The Electorate Is Full of Shit

If the Republican and Democratic conventions have proven anything, it is that Americans are generally full of shit when it comes to their political views.  

Folks will stand passionately by a candidate until the cows come home and yet when the political winds shift, they will suddenly advocate for the totally opposite thing like it’s been the bedrock of their beliefs their entire life.

In Cleveland last week, we watched an entire party commit harakiri by embracing a self-promoting, serial liar with tiny fingers who stands for just about everything the Republican party has traditionally stood against.  

For example, weren’t Republicans the party of family values? The party of church on Sundays and family game nights that don’t end in someone flipping the monopoly board?  I thought so, until they nominated a man who has repeatedly said how much he disdains parenting and is married to his third wife 24 years his junior.  For pete’s sake the only anecdotes his kids could muster about their father’s parenting were about them sitting in his office or visiting construction sites. This is a man who patted his daughter in a way that was barely appropriate for a football field after she introduced him in front of an audience of millions.

And what about Trump’s favorite issue of trade, that wonderful consequence of globalization that Republicans have long championed. Now what if I told you that they just chose a candidate who says that trade deals are “raping America,” has advocated for isolationism, and has said that the TPP would ruin America.  Remember his almost-running-mate Bob Corker? He spent years advocating for the TPP and then almost signed on to a team that made killing it their main priority.

Republicans have also spent years criticizing President Obama for being weak in terms of projecting military power and letting down our allies overseas.  Want to take a gander at the position they now support? If you guessed leaving NATO allies to fend for themselves and withdrawing troops from abroad, you’re a winner!

Yet, conservatives everywhere have put on their red hats and blanketly stated that he’s their guy, that he represents the values they care about and is the right man to represent the United States of America.

Can you really blame the average pickup-driving, rare-burger-eating, Fox News-watching ‘Murican for throwing everything they stand for out the window when they’ve watched their party leaders and talk show hosts do the same?

Last week, Jon Stewart made a glorious reappearance with Stephen Colbert and spent thirteen minutes highlighting all of Sean Hannity’s wild reversals of opinion on the character qualities that he always hated about Obama, but now loves in Trump.  Hannity even went so far as reverse his position on the use of teleprompters. Are teleprompters now a fringe issue in our elections?

Sadly, Republicans aren’t alone in their ability to be full of shit.  Bernie Sanders supporters have been raising hell in Philadelphia this week as they refuse to accept that their revolution has come to an end.  Many have gone on camera to say that they will refuse to vote for Hillary Clinton in the fall, because that makes sense.  

Let’s follow that logic: They support positions that are a “12” on a scale of “1-to-socialist,” so rather than accept an “8,” they want to abstain and tacitly support the guy who is a “-65.”   If they really supported the issues they say they care so passionately about, they would devote all their efforts to electing Clinton, who by the way, supports nearly everything they do.  As Obama said earlier this year, “it’s steak or fish” and these guys claim to be vegan.

The truth is, I don’t think the majority of people are as principled as they claim to be.  Trump’s base of support has grown like the White Walker army in Game of Thrones, killing good Republicans and reincarnating them as Trumpians.  If the conservative electorate really believed in trade, or military alliances, or really… anything, they would never have cast over 13 million votes for him.

Sanders’ supporters are no different. They subscribe to an ideology that anyone with government experience knows is impractical, yet instead of using their momentum to accomplish realistic ends, they plug their ears and stomp around with the rationality of a third grader, all but assuring the impossibility of their stated agenda.

Winston Churchill once said that the greatest argument against democracy was a five minute conversation with the average voter.  I’d venture to bet if he were alive today he’d tell you that conversation would only need to be thirty seconds.

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Photo Credit:  Sean Rayford/Getty Images

5 Reasons Elizabeth Warren Is Not The Answer

Elizabeth Warren finally broke.  On June 9, she became the last female Democrat in the Senate to hop aboard the Hillary Express: Destination 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.  For many in the Democratic elite, the endorsement is only the tip of the iceberg.  They want Clinton to name Warren as her running mate.

Originally the talk of Warren as running mate was tossed around as a feminist, progressive dream.  Two bold, strong women working together to each make history as the nation’s first female president and vice president.  As time wore on, the idea gained traction to the point that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid had his staff review Massachusetts law with respect to the appointment of senators for vacant seats.

The argument goes something like this:  Sanders’ people hate Clinton but love Warren for her progressive prowess.  Clinton also has a huge deficit given the perception that she is in bed with Wall Street while Warren is known as a sworn enemy of all with slicked hair and pinstriped suits.  Therefore, in order to secure the vote of Bernie Bros and those wary of Wall Street, Clinton has no choice but to pick Warren.

Here is why that is a false choice.

First, Warren can be just as, if not more, effective as a surrogate not associated with the campaign.  When your name is on the yard sign, you are accountable at a much greater level than if you are a mercenary free to conduct yourself as you please. A candidate is required to stay on message and consult campaign talking points; rinse and repeat.

The Clinton camp is well known for reviewing the speeches of everyone who speaks at her rallies, so one can only imagine the level of control the running make will face.  In addition, any gaffes will reflect on the campaign as a whole and serve as a knock against the name at the top of the ticket, instead of just against the speaker.

As an unaffiliated surrogate, Warren would be free to throw her barbs whenever and however she wanted.  She could craft her own message and launch her own rapid response apparatus.  In addition, if someone else were on the ticket and Warren continued to be the pitbull she has proven to be, it would open multiple fronts against Trump rather than allowing Trump to just rebuke the campaign anytime Warren went after him.

Trump has already anointed Warren with the moniker “Goofy Elizabeth Warren” which means she has successfully opened a bed and breakfast in his head.  As the summer progresses, any time that Trump spends calling her names is time not spent attacking Hillary.  Trump will look increasingly weak the more he attacks someone who he isn’t even running against.

Second, the constitutional requirement of a VP is to step into the presidency should the president be unable to serve.  While it is tempting every four years for candidates to choose people who help them politically, Clinton needs a running mate that can govern if need be.  

Warren has great credentials in the finance world, but not anywhere else.  She came to Congress based on her chops as a financial reformer.  She has since taken committee assignments (Banking and HELP) that allow her to further that work.  Should she ever need to sit behind the Resolute desk, she would be woefully unprepared to handle the foreign policy and military aspects of the job.

Third, Warren would only further polarize Clinton’s candidacy.  Clinton is already one of the most disliked candidates in the history of presidential politics and a joint ticket with Warren would only exacerbate that problem.  Warren isn’t shy about her opinions and is widely viewed as a left wing (read: dirty “L” liberal) warrior.

In theory her presence would bring in from the cold all of Sanders’ supporters who view her as an ally in their quest for economic justice. But choosing Warren solely for the Sanders vote is incredibly shortsighted.  Every four years, supporters of the losing primary candidate say they won’t vote for the eventual nominee, but there is barely even scant anecdotal evidence that that actually happens.  There are five months until the election and during that time Democrats will get on board regardless of whether Warren is on the ticket.

Fourth, Warren’s Senate seat is more valuable to the Democratic apparatus than her presence on Clinton’s ticket.  Democrats have a chance to retake the Senate this fall and they need Warren to do that.

Yes, the president is powerful and vitally important to the direction of the country, but an agenda can’t be pushed without a friendly Congress.  The Senate already exists in a delicate balance and if Warren were to vacate her seat for the Naval Observatory, Massachusetts’ Republican Governor Charlie Baker would get to fill her seat, undoubtedly choosing a Republican.  The Democrats have a shot at flipping the Senate and that task won’t be made an easier by starting one more seat down.

Fifth, what is in it for her?  As Joe Biden is fond of saying, the vice presidency is an inherently inferior and powerless position.  

Sure, the office still carries weight, and yes, you have the ear of the president when you want it, but the veep has no true, natural power.  Warren is no Dick Cheney and Clinton is no Dubya, so the idea that Warren would be able to exert massive influence over Clinton’s economic agenda the way Cheney directed the Iraq War is nothing but fiction.

Warren has also become a very influential member of the Senate Banking Committee where as her seniority grows-and if the Democrats retake the Senate-she will be able to pass the reforms and conduct the oversight she desires.  Why pass that up to attend the funerals of B-list world leaders and sit next to Paul Ryan during Joint Sessions of Congress.

Elizabeth Warren is a fantastic representative for the Democratic Party.  She is inspiring, enthusiastic, and eloquent and will be a great asset as the party-and the nation-look to avoid an apocalyptic Trump presidency.

For all the great things Warren brings to the table, she will be much more valuable this election cycle and for years to come as a United States Senator rather than as a passenger in the side-car of Clinton’s Harley.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

 

The Right’s Silence Is Deafening.

A snowball by itself isn’t very harmful. In fact, when thrown at someone it explodes into a satisfying cloud of flurries and fun.  But if it were to be rolled down a mountain, it could grow larger and larger until transformed into a full blown avalanche capable of burying hikers, cars, towns, and anything else in it’s path until it has morphed an entire landscape into a violent sea of white.

Last year Donald Trump rolled up a snowball of Mexican rapists and rural white fear and tossed it down a mountain towards the unsuspecting public below.  Over the past year, Trump’s momentum has grown exponentially and now, with the magic number of delegates having been reached, has reached the point of no return.

America is in the midst of an impending avalanche with a bad haircut and tiny hands.

It might already be too late however, as the entire GOP seems to have resigned themselves to their fate and rolled over waiting to meet their maker.  But it didn’t have to be this way.

Look I get it, Hillary Clinton is just about the worst thing in the world that could happen to conservatives.  The idea of her in the White House probably makes their skin crawl the same way mine does thinking about President Cruz (I literally shivered typing that).  But there is a limit to party loyalty and the sudden and reflexive kowtowing by the conservative establishment to their new Chosen One is utterly terrifying.

Robert Kagan observed in the Washington Post recently that this type of blind loyalty is what leads to authoritarianism.  He’s right.  Words matter when you’re the leader of the free world and Donald Trump has said a lot of words that should disqualify anyone from seeking this office.  If a Democratic candidate called for a ban on a religion or called women the names Trump has, I wouldn’t in good conscience be able to say I support them.

Country over party, right?

What is scary isn’t the capitulation of those like Chris Christie – who tucked his tail between his legs and sold his soul to the devil early on – it’s those who have been carefully tap-dancing and silently nodding in acceptance.

  • Paul Ryan went from saying he “couldn’t endorse” Trump to saying he was “encouraged” by him and just can endorse him “yet.”
  • Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said she voted for Trump but wasn’t happy about it.
  • Rep. Peter King said he had to endorse the nominee but wasn’t enthusiastic about it.
  • Senator Marco Rubio won’t even use Trump’s name, and just says he’ll “support the nominee.”

The candidate these “leaders” are offering tacit approval to is not a candidate who inspires with ideas of economic prosperity and hope.  He is a candidate whose prominence is the sole result of a swelling rash of fear, xenophobia, and anger among predominantly white Americans who believe “their country” is slipping away from them.

The establishment’s silence is deafening in a moment where a concerted effort by the conservative elite could go a long way in denying Trump the credibility he craves.  Every endorsement Trump receives gives his candidacy a little more legitimacy that allows voters to say; “See, he can’t be that bad, all those Congressman think he’ll be great.”  

The inability to put country ahead of party when the stakes are so high represents the worst of our politics.  I’d be willing to bet there is implicit – or maybe even explicit – understanding from the RNC that the Republicans will win or lose as a team this year and that renegade members who bash their nominee will not be supported with party money.

If Trump becomes president and our country heads down the path he has indicated he’ll take it, all of the GOP leaders who stood by idly in favor of their own self interest will have to answer for why they didn’t act when they had the chance.

Just like Trump’s support has snowballed into an unstoppable avalanche, so will his ideas if elected.  Fear is a powerful force and if it prompts the banning of Muslim immigration who is to say the trend won’t continue to other races and religions that scare red America.  If it starts with expanding libel laws so Trump can sue those who speak ill of him, who is to say it won’t end with FBI arrests of journalist who critique the Administration.  

You may say that is silly exaggeration and could never happen, but then again, a year ago it was thought impossible that a candidate could prey on “the other” to become a nominee for president in the Land of the Free.

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Don’t Hate The Player, Hate The Game

Last week a New York Times Magazine profile about a certain White House aide has set all of Washington D.C. on fire.  Was the Iran Deal a sham?  Are journalist all stupid?  People demand answers.

In case you live under a rock, this extensive profile was about Ben Rhodes, the Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications a.k.a. the White House’s media person for all things foreign affairs.  In the article, Rhodes makes a handful of comments that ignited the latest Washington faux scandal.  If you really did miss it, read about it here, here, and here.

While the critiques are extensive, Michael Cohen of the Boston Globe points out that “the reaction to Ben Rhodes profile is more interesting than the piece itself – a good reminder that DC is like one giant high school.”  I couldn’t agree with him more.  

The interesting aspect of the profile isn’t the surface level name calling that garnered all the attention, but rather the larger picture that is painted of the modern media and how news and narratives are spun from the White House out to the average citizen.

It is no secret that news as an institution has changed greatly over the past decade.  Print newspaper subscriptions have plummeted.  Weekly news magazines are faltering and cable news has turned into one giant, political reality show.  The ADD-like nature of the news cycle has killed journalistic skepticism that made the major networks popular in the first place.  (Brief side-note, accusing the press of failing to counter the White House spin machine is nothing new.)

What journalist found so insulting about Rhodes’ candid remarks on selling something from the White House is that he is mostly right: and the truth hurts.  The communications strategy for the Iran Deal was by no means as big of a success as the author made it out to be – Morning Consult polling showed that almost twice as many people opposed the deal as were for it prior to its signing – but it was still a lesson in how the media’s shifting priorities have allowed it to be manipulated.

Rhodes notes that many outlets no longer have even half the foreign bureaus that they used to, so instead of gathering hard news on the ground, stations and papers rely on junior staff sitting at computers in Washington picking facts off the internet.  That is hardly in-depth reporting.

He also observes that many outlets are so keen on pulling in outside “experts” and other figures that if an institution – say, the White House – can get friendly “experts” on television who don’t have White House titles, their point of view gains credibility despite not having been thoroughly vetted.

As with everything these days, the prime examples come from the advent of Trumpism.  Trump’s ideas are ludicrous, but he has friendly “experts” who get spots on cable television to defend him and lend him credibility.  By simply debating the merits of a wall along the border suddenly it seems like that could be a legitimate policy instead of a crackpot idea floated by a human yam.

Even this week – and I literally cannot believe this is a real, actual thing – the media refuses to nail down Trump for lying about impersonating his spokesman thirty years ago.  There is even a video of Trump admitting that he did this and yet still I heard Wolf Blitzer earlier today allow a Trump surrogate to say that it was “allegedly Trump” and he “isn’t sure whose voice that is.”  Because the media gives a voice to a second opinion, even a ludicrous, lying one, it is allowed to stand as legitimate in the record.

In this case, Rhodes’ only crime is acknowledging that the White House is aware of the power of being heard and used that power in order to pitch a major initiative to the public.

Continuing his streak of brutal honesty, Rhodes points out that he hardly encounters a reporter over the age of twenty-seven and that this generation of reporters can’t possibly have the life experience to understand the gravity of what they are reporting or draw in-depth judgments.  

A handful of people I know from my graduating class – also millennials – have acquired journalism jobs at major outlets.  These “kids” are publishing articles on Iran, the election, social issues, and more.  Everything they publish carries with it the weight of the organization they write for, but their life experience only comes with a memory that stretches back to the beginning of the Iraq war.

If one of them publishes a piece primarily based on State Department fact sheets and White House quotes, it will likely contain the exact bias that Rhodes was looking to spread.  It will then be cited as “the Washington Post says” and forever be part of the case.  

Having only studied journalism and political science in college and researched the subject from their desk, are these authors really qualified to be offering in depth commentary on something as important as the Iran nuclear deal?

The truth is they aren’t and if I were Ben Rhodes and I were looking to sell something I know is going to be controversial, these writers are the first people I would make sure every White House press release on the subject went to.  

Rather than take personal offense, the journalists responsible for vetting government policy should take a hard look in the mirror.  If the implication of the profile is correct and Rhodes sold a rotten deal, then these journalists should be asking themselves what questions they should have asked rather than grousing about being slighted in a shameless puff piece about a guy with a basement office in the White House.

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Photo credit: AP