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“The Sum Of All Fears”: A Signal From America’s Emergency Broadcast System

On the heels of his dominant victory in last night’s South Carolina Republican primary, does anyone still think that Donald Trump’s rise to the GOP nomination can be stopped?

Trump is, for all intents and purposes, already the GOP nominee, a prospect that should unnerve any American who believes in common decency. His conquest of South Carolina was nothing less than a signal from America’s emergency broadcast system: this is only a test of whether rational America will allow fear and fury to flourish over the course of the next four years.

The thought of this man–this embodiment of every dark, demonic force in American history–becoming the 45th President of the United States chills the blood. What does it say about our educational system that this man was not laughed right out of the political system the moment he announced his candidacy?

He talks about what Mexico allegedly sends to the United States. Imagine what a President Trump would send to the rest of the world: a message that racism, sexism, xenophobia and narcissism are virtues, not vices. A message that reason is for the weak. A message that America has fallen into a deep moral abyss.

I’m scared for my friends’ children. They will be of an impressionable age over the next four years. When they see President Donald Trump on the TV screen, what warped values will penetrate their minds? What flawed lessons will they carry with them for the rest of their lives? Will I have to tell my friends not to let their kids watch President Trump, for the same reason one doesn’t let children watch movies with explicit sex, violence and profanity?

What kind of world will those kids inherit? A Trump victory would be far more devastating for our climate than the Keystone XL pipeline would have been. I guarantee that within 24 hours of a Trump victory, China, India and other major polluters will abandon the Paris climate agreement, reasoning that by electing an unrepentant climate-change denier, America cannot possibly be trusted to hold up its end of the deal. Without that deal, you can say goodbye to a livable future–and say hello to more fires, more floods, more disease, more death. (And by the way, Mr. Kasich, if you’re serious about climate, you will not endorse Trump once you suspend your campaign.)

A part of me wants to believe that hope will ultimately conquer fear, that morality will defeat madness, that progressivism will win over revanchism. Another part of me fears that such hope is an illusion, and that on Election Day, a majority of voters, hooked on the opiate of hate, will rush to the polls for their next fix from Donald the Dealer, this pathetic pusher of prejudice.

What would Marvin Gaye say about this, this dark moment in time? What would Nina Simone say? What would Maya Angelou say? Stevie Wonder once sang about finding joy inside his tears. What if, on the night of November 8, there’s no joy to be found?

I have to believe that hope will survive. Maybe that’s my opiate. Maybe I’m addicted to optimism. Nevertheless, I have yet to abandon my view that in the event Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders cannot go the distance in his quest for the nomination, his passionate and enthusiastic supporters will step back, take stock, and set aside whatever grievances they have with Hillary Clinton, concluding that at the end of the day, an alleged “corporatist” cannot threaten democracy and civility the way an actual crackpot can.

Think about what’s at stake. This country is only so resilient. In 1992, America could have survived four more years of Poppy Bush. In 1996, America could have survived four years of President Bob Dole. In 2008, America could have survived four years of President John McCain. In 2012, America could have even survived four years of President Mitt Romney.

Does anyone think this country could survive four days, much less four years, of President Donald Trump?

The progressives currently feuding over the merits of Clinton v. Sanders will lay down their rhetorical arms and embrace each other as brothers and sisters at the conclusion of the Democratic primary. They will unify as the general election approaches, attending to their tasks with the skill and effectiveness of a veteran worker for a suicide prevention hotline. That analogy is apt, because progressives will, in essence, try to stop the country from cutting its own wrist on November 8.

 

By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 21, 2016

February 21, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democracy, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

“A Phony GOP Parody”: Why The Democratic Candidates Need To Get Obama’s Record Straight

There is an imbalance in the argument at the heart of the 2016 presidential campaign that threatens to undercut the Democrats’ chances of holding the White House.

You might think otherwise. The divisions among Republicans are as sharp as they have been since 1964. Donald Trump may be building on the politics of resentment the GOP has pursued throughout President Obama’s term. But Trump’s mix of nationalism, xenophobia, a dash of economic populism and a searing critique of George W. Bush’s foreign policy offers a philosophical smorgasbord that leaves the party’s traditional ideology behind.

Jeb Bush, the candidate who represents the greatest degree of continuity with the Republican past, is floundering. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, both Cuban Americans, are competing fiercely over who is toughest on immigration. So much for the party opening its doors to new Americans. As for the less incendiary John Kasich, he probably won’t be relevant to the race again until the primaries hit the Midwest.

Add to this the GOP’s demographic weakness — young Americans are profoundly alienated from the party, and nonwhites will only be further turned off by the spectacle created by Trump, Cruz & Co. — and the likelihood of a third consecutive Democratic presidential victory is in view.

But then comes the imbalance: If there is a common element in the rhetoric of all the Republican candidates, it is that Obama’s presidency is an utter disaster, and he is trying to turn us, as Rubio keeps saying, into “a different kind of country.” You’d imagine from hearing the Republicans speak (Kasich is a partial exception) that we were in the midst of a new Great Depression, had just been defeated in a war, had lost our moral compass entirely, had no religious liberty and were on the verge of a dictatorship established by a slew of illegal executive orders.

Oh, yes, and the president who brought about all these horrors has lost the authority to name a Supreme Court justice, no matter what the Constitution — which should otherwise be strictly interpreted — says.

You can laugh or cry over this, but it is a consistent message, carried every day by the media whenever they cover the Republican contest.

The Democrats offer, well, a more nuanced approach. True, Hillary Clinton has embraced Obama more and more, seeing him as a life raft against Bernie Sanders’s formidable challenge. In particular, she knows that African American voters deeply resent the way Obama has been treated by Republicans. (No other president, after all, has ever been told that any nomination he makes to the Supreme Court will be ignored.) Tying herself to Obama is a wise way of shoring up her up-to-now strong support among voters of color.

Nonetheless, because so many Americans have been hurt by rising inequality and the economic changes of the past several decades, neither Democratic presidential candidate can quite say what hopefuls representing the incumbent party usually shout from the rooftops: Our stewardship has been a smashing success and we should get another term.

Sanders, in fact, represents a wholesale rebellion against the status quo. He tries to say positive things about Obama and how the president dealt with the economic catastrophe that struck at the end of George W. Bush’s term. But the democratic socialist from Vermont is not shy about insisting that much more should have been done to break up the banks, rein in the power of the wealthy, and provide far more sweeping health insurance and education benefits.

A good case can be made — and has been made by progressives throughout Obama’s term — that if Democrats said that everything was peachy, voters who were still hurting would write off the party entirely.

But ambivalence does not win elections. Running to succeed Ronald Reagan in 1988, George H.W. Bush triumphed by proposing adjustments in Reagan’s environmental and education policies but otherwise touting what enough voters decided were Reagan’s successes.

Democrats need to insist that while much work remains to be done, the United States is in far better shape economically than most other countries in the world. The nation is better off for the reforms in health care, financial regulation and environmental protection enacted during Obama’s term and should be proud of its energetic, entrepreneurial and diverse citizenry.

If Clinton, Sanders and their party don’t provide a forceful response to the wildly inaccurate and ridiculously bleak characterization of Obama’s presidency that the Republicans are offering, nobody will. And if this parody is allowed to stand as reality, the Democrats will lose.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, February 19, 2016

February 21, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democrats, GOP Presidential Candidates, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Making Up Traditions That Don’t Actually Exist”: GOP Tries To Make Up Supreme Court ‘Tradition’ That Doesn’t Exist

Marco Rubio, like most Senate Republicans, intends to maintain a blockade against any Supreme Court nominee put forward by President Obama, regardless of the person’s qualifications. He even has a talking point he’s eager to share.

Yesterday, CNN’s Jake Tapper noted, for example, that Justice Anthony Kennedy was confirmed in President Reagan’s final year in office, but Rubio replied that doesn’t count because the nomination was made a couple of months prior. The senator added:

“This is a tradition that both parties have lived by for over 80 years where in the last year, if there was a vacancy in the last year of a lame duck president, you don’t move forward.”

Rubio isn’t the only one using the word “tradition” this way. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said on social media yesterday that President Obama should “follow a tradition embraced by both parties and allow his successor to select the next Supreme Court justice.”

I’m not unsympathetic to the idea that traditions matter in the political process. In fact, I made just such a case earlier this week, exploring the consequences of congressional Republicans abandoning traditional norms that have helped make governing possible for generations.

But now seems like a good time to add some clarity to the matter. Honoring traditions is one thing; making up traditions that don’t actually exist is something else.

Look at that Rubio quote again: “This is a tradition that both parties have lived by for over 80 years where in the last year, if there was a vacancy in the last year of a lame duck president, you don’t move forward.”

Now, I have no idea if Rubio is confused, uninformed, or trying to deceive the public. I do know, however, that his talking point doesn’t make any sense.

There is no such “tradition.” In order for something to become “traditional,” it has to happen routinely over the course of many years, and in this case, the number of instances in which both parties have agreed to leave a seat on the Supreme Court vacant for a year, waiting for an upcoming presidential election to come and go, is zero.

Or put another way, if Rubio and Murkowski want to compile a list of all the examples that help establish this tradition – instances in which Supreme Court vacancies went unfilled because it was a presidential election year – I’d find that incredibly useful.

But I have a hunch such a list won’t appear anytime soon. That’s because plenty of presidents have nominated justices in election years – and those nominees have generally been confirmed.

One might even say the American tradition holds that presidents do their jobs when there’s a vacancy (choosing a nominee), which leads senators do their jobs (consider that nominee for the bench).

It’s one thing to make up “rules” that don’t exist. But to characterize an event that hasn’t occurred as a bipartisan “tradition” is to take partisan propaganda to unhealthy levels.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 18, 2016

February 21, 2016 Posted by | GOP, Marco Rubio, U. S. Supreme Court Nominees | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Can Marco Rubio Win Anywhere?”: Trump’s Landslide Victory In South Carolina Is A Waking Nightmare For The Republican Party

By winning the South Carolina primary, Donald Trump demonstrated he can win anywhere.

By coming in second place, well behind Trump and barely (about 1,000 votes with 99 percent reporting) ahead of Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio demonstrated he will have a hard time winning anywhere.

Rubio, and basically the entire Republican Party establishment, marched into South Carolina determined to play up an expected third-place finish as a kind of triumph and a second-place finish as outright victory. Before any networks had called second place, Rubio delivered an exultant speech promising to win the GOP nomination.

There are reasons to credit this as more than just amusingly strained political vaudeville. By breaking out of the pack of also-rans, Rubio forced Jeb Bush out of the race. If he hoovers up nearly all of Bush’s supporters, he stands to eclipse Cruz as the de facto leader of the non-Trump faction of the race. If John Kasich follows suit, after finishing below even Bush in South Carolina, Cruz may slip to a distant third. Viewed in that light, Rubio’s performance in South Carolina might genuinely and enduringly change the race.

But this also is the most charitable way to interpret Rubio’s distant second-place finish. Not because these are outlandish assumptions—they aren’t. It’s just that even if everything goes according to plan, Rubio will have proved fairly little in South Carolina.

By inundating Rubio’s campaign with endorsements and money, Republican Party officials have effectively communicated that they’ll attempt to thwart the will of the majority of GOP primary voters who support Trump and Cruz. And yet, despite all of that juice—and as badly as Cruz underperformed—Rubio can’t count on Cruz fading rapidly. He definitely can’t seem to come within spitting distance of Trump anywhere. And on top of all that, he’s yet to endure a concerted Trump onslaught the way Cruz has, and Bush did—and both those candidates were harmed badly.

Though the South Carolina returns drove Bush from the race, it isn’t a foregone conclusion that his supporters will overwhelmingly defect to Rubio. One of the most critical lessons of Iowa and New Hampshire is that Trump draws his support from across the party, including its mainstream. Many Bush supporters will presumably also defect to Kasich, who essentially skipped South Carolina and is pinning his ever-dim hopes on Northern primaries in Michigan and his home state of Ohio in March. Ben Carson’s supporters will likewise scatter, rather than defect to a single candidate in unison (though Cruz stands to be the single largest beneficiary).

Notwithstanding all these inconvenient truths, Rubio will emerge from South Carolina a party favorite and a media darling.

The person with the most to fear from the results is Cruz. South Carolina was supposed to serve as a model for the Super Tuesday states he needs to win—and with the evangelical turnout as overwhelming as it was, he should’ve been able to do better than a dead heat for second, double digits behind Trump.

Had Rubio finished third—ideally a distant third—Cruz could have credibly continued portraying the primary as a two-man race between himself and Trump. But Trump is a popular favorite, and Rubio is an elite favorite. Cruz enjoy neither of those advantages. To the extent that he thrives, it is thanks to the loyalty of conservative ideologues and Christian conservatives (many of whom, again, are still supporting Carson, Rubio, and Trump). If their affinity for Cruz isn’t robust enough to reliably outperform Rubio, his supporters will begin to question the logic of his candidacy. A fading Cruz would have little room to expand his appeal beyond right-wing purists (his concession speech tonight once again played up his “consistent conservative” bona fides), and his campaign would serve barely any purpose other than to deny Rubio a chance to challenge Trump one-on-one.

As time goes on, though, all the effort we expend examining the race for second place so granularly starts to seem like whistling past the graveyard. Trump probably could’ve won Iowa, and arguably should have. He won New Hampshire overwhelmingly. He just won South Carolina overwhelmingly, too, and is poised to do the same thing in Nevada’s caucuses on Tuesday night. This is a waking nightmare for the Republican Party. Their played-up enthusiasm for Rubio can’t disguise it.

 

By: Brian Beutler, The New Republic, February 20, 2016

February 21, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Marco Rubio, South Carolina, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Common Purpose”: Nevada Gives Hillary Clinton A Clear Path To Victory

Hillary Clinton needed a decisive victory in Nevada to put to rest fears that her campaign was in trouble, and it looks like she got it. At this writing, with final results still to come, it appears that she will win by four or five percentage points, basically matching her 2008 win in the state over Barack Obama. With this victory, Clinton has a clear path for pushing aside her too-close win in Iowa and big loss in New Hampshire. She can plausibly argue that Bernie Sanders’s coalition is too narrow—that it is, in particular, too heavily white—to reflect the Democratic Party, which after all is a multi-racial coalition.

And she’s clearly aiming to broaden her own coalition. In her victory speech, Clinton incorporated many of the themes of Sanders’s campaign, emphasizing economic populist messages like student debt. She also made sure to note (a la Sanders) that most of her funding comes from small donors contributing less than $100. And throughout the speech, she repeatedly used the communitarian “we”—a response perhaps to criticism that her campaign has been too much about her leadership and experience, and not enough about common purpose.

If this win is followed by Clinton’s expected victory in next Saturday’s South Carolina primary and the six Southern states of Super Tuesday on March 1, she has a clear path to racking up enough delegates to be the prohibitive front-runner, especially in light of her strong lead among the Democratic super-delegates. The irony is that Clinton might end up making the same argument from delegate math that Obama made in 2008. If Clinton wants to wrap up the primary early, she could soon be in a position to argue that the delegate math overwhelmingly favors her—and Sanders would have to make the same argument that Clinton did in 2008, when Obama took the lead, that every voter needs to be heard from and that he could still conceivably win a majority of votes going forward.

The news isn’t entirely bleak for Sanders. He doesn’t have as clear a path out of Nevada, but he has done better in the state than he could’ve been expected to do even a few weeks ago. By all logic, a state where the demographics trend both older and non-white should have been a bigger Clinton blow-out. Even as the Clinton campaign will likely gather force in the Southern states, Sanders can still make a credible showing in other Super Tuesday states like Colorado, Massachusetts, and Minnesota. In theory, if he does well enough in those states he can make the race tighter again nationally, especially if the inroads he appeared to make among young Latinos in Nevada can be replicated elsewhere.

But just how well Sanders actually did with Latinos in Nevada is murky. Entrance polls showed Sanders winning Latinos, but these results are suspect given the fact that he lost the race. What’s more plausible is that he was at least competitive with Latinos, given the margin of the final vote—heartening for Sanders, but hardly convincing proof that he’s made the breakthrough with non-white voters that he needs.

Ultimately, the harder part for Sanders going forward will be crafting a plausible narrative. Coming out of Nevada, Clinton can reasonably argue that she won in a state that looks much more like the Democratic coalition than largely white states like Iowa and New Hampshire. Clinton has the support of women (although it’s not clear if she won young women in Nevada after losing them in New Hampshire), African-Americans, and Latinos. That is close to the coalition that Obama used to win two elections in a row. The only thing missing from the equation is the enthusiasm of young people, which Sanders still has.

As the challenger, Sanders has the more difficult task of proving that he can both bring in new voters and appeal to loyal Democrats. So far, Sanders has been more successful at the first half of the equation. And unless he can make genuine inroads among African-Americans and improve with Latinos above what he’s achieved in Nevada, it’ll be hard for him to argue that he represents the broader Democratic Party. Even a self-professed revolutionary has to work with the existing party before he or she can expand it. Sanders remains a viable candidate, but coming out of Nevada he faces the bigger burden of forging a winning coalition.

 

By: Jeet Heer, The New Republic, February 20, 2016

February 21, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Nevada Caucus | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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