“The Final And Most Powerful Advantage”: Hillary Clinton Has A Secret Weapon. His Name Is Barack Obama
Hillary Clinton is crushing Donald Trump. In the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, she thumped Trump 51 percent to 39 percent among registered voters nationwide. That’s an almost inconceivable 14-point swing in the Democrat’s favor since May.
But maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. Trump is barely even contesting the election, at least when it comes to the traditional fields of political combat. Last week, for example, it came out that he was running literally zero campaign ads in several swing states. The reason? His campaign is practically broke. It’s unprecedented for a major party nominee to basically not campaign. Is it any wonder Trump has resorted to crowing about polls in which he’s only losing narrowly?
Of course, there’s no guarantee this dynamic will last. Maybe Trump will get his act together and stop behaving like a silage-addled steer. Maybe the economy will crater and Trump will exploit it. Maybe Republicans will somehow oust him at the convention.
But even if these things happen, and Clinton’s healthy lead over Trump dwindles, we shouldn’t forget the final and most powerful advantage Clinton will have: President Obama.
No sitting president in modern times has ever campaigned at full strength for his party’s nominee. George W. Bush was persona non grata on the campaign trail by 2008. Bill Clinton was seen as damaged goods by Al Gore in 2000, who distanced himself from the Clinton name (despite the 42nd president’s tremendous popularity at the time). Ronald Reagan was already elderly in 1988 and did not have a great relationship with George H.W. Bush. LBJ quit politics altogether in 1968. Eisenhower did campaign a bit for Nixon, but he was also old by 1960, and avoided much of the campaign.
President Obama, by contrast, is still quite young (indeed, he is 14 years younger than Clinton herself), and by all accounts is eager to help Clinton, who represents the best chance of preserving his legacy. Any lingering sense that a soon-to-be former president should refrain from campaigning to preserve the dignity of the office is utterly dead. And as he finishes his presidency, Obama is more popular today than he has been since the bin Laden raid — part of an upward trend that shows no sign of slowing.
The economy is doing reasonably okay, particularly compared to several years ago, and as Obama himself is not running for re-election, some of the partisan hatred has passed to Clinton. But perhaps more importantly, Obama’s personality is extraordinarily well-suited for this political moment. Like him or hate him, you have to admit that he is even-keeled almost to a fault. Always cool, always considered, Obama never flies off the handle and rarely expresses any emotion aside from a wry humor. In a chaotic world, Obama is a reassuring presence.
Sometimes that leads to grotesque immorality, as when he flippantly disregarded the legal obligation that torturers be prosecuted. But when instability is breaking out everywhere, and things are developing fast — like, for example, when the U.K. has just voted to leave the European Union, precipitating a financial panic, and potentially auguring the crackup of the eurozone and the U.K. itself — it’s nice to know that the president is always going to keep his icy cool.
This kind of clamor and chaos seems to be happening every other week in 2016. Even aside from the horrifying spree killings and endless war in the Middle East, the tectonic plates of politics in Western nations are crumbling. Open bigotry and ethnic nationalism are making huge political inroads, and pointless austerity has badly damaged or destroyed the political establishment in many countries — Spain, to pick one example out of many, just had its two hung parliaments after not a single one since the end of the Franco dictatorship.
A deranged maniac is about to become the official presidential nominee of the Republican Party. It seems a safe bet at this point that Trump is not going to discover some inner reservoir of quiet intelligence. He’s a hair-trigger showboating ignoramus to the bone. And as the campaign goes on, and Trump says goofy, alarming nonsense in response to one crisis after another, Obama’s quiet, competent reserve is going to look increasingly appealing.
Hillary Clinton will only benefit partially from this, of course. She simply does not have Obama’s unflappability. But she’ll gain much by simple association with Obama’s extreme chill, and can only benefit by contrast with Trump’s extreme capering. Should she win in November — particularly by a large enough margin to take back the House of Representatives — Obama can claim a large share of the credit.
By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, June 28, 2016
“Sanders Still Threatening A Floor Fight”: An Honest Discussion About Free Trade Is Not Likely In This Election
The DNC’s Platform Committee completed work last weekend on a draft document that will be discussed at a meeting in Orlando prior to being taken up at the Convention. According to reports, they reached a lot of important compromises, especially on the issue of Wall Street reforms.
But Nicole Gaudiano writes that Bernie Sanders is still threatening a floor fight over the platform if he doesn’t get further concessions. His primary target is the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement.
Most important to Sanders, he said, is that the platform opposes a vote in Congress on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed 12-nation trade pact he says would have “disastrous” consequences for U.S. workers and the environment. Clinton’s supporters on the drafting committee rejected such an amendment by one of Sanders supporters last weekend.
…Sanders said “we want to see the TPP killed” and the amendment should have won overwhelmingly, but he said Clinton’s representatives worried they would “embarrass” President Obama, who has pushed for the TPP.
“Well, I don’t want to embarrass the president either. He’s a friend,” Sanders said. “But in a Democratic society, people can have disagreements.”
While it’s true that President Obama isn’t wavering in his support of TPP and a plank opposing it in his own party’s platform would be unprecedented, to hear Sanders talk, you would assume that all Democrats except the President oppose the deal. That is not true. As I wrote over a year ago, the U.S. Conference of Mayors (which is dominated by Democratic mayors) endorsed TPP. Ron Brownstein more recently reported on why that support from our major metropolitan areas is unwavering. Moreover, a few months ago, Max Ehrenfreund summarized polls showing that the American public in general has mixed feelings about free trade.
To the extent that Sanders wants to make this all about “Clinton’s representatives” or protecting President Obama from embarrassment, he is simply ignoring the position of Democrats from all over the country. Contrary to what many would have us believe, there is not a consensus position on free trade within the Democratic Party. That probably explains why the platform committee settled on language “that said ‘there are a diversity of views in the party’ on the pact and reaffirmed that Democrats contend any trade deal ‘must protect workers and the environment.’”
In this election, the American public is not getting an honest discussion about free trade. We all know that Donald Trump is demagoguing the issue, Bernie Sanders is simply saying “no” while exploiting the fears that were stirred up by NAFTA and Hillary Clinton is dodging the issue. In other words, the opponents are yelling so loud that no one else is even trying to speak up.
As someone who recognizes that trade is necessary and that agreements are a way to protect not only our economy/environment but have played a vital role in lifting people out of extreme poverty around the globe, this is an unacceptable situation. Discussing trade agreements raises hard issues that are likely to lead to both payoffs and sacrifices. One has to wonder if the American public is capable of having a discussion like that right now. In an election year, I guess not.
By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 29, 2016
In his op-ed titled Here’s What We Want, Bernie Sanders wrote this:
What do we want? We want an economy that is not based on uncontrollable greed, monopolistic practices and illegal behavior.
Throughout the primary, Sanders has talked about the need to eliminate greed — especially the kind exhibited by Wall Street. That is a sentiment that is embraced by all liberals — especially in an era when the presumptive Republican presidential nominee espouses exactly the opposite.
But the question becomes: what is the role of politics (or government) when it comes to eliminating greed? It is the same question we would ask Christian conservatives who want to eliminate what they consider to be sexual immorality. And frankly, it is similar to questions about how we eliminate things like racism, sexism and homophobia. These are questions about the overlap of politics and morality with which we all must grapple.
At one point during the primary, Hillary Clinton was challenged by members of the Black Lives Matter movement. She said something that goes to the heart of this question.
Look, I don’t believe you change hearts. I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate. You’re not gonna change every heart. You’re not. But at the end of the day, we can do a whole lot to change some hearts and change some systems and create more opportunities for people who deserve to have them to live up to their own God-given potential: to live safely without fear of violence in their own communities, to have a decent school, to have a decent house, to have a decent future.
It is really important that we get this one right. Just as we don’t want a government that tells us who we can/can’t have sex with, we need to realize that we can’t have a government that calibrates how greedy one is allowed to be. I don’t think that is what Sanders was suggesting. He went on to say this:
We want an economy that protects the human needs and dignity of all people — children, the elderly, the sick, working people and the poor. We want an economic and political system that works for all of us, not one in which almost all new wealth and power rests with a handful of billionaire families.
That echoes what Clinton said about racism. What we want from government is a focus on lifting up those who are affected by things like greed and racism — in other words, to level the playing field.
Personally, I believe that greed — like racism and sexism — are learned. Short of informational campaigns that attempt to educate the public, we can’t legislate a change of hearts. What we CAN do is create laws that legislate against the abuses that stem from greed — like fraud and the monopolization of our economy — just as we created laws to combat segregation and discrimination. Otherwise, it is up to movements like Moral Mondays to organize people around their shared values.
By: Nancy Letourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 24, 2016
Is the key to Donald Trump’s success just old-fashioned racism? He surely stokes race hatred among his followers and even more-or-less openly panders to anti-Semitism. Yet he also seems to feed on economic desperation. He has won running against trade, his support tracks inversely with educational attainment, and he’s posted his biggest margins in some of the most desperate counties in America; surely economic anxiety has something to do with his rise.
This has led to various attempts to untangle race from economic factors in predicting Trump’s support. An effort from The Washington Post found some of both, with racial resentment something like twice as important in predicting Trump support. Yet one should not end the analysis there: Trump also represents bitter hatred of the political system, driven by the shredding of the American social contract over the last 40 years.
The thing about Trump is that not only is he the most openly bigoted presidential candidate since 1968 (or perhaps even 1948), he’s also utterly uncouth and unqualified. Unlike William F. Buckley, his racism is not genteel or hidden behind polite words, and unlike George Wallace or Strom Thurmond, he has precisely zero political experience. Even against his Republican primary opponents, he was a boorish jerk, insulting their wives and boasting about the size of his penis.
In other words, Trump doesn’t just express bigoted views, he also has utter contempt for the traditional norms of political decorum, and in previous times would have been considered a completely laughable choice for president. But his followers revel in it.
The rise of Trump is worth examining in the context of this brilliant article by Matthew Stoller, detailing the change in the American social contract from the postwar generation to today. In brief, for 30 years after World War II, there was a strong political-economic consensus around a high rate of unionization, shared productivity growth, strict financial regulation, and low unemployment — all centered around homeownership as the bedrock of middle-class status and wealth.
Starting in the mid-’70s, this social contract was slowly ripped apart. First unions were deliberately crushed in the Volcker recession, and low unemployment was gradually discarded as a political goal. This severed the link between productivity growth and wage growth. Meanwhile, Wall Street was slowly unchained, resulting in repeated financial bubbles, each one larger than the last (and each with concomitant sprees of fraud).
Yet growing consumer spending was still needed for economic growth. Thus American women went to work, and American families levered up. They took out credit cards, and drew down their savings. “Finally, they liquidated their financial assets, including their home equity,” Stoller writes. A new, much less egalitarian social contract emerged, where wages were replaced with credit.
But this contained the seeds of its own destruction. Eventually Americans had reached the absolute limit of how much debt they could take on, while simultaneously Wall Street blew up the biggest bubble yet, and this time around the key asset for ordinary families. When home prices collapsed, middle-class America got it right on the chin, and tens of millions were ruined outright.
As David Dayen’s new book details, the Obama administration rescued Wall Street from its self-induced problems but basically ignored foreclosures, figuring that eventually the system would unclog and normal operation of the mortgage and homebuilding sectors would return. They didn’t, because the administration fundamentally misunderstood what was happening. Home equity collapsed for years, and while it has since recovered to some extent, drastically fewer are represented: The homeownership rate has steadily fallen to levels not seen since the mid-’60s.
The Reagan-era social contract has collapsed, and nothing is on the horizon to replace it — indeed, it’s hard to imagine a “social contract” whereby a largely parasitic financial and executive class makes off with virtually all income gains, a rapidly vanishing middle class is increasingly locked out of wealth creation, and the political class is all but owned outright by Wall Street. Such a society would be more about coercing consent from the restless masses through surveillance, mass incarceration, and highly militarized police than it would be about obtaining it by social spending and quality services.
A white backlash to the first black president is a very important part of Trump’s rise. But the fact that he represents a raised middle finger to the entire American political system is, I submit, about equal in importance.
Now, it’s worth noting that the old postwar days were by no means perfect. Homeownership is a highly problematic bedrock for middle-class wealth, particularly in the dispersed, suburban style typical of America. Worse, a great many demographics were left out of the good times — minorities and women especially.
Yet it is unquestionably true that those days had much more enthusiastic buy-in from the broad mass of the population than today. Trust in the federal government has fallen from 77 percent in 1964 to about 20 percent today. The approval ratings of the Supreme Court and especially Congress have also plummeted.
Back in the ’50s and ’60s, minority activism to get a piece of what the white middle and working class had was a sensible goal. Now it seems inadequate, as more and more white folks are careening down to meet their black brethren at the bottom of the social ladder.
What is needed is a new social contract that restores some fairness and decency to American society. Without it, the politics of rage and contempt will only grow.
By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, May 24, 2016
“No, Trump, Most Dangerous Place In The World Is Not Ferguson”: It’s Every Polling Place In America, Come November
I hesitate to bring up facts.
If recent years have proven nothing else, they’ve proven that we have fully embarked upon a post-factual era wherein the idea that a thing can be knowable to an objective certainty — and that this should matter — has been diminished to the point of near irrelevancy.
Donald Trump is the avatar of the era. Not content to rest on his laurels, he recently provided superfluous proof of his supremacy in mendacity. Asked by The New York Times to name the most dangerous place in the world he’s ever visited, Trump replied that “there are places in America that are among the most dangerous in the world. You go to places like Oakland. Or Ferguson. The crime numbers are worse. Seriously.”
You wonder whether it’s worth correcting him. After all, neither Trump nor his followers seem especially interested in truth. But for the record, according to the Citizens Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice in Mexico, which tracks murder statistics around the world, only four U.S. cities make the list of the 50 most dangerous places on Earth. None of them is Ferguson or Oakland.
Trump’s use of those cities, both with high poverty rates and large African-American populations, is, of course, intended as a crude dog whistle to the angry white men he’s courting — some old-fashioned victim blaming and shaming to rouse the rabble. But it got me thinking about this whole concept of the most dangerous place on Earth. If by that we mean the place with potential for the greatest amount of harm to the largest number of people, maybe we should broaden our definition of “danger.”
For example, climate change is sure dangerous, linked as it is to increased risk of fire, flood, famine, drought, freakish storms, high temperatures and resultant illnesses. The World Health Organization says this already contributes to 150,000 deaths a year and that between 2030 and 2050, the death toll could rise to a quarter million a year. A 2015 study in the journal Politics and Policy found the GOP is virtually the only major conservative party in any democracy on Earth still denying this reality — and opposing measures to deal with it.
So the most dangerous place on Earth could be Republican headquarters.
Lead poisoning causes behavioral problems and irreversible brain damage in children and memory loss, high blood pressure, decline in mental functioning, reduced sperm count and miscarriages in adults. The water crisis in Flint, Mich., we now find, was the tip of the proverbial iceberg, with reports that high lead levels have been found in 2,000 water systems serving 6 million people in 50 states.
So the most dangerous place on Earth might be your local water department.
The economic collapse of 2008 wiped out $7.4 trillion in stocks, $3.4 trillion in real estate and 5.5 million jobs, according to a report from the Pew Charitable Trusts. It cost the average American household $5,800 in lost income. The effects were felt worldwide amid fears of a global financial meltdown, a Second Great Depression, brought about by too-big-to-fail-banks playing the U.S. economy like a Vegas casino. Some experts say the threat of a relapse endures.
So the most dangerous place on Earth may be Wall Street.
But it isn’t. No, the most dangerous place on Earth is none of the above.
Consider for a moment: To lead America through a world of complex and difficult challenges, the Republican Party offers us Donald Trump. He is pervy, thin-skinned, loud-mouthed and volatile, a preening bully and serial liar who shows little evidence of core values, nor even inner life. Yet, some large percentage of us thinks he should have access to the nuclear codes.
So if you really want to know the most dangerous place on Earth, it’s simple. It’s every polling place in America, come November.
By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, May 22, 2016