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“A President Can’t Go Ordering Folks Around”: Clinton Is Running For President. Sanders Is Doing Something Else

It is amazing how little the Democratic race has really changed over the last several months. Hillary Clinton is the odds-on favorite to win the nomination. Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) is leading a revolt from the left. Sanders speaks to white ideological liberals and young Democrats. Clinton speaks to practically everyone else in the party — and, as “Saturday Night Live” pointed out, provides a refuge for moderates terrified of the other options this election year. Nothing in Sunday night’s debate changed any of this, which nets out to a loss for Sanders.

Down in the polls in advance of Tuesday’s major contest in Michigan, Sanders needs the race to take a dramatic turn before Clinton wins another populous state. Yet rather than attempting to advance onto new ground in Sunday’s debate, Sanders simply entrenched himself on his same narrow patch of ideological turf. Either he knows he probably will not win the nomination and he figures he should just keep making his point while everyone is still watching, or he believes that his problem is that not enough people have heard him say the same things over and over again.

In fact, much of the debate revolved around the same basic argument between practicality and ideology that emerged the first time the two faced off on the debate stage, when Clinton declared, “I’m a progressive, but I’m a progressive who likes to get things done.”

Early in the debate, Clinton criticized Sanders for voting against the 2009 auto industry bailout. Sanders said that the auto bailout was folded into a larger bill that also bailed out the financial industry. He argued that “the billionaires” should have bailed out themselves, by which he means that Congress should have accepted his politically ludicrous plan to raise taxes in the middle of a recession. Clinton responded that Sanders chose purity over the public good. “You have to make hard choices when you’re in a position of responsibility,” she said. “If everybody had voted the way he did, I believe the auto industry would have collapsed.” Not only the auto industry. If Congress refused to respond practically to a moment of profound national crisis, it would have made the economic panic much, much worse and ruined many more ordinary people.

Later in Sunday’s debate, Clinton proposed doubling the amount of money the country invests in transportation infrastructure — which, despite bipartisan support for fixing up the nation’s roads and rails, would be a big legislative lift. “I’m trying to do this in a way that will gain support and be affordable,” she said. Moderator Don Lemon then asked Sanders to explain why his plan, which is twice as large as Clinton’s, is not “yet another example of a costly plan that will never get through Congress,” given that President Obama struggled to get a much smaller infrastructure proposal through. Sanders merely restated the case for much more spending and said he would target corporate tax dodgers to pay for it, ignoring the question of whether either proposal would be politically plausible.

Finally, the two candidates talked about fracking, an issue on which there is an obvious, sensible middle ground that Sanders predictably scorned. Clinton listed off a series of requirements she would impose on domestic fracking operations, such as limiting methane emissions and insisting on standards that would prevent water contamination. This is not so different from the Obama administration’s wholly reasonable position, which is to allow the industry to employ people and sell product while minimizing the environmental risks. Sanders simply said that he wants to ban fracking, and he dismissed the Democratic governors who want to see well-regulated fracking proceed in their states.

At least the detour onto fracking forced the candidates to speak about an issue that has not gotten much attention this campaign, even if the candidates’ positions simply reconfirmed their general approaches to policy. Mostly, Sanders steered the conversation back to his core concerns — Wall Street, campaign finance, a massive public jobs program and single-payer health care — and made his usual pitch. Clinton, meanwhile, ran for president. “A president can’t go ordering folks around,” she said at one point. “Our system doesn’t permit that.” It’s nice to know at least one candidate on either side is keeping that in mind.

 

By: Stephen Stromberg, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 7, 2016

March 8, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Primary Debates, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Most Damning Insult Of All”: Here’s What The GOP Needs To Say To Scare Voters Away From Trump

How has the Republican establishment tried, and failed, to take out Donald Trump?

Let me count the ways.

The GOP’s first line of defense against Trump is usually to claim that his policies would be disastrous. Last week Mitt Romney declared that, “If Donald Trump’s plans were ever implemented, the country would sink into prolonged recession.”

This argument is less than compelling, though, when you consider how little daylight lies between Trump’s policies and those of his two chief rivals, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

All three would blow up the deficit by trillions of dollars, losing more tax revenue as a share of economic output than any tax cut on record. Their health-care plans are virtually indistinguishable. All three promise to build a wall on the Mexican border, and both Cruz and Trump want to round up and deport 11 million undocumented immigrants. None accepts the scientific consensus on man-made climate change. All want to further restrict access to abortion and further expand access to guns. And so on.

Caught undercutting their own arguments that Trump’s policies would be uniquely intolerable, Republican elites then confusingly resort to arguing that Trump may not actually believe all those intolerable policies after all.

Party elders and campaign rivals have doubled down on claims that Trump’s not a “true conservative,” and that he may not uphold his hard-line rightist stances, because not so long ago he espoused more liberal views. But this merely gives Trump an opportunity to invoke Ronald Reagan, another late-in-life party-switcher. More important, voters just don’t seem to care much about ideological purity.

When that tactic fails, Republican bigwigs attack Trump’s indecorousness and vulgarity. But there’s little high ground for them to stand on here, either, given that their preferred candidate recently crawled into the gutter, too.

Recall that it was Rubio, not Trump, who first invoked Trump’s genital size on the campaign trail. In an instant, what had been a subtext in Trump’s campaign — his big wall, big buildings, big wealth, big poll numbers — became text. But that was Rubio’s doing, not Trump’s.

Condemnations of Trump’s race-baiting and nationalism likewise fall flat, for the same reason: hypocrisy. Party leadership turned a blind eye when Trump spewed birtherist nonsense about President Obama’s citizenship and faith, and when talk radio hosts rallied the base with their own racially tinged rhetoric. Why should anyone, let alone Trump supporters, be swayed by the party’s protestations about such bile now?

Then, elites try targeting Trump’s opacity and lack of accountability in his financial dealings.

But the other candidates also only pretend at transparency. Rubio, Cruz and John Kasich all purport to have released their “tax returns,” but in fact the abbreviated documents they’ve published leave out charitable donations, income sources and all the other substantive details that are part of a real tax return — you know, the full documents that every major-party nominee has released since 1980.

Cruz likewise complains that the lamestream media has withheld negative coverage and exposés of Trump and his financial activities. This accusation is both demonstrably false and demonstrably funny, when you consider Cruz’s declarations that you shouldn’t trust anything you see in the media anyway.

Republicans have hacked away at both the customs and the institutions that impose accountability and now have the gall to complain that a party insurrectionist is not held to account.

Of all the ploys that Republican leadership has deployed to curb Trumpmentum, perhaps the most pitiful is the #NeverTrump campaign. Anti-Trump enthusiasts have spread the hashtag far and wide on social media. Rubio’s website even sells hats, stickers and other swag featuring the slogan.

Yet when asked during the last debate whether they’d support Trump if he became the Republican nominee, every candidate left standing pledged he would. If the other candidates believe a Trump presidency would really be so unendurable, agreeing to support him in November is a strange way to show it. Perhaps #NeverTrump is short for #NeverTrumpExceptDuringTheGeneralElection.

So why have none of the GOP’s attacks on Trump stuck? Maybe it’s because Trump, the new Teflon Don, has unusually effective nonstick properties. Or maybe it’s because party honchos have been too cowardly to do the one thing — an admittedly very unpleasant thing — that might convince Republican voters that Trump is a real threat to the liberal world order.

They’d need to voice the most damning insult of all, at least in the minds of Republicans: an acknowledgment that even Hillary Clinton would make a better president than Donald J. Trump.

 

By: Catherine Rampell, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 7, 2016

March 8, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Voters | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Sanders Makes The Case For A Single-Issue Candidacy”: A Specific Message, Which He’s Eager To Connect To Any Issue

About a month ago, during the sixth debate for the Democratic presidential candidates, PBS’s Judy Woodruff asked Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders about U.S. race relations in the Obama era. Clinton responded by emphasizing some areas of improvement, while also describing “the dark side of the remaining systemic racism that we have to root out in our society.” Her efforts as president, she said, would focus on criminal justice reforms, education, jobs, and housing.

When the question about racial divisions went to Sanders, the Vermont senator immediately turned to “the disastrous and illegal behavior on Wall Street.” When the moderator asked if race relations would be better under a President Sanders, he responded, “Absolutely.” Why? Because if he’s elected, he’ll change tax policy to stop “giving tax breaks to billionaires.”

The exchange stood out for me because it was such a striking reminder about Sanders’ approach. He has a specific message, which he’s eager to connect to practically any issue. It’s easy to imagine Sanders going to lunch, getting asked what he’d like to order, and hearing him respond, “I’d like a turkey on rye, which reminds me of how the economy is rigged against working families.”

Last night, I believe for the first time, Sanders acknowledged that one of Clinton’s criticisms of his candidacy is probably correct.

“[L]et us be clear, one of the major issues Secretary Clinton says I’m a one-issue person, well, I guess so. My one issue is trying to rebuild a disappearing middle class. That’s my one issue.”

At another point in the debate, Sanders even connected the Flint water crisis to, of all things, Wall Street.

Keep in mind, it wasn’t long after Clinton raised concerns about Sanders being a “single-issue” candidate that he rejected the label out of hand. “I haven’t the vaguest idea what she’s talking about,” he said a couple of weeks ago, adding, “We’re talking about dozens of issues so I’m not quite sure where Secretary Clinton is coming from.”

But the answer in this latest debate was different, though it was probably more of a repackaging than a reversal. Sanders is still “talking about dozens of issues,” but as of last night, he’s effectively making the case that the issues that are most important to him – economic inequality, an unfair tax system, trade, Wall Street accountability, etc. – fall under the umbrella of a broader issue: rebuilding the middle class.

In other words, Sanders is willing to present himself as a single-issue candidate, so long as voters recognize the fact that his single issue is vast in scope.

This isn’t altogether expected. In recent weeks, Clinton’s principal criticism of Sanders is that his areas of interest are far too narrow. As of last night, Sanders has stopped denying the point and started presenting it as a positive.

And who knows, maybe it is. Democrats have been focused on the interests of the middle class for generations, and when Sanders made his “one-issue” declaration, the audience applauded.

But it’s not every day that a candidate announces during a debate that one of the central criticisms of his candidacy is broadly accurate.

During last night’s debate, Clinton let Sanders’ acknowledgement go without comment – she did not repeat the “single-issue candidate” criticism – but it creates an interesting dynamic in their race. Remember, as we discussed a month ago, Clinton wants voters to see Sanders as a well-intentioned protest candidate. The White House is about breadth and complexity, the argument goes, and even if you agree with Sanders, it’s hard to deny his principal focus on the one issue that drives and motivates him.

A president, Clinton wants Democratic voters to believe, doesn’t have the luxury of being “a one-issue person.” A president’s responsibilities are simply too broad to see every issue through narrowly focused lens.

Sanders is willing to gamble that progressive voters will back him anyway. It’s a risk that will likely make or break his candidacy in the coming weeks.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 7, 2016

March 8, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Primary Debates, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Poetic Justice, A Big Beautiful Wall”: Will Latinos Wall Off Trump From The White House?

How’s this for poetic justice? Donald Trump’s favorite scapegoats could end up having the satisfaction of blocking him from the White House.

Latino voters have the potential to form a “big, beautiful wall” between Trump and his goal. If Trump gets the Republican nomination and Hispanics are provoked into voting in numbers that more nearly approach their percentage of the population — and if, as polls suggest, they vote overwhelmingly against Trump — it is hard to see how the bombastic billionaire could win.

Such an outcome would serve Trump right. Unfortunately for the GOP, it would also threaten to make Latinos a reliable and perhaps monolithic voting bloc for the Democratic Party, just as African Americans have been since the 1960s. If this were to happen, simple arithmetic would make it increasingly difficult for Republicans to win the White House.

In 2012, Mitt Romney won just 27 percent of the Latino vote; his policy of “self-deportation” for undocumented immigrants is believed to have contributed to this poor showing. After Romney’s defeat, a GOP postmortem called on the party to regain its footing with the nation’s largest minority group. “We must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform,” the report said.

This never happened. A group of senators who became known as the Gang of Eight, including Marco Rubio, managed to win passage of a reform bill, but House Republicans refused even to consider the legislation. It seemed the immigration issue would once again be a liability for the GOP in the presidential contest.

Then along came Trump, who opened his campaign by charging that immigrants coming from Mexico were criminals and rapists — and promising to build a wall along the border to keep them out. As for the 11 million undocumented immigrants already here, Trump’s solution is not self-deportation but rather forced deportation: He pledges to round them all up and send them home.

Trump may be all over the map on a host of issues, but xenophobic opposition to Latino immigration has been his North Star. He invites supporters to see their nation under siege from Latinos who allegedly take away jobs, commit crimes and alter traditional American culture. Last year, he criticized campaign rival Jeb Bush — whose wife is from Mexico — for speaking Spanish at a rally. “He should really set the example by speaking English while in the United States,” Trump said.

Trump’s chauvinism has been winning approval among the mostly white, working-class voters who form the core of his support. But there are signs that he may also be animating Latinos — to come out and vote against him.

A poll last month by The Post and Univision showed that just 16 percent of Latino voters had a favorable view of Trump, as opposed to 80 percent who view him unfavorably. The remaining GOP candidates — Rubio, Ted Cruz and John Kasich — all do considerably better. But no Republican does nearly as well as Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, both of whom are seen favorably by healthy majorities.

In a hypothetical matchup, according to the poll, Clinton would beat Trump among Latino voters by 73 percent to 16 percent. Assuming those who had no opinion went equally for the two candidates, Clinton’s share of the Latino vote would approach 80 percent. Swing states with large Hispanic populations such as Florida, Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado would effectively be off the table for the GOP.

Moreover, the sheer number of Latino voters will almost surely increase across the nation. According to the Pew Research Center, the 23.3 million Hispanics who were eligible to vote in 2012 will have grown to 27.3 million by Election Day, mostly from young citizens who turn 18. The specter of a Trump presidency is giving urgency to widespread voter-registration drives.

Trump’s claim that he “won” among Hispanic voters in Nevada is based on entrance polling at the party caucuses, but the sample was so small as to be virtually meaningless. More pertinent is that more than twice as many Hispanics participated in the Democratic caucuses as in the Republican ones.

Assuming Trump wins the nomination, where does this leave him? If Latinos come out to vote against him in greater-than-usual numbers, he would have to win what looks like an impossibly high percentage of the white vote to be competitive. Even if the Latino vote just grows proportionally with population, he would have a hard time winning states that GOP presidential candidates can’t afford to lose.

He may wish he could say “I’m sorry” in Spanish.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 7, 2016

March 8, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, Hispanics, Latinos | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Uberize The Federal Government?”: Uber Isn’t A Model For Government, Despite What Republicans Argue

A couple of years ago, Republicans made no secret of their love for Uber – not just as a service, but as a model. “Republicans love Uber,” Politico noted. “The Republican Party is in love with Uber, and it wants to publicly display its affection all over the Internet,” National Journal added. Uber has become a “mascot” for Republicans “looking to promote a new brand of free market conservatism,” The Hill reported.

Vox noted late last week that John Kasich is making this affection for Uber a central rhetorical element of his struggling presidential campaign.

At the Conservative Political Action Conference [Friday], long-shot Republican presidential candidate John Kasich argued that we should “Uberize the federal government.”

Kasich didn’t go into much detail about what this means, but it’s a line that he’s been using for weeks on the campaign trail.

Much of this is symbolic, not substantive. Republican policymakers at the local level actually tend not to like Uber much at all, but at the national level, where presidential candidates tend to paint with broad brushes, the car-service technology has come to represent a breakthrough against regulations and against organized worker rights.

And with this in mind, when a presidential candidate like Kasich says he wants “Uberize the federal government,” it’s worth asking what in the world such a model might look like.

The New York Times’ Paul Krugman’s answer rings true.

Bear in mind that the federal government is best thought of as a giant insurance company with an army. Nondefense spending is dominated by Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and a few smaller social-insurance programs (now including the subsidies in the Affordable Care Act.) How, exactly, is an Uber-like model supposed to do anything to make that work better?

And don’t say it would remove the vast armies of bureaucrats. Administrative costs for those federal programs are actually quite low compared with the private sector, mainly because they’re not trying to deny coverage and don’t engage in competitive advertising.

If Kasich means anything, he means “privatize”, not Uberize – convert Social Security into a giant 401(k) plan, replace Medicare with vouchers. But that wouldn’t poll very well, would it?

No, it wouldn’t. Uber is popular with voters Republicans are trying to reach, so it’s become a vehicle (no pun intended) for conservative policy goals the party has long wanted anyway – only now GOP candidates can wrap unpopular ideas in a tech-friendly package.

Of course, Kasich isn’t alone on this front: Marco Rubio has been eagerly touting the service for years, while Ted Cruz last year described himself as the Uber of Washington, D.C.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 7, 2016

March 8, 2016 Posted by | Conservatism, Federal Government, John Kasich, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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