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

The Most Successful Trojan Horse Since the Trojan War

A key to beating Trump is to point out that on fiscal and other domestic policy at least, the election contest will not be to determine whether there will be another President Clinton or instead a President Trump.  There will be either a new President Clinton or a President Manafort.

Every time Trump tries to hint at the beginning of a back-away from Conservative Movement fiscal and other domestic policy, and toward some genuine economic-populist fiscal and anti-Chamber of Commerce regulatory policy, Edgar Bergen, er, [longtime Republican operative and current Trump campaign chief] Paul Manafort, quickly aborts it.

This will be a source of amusement for me going forward, although less so if Clinton fails to note this early and often, whether for fear of losing campaign donations or otherwise.  And less so still if she appears to be running as President Manafort Light.

— Me, here, May 9

Call me prescient.  Or just observant.  In contrast to my own party’s standard-bearer-in-waiting. Who is not.

A dismaying hallmark of Hillary Clinton’s campaign has been her penchant for highlighting the obvious or the already-very-well-known.  That she’s a woman and would be the first woman president, for example.  And that Donald Trump has campaigned on xenophobia and racism, is a blatant misogynist, has invited violence toward protesters at his rallies, and is pretty clearly mentally unbalanced, for another.  The theory is that the public needs to be told or reminded of these things because they’re unaware of them or have forgotten them, see.

Yet, hiding from the public, but (presumably) in plain sight of Clinton and her campaign for more than a half-year, has been Trump’s extreme-supply-side tax plan, posted suddenly on his website last October after months of intimating a preference for anti-supply-side, far more progressive tax policy. Reversing himself, dramatically but quietly, that proposal out-supply-sided, out-fiscal-regressive’d the Koch brothers’ candidates’ proposals, in order to fend off a threatened torrent of anti-Trump ads by a Koch-affiliated super PAC.  Which he did.

Trump’s intended audience, the Kochs, et al., of course have known of that tax proposal since the day he posted it on his campaign’s website.  But since he never mentioned it at his rallies or in interviews, his supporters didn’t.  And they still don’t, because Trump has avoided telling them, and so has Hillary Clinton.

True to form, Clinton sticks mainly to her stock in trade: anti-anti-women, anti-anti-ethnic-and-racial-animus.  A.k.a. identity politics.  Important issues, of course.  But so is supply-side, extremely regressive fiscal policy.  She knows that everyone knows Trump’s campaign positions and conduct concerning the first set of issues, and that very few people know of his tax proposal.  Yet she remains mum on the latter.  Notwithstanding that all she actually needs to do to win in November is inform the public of the latter.  At least until, I had feared, Trump withdraws his Heritage Foundation-inspired tax proposal, slapped together by adopting Jeb Bush’s and just increasing the size of the tax cuts for the wealthy, and began once again intimating support for a more progressive tax code than the current one.

And for about 24 hours late last week, after vacillating between trying to unify the party (via supply-side fiscal policy) and telling the party to go to hell (reversing himself on his supply-side tax proposal), he hinted at the first steps toward a reversal, prompted by Paul Ryan’s refusal to indicate support for Trump.  But faced with the immediate need to decide to largely self-fund his general-election campaign or instead be coopted by the party’s establishment, he opted for cooptation.

Hook, line … and sinker.  Explicitly.  Very publicly.  And with the vigor of a genuine convert, in a burning-his-bridges interview on CNN on Monday.  Reiterated even more clearly to The New York Times’ The Upshot blogger Peter Eavis later Monday.  Eavis writes today:

The 1 percent can breathe a small collective sigh of relief.

Hillary Clinton’s platform contains many new taxes for the wealthy, and in recent days it seemed that Donald Trump might be moving in the same direction. When asked Sunday on “Meet the Press” about taxing the rich, Mr. Trump said: “For the wealthy, I think, frankly, it’s going to go up. And you know what? It really should go up.”

He now says he wasn’t talking about the current income tax rate for people in the highest bracket, which is 39.6 percent. If he had been, it would have been a big move for Mr. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, to push that rate higher. His official tax plan envisions a top rate of 25 percent. In a phone interview on Monday, I sought clarification from Mr. Trump on his remarks about raising taxes on the rich. I asked him whether the highest earners would be paying more than 39.6 percent if he were president.

“No, in fact, you’d be lower than that,” Mr. Trump said.

But how, given that he had said that taxes would be going up for the wealthy? Mr. Trump explained that he meant he might have to accept a top tax rate that is higher than the 25 percent his plan calls for. To get his tax plans through Congress, he would probably have to compromise, but even after such concessions, the top rate would be lower than it is now, he said.

The title of Eavis’s post? “Donald Trump’s Plan to Raise Taxes on Rich: Just Kidding.”

That is all Clinton needs to win against Trump.  That’s it.  It also probably is all the Democrats need in order to win control of both houses of Congress.  Yet Clinton thinks triangulation is the way to go right now.  So, mum’s the word.  And I guess will continue to be.

Old habits die hard.  Or don’t die at all.

For all her habitual blow-with-the-winds, follow-the-crowd positioning, Clinton is remarkably slow in recognizing a change in the direction in which the crowd is going.

Her campaign reportedly is ringing its hands today that it, and she, must continue to fight a primary contest that she has already effectively won, rather than redirecting her campaign fully toward the general election.  By which she and her campaign mean rebutting Trump on what Trump rebuts himself on month after month.  And, reportedly, apprising the public of things in Trump’s background that no part of the general public knows about and that have nothing directly to do with actual policy preferences and proposals.  But they do not mean making known to the blue-collar Rust Belt voters who will determine the outcome of the result in, say, Ohio and Pennsylvania that Trump is proposing and vowing not to back away from a plan to dramatically reduce federal taxes for the very wealthy.

And it probably will not mean noting that he’s now mouthing, word-for-word, the Mitt Romney/Club for Growth lines about jobs creators needing very low taxes so that they can create jobs.  Or pay more in dividends, stock buybacks and executive bonuses. 

Tomorrow, behind closed doors with Paul Ryan & Friends, he will swear fealty to Mitt Romney’s platform.  And not just the part written literally, it turns out, by the Heritage Foundation and CNBC!  Also the part written by the Federalist Society. Including on Supreme Court and lower-court appointments.  Suffice it to say that his promise to hand Supreme Court and lower federal court appointments back to the Federalist Society would bode well for the Koch legal agenda.  And for the continued life of Citizens United.

For unions and people who aren’t so fond of Wall Street, though, not so much.

This all can be said to the public in a few sentences—most of them quotes from those two interviews, one of them videotaped and readily available.  There’s Trump, himself, saying these things.  This is what unifying “the party” means.  The price of running a modern general election campaign is this.  Literally.  And figuratively.   The pundits and Hillary Clinton have their eye on the red herring.

This candidate is the ultimate 0.1% proxy–potentially the most successful Trojan Horse since the Trojan War.  Trump has perfected to a science the art of the deal.

Clinton can begin saying these things now.  She doesn’t have to wait until the end of the primary season to begin saying them.  Her super PACs don’t, either.  And Bernie Sanders’ supporters won’t object.

Trust me.  I’m one of them.

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What Bernie Sanders is doing to help Hillary Clinton [UPDATED]

One charge against Sanders by the likes of Paul Krugman that I just could not abide—there were others, but this post is about this one—was that while Clinton was actively soliciting campaign funds for the Democratic Party to use for down-ballot candidates, Sanders was not.  In a post here about that a couple of weeks ago I pointed out that Sanders and his campaign will be playing a large role both in soliciting campaign funds from ordinary individuals for down-ballot campaigns—especially congressional campaigns—simply through ActBlue.com’s huge database of Sanders donors, and that in fact those solicitations already had begun.  ActBlue.com is the organization that Sanders donors use to make their donations.

I also said that Sanders will play a large part in garnering support for Senate and House candidates simply by noting as he campaigns with candidates that he remains a senator and he, Elizabeth Warren and the other few real progressives in Congress need a Democratic-controlled Congress for their policy proposals to get heard in Congress.

Today I received this email message:

Beverly —

As Democrats, we believe that no one who works hard every day should have to live in poverty because they’re paid a minimum wage that’s too low. We know that climate change is a challenge we must confront. We believe no young person should have to spend so much on a college education that they end up shackled by years of debt.

And we know that we can never, never allow Donald Trump to become President of the United States.

Will you donate $3 or more today to help keep that from happening and to elect Democrats who will fight for everything we believe in?

If you’ve saved your payment information, your donation will go through immediately.

QUICK DONATE: $3

QUICK DONATE: $10

QUICK DONATE: $25

QUICK DONATE: $50

QUICK DONATE: $100

Or donate another amount.
Any Republican president would put President Obama’s progress on economic security in danger, make moves to repeal health care reform that millions of Americans are now relying on, and try to move backwards on the steps we’ve taken these past seven years to make our country more equal and more fair.

But it’s clear that Trump — with his repugnant attitude toward women, immigrants, Muslim-Americans, and pretty much anyone he comes across — is the worst of the bunch.

We’re going to be going up against him this fall. So right now, I’m asking you to pitch in $3 or whatever you can so that we can stop Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans:

https://my.democrats.org/Stop-Donald-Trump

Thank you,

Hillary

­­­____

Paid for by the Democratic National Committee, 430 South Capitol Street SE, Washington DC 20003 and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. Contributions or gifts to the Democratic National Committee are not tax deductible.

There is, I believe, no way that the Clinton campaign would have my email address—that ActBlue would forward it to the Clinton campaign—unless the Sanders campaign agreed at the Clinton campaign’s request to allow it.

Me?  I’m delighted.  I’m with him.  But I’m also now with her.  There’s no conflict there; she will be the nominee, and he will play a large role in policy matters, during the campaign and during the Clinton administration.

As for the message itself, I think the tone was pretty near perfect at this stage, as an opener.

I think Clinton has made some serious blunders in the last few days.  I have no idea why, for example, she thinks she needs to do anything affirmative to gain the votes of moderate Republicans, least of all by rehashing what everyone already knows about Trump.  Just as I don’t know why she thinks women who place a great deal of importance on electing a woman as president need to reminded that she is one and if elected will be the first.  I don’t share her fondness for highlighting the obvious or the already-very-well-known.

And her decision to court, in personal phone solicitations, no less, Republican donors, as the NYT reported two or three days ago—Wall Street ones and others—is stupefying.  Money for TV ads and the like will be far less important than handing Trump, who apparently now expects to be mostly self-funding his campaign because there aren’t all that many Republican donors who want him elected, such tangible campaign arguments to make in his own TV commercials and at his rallies and in interviews.  Trump is a New Yorker; he probably reads the New York Times.  (Well, okay, Paul Manafort probably reads the New York Times.)

Like ordinary voters—actually, even more so, probably—these donors will decide to support Clinton, or not, based not on Clinton but on Trump.  But that is less likely to be so for many Sanders supporters than for most other voters.  Her campaign priorities are skewed here, illustrating yet again her lack of agility in recognizing the differences between this campaign year and, well, others.  Jeb Bush had record amounts of money.

But this post is about Bernie Sanders and his campaign.  And I’m happy that he and it took the step they took.

And I’ll offer this tip to Clinton now that I’m WithHer: A key to beating Trump is to point out that on fiscal and other domestic policy at least, the election contest will not be to determine whether there will be another President Clinton or instead a President Trump.  There will be either a new President Clinton or a President Manafort.

Every time Trump tries to hint at the beginning of a back-away from Conservative Movement fiscal and other domestic policy, and toward some genuine economic-populist fiscal and anti-Chamber of Commerce regulatory policy, Edgar Bergen, er, Paul Manafort, quickly aborts it.

This will be a source of amusement for me going forward, although less so if Clinton fails to note this early and often, whether for fear of losing campaign donations or otherwise.  And less so still if she appears to be running as President Manafort Light.

____

UPDATE:  Yikes.  Yves Smith posted this comment at Naked Capitalism:

What Bernie Sanders is doing to help Hillary Clinton Beverly Mann, Angry Bear. I am posting this only because I am just about certain this is wrong. Mann is almost certainly correct on her opening point, Sanders will help on downticket Democratic party races, but I assume he will help only ideologically aligned Dems, not the remaining Blue Dogs. But if these Congresscritters are to the left of Clinton, they could serve to keep her honest (or more accurately, less dishonest) rather than “help” her. But I am certain she is wrong about her getting an anti-Trump DNC message via Bernie sharing his list with her. First, I am told by someone in the Sanders operation that Sanders will not do that (although there is the risk that his list is hacked or stolen). Second, I have given to Sanders via ActBlue and have gotten no such message. Third, as a blogger, I have gotten DNC propaganda upon occasion, including solicitations, before I gave to Sanders (and I haven’t given to anyone save a couple of locals via check since I gave a mere $20 to Obama as a result of seeing Palin’s acceptance speech). Every time I unsubscribe. Mann has written often about Clinton and Sanders, so I suspect she got added to the list that way.

Sooo … I was wrong in my assumption about the underlying source of that DNC email to me.

Meanwhile, reader EMichael linked in the Comments thread to this article today by Matthew Yglesias at Vox.  I responded to EMichael’s comment:

Nice article. Thanks for linking to it. I don’t read Vox; I don’t care much for it. So I probably wouldn’t have known of the article otherwise.

I’m really glad to see someone with a high profile say what I, a low-profile type, have been saying here at AB for weeks now.

The Yglesias article is titled “The real reason Bernie Sanders will enthusiastically back Hillary Clinton in November.”

So I guess the bottom line is that Sanders indeed is helping Clinton, just not directly.  Not yet.

Added 5/10 at 12:14 p.m.

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Trump’s Solution to the Treasury Debt: Selling Mortgage-Backed Securities! (For federal lands.)

I would borrow, knowing that if the economy crashed, you could make a deal.

— Donald Trump, during CNBC interview, yesterday

 

BRET BAIER: You’ve been very clear on the stump that you oppose any reform of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security. Yet you told the Washington Post you would eliminate $20 trillion in U.S. national debt in eight years.

TRUMP: No, no. I think what they really were referring to — I’m very good at understanding banking, debt, all of that. I’m one of the all time professionals. We can cut, we can discount, we can buy at discounts, we can see where interest rates…

BAIER: Without changing those three things?

TRUMP: No, we can discount debt. For instance, we may refinance when interest rates are so low. A lot of people think we should refinance, taking some extra money and redo the infrastructure of our country. You know, we’ve spent $4 trillion plus in the Middle East.

Fox News interview of Donald Trump, yesterday

Okay, so he would borrow, knowing that if the economy crashed, he could make a deal.  Which makes me wonder: Who will be the ones sitting across the conference table from him, their lawyers and financial advisers in tow?

I’m trying to figure this out, because I think maybe I should buy a Treasury bond, or at least a bill, or maybe just a note, which I guess would give me the opportunity to meet the president.  In a conference room, as adversaries.  But still.  Way less expensive and time-consuming than, say, becoming a bundler for the super PACs that Trump now says he’ll support.  And certainly cheaper than hiring a team of lobbyists to get my policy demands to him.

And this probably is so even though he’s now telegraphed his intention to have the Treasury partially default on these financial instruments at the first sign of a recession, which would ensure that the economy would completely crash and not recover for a very long time, thus quickly causing a full default.  I think.

But about this refinancing thing.  Which I guess is separate from the partial-default deal, although it too would involve a lot of separate deals since even the too-big-to-fail banks, even all together, probably couldn’t give a loan to the Treasury in the amount of hundreds of billions of dollars.  Or, if they could, they probably wouldn’t.  Which is something that Bernie Sanders could tell you.  If you asked him.

Anyway, I’m wondering about the collateral for these refinancing loans.  I mean, the federal government does own all that land out west that Cliven Bundy and his supporters always complain about and think should be turned over to the states that the land is in.  Or to Cliven Bundy and his followers.  I assume these lands will serve as the collateral.

But land values go up and down based on the economy in the region, and unless this refinancing deal was completed before rather than after Treasury announced its intent to default, even partially, on Treasury bonds, bills and notes, the market value of that land probably won’t be nearly enough for collateral.  And, of course, now that everyone knows that Treasury will be defaulting sometime not long after the loans to refinance are made, I don’t think those banks will be willing to risk making the loans.  After all, the lands would quickly be underwater.  (Well, the loans would be, though the lands won’t be worth much more than if they actually, literally were underwater.)

Unless … unless … the banks could quickly sell those loans (which really would be mortgages) as mortgage-backed securities.

Which I guess is the plan.

____

Edited for clarity, 5/7 at 7:08 p.m.  Because clarity is necessary in a post this important.

____

ADDENDUM: Reader Peter and I had the following exchange yesterday in the Comments thread:

Peter

May 7, 2016 2:47 pm

He’s just not that articulate and he’s saying contradictory things. It’s hazardous to guess what he mean, but I’d guess he’s pointing out that interest rates are low now, so you borrow to invest in infrastructure. Interest payments as a fraction of GDP are at low.

This is what Larry Summers has been saying, but not what Hillary or other Republican politicians have been saying.

Why did we spend $4 trillion on the Middle East when we didn’t do a good job of nation building? Should have spent that money at home.

This is why Paul Ryan won’t support him and Cheney calls him a liberal.

The government can be pretty tough when it wants to. Remember when Paulson called all of the heads of the big banks into a meeting during the crisis and told them they will take TARP?

I’m worried about Trump too but let’s remember what the establishment did. Epic housing bubble. Epic financial crisis. As Trump points out epically wasteful war in Iraq. How much money was lost during all of those disasters?

And in 2009 the CBO forecast 20 percent real GDP growth by 2015.

It’s been 10 percent.

The establishment is disastrous which lead to the rise of Trumpism.

 

Me

May 7, 2016 7:38 pm

Actually, Peter, I–I–know exactly what he’s talking about. But he doesn’t. He’s heard or read that some progressive economists like Summers and Krugman keep saying that this would be a very good time for the government to borrow money for massive infrastructure needs because interest rates are low. What they’re talking about, of course, is passing laws to fund massive infrastructure projects paid for by selling Treasury bonds, bills and notes. Like how the federal government funds all its deficit spending.

But Trump hears “interest rates are low so it’s a good time to borrow money” and thinks the government borrows money in the same way that people fund real estate purchases and car purchases, and small businesses borrow money: They take out a loan from a financial institution.

How someone reaches late middle-age, after spending decades in business, and manages to nonetheless not know even the rudimentary mechanism of government-issued financial instruments—of government-issued debt—I wouldn’t know.

I consider myself borderline-ignorant about government-issued debt instruments, or did until yesterday, when I read about Trump’s comments and realized that I had considered myself unknowledgeable on the subject because I know only the rudimentary stuff—like that the government finances its debt through the issuance of them. It hadn’t occurred to me that I might know more about the subject than Donald Trump–simply by dint of the fact that I know that government finances its debt through the issuance of bonds and similar instruments, and that I know what a bond actually is.

Trump wasn’t being inarticulate, Peter.

So I think I’ll run for president in 2020.  But meanwhile I guess I won’t buy Treasury securities. Not United States ones, anyway.

Added 5/8 at 11:56 a.m.

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Dealing the Woman’s Card—Clinton’s. And Mine. And Dealing the Man’s Card—Bernie Sanders’s. And Donald Trump’s.

There are limits to the analogy between Clinton’s 2008 primary contest with Obama and Sanders’s primary contest now with her.  Clinton doesn’t get that.  But she needs to figure it out because the differences matter.

There are limits to the analogy between Clinton’s 2008 primary contest with Obama and Sanders’s primary contest now with her.  Clinton doesn’t get that.  But she needs to figure it out because the differences matter., Me, Angry Bear, yesterday

Later yesterday I posted a short follow-up, saying:

When I wrote this post today I wasn’t aware of this piece by Jonathan Cohn (a longtime favorite of mine, dating to his time at The New Republic).  It was published early this morning but I just learned of it (h/t Paul Waldman).  But it makes the same key point that I do in mine.

Which is that Sanders supporters will know that their vote for Clinton in November will mean something much more than just a vote for Clinton or a vote against Trump.  Most of us will be out en force on election day, voting not because of Clinton but because of Sanders.  And voting, really, not for Clinton but for Sanders.  As well as for progressives in the down-ballot contests.

The movement has taken hold.

Which managed to garner some attention to my first post, since I’d linked to it, and spurred the following in the comments thread to it this morning:

Beene

April 28, 2016 7:57 am

People if you take nothing else from the above article. Except that change is possible if you help Bernie and Warren when they ask for help for explicit people; reform of the democratic party is possible.

If you believe that the common belongs to the nation and those who benefit should be taxed according to assistance they have received as a member of this nation. But, dino’s like the Clintons’ or Obama are no better than having a republican, as the goal is not the common good.

 

EMichael

April 28, 2016 9:26 am

” But, dino’s like the Clintons’ or Obama are no better than having a republician, as the goal is not the common good.”

It is hard to imagine the stupidity required to write that sentence.

Prompting this lengthy comment from me:

You know what’s sort of funny to me about this thread?  I had forgotten this until this weeks’ Woman’s Card contretemps—specifically Clinton’s “Deal me in” response to Trump—reminded me of it.  Clinton responded with something like “If equal pay, and guaranteed paid family leave, and affordable preschool, and women’s healthcare are playing the Woman’s Card, deal me in.”  Ah; then I remembered the moment when I concluded that Clinton really DOESN’T have a core, or much of one anyway: When at the first debate last fall, after Sanders mentioned his proposal to tax everyone’s income at (I think) $1.54/a week (it was well less than $2.00) to pay for guaranteed paid medical and family leave, Clinton used, for the first of many times during the fall and very early this year, her rebuttal line that she wants to raise middle-class incomes, not lower them.

Until that moment I had thought that the one thing that really WAS her core politically was the panoply of traditional women’s issues, including guaranteed paid family leave.  Guess I was wrong about that, I said to myself.  So, apparently, did a good swath of other progressives.

She was raked over the coals for that—a stunning, dumbfounding comment from a Democratic candidate for president—yet she kept repeating it until the polls showed Sanders effectively even with her in Iowa and leading her in New Hampshire.  I remember the dismay and anger from commentators and others.  Several pointed out that that comment was straight from the Republican Party playbook.  And that apparently Clinton thinks FDR and LBJ wanted to lower incomes because, well … Social Security and Medicare.

Clinton thinks her problem in not being a natural politician is simply that she’s cold and stiff in her physical presence and speaking style.  She doesn’t recognize—and either do her campaign folks her feed her these sound bite lines she adopts—that her biggest problem, by far, is fondness for sound bites that are actually appalling.  Her husband raised taxes.  Guess he wanted to lower incomes rather than raise them.

I’ve debated here in AB threads several times with people who disagree with me that Clinton simply is not very bright.  That she’s so fond of this kind of thing—the asinine, self-defeating sound bites and sleights of hand that have been a hallmark of her campaign—is what I’m talking about.

NYT columnist Charles Blow has a good column today in which he calls Clinton a waffling contrivance.   Perfect!

But all that said, the bottom line is that EMichael is, extremely obviously, exactly right.  Why would anyone who is appalled by Citizens United and the Voting Rights Act opinion—two Supreme Court opinions that, unlike most of their other truly awful ones, most ARE aware of—think the outcome of the election between Trump and Clinton doesn’t matter?

I know that most people have no clue that most of the really important stuff that happens in federal courts happens at the district court (trial court) and circuit court (appellate court) levels. Much less do they know the genuinely appalling effect of the complete takeover of the entire civil and criminal justice systems, state and federal, by the Conservative Legal Movement.  Even less do they know the extraordinary breadth and reach of what this has affected.

Nor do they know that, finally—finally—in the last three years, thanks mostly to the decision by Harry Reid to kill the filibuster for circuit and district court nominees, the makeup of those courts has changed significantly and VERY meaningfully.

So, yeah, I repeat what EMichael said:

“”But, dino’s like the Clintons’ or Obama are no better than having a republician, as the goal is not the common good.”

“It is hard to imagine the stupidity required to write that sentence.”

Indeed.

Indeed.

I’m a Card Carrying Woman, but I prefer Sanders’s Man’s Card to Clinton’s Woman’s Card.  And Clinton’s Woman’s Card to this: Trump’s fiscal, healthcare and environmental positions will be drafted by the Club for Growth and the Koch brothers’-sponsored so-called think tanks and lobbyists.  Just as his actual policy proposals published on his campaign’s website were.

____

UPDATE: Greg Sargent has an up-to-date summary of efforts at a Clinton/Sanders rapprochement.

And Alexandra Petri discusses her own Woman’s Card.  Hilariously.

Added 4/28 at 11:24 p.m.

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There are limits to the analogy between Clinton’s 2008 primary contest with Obama and Sanders’s primary contest now with her. Clinton doesn’t get that. But she needs to figure it out because the differences matter.

We got to the end in June, and I did not put down conditions. I didn’t say, ‘you know what, if Senator Obama does X, Y, and Z, maybe I’ll support him.’ I said, ‘I’m supporting Senator Obama, because no matter what our differences might be, they pale in comparison to the differences between us and Republicans.’ That’s what I did.

At that time, 40 percent of my supporters said they would not support him. So from the time I withdrew, until the time I nominated him — I nominated him at the convention in Denver — I spent an enormous amount of time convincing my supporters to support him. And I’m happy to say the vast majority did. That’s certainly what I did and I hope that we will see the same this year.

— Hillary Clinton, at an MSNBC town hall-style event, Apr. 21

That is true.  Six days after she lost the California primary to Obama in early June 2008 she made a gracious speech strongly endorsing Obama and urging her supporters to support him, and repeated it in a primetime speech at the Convention.

Which almost certainly is what Sanders will do, almost exactly.  But what he also will do is attempt to play a role in the drafting of the party platform.  And when he endorses Clinton and then campaigns for her he will point out both that Trump’s actual fiscal-policy and healthcare policy proposals, published on his website, are geared toward gaining favor with the Republican Party elite, especially the donors who have been (very) effectively financing the so-called think tanks that draft and dictate Republican Party dogma and have been doing so for several decades now.

And Sanders also will remind the public that he remains a senator, as does Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown and three or four others–among them now Chris Murphy of Connecticut, he made clear a day or two ago in an eloquent statement–who comprise the Senate’s contingent of what’s often referred to as the Warren wing of the Party.

Which is why it is so off-base, so missing the point, for Clinton and many pundits to claim that Sanders’s primary campaign and his decision to remain an active candidate seeking additional elected delegates in the remaining primary and caucus states endanger Clinton’s, and the down-ballot candidates’, chances in the general election.  Because of critical distinctions between the nature of Obama-vs.-Clinton in 2008 and Clinton-vs.-Sanders now, the very opposite is likely true: There were few significant distinctions between Obama’s and Clinton’s domestic-policy proposals, but fairly large distinctions between some of Clinton’s and some of Sanders’.

The main policy distinction between Clinton and Obama in 2008 was on foreign policy. Clinton as a senator had voted in favor of the Iraq war authorization.  Obama, not yet a member of Congress, nonetheless had publicly voiced opposition to it.  The virulently angry Clinton supporters—the 40 percent of her backers who, if the poll she referenced was accurate, thought in June 2008 that they would not vote for Obama that November—almost certainly were mostly middle-aged women, many of them upscale career women like her, and older women, who were angry at Obama for halting the road to the presidency for a woman.  They were not, suffice it to say, pro-Iraq war voters; instead, for them the chance to see woman elected president was paramount. Policy differences, such as they were between two candidates, were secondary.

As Paul Krugman often reminds, the key domestic policy difference between Obama and Clinton was Clinton’s support of an individual mandate to obtain healthcare insurance as a key part of her detailed healthcare-insurance proposal, and Obama’s rather craven opposition to the mandate in his own proposal.  As someone who supported John Edwards in 2008 until it became clear that the race was between Clinton and Obama, but who remembers well that it was Edwards who brought healthcare insurance into the primary contest, proposing a plan that Clinton quickly adopted almost in full as her own because Edwards was gaining media and voter admiration for making it an issue—and who was not pleased that Obama needed to be prodded to propose his own plan and then proposed one that clearly was weaker than Edwards’s and Clinton’s—I seriously considered switching my allegiance to Clinton rather than to Obama.

The deciding factor for me then in choosing Obama?  That I didn’t want another triangulator as a Democratic president, and figured that while Clinton surely would be that, Obama only might be one.  He wasn’t particularly specific about most domestic-policy positions, something that annoyed ad concerned me.  But he was promising change.

Clinton fails at her own (rather large) risk to recognize the differences between the 2008 primary contest and this one, and why Sanders’ campaign is helping her own chances in the general election—a well as those of down-ballot candidates.  To illustrate the key differences between then and now, I’m selecting excerpts from two campaign reports, one by Baltimore Sun political reporters Kate Linthicum and Chris Megerian, from April 24, the other a lengthy Campaign Stops blog post by New York Times correspondent Emma Roller. Both reports are from

Linthicum and Megerian write from the campaign trail in Reading, PA:

In recent months, Bernie Sanders has transformed Dennis Brandau from a guy who hated politics into a first-time voter. On Tuesday, the 29-year-old line cook will proudly cast a ballot for the Vermont senator in Pennsylvania’s Democratic presidential primary.

But the bruising campaign this year also has turned Brandau into a fierce opponent of the Democratic front-runner, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He says he has a hard time imagining backing her this fall if she wins the nomination.

“I don’t know if I can vote for her,” Brandau said. “I don’t even want to hear her talk.”

Sanders’ chances of winning the nomination have dimmed since his 16-point loss to Clinton in last week’s New York primary. Polls show he faces an uphill race in several of the five Eastern states that vote on Tuesday, as well as in California’s June 7 primary.

Some of his supporters remain so steadfast, however, that a #BernieOrBust movement has picked up momentum on Twitter. So has an online pledge for supporters who vow to vote for Sanders as a write-in candidate if he loses the nomination.

Roller reports, also from Reading:

KEITH MANDICH had been to this theater before, to see John Mellencamp.

Now Mr. Mandich, a retired steelworker, was back in downtown Reading, Pa., to see another guy he thought of as a hero for working-­class America: Senator Bernie Sanders.

In his bid for the Democratic nomination, Mr. Sanders has nurtured vocal support from young, college-­educated liberals. But he also has fervent support from people who remember the era of well­-paying union jobs at manufacturing plants — and who are very aware of how far we are from that time.

“I just like Bernie because he’s old like me,” joked Mack Richards, 70, another retired steelworker at the Reading event. Pennsylvania is among the five states holding a primary on Tuesday, and it has the most delegates at stake. Since neither party has locked up its nominee yet, the state’s white working­class voters have more of a voice in the primary process than they have had in years past. In 2008, they were considered Biden voters — the white working-­class denizens of Scranton, Pa., and places like it — whom Joe Biden, Scranton’s own, was supposed to win over for Barack Obama.

This time around, the fight for these voters has focused significantly on a somewhat unlikely contender for juiciest campaign issue: international trade deals and their repercussions.

Any presidential candidate on the stump knows how to work a good metaphor into a speech, and Mr. Sanders knew to use the very ZIP code he was rallying in.

“In many ways, what is happening here in Reading, what has happened over the last several decades, is kind of a metaphor for what’s happening all over this country,” Mr. Sanders told the crowd. “We have seen a city which once had thousands of excellent-­paying jobs lose those jobs because of disastrous trade policies.”

He went on to list corporations, including the Dana Corporation, that had shut down plants in Reading and moved overseas. Mr. Mandich, the Sanders supporter and Mellencamp fan, said that he was laid off from his job at the Dana Corporation, which manufactured automobile frames, when the company closed its Reading plant in 2000. The Dana Corporation was one of the companies that supported the Clinton administration’s effort to pass the North American Free Trade Agreement, which activists and liberal economists argue did more harm than good to the United States economy.

Kevin Wright, a high school physics teacher in line to see Mr. Sanders, saw parallels between the populism on the left and similar sentiments on the right. “We’re the response to the Tea Party,” he said.

His sister, standing next to him, laughed nervously. “Careful!” she warned.

“The Tea Party has taken over the Republican Party,” Mr. Wright continued. “I think our movement’s stronger, and has more numbers, and is more rational and grounded in reality. And you can see that just based on the people here.”

The crowd in Reading skewed a bit older than a typical Sanders rally — possibly because it took place on a weekday afternoon. Fritz Von Hummel, 55, a self­-employed appliance technician who was laid off from his previous job in November, canceled a couple of appointments to come to the event. He said he had not had health insurance for the past seven years because he could not afford it, and he was eager to talk about the shortcomings of President Obama’s signature health care law.

“I’m just furious with the situation the way it is,” he added.

Roller went on to report from a Trump rally a few miles away.  Some of the people she spoke with there echoed refrains similar to those of the Sanders’ supporters.  Here article is titled “CAMPAIGN STOPS: Pennsylvania, Where Everyone Is ‘Furious’.”  The Linthicum and Megerian piece is titled “Voters’ ‘Bernie or Bust’ efforts persist despite Sanders’ vow not to be another Ralph Nader.”

I myself think there’s little danger that most millennials like Dennis Brandau and perhaps-millennials but anyway youngish Sanders supporters like Kevin Wright and his sister won’t ultimately vote for Clinton.  I think they’re more likely to fear Trump than the middle-aged and elderly working-class Sanders supporters.  And I think that thanks in part to social media, they’re more likely to know or learn before November, simply from their web use, that Trump’s fiscal-policy platform is drafted by standard-issue Republican operatives, borrowing from Republican lobbyists and the Club for Growth/Koch brothers’ think-tank-payroll folks.

I think this is so even though Clinton effectively wrapped up the nomination by winning by 16 points in the New York primary in which only those who were registered as Democrats by early October 2015 were able to vote in that primary, and large percentages of young and younger New Yorkers were independents.  Clinton, understandably, doesn’t mention that publicly.  But it is a fact.

And what about the middle-aged one-time factory workers who support Sanders now?  And the middle-class white collar workers whose kids will borrow, or have borrowed, large amounts in student loans?  What about those who pay high healthcare premiums with out-of-pocket expenses that to Clinton may seem negligible but seem less so to the ones who pay these?

These are not people who are livid that Clinton is keeping a Jewish 74-year-old male from gaining the nomination.  They are people who care, deeply, about the policy differences between the two candidates.  And I’m pretty sure that many of them care, as I do, that Clinton keeps feigning ignorance about what people mean when they use the phrase “the establishment.”  And that Clinton has campaigned against Sanders largely using a playbook seemingly co-opted from a used-car-salesman sales manual, pre-lemon-laws.

I myself harbor not so much as a second of doubt that I will vote for president in November, and about whom I vote for.  It will not be the Republican nominee.  And I absolutely know that I will be joined in that by many, many millions of Sanders primary supporters.

And I dearly hope that Sanders will follow the playbook I say above that I expect him to.

And I will say this: Far from hurting down-ballot candidates’ fundraising chances for the general election, those of us who have contributed to Sanders’ campaign—we’ve done so through ActBlue.com—will continue to receive, as we already have, ActBlue’s solicitations for contributions to the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.  We’ll click the buttons and fill in the blanks, like we have done for Bernie Sanders.  We’ll do so upon our own accord, and also at Bernie Sanders’s urging.  We will be reminded that the Warren wing, the Sanders wing, of the Democratic Party badly needs to grow.  Into a majority in Congress.

Turns out that millennials already have figured this out, according to dramatic results of a newly released poll taken by the Harvard Institute of Politics.  And many progressive older folks know this, too.  At least those who aren’t New York Times op-ed columnists or the like.

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ADDENDUM: Just want to add that once Trump chooses Scott Walker as his running mate–he seriously seems headed in that direction, and recently hired Walker’s campaign manager as his campaign’s deputy director or something–the Dems’ problems will take care of themselves, thank you very much.

Added 4/27 at 4:29 p.m.

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An interesting coincidence: Cruz beat Trump and Sanders beat Clinton in Wisconsin by identical percentages

Each won by 13.2%.

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UPDATE: I posted his when 99% of the vote in each primary was counted.  Now, with 100% in both primaries counted, Cruz’s victory margin remains at 13.2%.  Sanders’s is 13.3%.

Added 4/6 at 10:32 a.m.

 

 

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The ACTUAL Likely Reason That Clinton Won Ohio by 15 Points: Blue-Collar Whites Voted in Large Numbers for Kasich Against Trump. (This matters. Maybe a lot.)

Okay, so Paul Krugman blogged yesterday that the Clinton campaign’s numbers guru, Joel Benenson, claims that Clinton lopsidedly won the Ohio primary because:

Ohioans took a hard look at Senator Sanders’ claims, and rejected them. Despite his attempt to portray Hillary as an ardent free­trader, Hillary voted against the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), the only multi­national trade agreement that ever came before her in the U.S. Senate.

Krugman mocks it, saying:

The rules of the game require, of course, both that he be totally positive about his candidate and that he profess a certainty about the meaning of every victory that I’m fairly sure he does not, in fact, possess. The truth is that nobody can be sure exactly why Ohio was so different from Michigan. … I very much doubt that many Ohioans knew about Clinton’s anti­CAFTA vote, or even what CAFTA was.

Clinton voted against CAFTA.  Krugman goes on to say that he was surprised back then when he read it to learn that CAFTA wasn’t a true trade agreement at all in the usual sense; it dealt mostly with intellectual property rights, especially with pharmaceutical companies’ patents. Like TPP.  He concludes by characterizing Clinton as a senator as cautious about trade deals and in selective opposition to them.

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GAG. (And Paul Krugman is just so, so mystified that so many progressives support Sanders. Be mystified no longer, dear professor.)

Dan Crawford gave me the news this morning before I’d already learned of it. He emailed me with the subject title: “Merrick Garland…here we go!” He linked, without comment, to the NYT article on the announcement.

I responded:

UGH. I guess the idea is that there just aren’t enough super-establishment Supreme Court justices already. We definitely need one more.

And Krugman is just so, so mystified that so many progressives support Sanders.

I WANT TO SCREAM.

Beverly

I’ll post at more length later today; I don’t have time right now.  But at the risk of drawing attention to the attention of the Secret Service, in an unpleasant way, I will take the time right now to say to Obama: Drop dead.*

And I’ll take the time to note this: The title of the NYT article is “Obama Chooses Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court.”  Its subtitle? “Appeals Court Judge Is Respected by G.O.P.”  Well, the G.O.P. that the Washington in-crowd hasn’t noticed isn’t all that popular right now with, um, some of the G.O.P.

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*Na-na-no; this is said facetiouslyThe  drop-dead part, that is. Please, Secret Service. Really.  I don’t like Joe Biden all that much, either.

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UPDATE:  This blog post in Slate by someone named Michael Gerhardt, whom I’d never heard of before and who is not identified there by anything other than his name, makes me cringe.

This guy’s bottom line: Yup, can’t be a merit nominee to the Supreme Court unless you’ve been an intrinsic part of the Centrist Establishment in Washington for, say, several decades.

And interestingly narrow definition of merit, wouldn’t you say?

Okay, well, actually he is identified by more than his name.  He’s a Centrist Establishment person.  Just an educated guess, but still ….

Fittingly, the post title is, “Merrick Garland deserves to be on the Supreme Court.”  Because what matters is what Merrick Garland deserves, not what the multitude millions of people whom the Supreme Court pretends don’t exist.  Or just aren’t worth the time of such an august group.  Or even a moment’s thought.

Then again, there is this hopeful note, also from Slate.  It’s by Jim Newell, Slate’s main political analyst.

Added 3/16 at 6:32 p.m.

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UPDATE TO UPDATE:  Calmer now.  Reread Jim Newell’s awesome article and agree with every word of it.  Including why Obama almost nominated Garland to fill John Paul Stevens’ seat for real. Which pretty much sums up why I can’t stand Obama and don’t want a third Obama term in the person of a chameleon.

Added 3/16 at 7:10 p.m.

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PS: Greg Sargent writes:

I’ll bet that a big part of his selection was that Garland was willing to go through the process knowing he probably won’t get to actually serve on the court, while a younger judge who could have another chance later might not want to.

In thinking about it more, I’m betting that that was a very big part.  As in, none of the others would accept the nomination, and told Obama so.

Repubs apparently now think they can have the last laugh.  Senate Repubs reportedly now are considering whether to confirm during the lame duck session after the election if Clinton wins.  But of course, then Garland would be expected to withdraw if Obama does not withdraw his name saying that Clinton and the new (Democratic-controlled) Senate should handle it.

This post is starting to feel not like a blog post but like a blog.

Added 3/16 at 8:36 p.m.

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PS TO PS:  Yup.  It’s been officially confirmed by go-to-Centrist Ruth Marcus: Garland resoundingly (her word) deserves to be confirmed, and what really matters is what Garland deserves.

Her piece is titled “A Supreme Court nominee too good for the GOP to ignore.”  I’m not kidding.  That’s its title.  You really have to read this thing.  The whole thing; you don’t want to miss the part about her running into him on the street after she became a well-known Washington Post journalist.  Her piece apparently is not intended as a parody of a Washington insider’s view, although it does double duty as that.

Yup. This post is a blog unto itself.

Added 3/16 at 9:02 p.m.

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The Key to Defeating Trump in the General Election Is in a Single Sentence of His in Last Night’s Debate: Angry Americans want big tax cuts for the wealthy

People come [to Trump campaign events] with tremendous passion and love for their country. … When they see what’s going on in this country, they have anger that’s unbelievable. They have anger. They love this country. They don’t like seeing bad trade deals. They don’t like seeing higher taxes. They don’t like seeing a loss of their jobs. … And I see it. There’s some anger. There’s also great love for the country. It’s a beautiful thing in many respects. But I certainly do not condone that at all.

— Donald Trump, during last night’s debate

Back last fall when Ben Carson was surging and according to the polls had overtaken Trump in Iowa, the Koch brothers’ main super PAC saw an opening to end the Trump phenomenon once and for all: It announced plans to buy, I think it was, $1 million in ad time on Iowa and New Hampshire airwaves.

Trump, up to that point, had been campaigning as sort of a fiscal progressive, suggesting (among other things) that he supports a more progressive tax code and maybe even universal healthcare insurance.  Uh-oh; he definitely had to be stopped by a Koch brothers’ super PAC ad campaign.

Unless, of course, he adopted Koch brothers fiscal-policy positions and continued his climate-change-is-a-hoax thing. The latter would be easy, of course, but the former required the hire of a mainstream-wingy Republican fiscal-policy consultant who could, and did, chose a mainstream-wingy Republican fiscal-policy candidate’s already published trickle-straight-down-to-the-sewer-system fiscal policy platform and just double the tax cuts for the wealthy.  Take that, Jeb!

It worked. At least to my knowledge, the ad buy never materialized. Carson collapsed in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, Trump’s campaign regained steam—and never looked back.  Until two weeks ago or so, anyway, when comments he made about not wanting people to die in the street for lack of access to medical care raised questions about whether he – he – he supports Obamacare and its Medicaid expansion.

Not to worry.  That mainstream-wingy Republican fiscal-policy consultant was still under contract with the Trump campaign and could quickly rattle off the points on the Movement Conservative list of heathcare-insurance-reform clichés for Trump to post on his campaign’s website as his healthcare-reform proposal.  There was increasing healthcare savings accounts.  There was allowing insurance companies to sell policies nationally.

And of course there was the end-Medicaid-by-giving-the-money-to-the-states-to-use-for-anything-they-wished-even-maybe-Medicaid-which-of-course-Republican-controlled-states-won’t-use-it-for proposal.

And you, Tea Partiers, were starting to worry that Trump doesn’t really want to kill Obamacare and Medicaid!  Fear no longer. It’s safe to vote for him.  Whew.

That was a relief, of course, for Establishment wingers, too.  But, dang.  It’s not enough.  Some of them are pretty worried that although that fiscal policy proposal is still there on his website, Trump never actually talks about it.  Instead he’s always just playing to the white blue-collar folks who’ve been financially devastated by the free-trade treaties.  And by other policies that have had the effect of favoring the well-off, to the detriment of, well, these Trump supporters.  And this guy Bernie Sanders keeps detailing the statistics about wealth and income distribution over the last thirty-five years.  He won’t shut up about it.

Big problem.  Especially since this week it became time for Trump to try to unite the Republican establishment behind him.  Not easy for someone who’s one positive contribution to the political climate is to expose Republican establishment financial-elite proxies as not really so in sync with the Republican blue-collar base after all.

The answer? Ah. Higher taxes! The perfect fiscal dog whistle to the Koch folks and their ilk.

So … the people who come to Trump rallies?  They have anger.  They love this country. They don’t like seeing bad trade deals.  And they don’t like seeing higher taxes on the wealthy.  Because, see, the angry people who come to Trump rallies and who don’t like seeing bad trade deals are wealthy.  Just ask them.

Interesting, isn’t it, that now that Trump has all but wrapped up the nomination and wants the party establishment’s support, his first olive branch is assuring them that he really does support massive tax cuts for the wealthy?

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UPDATE: An exchange between reader Warren and me today in the Comments thread:

Warren

March 12, 2016 2:43 pm

I missed the part where Trump said “for the wealthy”.

Or are you saying that only the wealthy pay taxes, so it is implied?

 

Me

March 12, 2016 7:06 pm

You missed the part where Trump said “for the wealthy”, Warren? Guess you didn’t read Trump’s tax proposals or any of the articles summarizing them. You should.

The link is to an Oct. 2 blog post by Paul Krugman.  Trump had released his tax plan earlier that day.

Then:

Warren

March 12, 2016 8:53 pm

So is it “a single sentence in his in last night’s debate” or isn’t it?

Did he say “for the wealthy” in that sentence, or didn’t he?

 

Me

Beverly Mann

March 12, 2016 10:39 pm

I said the KEY to defeating Trump in the general election is in a single sentence of his in Thursday’s debate. In a debate performance in which he was saying he wanted to unite the party, he dog-whistled the Kochs, the other donors, and the rest of the Republican establishment that, as president, he would attend to their needs: big tax cuts for the wealthy.

Angry Americans don’t want big tax cuts for the wealthy. But the Republican donors and the rest of the Republican establishment do, and the only one they’re angry with right now is Trump. He announced to them on Thursday that he wants to change that.

The key to defeating him in the general election is to simply point that out. Trump’s tax plan says what it says. It’s just that the only ones who know what it says, other than Paul Krugman and a few other journalists and progressive economists, are the people it was targeted to: the Republican establishment, to keep them at bay.

He was reminding the Republican establishment of his tax plan.

Added 3/12 at 7:44 pm and 10:50 p.m.

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John Cornyn Adopts Trump-Like Fascism Techniques. Good Job, Donald! [Updated.]

Dan Crawford sent me links to these two articles about Senate Judiciary Committee enforcer John Cornyn’s threat on Tuesday that he and his compadres will destroy the reputation of anyone nominated by Obama for Scalia’s seat.  I responded to him after reading the articles:

You know, Dan, this is so palpably, stunningly offensive that Sanders and Clinton need to tell the public about it.  It’s really just jaw-dropping. It’s just … I don’t know; I can’t even think of a perfect adjective.  Scary, maybe?

Beverly

Sanders, especially, should mention this on the campaign trail as a way to illustrate the lengths that the people who want the federal courts—most prominently but by no means only, the Supreme Court—to continue to serve as a fully owned subsidiary of Koch Industries and the legal arm of the Republican Party, albeit with the full force of the United States government’s powers.

Cornyn is a former Texas state supreme court justice and Texas attorney general.  I’m betting that his professional history isn’t pretty, so he’s perfect to have his Fascism routine turned back on him. As in, turnabout is fair play.  Exposing his record as a state supreme court justice and a state attorney general to national examination may, given what some of the specifics are likely to be, ensure his seat as a Texas senator for as long as he wants it.  But it also may well help in making the remainder of his tenure as a senator, beginning next January, be as a member of the Senate minority.

And I don’t mean that I expect him to become a Democrat.

Thug-like threats and actions aren’t likely to appeal to a majority of voters.  As Trump’s general-election and favorability poll numbers indicate.

In other words: Citizens united against Citizens United!  And so very much more.  Hoist this politician by his own piñata.

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UPDATE: The New York Times today has an editorial on this, writing:

On Monday, John Cornyn, the senior Republican senator from Texas, warned President Obama that if he dares to name a successor to Justice Antonin Scalia of the Supreme Court, the nominee “will bear some resemblance to a piñata.”

Violent imagery has been commonplace in political statements for a long time, but even so, it is disgraceful for a senator to play the thug, threatening harm to someone simply for appearing before Congress to answer questions about professional accomplishments and constitutional philosophy

The editorial is titled “Republican Threats and the Supreme Court”.

Senator, may we not drop this? … Senator. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

Added 3/11 at 8:42 a.m

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