As usual, progressives are being told that they need to set aside their principles in order to vote in the most important election ever, one that would prevent the reelection of Donald Trump. But will they?
First: No. It’s not too early to discuss the 2020 election. The Iowa caucuses are only a year and a half away. Any presidential hopeful who hasn’t begun chatting up donors by now will find it nearly impossible to mount a viable campaign.
At this point insert the usual caveats that anything can happen, no knows anything, scandals happen, politicians get sick, a year is an eternity in politics.
On the Right: Donald Trump will almost certainly be the Republican nominee.
Impeachment? Republicans are knee-jerk loyal AF, so Democrats would have to initiate proceedings. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says impeachment “is not somewhere I think we should go.” Also, note the word “minority.” Democrats can’t do jack without taking back the House — far from a sure thing.
A serious Republican primary challenge? Most incumbent Republican presidents have nothing to worry about there but Donald Trump is not most presidents. You can imagine a right-wing version of Ted Kennedy’s devastating 1980 challenge to Jimmy Carter.
The GOP doesn’t have superdelegates so it’s harder for the RNC to fix the race the way Democrats did for Clinton in 2016. Still, I don’t think a serious (as opposed to symbolic) challenge will materialize from the three currently most-talked-abouts. Jeff Flake can’t raise enough dough. (Trump, on the other hand, already has a whopping $88 million.) Mitt Romney could self-fund but seems too bogged down in Utah’s primary race for Senate to have time to pivot for another presidential run in 2020. Ohio governor John Kasich is beloved by the Beltway media but not GOP primary voters. I could be wrong. But my political instincts say Trump will coast to renomination without a significant primary challenger.
On the Left: The Democratic nomination belongs to Bernie Sanders. If he wants it.
Neither the centrist-controlled Democratic National Committee nor its official mouthpiece the New York Times have learned anything from the debacle of 2016, when guaranteed-to-win Hillary Clinton lost to Trump because she and the party snubbed Bernie Sanders and the progressive wing of the party he represents. These days, they’re floating Elizabeth Warren.
Until 2016 progressives saw Warren as a Bernie alternative but then she lost her leftie street cred by endorsing and supporting Clinton.
“On her Western swing, Ms. Warren sought to strike a unifying chord. At a tapas restaurant in Salt Lake City, she said Democrats had to close ranks in 2018 in order to recapture the White House. “Perhaps most appealing to Democratic leaders,” wrote the Times, “Ms. Warren might please their activist base while staving off a candidate they fear would lose the general election. A candidate such as Mr. Sanders.”
Throughout the campaign, polls showed that Bernie Sanders would have beat Trump.
My gut tells me Warren doesn’t really want to run. If she does, she’ll have charisma problems. As Boston magazine pointed out last year, even the people of Massachusetts aren’t much into her. (Bernie Sanders has the highest home-state approval rating of any U.S. senator, 75%.)
Given a choice between Sanders and Warren, progressives will choose the reliable progressive over the accommodationist pragmatist. That said, Warren would make a fine veep option.
As mayor of Newark, then up-and-coming political star Cory Booker made headlines by rushing into a burning house to save a woman in 2012. But politics is a fickle mistress. In the “what have you done for us lately” category, Booker was chastised for tying right-wing Republican Mitch McConnell as the senator who received the most contributions from the big Wall Street banks who destroyed the economy in 2008-09. This won’t affect his standing among the corporatists who supported Hillary Clinton despite her fundraising in the Hamptons. But it makes him anathema to the progressive Democratic base.
Once again, Joe Biden is being touted as a possible Democratic candidate. But he has signaled that, once again, he’s funnin’, not runnin’. Yeah, but what if he does?
Biden would have no choice but to compete for centrist votes against Booker and California’s Kamala Harris. Though once known as more liberal, his vice presidency for centrist Democrat Obama, his focus on building a Southern strategy for the primaries and his disconnection from the left makes him unlikely to appeal to the Berniecrats.
Harris, a law-and-order “lock ‘em up” former prosecutor and California senator, seems to be running a Clinton-style identity politics-based campaign based on her double history-making potential as a woman of color. While it’s true that she hasn’t always been a lock-step establishmentarian, she has gotten much closer to banks, cops and other elites than ordinary Americans as she has considered how to market her policy positions.
Harris is canny.
Some say slippery.
Harris is the biggest threat to Bernie. Harris supports “the concept of single-payer healthcare, and bills to incrementally raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, eliminate tuition and fees at four-year colleges and universities for families making up to $125,000 and creating more campaign finance disclosure requirements for corporations, unions and super PACs.” Good stuff. Call her Berniedette?
But those are official positions. She doesn’t campaign on them. It’s like how Obama’s 2008 campaign website promised a public option on the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare, but he never talked about it and then never proposed it in his healthcare bill. Good positions don’t get far unless they’re articulated loudly and repeatedly.
The Democrats are a 50-50 party divided between progressives and liberals. Three serious liberals — Harris, Warren, Booker and whoever else pops up between now and then — divvy up the liberal half. Bernie Sanders has the progressive half all to himself. So he wins the nomination —if he wants it.
I think he does.
In the general election? This is sad, and bad for America’s baby Left, but I think it’s true: Trump defeats Sanders. Not because he’s a self-declared democratic socialist though you can be sure GOP attack ads will be full of stock footage of old Soviet May Day parades. Also not because he’s too far left: he really would have beaten Trump in 2016.
Trump defeats Sanders because of the innate advantages of incumbency, the historical hesitancy to change horses midstream, Sanders’ advancing age and the sad fact that the DNC will never push for him as hard as they would have for one of their own: a Wall Street-friendly corporatist.
Again: anything can happen, no knows anything, scandals happen, politicians get sick, a year is an eternity in politics.
(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)
They got Al Capone for tax evasion — only tax evasion. It wasn’t very satisfying for his prosecutors. But they couldn’t prove murder or racketeering. So they got him where they wanted him: behind bars. It wasn’t elegant. But they got the job done.
Congressional Democrats need some of that prohibition-era pragmatism. They want Donald Trump impeached. But unlike Capone’s tormentors, Dems are largely ignoring Trumpy crimes they can prove in favor of those they can’t — Russian “election hacking” that may not have happened at all.
Democrats seem determined to maintain their status as a political version of the gang that couldn’t shoot straight.
Day after day, Democratic leaders and their allies in corporate media have been going on and on about how “Russia hacked the election.” Exactly what they mean by “hacking” has been so frustratingly vague, and solid evidence so consistently absent, that it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that they’re making it all up or, à la Bush and the WMDs in Iraq, conflating what they suspect with what they know.
This throw-hacking-allegations-at-the-wall-and-hope-they-stick approach has fed a dark alt-right media narrative about an attempted “deep state” coup against a democratically-elected president who won despite the virtually universal contempt of the gatekeeper class.
As the Dems derp around deep in the weeds of their confused and confusing Russia hacking narrative, they’re neglecting the much tastier, low-hanging impeachment fruit they could easily use to hasten the day when D.C. Metro cops frogmarch The Donald out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: straightforward corruption.
Russian hackers may have accessed a U.S. voting machine company. But even the spooks who accuse Russia of “meddling” — whatever that means, no one seems able to articulate — say they didn’t affect the election results. Hillary would have lost anyway. So why is this even a thing? Anyway, there’s almost certainly no tie there to Team Trump. Perhaps not a nothingburger, but useless to Democrats hell-bent on impeachment.
Then there’s the DNC emails posted by WikiLeaks. As I’ve noted before, WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange said he didn’t get them from Russia. Also at WikiLeaks, Craig Murray says they were handed to him by a pro-Bernie DNC staffer. So it was a leak, not a hack. Anyway, even if Russia gave them to WikiLeaks — which looks doubtful — we should thank Team Putin for revealing just how venal and corrupt the DNC was when they decided to cheat Bernie Sanders out of the nomination.
Telling the truth about lying DNC scoundrels who belong in prison is “meddling”?
If so, I’ll take more meddling, please.
The Democrats are right about one thing: there’s lots of smoke. They’re wrong about the type of fire.
The real Trump-Russia connection to look into is about a corrupt quid pro quo. It goes something like this: Trump aides tell their Russian contacts in 2016: if our guy wins the election, we’ll drop U.S.-led economic sanctions against Russia over the annexation of Crimea. In return, you let our guy build as many ugly hotels in Russia as he wants. They might also forgive millions of dollars his businesses owe to Russian banks and oligarchs.
By declaring Trump’s election a constitutional crisis from day one, Democrats have been overreaching. Pushing the “Russia hacked the election” narrative — when there’s still no public evidence it happened at all, much less that Trump had anything to do with it if it did — is getting way ahead of the story.
If Democrats were smart, they’d focus on the corruption angle.
(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall) is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)
Make America Great Again. Trump’s campaign slogan was a direct appeal to nationalism. As a son of the Rust Belt city of Dayton, Ohio, I wasn’t surprised to see that it worked.
People in the postindustrial Midwest and in much of the rest of flyover country are tired of being ignored by the urban coastal elites who seem to think laid-off factory workers should shake off their blues and get a job as a coder. Not that the children of the dispossessed stand a better chance: Silicon Valley is a great wealth generator but a lousy job creator. Many highly skilled American tech workers are unemployed, cheated out of jobs by sleazy companies who abuse the H1B visa program to hire compliant foreigners for a fraction of the cost.
If you’re one of the millions of left-leaning Americans shocked and awed at Donald Trump’s first week as president, his “America First” inauguration speech, his orders to build his Mexican border wall, tear up NAFTA, start a trade war, and especially the sudden brutalism of his Muslim travel ban, I have news for you: there are just as many others who are cheering him on, thrilled that he’s keeping his campaign promises. As far as they’re concerned, the rest of the world — including refugees from countries whose wars were started by the U.S. — can go to hell.
After all, their hometowns already have.
As Sabrina Tavernise recently wrote in The New York Times, victims of economic decline and their attendant societal ills — depression, alcoholism, the meth and opioid epidemics — revolted in the 2016 election against elites “who lived in isolated islands of economic opportunity and sneered at people who didn’t.” She cited NYU social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who sees a clash between globalists and nationalists. “The globalists, who tend to be urban and college-educated, want a world like the one described in John Lennon’s song ‘Imagine’ — no religion, walls or borders dividing people. The nationalists see that as a vision of hell…They also want to limit immigration, an instinct that globalists are often to quick to condemn as racist.”
Globalism dominates economic policymaking in the Democratic Party. Beginning with the takeover of the party by the Clintons’ Democratic Leadership Council in the early 1990s, Democrats have pushed through free trade agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA, and the creation of the World Trade Organization. This has not come without consequences: Globalization eroded the power of Big Labor, formerly a major source of income and manpower for the party. It also turned off people in Ohio and Michigan and Illinois and Pennsylvania — those who lost their own jobs, as well as their friends, families and neighbors. Democratic politicians have been so blind to the suffering all around that they never even once proposed a bill that would have helped victims of outsourcing with money or job retraining. Some even publicly praised the fact that wages were going up in places like Mexico! Trump gave long-seething Americans an outlet for their rage.
The globalist left vs. nationalist right paradigm, however, is a recent thing. In fact, the right part of that equation only dates back to last summer; pre-Trump, exporting American jobs via trade deals was a point of bipartisan consensus.
The short history of Democratic globalism suggests that one way back from defeat and political irrelevance, both for the party and for the broader Left, is to make the case for a leftist nationalism.
Until the 1970s, Republicans promoted free trade agreements. Democrats opposed them. Protecting workers, especially the highly-paid blue-collar laborers, from foreign competition, kept union donations pouring into party coffers. But then party fundraisers found Wall Street. Big finance craves freedom of movement for capital so business owners can find the cheapest raw materials, supplies and workers in the world — and a broken, dispirited workforce unable to organize and bargain collectively. Wall Street told the Democrats: dump your other girlfriend. You can’t have us as well as big labor. Workers have gotten ground up under the bus ever since.
The grassroots campaign of Bernie Sanders — and of Donald Trump, whose fundraising tactics and social media-driven campaign emulated Sanders’ down to the fonts and spacing of his email solicitations — have broken big corporate donors’ hold on campaign financing. Meanwhile, look what happened to Hillary Clinton (“My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders“) and her base of corporate and wealthy individual backers. Nationalism, not globalism, is the future of American politics — but right now, it’s only the right that’s riding the wave.
Though patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel and the first of the nativist, history shows us a long and honorable record of left-wing nationalism. The Chinese civil war turned in favor of the Communists over Chiang Kai-Shek’s Nationalists after Mao Tse-Tung directed his cadres to lead the patriotic resistance against Japanese occupation. Most members of the French Resistance against the Nazis were communist. Fidel Castro was an ardent patriot/nationalist; so was Ho Chi Minh. These leftists understood that the oppression of workers by the ruling class often manifests itself via forms of globalization: invasions, colonialism, the establishment of puppet states via imperialism. It is not necessary to succumb to the dark forces of bigotry, or to deny refuge to victims of war as Trump did last week, to stand up for the citizens of your own country against those who would exploit or abuse them.
There’s nothing wrong with imagining a world without borders. It’s good for Americans, and for decency, when wages of workers in other nations increase — there are fewer wars and more consumers. As things stand today, however, nation-states are here to stay. In fact, there are more of them than ever before.
Is it really so unreasonable for American workers to expect the leftists who claim to care about them, to fight for them to earn higher wages? A left unable to appeal to nationalism has no future.
(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)
Conventional wisdom says Donald Trump is going to lose, and lose big.
You see it everywhere in corporate media. Republican Party insiders are bereft and in denial, simultaneously refusing to accept the reality that their party is facing the possibility of catastrophic defeats in races all over the country this fall; indeed, some pundits say Trump marks the beginning of the end of the GOP. The New York Times is running a 24-7 odds placement that puts Hillary Clinton’s chances of victory at 86% against his 14%.
Indeed, if the election were held today, Hillary Clinton would beat Trump by a sizable margin. But the election is in two months. Two months is a long time. Old scandals percolate; new ones emerge. Another terrorist attack could prompt voters to turn to the right.
By far the biggest potential game changer, however, is the presidential debates. Conventional wisdom says Hillary Clinton will use her superior command of the facts and her ability to namedrop world leaders to run circles around Trump. But conventional wisdom is often wrong – just ask unstoppable 2016 Republican presidential nominee Jeb Bush.
I think Donald will trounce Hillary in the debates.
In fact, I can’t imagine any scenario in which she doesn’t get destroyed.
We like to think that the presidential debates are about issues and facts. They aren’t. The winner is the candidate who unleashes the zingiest one-liners and putdowns.
“Where’s the beef?”
“I knew Jack Kennedy; Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”
You’ve watched Donald Trump. You’ve watched Hillary Clinton. Who do you think is better positioned to control the format?
I have no idea whether Hillary Clinton can be quick on her feet or sharp with a nasty one-liner. It doesn’t matter. Her brand is experience and competence. She can’t get down into the gutter with Trump without undermining her message that she’s the adult. She has to look serious and come across as – there’s no other word for it – boring. Remember what happened to Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush when they tried to out-Trump Trump: they wrecked whatever chances they still had to stop him during the primaries.
A more courtly candidate (Bernie Sanders) might have gone easy on Clinton for fear of being viewed as sexist. That concern won’t cross Trump’s mind. He’ll go after her with the ferocity of Black Friday shoppers chasing down a discount Xbox.
Does Trump have vulnerabilities? Obviously. Hillary’s aces in the hole are the temperament argument and his refusal to release his taxes. The secrecy surrounding his tax returns raises suspicions that risk unraveling the fundamental rationale of his candidacy: I’m rich and successful, and I can use the talents I used to get that way to benefit the country. But her vulnerabilities are more serious.
The problem for Hillary is that she has gotten a relatively free ride from journalists and pundits, most of whom will vote for her. Her hypocrisies and inconsistencies comparatively unexamined, she emerges from her primary campaign untested and untempered. The debates offer Trump a juicy opportunity to expose those weaknesses on what promises to be a national stage with record audiences.
If she asks him about his tax returns, he can deflect by demanding the transcripts of her speeches to Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street firms, which she repeatedly refused to release while fending off Bernie. When she goes after him on ethics, he’ll pound away on the 30,000 deleted emails. Oh, and now there’s the latest Clinton Foundation sleaze too.
If Trump wants to go nuclear, he can slam her with the biggest unreported story of the year: the allegation that her husband President Bill was a frequent flyer on a convicted pedophile’s sexual tourism escapades overseas.
I understand why Secretary Clinton was reluctant to agree to any debates. Past performance suggests that she isn’t a strong debater to begin with. Going against a master reality TV and pro wrestling ringmaster like Donald Trump has got to feel like walking into the Coliseum with nothing but faith in God to protect you from the lion’s maw. Trump knows all the tricks: how to deploy comical facial expressions as well as Jim Carrey, how to dominate others using body language, a laser-like ability to identify an opponent’s weaknesses and reduce them to rubble via ridicule (“Little Marco”). In an American presidential debate, 15-point white papers don’t count for jack. The best entertainer always wins.
During a 2000 debate Al Gore walked right up to George W. Bush, looming over him in what many watchers interpreted as an attempt to intimidate the Texas governor. Bush merely looked up at Gore and nodded, a droll look on his face. Bush was an idiot. Gore was a genius by comparison, a fact he proved by repeatedly drawing upon his superior knowledge of the issues and proposing infinitely more intelligent solutions to problems. But it didn’t matter. Voters thought Bush won.
Will Trump’s likely victories in the debates be enough to close the current gap between him and Clinton in the polls? Maybe. All I know is, anyone who says it’s all over is whistling past the graveyard.
It’s all about the debates.
[A side note and thank you: thanks to more than 750 generous contributors, we were able to successfully crowdfund the civil court bond required for me to continue my lawsuit against the Los Angeles Times to the tune of more than $75,000. The next major hearing in the case is currently scheduled for March 2017. I am humbled and gratified by the commitment of so many people to free speech and freedom of expression. I will keep you posted.]
(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. His next book, the graphic biography “Trump,” comes out this Tuesday, July 26th and is now available for pre-order.)
I draw cartoons for The Los Angeles Times about issues related to California and the Southland (metro Los Angeles).
This week: People are lining up to run for mayor of San Diego in the aftermath of the sexual harassment scandal that toppled Bob Filner. Advantage goes to the man or woman who can guarantee no more unwanted hug-gropes.
I draw cartoons for The Los Angeles Times about issues related to California and the Southland (metro Los Angeles).
This week: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Mayor-elect Eric Garcetti promise an orderly transition of power. Don’t forget the ever-important transfer of the budget.