Friday, October 21, 2016

Take Back the Senate -- Pennsylvania

Democrat Katie McGinty
Democrats have won the state consistently in recent presidential races and Clinton is leading Trump, but the race between Democrat Katie McGinty, a former environmental adviser to Vice President Al Gore, and Republican Sen. Pat Toomey remains one of the tightest. McGinty is endorsed by the New York Times.

As chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality in the 1990s, she helped organize the Clinton administration’s successful counterattack against efforts by the Republican Congress to undermine the nation’s basic environmental laws. Later, as Pennsylvania‘s environmental chief, she helped push the state toward greater use of cleaner energy sources like wind and solar, not only as a way to combat climate change but as a source of new jobs in an aging rust-belt economy.

If you'd like to donate to her campaign and help her GOTV, click here.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Insurgencies in the 2016 Presidential Election

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders launched insurgent political campaigns against their respective political parties; Trump against the RNC and Sanders against the DNC. Trump won, and Bernie lost. Trump won because, quite simply, the rules of the Republican Party were "democratic." Bernie lost because the rules of the Democratic Party were not.

Now in both cases, one could argue that the reason things are where they are is more nuanced than that. Okay, but understand this; the GOP and the Democratic Party are non-governmental organizations. They write the rules for how nominees for offices up and down the ticket are chosen. If you don't like those rules, tough. Get involved in party politics and change them. Otherwise, you'll have to live by them.

Bernie Sanders' Failed Insurgency

Bernie Sanders, an independent, launched a bid to grab the Democratic Party by the throat and choke the moderate out of it. Sanders called for economic policies specifically targeted at reducing the gap between the top 1% and the other  99% of Americans -- expand social security, make public college tuition free, provide paid family and medical leave and universal health care, increase the minimum wage, implement a youth jobs program, and, with all the money that's left over, institute a trillion dollar program to rebuild America's crumbling infrastructure. Sanders had ways to pay for all of this. They all amounted to essentially the same thing -- tax the rich. So, in political terms, Bernie was trying to hijack the Democratic Party and make it a Social Democratic Party.

Conservatives and even moderate democrats, immediately saw Bernie Sanders' objective for what it was -- a redistribution of wealth. Duh! How does one reduce the gap between really, really rich people, and all the rest of us? You take the land from the rich landowners and you parcel it out to poor farmers. Then you watch as your country goes broke and your people go hungry. Hey, it's politics -- hyperbole is de rigueur. In any case, this is the conservative worldview.

There were a lot of young people who resonated with Bernie Sanders' messianic message and his passion, and his powdery snow hair. The problem was, they hadn't really participated in party politics before "feeling the Bern." Because they hadn't 'infiltrated' the party, their revolution was doomed from the beginning. Had they been in leadership positions in the DNC, they could've eliminated or at least reduced the number of superdelegates. Because, as the Pew Research Center has said, " superdelegates are the embodiment of the institutional Democratic Party – everyone from former presidents, congressional leaders and big-money fundraisers to mayors, labor leaders and longtime local party functionaries." These party faithful didn't want an outsider taking over 'their' party and because they'd prepared for just such a contingency, they were able to prevent it.
The Democratic Party's Superdelegates

Donald J Trump's Successful Insurgency

The GOP has many fewer superdelegates than the Democrats -- 250 or 7% vs the Democratic Party's 713 or 15%. In the Republican Party, the only people who get superdelegate status are the three members of each state's national party. The more important distinction, however, as Seth Millstein has pointed out, is that Republican superdelegates do not have the freedom to vote for whichever candidate they please. The RNC ruled in 2015 that their superdelegates must vote for the candidate that their state voted for. In effect, the GOP is more democratic than the Democratic Party. Is this a good thing?

If the GOP had convened in Cleveland with as many superdelegates as the Democratic Party had, and if the rules permitted them to vote their conscience, and assuming they had such, would Donald Trump have emerged as the Republican Nominee? Hopefully, not.

As Jeff Greenfield wrote,

There are some circumstances where the “will of the voters”—often the will of a plurality of voters—may well put the party on the road to a massive political defeat. Further, it may result in the nomination of a candidate who violates the most fundamental beliefs of that party. Or whose temperament and character might put a dangerous, unfit person into the Oval Office. Under those circumstances, the existence of a bloc of superdelegates means the presence of an “emergency brake,” a last chance to avoid disaster. And while it may be “undemocratic” in the narrowest sense of that term, our political system is replete with “undemocratic” elements that have served us very well.

Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight now forecasts the chances of Donald Trump winning the 2016 presidential election as 12.5%. The same poll forecasts that the GOP has a 72% chance of losing the Senate. What happens to the Republican Party after the election depends on what the Republican Party leadership does now. Republicans cannot have their party and let Trump eat it, too.

Republican leaders in the House and Senate must stop fighting this pusillanimous, rearguard action, and launch a frontal attack against the Trump insurgency. If they don't decisively distance themselves now from 'The Donald,' the Grand Old Party will go the way of the 'Know-Nothings,' a fate they will justly deserve. What the American people won't deserve is what may replace the GOP -- a neo-fascist amalgamation of all the worst elements of Donald Trump's constituency.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Nature Hates a Vacuum

Donald Trump's candidacy gave people on the right wing permission to say things they were sometimes hesitant to express because they were clearly expressions of racism and bigotry. Republicans enabled Trump and his supporters by labeling common decency, and even truth, "political correctness."

As the campaign continued into the election year, nationalists, white supremacists, and other previously fringe elements of the Republican Party -- many of whom had in the past not voted -- emerged as a vocal block of support for Trump. These were the people Trump was speaking of when he said he could "shoot someone on 5th Ave" and not lose any voters. They are the people about whom Hillary Clinton said, " just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables."

These are the same people who are now lashing out in the most virulent, hateful posts on social media after the release of the tapes of Trump's bragging about groping women. The fallout and cascade of Republican defections from Trump have these people, who felt their world view had been validated by Trump's nomination and campaign, furious. Cued by Trump and his campaign staff, they are rehashing all the unfounded allegations, muck, and conspiracy theories that have followed the Clintons during their entire political career. A presidential campaign that was already nasty, has become truly disgusting.

Trump apologized for what he said, claimed it was "just locker room talk," called it a "distraction," said Bill Clinton had done far worse, and vowed to stay in the race. He ended by saying, "See you at the debate on Sunday." We did see him at the debate. He was everything we could've expected, and worse -- what a way to end a Sunday. I'll have more to say about this in a separate post.
What concerns me now is what happens to the "deplorables" when Trump is roundly defeated in the General Election. Will they sink quietly into the swamp from which they arose, will they organize and become a significant faction of the Republican Party, or form a neofascist Nationalist Party, or will they germinate to a dangerous domestic terrorist cell determined to create the kind of chaos from which a new "strong man" might emerge to lead them to power?

As Donald Trump vows retaliation against lawmakers who withdraw their support from his campaign, senior Republican party leaders privately acknowledged that they now fear losing control of both houses of Congress. Many left-leaning Americans might welcome the demise of the Republican Party, but be careful what you wish for. Nature hates a vacuum -- witness the Middle East.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Hurricanes and Global Warming

Global warming has already doubled the risk of Hurricane Katrina-magnitude storm surges in the U.S., according to a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It estimates that for every 1.8°F increase in global average surface temperatures, there could be a two-fold to seven-fold increase in the risk of Katrina-magnitude surge events. Hurricane Matthew will test that prediction.
Waves driven by Hurricane Matthew pounding a fishing pier on Thursday in Pompano Beach, Fla. 
Credit Gaston De Cardenas/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Hurricane Matthew is churning close to Florida’s east coast after it weakened slightly overnight to a Category 3 storm.  While it is still uncertain whether it will make landfall, the hurricane has already dumped torrential rain and left more than 300,000 Florida residents without power. The National Hurricane Center is forecasting up to 15 inches of rain in some areas and storm surges up to 11 feet from Florida to South Carolina.
More than 339 people have died in Haiti as a result of the hurricane, which has been the longest-lived Category 4-5 hurricane in the eastern Caribbean on record. The number of major hurricanes in the Atlantic basin has doubled since the 1970s -- fueled by warmer waters.