that’s what their donors think; why wouldn’t ordinary folk think so, too?

But apparently ordinary folk don’t. Thus, the awesome poll numbers for Jeb! And Marco! And Christie!

Yup. Positively devastating to a Clinton general-election campaign that she defends Dodd-Frank.  And Obamacare. Because the healthcare system and the financial services industries were just awesome circa 2008-09 for those who aren’t mega-donors to Republican politicians.

I’ve hardly been quiet here at AB about my lack of fondness for Clinton, including in posts earlier today and just before the debate last night.  But some of the criticism of her is ridiculous.

Tags: , , Comments (0) | |

When Did Chris Cillizza Stop Beating His Wife?

I titled this post of mine yesterday, “I’m so, so tired of political journalists (including some who I think are generally excellent) misconstruing certain types of poll results.  And of pollsters not asking the obvious direct question they need to ask.”  The post dealt specifically with a blog entry by Greg Sargent yesterday morning in which he interpreted the answer to poll question asking what the issue the respondent considered most important (for next year’s national elections) as proof positive that the public doesn’t care about the effect of huge amounts of money by very wealthy donors in determining the policy proposals of the candidates and the actual policies instituted or supported by elected officeholders.

Almost no respondent listed huge amounts of money by tiny numbers of people funding campaigns as the issue that they were most concerned about, but as Sargent’s post itself indicated, answers to several other questions—questions that addressed that issue specifically—made very clear that a huge portion of the public considers it a critically important issue, because they do recognize the clear, direct impact of it on candidates’ stated policy views and on actual government policy.

I opened my post yesterday with a two-paragraph excerpt from Sargent’s post:

If ever there were a cycle that seemed poised for a serious argument over what to do — if anything — about the torrents of money sloshing through our politics, you’d think it would be this one. We’re seeing a parade of billionaire sugar daddies looking to sponsor individual GOP candidates. A profusion of clever tactics such as turning over campaign operations to a friendly Super PAC, and running a full-blown presidential campaign while pretending you haven’t declared. Outside groups on both sides pledging enormous expenditures. Relentless media attention to foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation. And so on.

Yet despite all this, the chances of turning campaign finance into a major or compelling issue appear remote: A new poll today finds that fewer than one percent of Americans see it as the most important issue facing the country.

I then asked whether this might be because most poll respondents think they’re being asked directly about the issues that they want politicians and officeholders to address, rather than, y’know, the reasons why politicians and officeholders aren’t dealing effectively—or at all—with those problems and often make policy that worsens those problems.  Although the question was rhetorical (okay, sarcastic), I answered it, saying that it turns out that the answer is yes, and referencing the answers to the poll questions that specifically addressed the issue.

In the comments thread this morning, reader Dale Coberly commented that “polls tell the p.r. firms how well they are doing” and that “you can’t win by ‘taking the money out of politics’ or rewriting the poll questions.”   I responded:

Dale, the very last thing I’m trying to suggest is that candidates or parties should try to win by rewriting poll questions.  The polls at issue were the general news media polls, taken by polling organizations not affiliated with a candidate or party.

What I’m suggesting—strongly and clearly, I thought—is that journalists should really, really stop conflating answers to one question with answers to question that wasn’t even asked. They’re playing a distorting semantics game, in this instance by treating the word “issue” as having a much broader meaning than, I’m sure, most people interpret that word to mean in a generic poll question about what they think is the most important issue.

If the poll asked a question specifically about how important the respondent thinks it is to try to significantly curb the ability of the very wealthy, whether individuals or corporations, to fund particular campaigns, or even if q question asked the respondent to list in order of importance several categories of issues, and provide the categories, and include among the categories the influence large donors in controlling what positions politicians take as candidates and as elected officials, then great!   But it’s ridiculous to read the question at issue in Sargent’s post and interpret the answers to it as anything but stated preferences about the things mist people actually thing the question is asking about.

After I posted that comment, I clicked on the Washington Post website and it’s The Fix blog and, skimming the post titles saw one from yesterday by Chris Cillizza titled “Can we please stop acting like campaign finance is a major voting issue?

I don’t know when Cillizza stopped beating his wife, but his post is ridiculous.  He begins:

There are two seemingly contradictory data points in a new New York Times-CBS national poll.

1. 84 percent of people — 80 percent of Republicans and 90 percent of Democrats — believe money has too much influence in American politics.

2. Less than 1 percent of people said money in politics or campaign fundraising was the most important issue facing the country.

Seemingly contradictory?  I dunno.  I mean … maybe.  If you think the public thinks of the profound perversion of this country’s democracy as just another issue.  Cillizza continues:

How can the public hold both notions in their heads simultaneously? It’s actually not that complicated — and helps to explain why we need to stop acting like campaign finance reform is a major issue in actual campaigns.

Okay, well, he’s right that it’s not that complicated, but that’s because, as I’ve said,  the two notions are not contradictory at all.  Unless, that is, you believe that the respondents thought the first question included consideration of the second rather than just being a question directly about such issues as the economy, immigration, college affordability, foreign policy, healthcare insurance.  Rather than also indirectly about, well, all of those issued scrambled together.

But he doesn’t, of course, and makes that really clear, writing:

What point No. 2 shows, however, is that the public’s broad dislike for the amount of money flowing through the political system is more a theoretical distaste than a practical one. As in, when prompted to offer judgment on how much money is in politics, people agree it’s too much.  But, left unprompted, they make quite clear that campaign finance reform is not even close to a top-of-the-mind issue.

Think of it like this: If someone asked you whether you should eat better, almost all of us would say yes.  Too many hamburgers, too much pizza, too many frappuccinos. (Or maybe that’s just me.) But, when you go out to lunch or find yourself at the grocery story, how many of us actually make good on our stated intent to eat better? If you’re anything like me, the answer is a whole heck of a lot fewer people than say that they should be eating better.

There’s a huge difference between prompted intent and unprompted action.

There is indeed a huge difference between prompted intent and unprompted action. There’s also a huge difference between journalists who don’t actually understand what that difference is, and what it actually means. Mainly, apparently, because these journalists don’t understand the semantics of being asked generically by a pollster about “issues.”

This is serious stuff, folks.  And I suggest that the Washington Post poll people about what they think pollsters are referring to when then ask generically about issues that concern them.  And then ask specifically a set of questions about this issue, which most people recognize as a blanket issue encompassing a slew of specific policy issues and problems.  Most people.  But not most political journalists, apparently, at least not the ones whose comments I’ve read.  Think of it like this.

—-

UPDATE: Reader Carol and I just had the following exchange in the comments thread to this post:

Carol

June 3, 2015 2:36 pm

There is more to it than that. The public correctly perceives the role of money in politics as a huge problem. The public also correctly perceives this as not the most important issue facing the public today. There is no cognitive dissonance here. The most important issue for most people is having a job, or enough money to not be frightened of the future. In the general psychology courses I took, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs would suggest survival trumps all other issues. Once you are fed and secure, you have the time and energy to break out the tumbrils.

 

Beverly Mann

June 3, 2015 3:17 pm

Wow, Carol. You really think that fewer than 1% of the respondents see the connections between issues directly related to having a job, or enough money to not be frightened of the future? Most of the respondents said they understood perfectly this connection.

Wage issues (including the minimum wage, and including the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively); banking regulations (including the ones could have prevented the collapse of the economy in 2009-10, had they been in force—the collapse of the economy that cost millions of people their jobs, their life savings, their homes); healthcare insurance; interest on college loans; etc., etc. etc, etc.? Only fewer than 1% of that poll’s respondents think those issues have no tie-in to, say, who’s funding whose election campaign and may or may not fund that elected official’s next one?

Really? Really???

You’re right, Carol, that there’s no cognitive dissonance regarding the respondents’ responses. Which is the point of this post–or is supposed to be. The problem is one of semantics and these political journalists’ failure to realize that most people would understand that poll question about the most important issue to be using the word “issue” in a specific, narrow sense that doesn’t include the relationship between public policy and who’s buying the policy.

I had thought this isn’t rocket science, but maybe I was wrong.  Apologies for the snideness, but ….

Updated 6/3 at 3:40 p.m. 

Tags: , , , , , , Comments (21) | |

Chris Cillizza Misses the Point. (The most important point, anyway.)

Anecdotal evidence, the basis of so much journalism prior to the rise of the data movement and still, to my mind, over-relied upon — is just that: anecdotal. Roughly 65,000 people voted in the Cantor-Brat primary; Brat won by more than 7,200 votes. Assuming that what a non-scientific sample  of 1, 10 or even 100 people in the district thought about Cantor (or Brat) in the run-up to the race — the shoe-leather reporting prized by Carr — was indicative of how 65,000 people were planning to vote seems to me to be somewhat misguided. (Now, if all 100 people a reporter talked to in the district loudly derided Cantor as an out of step liberal, then I take back my previous point. But, my guess is that wouldn’t have happened.)

Should I have seen Eric Cantor’s loss coming?, Chris Cillizza, Washington Post, today

I assume that Cillizza is, as he says, responding to New York Times writer David Carr’s column on Monday, “Eric Cantor’s Defeat Exposed a Beltway Journalism Blind Spot,” rather than also to, say, my AB post from Wednesday, in which I discuss Carr’s column and note that what the national news media missed, but what the local political reporters Carr mentions recognized, was not simply local antagonism toward Cantor but, to an apparently substantial extent, local antagonism toward Cantor because he is the very embodiment of the politician who shares John Roberts’ particular view, stated expressly in his opinion two months ago in McCutcheon v. FEC, of who or what a politician’s “constituent” is.

In my post on Wednesday (picked up in full elsewhere, I’m glad to see), I noted that the in-depth analysis of it by political several political journalists now that the post-Canter-defeat dust has settled is that critical to Brat’s victory was an anti-plutocracy theme and that Cantor provided the perfect foil for it. Most of the articles discussing this say that the Chamber of Commerce–an explicit target of Brat’s during the campaign, and other major players among the Republican business constituency, who Roberts described in McCutcheon as constituents entitled to secretly help draft legislation by dint of their ability to purchase that right, concur and are springing into action.  As Gail Collins summarized it in her New York Times column yesterday:

The defeat of the House majority leader, Eric Cantor, terrified many of the party establishment’s supporters, particularly since Cantor’s opponent ran against Wall Street, big business and bank bailouts.

It’s a problem, if you’re a big-money donor, to be worried that your party is being taken over by crazy people who will alienate the voters in a national election by opposing immigration reform and contraception. It’s a catastrophe to be worried that it’s being taken over by economic populists.

Cillizza and, I suspect, a number of other professional political analysts remain wedded to what is quickly becoming an outdated model.  They’re missing some important handwriting on the wall, which is that huge swaths of the public are dismayed at the meaning of “constituency” and “democracy” as defined in the New Dictionary of Supreme Court English, edited by Roberts and Anthony Kennedy.  As I said in my Wednesday post:

Call McCutcheon v. FEC the new poll tax. I do.  After all, John Roberts, in a surprising bit of honesty, described it in his opinion for the majority as pretty much that in his opinion in that case earlier this year. “Ingratiation and access . . . are not corruption,” he wrote, quoting Anthony Kennedy’s the Court’s decision in Citizens United, and then explained:

“They embody a central feature of democracy—that constituents support candidates who share their beliefs and interests, and candidates who are elected can be expected to be responsive to those concerns.”

But Cantor’s constituents–the ones that Roberts says should dictate Cantor’s policy positions and write legislation he proposes–couldn’t vote in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District last week. The district is too far away for them to commute to Wall Street, or to Wichita, KS, or downtown Houston, or Raleigh, NC.  And surprisingly, it turns out that Brat actually ran what was in large part a progressive economic-populist–an anti-plutocracy–campaign highlighting who exactly Cantor’s  constituents (to borrow Roberts’ term) are.  So, now that that is being widely reported and is sinking in, hedge-fund types and the Chamber of Commerce crowd apparently indeed are starting to pray.

Apart from the obvious reason for the definitional chasm between Roberts & Co. and most people embedded in that statement by Roberts–specifically, the definition of “democracy”–add to the rapidly growing list of Roberts’ casual redefinitions of common words this new definition of “constituent,” one disembodied from residency in the candidate or officeholder’s actual election jurisdiction.

Cantor was beaten, in substantial part, it certainly appears, by Citizens United and McCutcheon–by a backlash toward the political system that is now, bizarrely but expressly, institutionalized as a matter of constitutional jurisprudence.  Turnout was very heavy, far heavier than it was in the primary in that district two years ago, when apparently all the candidates were fine, thank you very much, with poll-tax democracy.

I titled that post “David Brat, et al. v. John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, the Koch Brothers, the Chamber of Commerce, et al.”  And in the last two paragraphs, I elaborated upon the title, writing:

Brat, for his part, appears to be about to run a general-election campaign consisting mainly of slogans and non sequiturs.  No surprise, of course; slogans, cliches, non sequiturs are the very essence of the current Republican Party–both factions of the Tea Party/Republican Party. The Paul Ryan/Koch brothers/Chamber of Commerce faction and also, because of the mutual exclusivity of its premises, the (newly named) David Brat faction. That’s simply the nature of this beast.

But the divorce case originally known as Movement Conservatives v. Movement Conservatives, filed June 10, 2014 in the Richmond, Virginia Court of Public Opinion, is a class action.  I just checked the docket for the case, and it’s now called Movement Conservatives, et al. v. Movement Conservatives.  And already, there have been several amicus briefs filed on behalf of the petitioners.  And the Supreme Court may not decide the outcome of it after all.

That last sentence is true; the Supreme Court has lost control of the narrative on this.  It has tried, but unsuccessfully, to decree new non-legal definitions of “corruption,” “democracy,” “constituent,” “person,” and “speech.”  It is losing its case in the courts of public opinion in most jurisdictions around the country; that much already is clear.  But the Court will decide, very possibly–in other litigation; actual imminent litigation, in Wisconsin state court and very possibly in federal court–whether or not two key provisions of Wisconsin state, and of still-standing federal, campaign-finance statutes violate five Supreme Court justices’ view of the First Amendment within the peculiar prism of their definitions of those words.

Best as I can tell from news reports in the last 24 hours, the apparently forthcoming state prosecution of a few people involved on behalf of Gov. Scott Walker and Republican state legislators in the Wisconsin recall elections in 2011 and 2012, and perhaps of Walker himself, will necessarily involve challenges by the defendants to the constitutionality of Wisconsin’s (and possibly eventually to the federal government’s) statutory prohibitions against consort between election campaigns and PACs purporting to be “operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare” and unaffiliated with a political party or candidate.

The PACs are not subject to donor-amount limits, and they also can qualify for non-profit tax status if they meet a low bar for what constitutes “exclusively for the promotion of social welfare”.

But whether operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare, as “social welfare” is defined by most people, or instead as it will be defined in New Dictionary of Supreme Court English, these groups embody a central feature of democracy as defined in the April 2, 2014 edition of that Dictionary—that constituents support candidates who share their beliefs and interests, and candidates who are elected can be expected to be responsive to those concerns. And Scott Walker and the Republican legislators who were subject to possible recall adopted the very definition of “constituent” included in the current edition of the New Dictionary. Most of the people and groups with which they appear to have been coordinating were Walker’s and the legislators’ constituents only in the newly defined sense.  They were not residents of Wisconsin and therefore could not show a valid photo ID at a polling place in Wisconsin. (They would have to vote by absentee ballot.)

But Walker & Friends still remain a bit too precocious in one respect.  The Court’s majority has not yet redefined “democracy” to include as a central feature a First Amendment right of constituents (under either definition, traditional or new) to hide their identity when contributing directly to a political campaign.  And it well may not do so.  Kennedy indicated in his opinion in Citizens United that he does not believe that secret donations to campaigns embody a central feature of democracy.  Uh-oh.

Ultimately, though, what matters most is the outcome that civil litigation, Movement Conservatives, et al. v. Movement Conservatives, because not all five of the current editors of the New Dictionary are young and healthy–and because of the political facts illustrated by the surprisingly high turnout in the open primary in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District and the predominant campaign theme of the winner.  But I don’t expect Chris Cillizza to get that.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , Comments (3) | |

Republicans and Dana Milbank Solve the Unemployment Problem in Germany, Canada, Taiwan and Australia: Those countries just need to repeal their universal-healthcare laws and tie healthcare insurance to full-time employment at large corporations!

It’s worth appreciating the perverse nature of the [Republicans’] lie on display [in a new web ad against North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan here. Because Republicans are absolutely wedded to their “Obamacare is a job killer” talking point, the CBO report’s findings are being distorted into proof that the law will inflict job losses on millions of workers who, in this telling, become Obamacare’s helpless victims — a labor demand argument. In reality, the report actually found it would impact the choices workers receiving the law’s benefits make — a labor supply argument.

Some conservatives have dealt with the report’s actual findings directly by arguing they prove the case against the law — that government subsidies reduce the incentive to work. Many of the good wonky writers — Jonathan Cohn, Brian Beutler, Jonathan Chait, Jared Bernstein — have already engaged this argument effectively. But that is at least a legitimate debate to have within the context of the CBO’s findings.

Morning Plum: Republicans double down on another Big Lie about Obamacare, Greg Sargent, Washington Post, today

Okay, look, folks.  As Sargent recognizes, there are two distinct issues concerning the Republicans’ and the news media’s treatment of the CBO report’s statement that approximately 2.3 million people will voluntarily retire or reduce their weekly hours from full-time to part-time because they no longer need to work or to work full-time in order to have access to healthcare insurance insurance.

One of those issues is the bald misrepresentation, deliberately or unwittingly, that the report said that an estimated 2.3 million workers will be involuntarily laid off because of Obamacare, and its punditry-proffered corollary that although that’s not at all what the report actually said, what the report actually said is just too complicated for the Democrats to explain to the public between now and November.

Unfortunately for the Washington Post, two of its preeminent political-analyst pundits, Dana Milbank and Chris Cillizza, have become the poster journalists, respectively, for the former and the latter.

The other issue is the question of whether we should return to a healthcare insurance system tied almost entirely to full-time employment, so as to effectively preclude voluntary early retirement (raise the Medicare eligibility age to 67!) or voluntary reduction from full-time to part-time work–or the decision to leave a corporate job and start a business–for millions of Americans, lest we encourage sloth among working-age Americans.  In a transparent attempt at a sleight of hand to quietly backtrack on his jaw-dropping initial misconstruction of the CBO report, Milbank today makes himself the poster mainstream-journalist for support of repeal of Obamacare on this  ground. He says that, with a single exception, the report is “otherwise unhelpful to the health-care law.”  Suffice it to say that the exception is not the uncoupling of access to healthcare insurance from full-time employment at a large corporation; that, he maintains without explanation, is part of the unhelpful stuff.

It is, or course, Milbank rather than the report that is unhelpful, and the absent explanation is that he does not want to admit that he either misread the report on Tuesday or didn’t read it all before posting a full-length column about it.  But why does Sargent–who interpreted the report correctly from the outset–treat this as a legitimate policy dispute?  Yes, it certainly is a policy dispute.  But is it really a legitimate argument that it’s better for the economy to continue to tie access to healthcare insurance to full-time employment at a large corporation?  What evidence is there that this is so?

The United States is the only modern economy in the world that has that system.  But it is not the most successful economy in the world.  Germany, Canada, Australia and Taiwan all (I believe) have more vibrant economies these days than the United States.

As for Cillizza’s claim, reiterated yesterday after criticism of it the day before, I’ve been at an utter loss to understand why journalists and pundits think that the public won’t know by November that the people at issue in that part of the CBO report are those who have wanted to retire or work just part time but haven’t been able to because they need the healthcare insurance benefit–and that their choice to retire or reduce their weekly work hours means openings for others.  

This isn’t rocket science. This option is a fact of life in every advanced economy other than ours, and it’s a concept that almost everyone is very familiar with right here in this country.  Is the unemployment rate higher in Germany, Canada, Australia and Taiwan because their healthcare insurance systems aren’t based on full-time employment by a company that provides it to its full-time but not to its part-time employees?  Really?

This isn’t hard to explain and it’s not hard to understand.  As Sargent says today:

Indeed, even CBO director Douglas Elmendorf directly contested the characterization of jobs being “lost” during yesterday’s House hearing, noting that when people decide to ease up on work for good reasons, “we don’t sympathize. We say congratulations.” Elmendorf even added that those impacted this way could include older people who decide to retire earlier than they otherwise might have, or spouses who choose to reduce work hours to stay home with a new baby.

But instead of simply refuting the anti-Hagan ad with one showing a clip of that part of Elmendorf’s testimony, or of someone in his or her early 60s who is ecstatic to now be able to retire, or a young mother who can now choose to reduce work hours to stay home with a new baby–as they obviously should, and presumably will–the Democrats should do this as well: point out in ads that the Republicans apparently have trouble understanding basic English-language declaratory sentences, such as the ones in the CBO report.

Rather than attacking the Republicans for dishonestly, the Democrats should take them at their word.  Their word being that they are too stupid to understand a clearly written CBO report.

Then again, I suppose the Republicans could invoke Dana Milbank and a few other mainstream journalists to show that they are not alone in that.

Tags: , , , , , , Comments (2) | |

Wow. Seriously, Chris Cillizza and Sean Sullivan? Seriously??

Am I misunderstanding (certainly a possibility), or do the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza and Sean Sullivan write an entire article based on a really obviously ridiculous conflation of two separate concepts: what tax law is, and what tax law should be?

The article, titled “Mitt Romney was right (on taxes),” chastises the public for hypocrisy in believing, on the one hand, by wide poll margins, that people should do whatever they can to legally reduce their taxes as much as possible, yet on the other hand disapproving of politicians (especially wealthy ones) doing exactly that. These writers use two examples: the respective cases of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, the latter who just released his newly-filed tax returns for last year showing that he and his wife paid federal income taxes at a rate of 18.4%.

About Romney, they write:

The two-time presidential candidate, whose considerable wealth made the release of his tax returns a focal point of the 2012 campaign, insisted that he paid what was required but no more.

“I pay all the taxes that are legally required and not a dollar more,” Romney said at a debate in January 2012 just prior to releasing his 2010 and 2011 returns. “I don’t think you want someone as the candidate for president who pays more taxes than he owes.”

Eighty-five percent of the American public should have agreed with Romney. But, of course, they didn’t. Romney was cast as trying to game the system for the benefit of he and his wealthy friends. In a February 2012 Washington Post-ABC News poll, two in three Americans said Romney did not pay his fair share of taxes (the public was split over the question in the fall). And a majority of voters in the 2012 exit poll said that Romney’s policies would generally favor the rich and he lost that portion of the vote overwhelmingly.

About Obama, they say, “The Drudge Report, a popular conservative-leaning aggregation site, quickly went with a banner expressing incredulity at the 18 percent rate. Conservatives on twitter were similarly disgruntled.”  As if it’s the general public rather than the far-right starve-the-beast crowd that’s shocked.  And as if it’s even clear that the Drudge Report writer’s incredulity is about Obama’s paying only the legally required amount rather than the lowness of the legally required amount.  The headline, which is not attached to a story, best as I can tell, but instead simply links to the Wall Street Journal news report about Obama’s tax return, reads, “Obama only pays tax rate of 18%?”

Well, yes.  That’s what Obama is actively trying to change: the lowness of the federal income taxes paid by the wealthy.

That much is obvious.  Obama campaigned on a promise to raise federal tax revenues obtained from the wealthy.  Romney campaigned on a promise to lower the tax revenues obtained from the wealthy, who are, y’know, jobs creators who took risks.  Risks!  Including, for many of them, such as Mitt and Ann Romney themselves and, especially, their sons, being born into a wealthy family.  Warren Buffett is not a politician, but it’s a safe bet that he paid no more income taxes than he owed under current tax law, even though he has been in the vanguard of high-profile people who openly plead with politicians to raise tax rates for the wealthy and also remove the outrageous loopholes available to them.

It’s also a safe bet–even safer than, say, betting on Berkshire Hathaway stock–that Warren Buffett has never had a retirement-savings account in a Cayman Islands bank that has between $20 million and $120 million (or the deflationary equivalent) in it, achieved almost certainly by stated initial gross devaluation of equities placed into the account.  And that he did not avail himself of the IRS’s 2009 tax amnesty program for people who were shielding income from the IRS in Swiss banks because he did shield income from the IRS in Swiss banks.  Romney likely did both, which probably is why he refused to release to the public tax documents that would dispel those inferences.  The only other reasonably possible motive for his failure to release those documents is that they would have highlighted the outrageousness of legal tax loopholes that Romney did not want to draw attention to–also a possibility, although, I suspect, not the actual, or at least not the predominant, one), but in any event not one that supports these journalists’ characterization of the public’s poll responses as hypocritical.

What’s really remarkable, in my opinion, is that at least one of these two Washington Post political writers, one of them very high-profile–and as a regular reader of their blog, The Fix, I suspect it is Cillizza, the high-profile one, rather than Sullivan–thinks that a poll question using the phrase “pay their fair share of taxes” references not preferred tax policy but instead actual, current tax policy. The poll question almost certainly was intended to reach, and was understood by the poll respondents to be asking, about the voter’s preferred tax law, not about how the voter thinks people should act, by choice, under current, existing tax law.  With the caveat, of course, that most people don’t think wealthy people such as the Romneys should violate tax law, as many, many people who followed the specifics of the Romney-tax-returns controversy last year did conclude.

There is, in other words, nothing even slightly hypocritical in believing that people are morally entitled to avail themselves of legal tax breaks but that tax law should be amended to remove some of those tax breaks, to raise tax rates on the wealthy, to tax investment income at the same or near-same rate as investment income, and to tax large estates.  Or to do at least some of these things.

The belief that the law in its current form does not exact payment of a fair share of tax revenues from the wealthy, and the belief that it’s fine for people to employ current tax law to lower their own taxes, irrespective of their views on what tax policy should be, are not contradictory. Unless, like one or both of these journalists, you think the phrase “fair share of taxes” means two distinct and contrary things at once.  But most people, I’m pretty sure, understand quite well what that phrase addresses.  And it’s only one of those two things, not both.

Tags: , , , , , , Comments (12) | |

Okay, What Exactly Did Chris Cillizza MEAN By “Mental Health Sentencing”?

I rarely watch TV news shows anymore, much less cable political talk shows.  (Okay, I rarely watch TV at all anymore.)  But I happened to watch Chris Matthews’ Hardball tonight on MSNBC.  The topic was, of course, gun control. (Actually, the lack thereof, and whether is any real chance that that might change now.)  And Washington Post political blogger and reporter* Chris Cillizza was answering Matthews’ question about what he thought was the problem with this country.  As in, why do we have so many mass shootings?  Matthews suggested some possibilities.  Is it the absence of meaningful gun laws?  Is it lack of health care to treat mental illness?  (At least that’s how I recall it; I haven’t reviewed a transcript of the show.)

Cillizza responded with something like, “It’s gun laws.  It’s healthcare.  It’s mental health sentencing.” His emphasis, not mine.

It’s mental health sentencing?  Really?  How so, exactly–since actually there is no such thing.  Not formally, any way.  In truth, of course, large percentages of people serving prison sentences in this country, including people serving very long sentences, are mentally ill, some of them severely so.  But, thanks to John Hinckley, mental illness almost never is a defense to a criminal charge in this country. Presumably, Cillizza knows this.

But also presumably, he knows that Adam Lanza, James Holmes, Jared Loughner, Cho Seung-Hui, Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, and the others–several of whom (including Lanza, Cho, Harris and Klebold) killed themselves at the end of their maniacal spree–had no criminal record and therefore no mental illness sentence.  Whatever that is.

What concerns me about Cillizza’s statement is that the very last thing we should do is allow gun-rights fanatics to try to turn this debate into one about whether prison sentences for mentally ill mass shooters are long enough to serve as a deterrent–which is what I assume that Cillizza meant.  Lanza and most of the others sentenced themselves to death.  And Loughner’s plea agreement calls for a life sentence.  But I doubt that that will deter the next severely mentally ill teenager or young man who has access to an assault rifle and enough ammunition to kill or maim a lot of people during a rampage, and wants to do exactly that.

—-
*This post originally referred incorrectly to Cillizza as a political columnist.

Tags: , , , , Comments (17) | |