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“Is GOP ‘Feeling The Bern’?”: Does The Republican Party Want Bernie Sanders To Win Democratic Nomination?

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has attracted unexpected support from millions of Americans, but one endorsement may be more surprising than any other. The Republican Party (yes, that one) seems to be “feeling the Bern,” if its press releases and publicly available “research” are any indication of the party leadership’s preferences.

While not openly admitting their purpose, party strategists apparently hope a Sanders ticket will galvanize their own voters to prevent his election and ensure Republican victory. With Hillary Clinton out of the race, a democratic socialist could also alienate conservative Democrats, who might either turn to the Republicans or simply stay home on Election Day.

The Republican National Committee has repeatedly, and quite surprisingly, propped up Bernie Sanders against both Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. In fact, recent noises from the RNC sound almost like dyed-in-the-wool-ultraliberal Democrats. “With only six sanctioned debates, the DNC is providing new opportunities for voters to get to know the candidates and see where they stand on the issues,” said a post by Team GOP in the run up to the second Democratic debate in Des Moines, Iowa.

Michael Short, the Rapid Response Director for the RNC, published an aggregated list claiming that Sanders performed better among focus groups and online polls than Hillary Clinton, who still remains the leading Democratic aspirant. “Hillary Clinton may be the stronger debater on stage — she was in 2008 too — but like Barack Obama in 2007 and 2008 it was Bernie Sanders that won the hearts and interest of Democrat voters,” wrote Short. Quite a glowing review for the candidate most likely to debate “the merits of socialism over capitalism.”

To the naive voters, Republican support for Sanders might seem contradictory. After all, most Republicans dislike any notion of wealth redistribution, public healthcare, and other socially progressive policies designed to help poorer voters, preferring “trickle-down economics” and tax cuts for the super-rich. So if Republican spokespersons are backing a democratic socialist against the “practical progressive” candidate, it’s because they hope moderate and conservative Democrats will so disagree with his platform that they will deprive their own party of a crucial voting bloc. Together self-identified moderates and conservatives still constitute just over half of all Democrats, although Democrats who identify with the liberal wing have grown to become the single largest voting bloc in the party.

The GOP clearly hopes to portray Democrats as led by a bunch of socialists and even communists (as Donald Trump puts it) who chose Sanders. Electing a socialist will mean “unending layovers of senseless government bureaucracy.” Or maybe it will mean “rich and decadent government spending.” (Some media intern probably got a pat on the back for that timely “The 5 flavors of Bernie Sanders” listicle.) Either way, Sanders’ election will result in bigger government, a cause the Republicans have vowed to fight in perpetuity.

Currently, however, there are reputable polls that show Sanders beating every leading Republican candidate in a general election. Trump loses. Cruz loses. Carson isn’t even competitive among Republican candidates, a decline that began soon after disclosing he believed the Pyramids were used for agriculture in the Egyptian desert. Sanders, on the other hand, has increased his support since launching his campaign in April.

Perhaps those clever Republican strategists should be careful what they wish for.

 

By: Saif Alnuweiri, The National Memo, January 19, 2016

January 20, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, GOP, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Polluters Win Again In Florida Legislature”: Plan Allows Big Ag Operators To Supervise Their Own Waste Releases

Touted as an environmental breakthrough, the water policy bill passed last week by the Florida Legislature is actually a major win for polluters and the politicians they own.

Enforcement of clean-water rules is basically being replaced by the honor system. Big Agriculture couldn’t be happier.

Same goes for House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, whose dream of one day becoming state agriculture commissioner is closer to reality. The Brevard Republican has been an obedient little soldier for the special interests that divert and exploit the state’s fresh water supplies.

Current Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam was the political shepherd for the user-friendly new law. It was written by lobbyists for mega-farming and land corporations, and rammed through the GOP-controlled Legislature.

The Senate passed it with nary a single dissenting vote, reluctant Democrats saying this year’s version was better than last year’s awful bill, which didn’t pass. Even some environmental groups went along with the rewrite, asserting that it was the best they could hope for.

Which is just sad.

David Guest, the longtime managing attorney for Earthjustice in Florida, warned that the damaging effects of the new water bill will “come back to haunt us all.” From now on, farms that send polluted runoff into Lake Okeechobee will only need a permit to restrict the quantity being discharged — not the amount of fertilizer crud in it.

The plan allows Big Ag operators to supervise their own waste releases, which is a fantasy come true for those who pollute, including the sugar barons.

Theoretically, farm companies would work on deadlines to minimize the amount of phosphorus and other harmful substances in their outflow using so-called “best management practices.”

But the guidelines are mostly voluntary, and devised by the agriculture lobby, so you can guess how rigorous they are. Not very.

Sympathetic legislators went even farther, inserting in the law a “cost-share” provision that directs water-management districts to use tax dollars to subside Big Ag’s anti-pollution efforts.

In other words, the public will be paying farm corporations to do something they should pay for themselves — clean up their mess.

Supporters of the final water bill say significant enforcement powers were added to the plan, but that’s mainly on paper. The reality will be different.

At the urging of environmentalists, language was put in allowing the state to inspect farmlands to make sure proper clean-up practices are being followed. However, the law conveniently doesn’t state how or when these inspections would be conducted, or what would constitute a violation.

It doesn’t even say what the fines and penalties would be. And, of course, no money is being appropriated for hiring extra inspectors at the hilariously misnamed Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

So, in truth, the new water bill has no real enforcement mechanism. Another cynical move by GOP lawmakers was placing the Department of Environmental Protection in charge of periodically reviewing the water management practices, to see if pollution is actually being reduced.

It’s no secret that Gov. Rick Scott has made a priority of castrating the DEP. Only a sucker would believe the agency will be re-staffed and re-empowered to take on the task of monitoring corporate polluters.

There’s no denying the water bill is ambitious and far-reaching, and Big Agriculture isn’t the only winner. Developers seeking to tap into rivers and waterways, particularly in Central Florida, should send thank you notes along with their campaign checks to Tallahassee.

A water plan with pollution rules set by the polluters is exactly what you’d expect from the same gang that betrayed the 4 million Floridians who voted for Amendment One.

Some Democrats and environmentalists say they’ll strive to toughen the weak phosphorus rules and expedite cleanup actions. That won’t happen without an epic shift in political power.

Meanwhile the crap being pumped from Lake Okeechobee and surrounding farms continues to imperil the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers, the Indian River Lagoon, Gulf Coast beaches and, most critically, the Everglades.

Under the new rules, some farmers and landowners will honestly try to improve the water they flush into Florida’s wetlands and drinking supply. Others won’t, because it’s cheaper and easier to dump unfiltered waste.

If voluntary compliance really worked, we wouldn’t need any pollution laws. Corporations would care as much about clean, safe water as ordinary families do. Unfortunately, that’s not the real world. It’s just a fantasy promoted by industry lobbyists and bought politicians.

And now, in Florida, it’s going to be the law.

 

By: Carl Hiaasen, Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, January 18, 2016

January 20, 2016 Posted by | Florida Legislature, Florida Water Policy, Rick Scott | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Poisoning Of Flint”: A Nightmarish Example Of How Misguided Austerity Policies Can Literally Poison The Public

In early 2015, shortly after his victory in a heated reelection contest, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) began exploring a run for president. With his business experience and electoral success in a blue state, Snyder was considered a viable potential candidate, so he embarked on a national speaking tour and set up a fundraising organization. Its name: “Making Government Accountable.”

As Snyder was testing the presidential waters, however, his government was being shamefully unaccountable to constituents who were concerned about their water supply. The city of Flint switched its primary water source from Lake Huron, through Detroit’s system, to the Flint River in April 2014. Approved by an emergency manager appointed by the governor, the move was supposed to save the beleaguered city millions of dollars. But residents soon began reporting tap water that appeared discolored, smelled rotten and caused kids to break out in rashes. Today, Flint has become a nightmarish example of how misguided austerity policies can literally poison the public.

We now know that Flint’s water supply was contaminated by lead that it collected from deteriorating pipes. In recent weeks, Snyder has issued a public apology to the city, declared a state of emergency, activated the National Guard and requested assistance from President Obama, who declared the situation a federal emergency on Saturday. The state health department is also looking into whether an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease that has killed 10 people in the area is connected to the water crisis. Meanwhile, the Justice Department is investigating the state and local government’s actions, while it could cost up to $1.5 billion to fix the city’s water distribution system.

All of this is the result of the Snyder administration’s stunning lack of accountability, beginning with the fateful decision to put Flint under the control of a political appointee who was unelected and unaccountable to the public. When the city’s residents initially reported their concerns in 2014, officials responded by pumping hazardous levels of chlorine into the water. When complaints persisted, officials assured citizens that the water was safe to drink, repeatedly disregarding clear evidence that it wasn’t. But when elevated levels of lead showed up in children’s blood this past fall, the government was forced to admit there was a problem. Snyder appointed a task force to investigate the crisis, which found, among other things, that legitimate fears were met with “aggressive dismissal, belittlement, and attempts to discredit” the individuals speaking out.

“They cut every corner,” said Flint resident Melissa Mays. “They did more to cover up than actually fix it. That’s criminal.” Snyder’s then chief of staff, Dennis Muchmore, acknowledged the administration’s deplorable response in a July 2015 email, writing: “These folks are scared and worried about the health impacts and they are basically getting blown off by us (as a state we’re just not sympathizing with their plight).”

But the water crisis in Flint represents more than a catastrophic political failure. It is also a direct consequence of decades of policies based on the premise that government spending is always a problem and never a solution. Long before Flint tried to reduce spending by moving to a cheaper water source, the pipes that ultimately poisoned the water were neglected. Across the country, crumbling infrastructure is a pervasive threat that is creating serious issues in other cities and could produce similar crises . As Michigan State University economist Eric Scorsone explained , “Flint is an extreme case, but nationally, there’s been a lack of investment in water infrastructure. This is a common problem nationally — infrastructure maintenance has not kept up.”

Unfortunately, the biggest obstacles to desperately needed public investments are politicians like Snyder who conflate “accountability” with austerity. For Republican technocrats in particular, more accountability almost always means less spending on government programs that help ensure the public good.

With less than a month until the Iowa caucus, the conventional wisdom is that voters are fed up and that their anger is reflected in the polls. That frustration and distrust of government is understandable when politicians like Snyder and their cronies are so blatantly unaccountable to the public. Indeed, when government is polluted by officials who put corporate interests above their constituents and cost-cutting above the common good, it too often fails to fulfill even its most basic functions, such as protecting access to safe drinking water. But instead of giving in to anger and austerity, in this election, we should be having a vigorous debate about how government can be truly accountable to the people it serves.

 

By: Katrina vanden Heuvel, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, January 18, 2016

January 20, 2016 Posted by | Austerity, Flint Michigan, Rick Snyder | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“St. Joan Of The Tundra”: The Inevitability Of Palin’s Endorsement Of Trump

Notwithstanding the howls of pain and rage from supporters of Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin’s decision to endorse Donald Trump for president makes perfect sense when you think about what she has distinctively represented in the Republican Party. Yes, she’s a “conservative” in the sense of standing for maximum confrontation with Democrats and constantly accusing the party Establishment of acts of betrayal. But no, there’s nothing particularly ideological — or, for that matter, intellectual — about her approach to politics or issues. She represents almost perfectly the passion and resentment of grassroots cultural-issues activists. When John McCain vaulted her into national politics, she was known for two things other than her gender: She was a “walk the walk” role model for the anti-abortion movement, thanks to her small child Trig, and she had taken on the “crony capitalist” GOP Establishment in Alaska and won. Thus she was a fellow “maverick” with Christian-right street cred and a “game-changing” identity.

The remarkably widespread belief that Palin lost the 2008 presidential election for her party is even more far-fetched than the hope that she could win it. And so the many fans she made in that campaign developed — with a lot of help from Palin herself — a deep resentment of all of the Democrats, Republicans, and media elites who belittled her. In a very real sense, she was the authentic representative of those local right-to-life activists — disproportionately women — who had staffed countless GOP campaigns and gotten little in return (this was before the 2010 midterm elections began to produce serious anti-choice gains in the states) other than the thinly disguised contempt of Beltway Republicans. And after 2008 she generated a sort of perpetual motion machine in which her fans loved her precisely for the mockery she so reliably inspired.

Unfortunately for those fans, St. Joan of the Tundra was never quite up to the demands of a statewide — much less national — political career. So she opportunistically intervened in politics between books and television specials and widely broadcast family sagas, mostly through well-timed candidate endorsements. It’s striking, though not surprising, that Palin is now endorsing the nemesis of one of her most successful “Mama Grizzly” protégées, South Carolina’s Nikki Haley, on the turf of another, Iowa’s Joni Ernst.

But in many respects, the Trump campaign is the presidential campaign Palin herself might have aspired to run if she had the money and energy to do so. Her famous disregard for wonky facts and historical context is but a shadow of Trump’s. His facility with the big and effective lie can’t quite match Palin’s, who after all convinced many millions of people in a Facebook post that the Affordable Care Act authorized “death panels.” And both of them, of course, exemplify the demagogue’s zest for flouting standards of respectable discourse and playing the table-turning triumphant victim/conqueror of privileged elites.

Conservatism for both Trump and Palin simply supplies the raw material of politics and a preassembled group of aggrieved white people ready to follow anyone purporting to protect hard-earned threatened privileges, whether it’s Social Security and Medicare benefits or religious hegemony. So it’s natural Palin would gravitate to Trump rather than Cruz, who’s a professional ideologue but a mere amateur demagogue. The endorser and the endorsee were meant for each other.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, January 19, 2016

January 20, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Sarah Palin | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“What A Guy!”: Donald Trump’s Plan To Defeat Hillary Clinton Is Even More Delusional Than You’d Expect

The human brain has a magnificent capacity to adapt to bizarre circumstances and rationalize them as normal. Donald Trump’s chances of winning the Republican nomination — which even his skeptics (like me) now regard as plausible, and many consider likely or even inevitable — has caused a reconsideration of his standing with the public. Yes, polling data would suggest Trump is wildly unpopular with a solid majority of the public and would probably lose soundly. But polling data does not account for other, uh, factors imagined by Trump’s supporters, who now present their case to the media. “How Donald Trump Defeats Hillary Clinton” is the headline of a Politico story, and possibly the least convincing electability argument ever published in a mainstream publication.

The author, Ben Schreckinger, cites numerous arguments for why Trump would fare better than you think. Here are the most entertaining ones:

  1. Black people love him. “If he were the Republican nominee he would get the highest percentage of black votes since Ronald Reagan in 1980,” says Republican pollster Frank Luntz. “He behaves in a way that most minorities would not expect a billionaire to behave,” adds another pollster.

More likely, the Republican candidate to arrest the party’s deep decline among African-Americans is not going to be the candidate who spent his own money to whip up public demands for the execution of five African-Americans for a rape they did not commit, and who publicly questioned the legitimacy of President Obama’s birth certificate. It is true that Trump does not behave the way minorities would expect a billionaire to behave, or, for that matter, the way white people would expect a billionaire to behave. You could expect a billionaire not to act like a racist buffoon. Trump’s non-stereotypical behavior does not necessarily give him special political appeal to the targets of his demagoguery.

  1. He has a brilliant plan to make Latinos stop hating him. “Trump minimizes his losses with Hispanics by running Spanish-language ads highlighting his support for a strong military and take-charge entrepreneurial attitude, especially in the Miami and Orlando media markets,” the story explains.

That’s all it takes! Just some Spanish-language ads in Miami and Orlando talking about the military and having a take-charge entrepreneurial attitude! Why didn’t Mitt Romney think of this?

  1. He’ll use Bill Clinton’s affairs against Hillary. Trump, continues Schreckinger, uses a weapon he has already begun to deploy: “He draws the starkest possible outsider-insider contrast with Hillary Clinton and successfully tars her with her husband’s sexual history.” Schreckinger allows that Trump running as a candidate of sexual propriety would be “audacious.” But there is also the problem of whether this tactic could succeed. Hillary Clinton’s popularity reached its highest level ever during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, which suggests that voters are unlikely to punish her for being victimized by her husband’s infidelity.
  2. Trump will draw “extraordinary levels of working-class white voter turnout.” Somehow, though, all of this excitement he creates among voters who love Trump will not also excite countermobilization among voters who hate and fear him.
  3. If Republican pollsters can frame the election in a controlled setting, they can make voters agree. This part of the argument has to be read in its entirety to be believed.

[Sam Nunberg, a former Trump aide] asked women in Connecticut who opposed marijuana legalization who they respected more: a politician who is also charitable and a world-renowned businessman, father and grandfather or an “Elderly woman who not only openly allows her husband to have affairs but tries to silence the women.” The figure with the favorable abstract framing of Trump beat the figure with the negative abstract framing of Clinton by more than 20 points, according to Nunberg.

Well, okay. Likewise, if you asked some voters if they prefer a small-business owner who rose from poverty in an immigrant community over a bearded trial lawyer who murdered hundreds of thousands of Americans, they would report that they indeed believe John Gotti would make for a better president than Abraham Lincoln.

  1. Women can’t resist Trump. “He’s a masculine figure and that will attract women to him,” adds Nunberg. “It’s their dirty little secret. They like Donald Trump.”

Yes, Trump treats women with extreme levels of contempt, unashamedly valuing them entirely on the basis of their sex appeal, including his own daughter. But, hey, women obviously love him, as evidenced by the fact that they keep marrying him. The attraction will surely apply to voting as well. Women will feel drawn to him irresistibly. They may even want to vote against Trump, but they will find themselves physically unable to pull the lever for Clinton.

If you’re scared that Trump can win the election, you probably shouldn’t be.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, January 19, 2016

January 20, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Election 2016, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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