Democrats Are Primed to Win Big, Reclaim the House, and Save Our Democracy. Here’s How They Could Blow It.

This election will either legitimize Trump’s rule or upend it. There’s no time or money to waste on divisive primaries or contests far removed from competitive House seats.

Source: Democrats Are Primed to Win Big, Reclaim the House, and Save Our Democracy. Here’s How They Could Blow It.

PRAGMATISM AS MORAL IMPERATIVE
Democrats Are Primed to Win Big, Reclaim the House, and Save Our Democracy. Here’s How They Could Blow It.

This election will either legitimize Trump’s rule or upend it. There’s no time or money to waste on divisive primaries or contests far removed from competitive House seat.

Jonathan Alter
04.23.18 4:57 AM ET

GOP Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania announced this month that he was resigning from Congress and told Republicans: “Big wave coming—get off the beach.”

Dent is probably right. A little more than six months before the midterms, predictive models point to Democrats winning control of the House of Representatives. A strong history of pick-ups by the party out of the White House, disgust with President Trump, good results in special elections, 46 Republican retirements (compared to 20 Democrats), and an energized Democratic base all augur well.

The question isn’t whether the odds favor flipping the House, but whether Democrats should bank on it. And the answer—for anyone who cares about protecting American democracy—is an obvious no.

Six months is a lifetime in politics. Trump’s popularity won’t recover by fall, but a deal with North Korea and a couple of other breaks could shift the momentum just enough to protect vulnerable Republican seats. And the recent history of midterms strongly favors Republicans, who took the House in 2010. In 2014, turnout fell to 37 percent, the lowest in 70 years, with the steepest falloff among Democrats.

Most Democrats get it; they’re focused and girded for battle, with a bumper crop of young and exciting candidates, including a record number of women. But too many others wring their hands watching cable news without educating themselves about which seats in their states are in play and what they can do to flip them. And a remnant of lefties are still living in Jill Steinland—acting as if the midterms are in the bag and they can indulge in expensive primary fights over minor policy differences that drain resources from the constitutionally critical task at hand.

Are Democrats in danger of once again forming a circular firing squad? The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is so worried that it’s pressuring weaker candidates in some districts to drop out in favor of well-funded moderates with a better chance of winning in November. California, where a half dozen seats are flippable (one quarter of those needed to gain control), is a particular concern because the state’s “top two” primary system means a large field of Democrats could split the vote and leave two Republicans running against each other in the general election.

Liberal activists say pressure from the DCCC and other Washington types is exactly what they dislike about the Democratic establishment. It’s the same thinking, they claim, that forced the party to nominate Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. Their message: Don’t ram moderates down our throats!

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It’s Time to Censure Trump for ‘Conduct Unbecoming’ of a President

There is a way to punish President Trump for his ignorant, racist words without resorting to impeachment. He should be censured by Congress.

Source:  https://www.thedailybeast.com/trump-epitomizes-conduct-unbecoming-a-presidentwill-congress-step-up-and-say-so

On Dec. 28, Army Pvt. Emmanuel Mensah rushed twice into a burning building in the Bronxand rescued four people. On his third trip in, he died. Mensah was from Ghana, one of President Trump’s “shithole countries.”

Trump’s comment was racist: He was referring only to countries with dark-skinned people. That makes the Fox News blowhards who endorse it racists, too. 

It was stupid: We need the help of those nations to fight terrorism and pursue other national interests. Trump just did another huge favor for China, which is already moving aggressively in Africa.

And it was un-American: Immigrants from dysfunctional countries, including those like Trump’s grandfather, who came from impoverished Germany in 1886, built the United States. You can look it up.

Another thing to research: Article 133 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. All senior U.S. military personnel—including women— are subject to a court martial for “conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.” Such conduct includes dishonest, indecent, cruel and dishonorable acts. Article 133 charges require no proof of law-breaking. They can be brought for merely “indecorous” behavior, which means acting like an asinine ignoramus.

If the commander in chief were down a few rungs in the chain of command, he would have been court-martialed months ago for “conduct unbecoming,” just as President Clinton would have been court-martialed in 1998 for having sex with a White House intern. It goes without saying that if either president were a mere CEO of a publicly traded corporation, he would have been tossed out on his ear.

But just because the president can’t be impeached (at least not yet), court-martialed or fired doesn’t mean he can’t be punished. It’s time to stop wringing our hands. There are remedies that lie between removal from office and doing nothing.

The best short-term remedy is censure by both Houses of Congress, a move that would begin the essential process of checking Trump.

Andrew Jackson—whose painting Steve Bannon told Trump to hang in the Oval Office—is the only president ever censured (for not turning over certain bank documents). Senator Joe McCarthy was censured in 1954 for dishonoring the Senate with his anti-Communist character assassination, which was engineered by Trump’s mentor, Roy Cohn. Censure is what I and a lot of other people argued was the right punishment for Bill Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky case. It wasn’t enough for Republicans who backed impeachment—some of the same Republicans (I’m looking at you, Orrin Hatch) who today think Trump is “one of the best” presidents.

So why would those Trump enablers censure him over this? They probably won’t. They didn’t when three House Democrats introduced a censure motion after Trump said “both sides” were to blame after neo-Nazis marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, last August. 

But some big things have changed since Charlottesville. The implications of another international incident for our standing in the world are clearer now. And GOP incumbents are running scared, with 31 members so far announcing they’re leaving their House seats. That’s seven more than the 24 seats Democrats need to take control in November. Even Republicans know that bigotry is not a good look in an election year.

Could Trump walk back his line? Not likely. Roy Cohn gave him two pieces of advice: Retaliate against your enemies times 10 and never say you’re sorry. The only time on record when he apologized was for the Access Hollywood tape—and he rescinded it late last year with the claim that it wasn’t his voice on the tape with Billy Bush. Even his fanboys couldn’t swallow that one. 

With no apology forthcoming, every Republican member of Congress will (or at least should) be asked by their local reporters whether the president owes one. It will be hard for many of them to say no, or to explain to their constituents why the remark was OK. The issue would be further crystallized if Democrats threaten to boycott the Jan. 30 State of the Union Address—a possibility, I’m told by congressional staffers, should no other remedy materialize.

White House aides are apparently already claiming that “shithole countries” is playing well with Trump’s anti-immigrant, anti-PC base. But it’s bound to play horribly with the much larger combination of Democrats and independents. For that not-so-Silent Majority, failure to pursue this matter in some fashion is not an option.

Even so, passing a censure resolution obviously requires at least some bipartisanship. That’s why the language of the rebuke should come from Article 133. Keeping it in military terms—terms, by the way, that even Trump would understand—puts pressure on Speaker Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, to at least let their chambers decide. Members wouldn’t have to debate immigration or foreign policy or even racism, merely vote that the president’s conduct was… unbecoming. Who can argue with that?

It’s time for companies to boycott gun-lax states – The Washington Post

Source: It’s time for companies to boycott gun-lax states – The Washington Post

 October 8

Jonathan Alter, an author and MSNBC analyst, is at work on a biography of Jimmy Carter.

Even if Congress takes action on the bump stocks or other modifications used by the mass murderer in Las Vegas, Washington will not be the center of change on gun violence. The president and Congress are owned by the NRA, and public attention will soon shift away from the latest massacre, as it always does.

But there’s reason for hope in states that are hungry to keep and attract business, which means every state in the union. Gun safety advocates should take heart from the backlash against bathroom bills and other anti-gay laws in red states. The institutions that stood up in those fights — from Apple to the NCAA — offer a path forward.

Corporations have a moral and fiduciary duty to enhance the safety of their workplaces and other venues they use. When mass shootings were rare, they weren’t as much of a concern. Now that they’re a common occurrence, the calculus for locating businesses, conventions, sporting events and concerts must change. Companies cannot fully guarantee the safety of their employees and customers anywhere, but risks are clearly greater in “gun lax” states.

Those states should now be faced with a choice: They can have assault weapons and gun show loopholes. Or they can have good jobs and events from responsible corporations. But they can’t have both.

Imagine if chief executives looking out for the safety of their employees and conference attendees announced that they would locate new facilities and hold conventions, concerts and other gatherings only in “gun responsible” states (which different companies could define differently). We might see activity overnight in several state legislatures.

Moving the debate over “gun safety” (a preferable term to “gun control”) to the states is not ideal. Gun violence is a national problem and deserves a national remedy. And the Swiss-cheese map caused by differing state laws undermines efforts to protect the public. For example, the guns used by gangs in Chicago largely come from across the state line with Indiana, which has looser gun laws than Illinois.

But efforts to do something have to begin somewhere, and that means focusing on what Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called “the laboratories of democracy.”

State laws can be effective. After the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Congress resisted pressure from President Barack Obama and refused to act. But Connecticut passed the strongest state laws in the country — with expanded background checks and magazine capacity restrictions — and gun crimes there are down.

The lobbying group that emerged from that massacre, Everytown for Gun Safety, and its offshoot, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, are scoring other important victories in state capitals. Twenty-five states have passed laws designed to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. Voters in three states last year approved referendums containing common-sense gun regulation.

https://player.washingtonpost.com/prod/powaEmbed.html?adBar=true&autoinit=true&org=wapo&playthrough=true&uuid=1c83e102-aade-11e7-9a98-07140d2eed02

Gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association are loud political lobbyists – until a mass shooting. Here’s a look at their responses to tragedies over the years, and their most recent reaction to the shooting in Las Vegas. (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

Winning support for other gun safety measures has been tougher. The nine states that require universal background checks are all blue. Same for the seven states that ban the sale of assault weapons. But on other inflammatory social issues, even red-state Republicans will confront the conservative base and bend their personal convictions when jobs are on the line.

Boycotts can carry enormous social power. In 2015, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a bill allowing businesses and individuals to use religious beliefs to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff announced that the company was cancelling all programs that would bring employees to Indiana, and Angie’s List aborted an expansion that would have netted 1,000 jobs for the state. Most major employers in Indiana denounced the legislation. Within 10 days, Pence and legislators reversed course with a new bill that protected lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

In 2016, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed a “bathroom bill” that required transgender people to use bathrooms based on the sex they were assigned at birth. The NCAA withdrew all tournaments from the state, and PayPal canceled a large new facility. According to an Associated Press analysis, the state stood to lose $3.76 billion from the law. While surveys showed North Carolina voters supported the bill in principle, they turned strongly against it on economic grounds and elected a Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, who this year signed a partial repeal. It’s no mere coincidence that “bathroom bills” introduced in 10 other red states are going nowhere.

Will major businesses step up on guns? It depends in part on how hard their employees, customers and shareholders push executives. But with more gun-toting nuts on the way, it’s important that all companies make a hard assessment of what legislation they need to protect their workers and other stakeholders from bodily harm.

Insurance considerations might also be relevant. Premiums for concerts and sports events within rifle range of tall buildings should logically go higher in gun-lax states that allow the sale of easily modified semiautomatic weapons that can spray bullets on crowds. If premiums rose, they would represent another cost that would dampen business and thus help advance common-sense gun safety legislation.

The NRA and its toadies say that no law could have definitively prevented this or any other massacre. This is a dodge: Traffic laws don’t prevent all car crashes or air bags all deaths in those accidents. But they help. If the carnage in Las Vegas prompts even a few more state experiments, something good may yet come from this evil.

The John McCain I Know Will Make the Most of This Moment

McCain knows very well what a threat to the Republic Donald Trump is. His final mission is to say it.

Source: The John McCain I Know Will Make the Most of This Moment

JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS

John McCain’s diagnosis of incurable brain cancer rightly sends us back in time—back to stories of his heroism, character, and decency that contrast just a teeny bit with the behavior of a lying, draft-dodging president who once described sexually transmitted diseases as “my personal Vietnam.”

A big question right now in American politics is whether McCain will use that contrast—and the enhanced stature that his diagnosis has brought him—to do a couple of big things with the time he has left. The future of the Russia probe, the health care debate, and the soul of the Republican Party may hang in the balance.

Fifty years ago, on July 29, 1967, Navy Lt. Cmdr. McCain was strapped into his single-seat A-4E Skyhawk attack aircraft, awaiting launch off the carrier USS Forrestal in the Gulf of Tonkin. Suddenly an electrical malfunction caused a rocket to fly across the flight deck and hit a fuel tank a few feet away. McCain escaped the cockpit with only seconds to spare, rolled through the flames and went to help another pilot before the fire detonated a huge bomb, which flung him back 10 feet. The conflagration killed 134 sailors and airmen and injured scores more in the worst blaze aboard a ship since World War II.

This was neither McCain’s first nor his last brush with death. Seven years before, while in training, his AD-6 Skyraider had crashed into Corpus Christi Bay, and he had to squeeze out of the cockpit and swim to the surface. And in 1965, engine failure in his trainer jet forced him to eject over Virginia.

Then, on Oct. 26, 1967, four months after the Forrestal incident, during his 23rd perilous mission over North Vietnam, the wing of his A-4 was blown off by anti-aircraft fire, and he parachuted into a lake in central Hanoi. Badly wounded, he was pulled to shore, where he was kicked and spat on. Thus began a captivity that included repeated torture and long periods of isolation. McCain’s sense of honor led him to refuse a North Vietnamese offer to send him home early and out of turn (for propaganda purposes) because he was the son of an admiral. He remained a POW for five and a half years.

Aggressive brain cancer is a different kind of mortal threat—worse than the serious bout with melanoma McCain survived a few years ago. But he has already given notice that he isn’t going anywhere for now. “Unfortunately for my sparring partners in Congress, I’ll be back soon, so stand-by!” he tweeted on Thursday.

The big question: Stand by for what?

Read more at the link above~~

 

JIMMY BRESLIN AND THE LOST VOICE OF THE PEOPLE

http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/jimmy-breslin-and-the-lost-voice-of-the-people

By Jonathan Alter March 20, 2017

The death of Jimmy Breslin, pictured here in 1986, the same year he won a Pulitzer Prize, ends a storied era in American journalism.  The death of Jimmy Breslin, pictured here in 1986, the same year he won a Pulitzer Prize, ends a storied era in American journalism.

PHOTOGRAPH BY MICHAEL BRENNAN / GETTY

Jimmy Breslin’s first big break came when he was hired, in 1963, as a columnist for the New York Herald Tribune. There was a reason so many American newspapers were called Tribunes, after the Romans who represented the plebes. These newspapers, many now dead or much diminished, saw themselves as voices of the people, a concept that today sounds almost quaint. All over the country, shoe-leather columnists became local celebrities when they wrote with wit and empathy about ordinary people and savaged the powerful. At their best, they captured the soul of a particular city, helping to create an identity that digital journalism—with its global reach but clumsy local coverage—often cannot. When I was growing up in Chicago, my god was Mike Royko, who ended his career at the Chicago Tribune, but the most famous and influential was Breslin, whose death, on Sunday, ends a storied era in American journalism.

Jack Newfield described Breslin as “Charles Dickens disguised as Archie Bunker.” Mike Lupica said that “watching Jimmy write was like watching Willie Mays play baseball.” Between novels and other books, Breslin managed to crank out four or five columns a week, most memorably for the New York Daily News, a publication that still exists but is now painfully thin. His run extended through the second half of the twentieth century, from 1951, when he covered a drunk Senator Joe McCarthy arriving at LaGuardia Airport and knew he was a liar (because he lied about being on his way to attend mass, which had already occurred), to 2001, when he happened to be on Liberty Street in downtown Manhattan on September 11th, and wrote about running from the smoke, and about the firefighters who didn’t. In between, he brought his talent and ego to bear on nearly every big national and local story of his time—Vietnam, Watergate, the Mafia, Son of Sam—and thousands of little ones, from the homeless man who slept on a median strip to the Latina cop wrongly fired for posing nude for a magazine before she joined the N.Y.P.D.

Breslin made his name covering the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He arrived in Dallas on the night of November 22, 1963. The next day, he stuck with the doctors at Parkland Hospital after other reporters left and interviewed them with a novelist’s eye for detail. He found the undertaker who provided the casket, and enlisted his wife to use their Queens parish to find the Dallas priest who administered last rites. That evening, he filed a twenty-five-hundred-word story for the Herald Tribune that contained so much chilling and evocative detail that readers might have thought there were seven people, not six, inside Emergency Room One: the dying President, his wife, Dr. Malcolm Perry, Dr. M. T. Jenkins, Dr. Kemp Clark, Father Oscar Huber—and Jimmy Breslin. Breslin wrote that Perry “saw only the throat and the chest, shining under the huge lamp, and when he would look up or move his eyes between motions, he would see this plum dress and the terribly disciplined face standing over against the gray tile wall.”

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