The figures are stunning, but they’re really not surprising. The energy of women voters to turn out in this year’s midterm elections has been building since November of 2016.
There have now been a few polls conducted after the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court — a move that was supposed to make Republican voters more enthusiastic about voting — and the upshot is that more and more women are moving further and further away from the GOP.
A CNN poll showed that a whopping 63 percent of women are likely to support a Democrat over a Republican (33 percent of women respondents). The entire poll gives Democrats a 13-point edge in the generic ballot, 54 percent to 41 percent. Overall, men who were polled still favored Republicans, but by a smaller margin: 50 percent to 45 percent.
That’s a 35-point gender gap, even larger than ones seen earlier this summer, when FiveThirtyEight predicted a possible record-breaking gender gap in the midterm elections. At that time, the compilation of polls showed gender gaps in the range of 20 to 25 points. While that would be historic on its own, a 35-point gap is unheard of.
Why might it actually happen? There’s also an enthusiasm gap between men and women voters, small but reversed from the normal voting pattern, according to the same CNN poll:
Women are not significantly more enthusiastic to vote than men: 57% are extremely or very enthusiastic compared to 53% of men. This is, however, a shift from what we usually see in a midterm election year. In 2010 at this point, 46% of women voters were enthusiastic about voting in the midterm election vs. 54% of men. In 2014, a very low turnout year, 32% of men were enthusiastic compared to 28% of women. …
If women were to vote as the likely voter number suggests, it would be Democrats strongest performance in the House race in the history of modern exit polling (back to 1976). The previous record for women voting Democratic was in 1982, when Democrats got the nod of 58% of women voters.
A Politico/Morning Consult poll showed the biggest gender gap when it comes to voter motivation: 57 percent of women are “very motivated” to vote, while only 32 percent of men are “very motivated.” Even combining the “very motivated” and “somewhat motivated” numbers, women voters still beat men: A total of 81 percent of women are motivated compared with 71 percent of men.
Enthusiastic women voters? Check. A record number of women candidates, the vast majority of them Democrats? Check. A higher percentage of women donating money in record amounts to women and Democratic candidates? Check again. And the most important check mark of all: More women than men turn out to vote.
Recent data from Pew Research reported by Vox show that the younger the woman, the more likely she is to vote for a Democrat. Women 50 and older favored Democrats over Republicans 48 to 45 percent; women 35 to 49 chose a Democrat over a Republican 52 to 36 percent, and women 18 to 34 chose a Democrat 68 to 24 percent. For men, those figures showed the opposite: men 50 and older, 48 percent Republican to 43 percent Democratic; men 35 to 49, 50 percent GOP to 39 percent Democratic; and men 18 to 34, 50 GOP to 47 percent Democratic.
(Seriously, GenX men — 50 percent Republican to 39 percent Democratic? What the hell is wrong with you?)
A Politico Magazine analysis by E.J. Graff, managing editor of The Monkey Cage at The Washington Post and a senior fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, posed the question of whether Donald Trump was permanently moving women away from the GOP. Maybe it’s not permanent, but it could last a long time.
An earlier Politico/Morning Consult poll reported that Republican women — 84 percent of them! — still strongly back Trump. The GOP’s problem is that the number of Republican women is dropping. As the Politico story pointed out:
Fewer and fewer American women identify as Republicans, and that slow migration is speeding up under Trump. My conversations with pollsters, political scientists and a number of women across the country who have recently rejected their lifelong Republicans identities suggested the same — and illuminate why this moment in American politics might prove a breaking point for women in the GOP. According to pollsters on both sides of the aisle, that doesn’t bode well for the Republican Party either in this fall’s midterms — which are likely to bring a record gap between how men and women vote — or for the party’s long-term future.
So where are these women going? Some are identifying as Democrats, and some are identifying as independents, but they’re definitely shifting away from the GOP, even if it’s not forever. As Politico quoted Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg, Trump’s election put this gender shift “on steroids.” But it’s not just Trump, as Graff pointed out:
Trump alone didn’t push these women to shed their Republican labels; other GOP politicians’ unquestioning support for Trump did that. Several told me they were angry that an all-Republican government has become the party of fiscal waste, deficits, trade wars and rebates for the wealthy. … “The Republican Party to me seems like it’s being run by white, upper-class or wealthy businessmen who aren’t paying attention to the rest of us.”
There are plenty of things to add to that list, of course, such as kidnapping immigrant children and keeping them separated from their parents, tolerating wasteful spending and high-flying travel by Trump Cabinet members, ignoring the peril of climate change and embracing new policies that will make the global climate much worse, and railroading white and male ultra-conservative judges onto the federal bench. Just to name a few.
Trump loves to falsely brag that he got “52 percent of the women’s vote” in 2016. That was only true of white women voters; overall, Trump got only 41 percent of the women’s vote. But why ruin a good narrative, even if he’s lying through his capped teeth?
In any case, even some of those white women voters are abandoning the GOP. From a story by CNBC’s John Harwood:
The share of women who call themselves Republicans has fallen, while the share who call themselves Democrats has risen.
Anti-Trump sentiment has been particularly pronounced among college-educated white women. That once Republican-leaning constituency now favors Democrats for Congress by 53 percent to 31 percent, according to the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
Donald Trump is taking time away from his TV watching and his golf game to attend a series of ego-stroking and fact-free rallies for Republican candidates in key races in several states. He’s betting that his popularity with his Trump-worshiping base will be enough to give GOP candidates the edge in many close races, even though he’s given up tweeting his laughable claim of a “Red Wave.”
But the more he screams his lies during his rallies, the more he prods his sheep-like supporters to chant “LOCK HER UP!” when it’s not even about Hillary Clinton any more, the more he mocks the #MeToo movement, and the more he disparages sexual assault survivor Christine Blasey Ford, the more determined the majority of women voters will be to reject Trump by proxy and cast their vote for a Democrat.
Originally posted on Daily Kos on Oct. 14, 2018.
There are four weeks to go until the midterms, and the biggest thing Democrats have in their favor is the huge growth in voter registration.
A new Gallup Poll shows that voter enthusiasm is high on both sides, even though Democrats still have the edge — 61 percent of Democratic voters are enthusiastic about voting on Nov. 6 compared with 58 percent of Republicans. The generic congressional ballot polling has favored Democrats the entire election cycle, rising and dipping every now and then but usually staying within a seven- to ten-point margin. Most major polling firms predict a Democratic House with a much closer overall Senate contest. Many races remain tight, and there’s no way of predicting how the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court will affect votes — polling is limited and varied, although on the whole, it seems to be energizing Democrats more than Republicans.
But since polling outfits always use their historical models for measurement, one key element many might be missing is the growth in voter registration, especially the growth in the registration of young voters.
An NBC analysis with the headline, “Voter registration data suggests Democrats’ longed-for ‘blue wave’ will crash over Republicans in November,” reports on a surge in several states’ registration numbers. The details all seem to be pointing in Democrats’ favor, both by age and by party affiliation.
Unmentioned in the debate over who will vote and in what numbers has been voter registration data, which provides a solid glimpse into the mindset and enthusiasm levels of Americans heading into November’s midterm elections. Compiling publicly available data from several states in the nation over the past month shows results that should deeply concern Republicans: Several states with key races are showing a noticeable surge in voter registrations when compared to prior midterm election cycles.
There’s no guarantee that new voters will actually show up at the polls or that they’ll vote for Democrats. But combine these new voter numbers with the higher turnout for Democrats in most state primaries, more political engagement by Democrats this election cycle, and the fact that Democrats have a definite edge with younger voters, having so many new—and younger—voters is one more sign that many races could end up tipping to Team Blue.
National Voter Registration Day was established in 2012 as the fourth Tuesday of September. In 2018, the Twitter-designated #NationalVoterRegistrationDay was in full gear, and the results didn’t disappoint.
More than 800,00 people registered to vote on September 25 of this year, surpassing the old record of 771,321 new voters set in 2016. That was in a presidential election year. Compare 800,000 new voters on one day in 2018 with the 154,500 new registrants on the same day for the last midterms in 2014.
Nonprofit VOTE, an organization that partners with America’s nonprofits to help the people they serve participate and vote, coordinates National Voter Registration Day. Organizers were expecting maybe 400,000 or 500,000 new voters, tops. “I think it’s a sign of the interest in the midterms and the interest in having this unified day of action,” Brian Miller, the group’s executive director, told TIME Magazine. More than 4,000 partners throughout the country, from national associations of election officials to companies to community organizations, used social media and the traditional approach of volunteers with clipboards to attract and register new voters.
The number of new young voters is impressive. It stands to reason that many new voters come from the younger ranks, because they’re finally old enough to vote, but these numbers are beyond normal registration figures. An analysis from TargetSmart, a Democratic polling firm, says the upswing came mostly after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, at which 17 people were killed. The fact that the Parkland survivors involved with the March For Our Lives movement crisscrossed the country registering voters helped the numbers greatly, adding “Vote For Our Lives” to their focus.
The state-by-state analysis shows that younger voters are poised to have an outsized impact in key battleground races. Pennsylvania – which has November elections for U.S. Senator, Governor, and many critical House races – has seen youth voter registration surge by 10 points after the February 14th Parkland shooting. Youth voters make up nearly 60 percent of all new Pennsylvania registrants.
Other states with critical elections that may decide control of the U.S. Senate and House also showed large increases in youth registration, including Arizona (+7.6 point increase), Florida (+7.9), Indiana (+6.8), Michigan (+7.5), Wisconsin (+5.7), and New York (+10.7). The increase in new youth voter registrants in North Carolina is 8 points higher in 2018 than in 2014; a majority of states have seen at least modest, if not significant, increases in youth voter registration rates compared to 2014. This spike in voter registration activity comes on the heels of the grassroots movement to address gun violence issues. …
The increased registration rates among young voters outpaces all other age groups in almost all states.
The NBC analysis as well as other sources give further examples of voter registration growth in several states, and how the new voters are trending younger:
Colorado sees a surge in new young voters. Of the more than 97,000 new voters added to the rolls between January and August (a 233 percent increase over the number of added voters in 2014), more than 50,000 of them, or 52 percent, were between the ages of 18 and 40. “And the Republican Party not only saw the total number of registered voters in the state decline, but particularly among women 18-40,” the analysis pointed out. Figures are from the voter statistics website of the Colorado Secretary of State.
There are also lots of new young voters in Minnesota. Nearly 68 percent of the nearly 53,000 new voters in that state are ages 18-30, according to a tweet from the Minnesota Secretary of State. The number of new registrants is more than double the number of new voters in 2014.
New voters in Iowa are Democrats, not Republicans. Besides the fact that the number of new registrants was double the number of new registrants in 2014, “Democrats added 23,064 new members so far this year and Republicans only 1,636,” the analysis said. Figures are from the Iowa Secretary of State.
Virginia is likely to continue Democrats’ winning ways. After the successes of 2017, when Democrats took the governor’s mansion and nearly recaptured the House of Delegates, there is another surge in voter registration. Of the more than 172,000 new voters in 2018, more than 106,000 are 35 and under. Figures are from the Virginia Dept. of Elections.
Younger voters now outnumber older ones in Pennsylvania. A New York Times story on the young voter surge gave that startling statistic, along with the fact that young Democrats outnumber their Republican counterparts by more than 400,000 statewide (a margin not true in every county). “Pennsylvania residents who are younger than 30 years old now make up nearly two-thirds of new voter registrations,” the Times reported.
California voter registration hits new record. The California Secretary of State reported that an additional 1.5 million new voters have been added since 2014, reaching a total of 19 million voters. Factors such as pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds helped — more than 200,000 have pre-registered since 2016, and 104,000 of those teens are now 18 and eligible to vote this year. There are 3.6 million more Democrats than Republicans.
Youth registration jumps in Florida. After the Parkland shooting, youth voter registration went up 41 percent in the state. Florida added more new voters (around 600,000) since 2016, for a total of over 13 million, but the state’s population keeps growing, too. Registered Democrats there still outnumber Republicans, but the margin remains basically unchanged.
Arizona is getting less red. Registered voter totals in Arizona still tilt Republican, but Democrats are catching up. “For every person who registered since March with the GOP, the Democratic Party registered more than three,” according to a story at Tucson.com. The voter breakdown is 34 percent Republican registered voters, 31 percent Democratic, and the rest is a shrinking number of independents.
How about Texas? Polling between incumbent Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke has narrowed substantially. So the report that an additional 1.6 million voters have registered since the 2014 midterms has to be welcome news for the O’Rourke team. According to an AP story reported through a Houston TV station, Texas has seen a 400,000-voter increase since March (Texas added an average of slightly over 100,000 voters a year between 2002 and 2014). Texas is traditionally a low-turnout state, and Hispanics in Texas historically vote in smaller numbers than their population in the state might suggest. So turning out those Latinx voters is key to an O’Rourke victory. A new wrinkle: The state has used a vaguely worded law to invalidate 2,400 online voter registrations, all in predominantly Democratic counties.
How about elsewhere? Other states are seeing less of a surge in new registrants:
- Georgia, with its marquee gubernatorial race, has added 84,000 more voters since the May 22 primary. To make sure the state is not losing minority voters, a voting activist group is suing the Georgia Secretary of State (who coincidentally is the Republican candidate for governor) for purging 700,000 mostly minority voters from the rolls.
- In Tennessee, where there’s a close Senate race, the state remains at the bottom of both voter registration and voter turnout, despite online registration. But after singer Taylor Swift urged her 112 million Instagram followers to register to vote, registration surged by 65,000 new voters in one day, specifically in Tennessee, where she endorsed former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, the Democratic candidate.
- Both parties in Nevada, with its close Senate race, pushed voter registration in August, boosting their numbers by only 1.7 percent for Democrats and 1.5 percent for Republicans.
At this point, many states have only raw data for voting totals, so it’s hard to tell where they are.
The NBC analysis quotes Pew Research data that 62 percent of millennials are planning to vote on Nov. 6, up from 46 percent in 2014 and 39 percent in 2010. “The level of enthusiasm among all other generations remained stagnant for these three election cycles,” NBC said. The analysis concludes:
While voter registrations do not guarantee voter turnout, they are certainly indicative of enthusiasm heading into the midterms. Circumstances can always change before people head to the polls but, 36 days out from the election, Democrats and independents are equally, if not more, enthused than Republicans. The party cannot rely on their opponents’ supporters simply staying home.
Despite President Trump and his base’s sclerotic insistence that a blue wave isn’t real, the voter registration data clearly demonstrates a far more engaged electorate that is likely to break for Democrats. Further, of the 106 House seats ranked as competitive by Cook Political Report, 93 currently belong to Republicans. These all reveal that Democrats in are in very strong position to take back the House of Representatives.
All of the polls and data show that voters are not registering to vote in order to make their voices heard, but rather deliver a primal scream of rage to President Trump and his fellow Republicans.
October 9 is the final day to register to vote in several states, although a few have later deadlines. While I suspect that anyone reading this is already registered to vote, some of your neighbors, co-workers, relatives, and friends may not be. You can direct them to any of the numerous online voter registration sites available; 38 states allow online voter registration, and those state-specific sites can be found by Googling. Here are just a few general online registration sites, which also will direct people to their state sites: Rock the Vote, Vote.org, and the March For Our Lives voter site, which also sponsors #TurnoutTuesday to boost voter engagement.
As David Hogg, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas alumnus who is taking a gap year before college to be a gun safety and voting activist, always tweets: “The young people will win.”
Originally posted on Daily Kos on Oct. 9, 2018.
As Donald Trump and the Republican men of the Senate Judiciary Committee (and it’s a men-only club for the GOP) downplay the credible claims of Brett Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual assault of Christine Blasey Ford when they were teens, they might be feeling smug that they’re getting away with something. But women in this country aren’t having it — and they won’t let those men get away with it for long.
Kavanaugh, despite demonstrable instances of lying to the Judiciary Committee with false or evasive answers, seemed headed for swift confirmation as the newest justice to the Supreme Court. Despite valiant attempts by several Democratic senators to expose Kavanaugh as being unfit and unsuitable to sit on the nation’s highest court, he was ready to be measured for his new robes.
But 2018 isn’t 1991, when Anita Hill got raked mercilessly over the coals during her questioning by the same committee at hearings for now-Justice Clarence Thomas. Women’s attitudes have changed, because so many women have lived through a similar experience of unwanted and unwelcome sexual advances, whether it was kissing, groping, or grinding, even if it never got as far as an actual rape. Women know that the #MeToo movement is real, even when men refuse to admit it.
Ford’s story rings true because women know such stories are true. They take seriously her recollection, corroborated by evidence that she told the same story to a therapist six years ago — that a drunken Kavanaugh forced himself on her, groped her, covered her mouth to stop her screams, and tried to remove her clothes until she was able to flee when a second teenage boy caused them to fall off the bed (Kavanaugh denies the allegation). It’s why nearly 1,200 (and counting) alumnae of Ford’s high school, the Holton-Arms School in Bethesda, Maryland, have signed letters of support and launched a website that says “We stand with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford,” along with a separate letter from members of her class of 1984, stressing that they represent all political parties.
And now, a fellow Holton-Arms alum also has corroborated Ford’s story, posting on her Facebook page that she recalls hearing about the incident. “Many of us heard a buzz about it indirectly with few specific details. However Christine’s vivid recollection should be more than enough for us to truly, deeply know that the accusation is true.” They truly, deeply know, because women with similar experiences know that they need to warn each other against male predators.
Even worse for Kavanaugh, a second woman has come forward with an accusation of sexual misconduct — that he exposed himself to her during a party when they were undergraduates at Yale University. Deborah Ramirez recounted that the two were taking part in a drinking game at a dormitory party and that Kavanaugh “thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away,” according to the account in The New Yorker. Kavanaugh also denies this allegation, calling it a “smear.”
A hearing for both Ford and Kavanagh is set for September 27, now that she has agreed to testify. Even corroboration from a fellow Holton-Arms student, however, is unlikely to change any GOP senator’s mind.
The Republican senators apparently have decided that a swift Kavanaugh confirmation is worth whatever blowback there might be in public opinion or from most pundits, especially women. After learning of the second accusation, their choice was to push forward with a quick confirmation vote rather than an FBI investigation. But they might not expect the depth of anti-Kavanaugh sentiment that could register itself at the ballot box.
Welcome to 2018, gentlemen. It’s the Year of the Woman all over again.
Public support for Kavanaugh was already low, and it’s getting lower. The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll showed that support for the Kavanaugh nomination had dropped to only 31 percent. Opposition to Kavanaugh has grown six points to 36 percent. And the number of women opposed to having Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court is climbing.
Of course, the American public doesn’t vote directly on who is named to the Supreme Court. That opportunity was lost when Trump won a narrow Electoral College victory, despite losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million votes. But the American public will get a chance to vote in the midterm elections. All signs point to a #BlueWave, if not a #BlueTsunami, with Democrats likely to pick up the 23 House seats needed for a majority and possibly having a fighting chance to edge over the 50-member mark in the Senate. The Kavanaugh allegation, and the subsequent treatment of Ford by Republicans, could provide the needed push.
All polling already was showing what could be a historic gender gap between men’s preference for Republican candidates and women’s preference for voting for a Democrat. Two polls showed a record-breaking gap of over 24 points. While we haven’t yet seen how the Kavanaugh-Ford accusation is affecting polling or the gender gap, I suspect we will soon, and it’s not likely to bring good news for the GOP. Data from Pew Research showed that “Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to see men getting away with sexual harassment and women not being believed as major problems.” The partisan gap is even larger than the gender gap.
In one of their roundtable chats, the crew at FiveThirtyEight had their own prognostications on how the allegation might affect the midterms. Being the number-crunchers they are, they’re going to wait for numbers to crunch. But all agreed that there’s no way this helps the GOP. Some of their comments:
- If Trump, McConnell, and the other Republican men minimize Ford’s comments, that will hurt the GOP politically.
- Shifts among independent women in the suburbs could be consequential.
- It seems like something that does more to activate a Democratic base and make Republican-leaning women more squeamish.
Interestingly, new data from FiveThirtyEight shows that the gender gap might be narrowing. But it’s not because more women are turning to Republicans. It’s because more men might be turning to Democrats.
Robert Costa of The Washington Post also is reporting on many Republicans who privately admit how bad the optics could be for the GOP, finding “Republican lawmakers and strategists unnerved by the charged, gender-infused debates that have upended this campaign season.”
Already burdened by an unpopular president and an energized Democratic electorate, the male-dominated GOP is now facing a torrent of scrutiny about how it is handling Kavanaugh’s accuser and whether the party’s push to install him on the high court by next week could come at a steep political cost with women and the independent voters who are the keystone for congressional majorities.
In a CNN story, several Republicans worried that Ford’s accusation could be driving away suburban women voters. “You could hardly think of a more galvanizing news event,” Democratic strategist Krystal Ball said. “This election is about backlash to Trump. And this turns it up to 11.”
Ford is receiving much support from her fellow school alumnae. How does Kavanaugh remember his time at Georgetown Preparatory High School and at Yale? At a 2014 speech to the Federalist Society, he told tales of heavy drinking at Yale Law. As for his high school days, a video clip of a 2015 speech showed him updating the frequently used cliché: “What happens at Georgetown Prep, stays at Georgetown Prep. That’s good for all of us.”
Kavanaugh’s high school yearbook includes references to a “Keg City Club” membership. Kavanaugh’s high school friend Mark Judge has been identified as the second male involved in the alleged sexual assault. And while Judge denies that the incident occurred, he has written extensively about the drinking that he says was common at Georgetown Prep, including a time someone identified as “Bart O’Kavanaugh” vomited in someone’s car. The New Yorker report of the second accusation also quotes multiple contemporaries describing Kavanaugh’s partying habits, including one (Kavanaugh’s roommate) who says the would-be justice was “frequently, incoherently drunk.”
No one claims that drinking and partying at college — or even in high school — should exclude a person from success later in life. But there’s a wide gulf between the youthful indiscretion of frequent inebriation and sexual assault.
Kavanaugh also will face questions about another scandal — whether he was involved in the “doppelganger theory” espoused in a series of tweets by his close friend Ed Whelan, a legal operative who was forced to take a leave of absence from his post at a conservative Washington think tank. Whelan floated the theory that Ford’s naming of Kavanaugh was a case of mistaken identity, and he named and posted a photo of a Georgetown Prep classmate who might really be the culprit. Whelan was forced to apologize and delete the tweets, but it strains credibility that Kavanaugh wasn’t at least aware of Whelan’s actions. Whether he took part in the ridiculous conspiracy is another matter.
There’s a reason that millions of women (men, too, but the majority were women) turned out for the historic women’s marches in January 2017 and 2018 to register their opposition to the pussy-grabber-in-chief and to vow to vote on Nov. 6. It’s the same reason that a record number of women, most with a “D” after their names, are running for office in Congress and in statewide elections: 234 are running for House seats, 22 for the Senate, and 16 for governor. It’s the reason that Democratic voter turnout jumped sharply during the primaries, more so than Republican turnout. It’s also the reason that women voters have an edge in voting enthusiasm. And it’s why more women are donating money to Democrats and women candidates.
From the viewpoint of too many men, however, not much has changed at all. Too many men are still backing Kavanaugh, either saying there’s no way of knowing the truth, or it happened too long ago to matter, or that he was only a teenager, or that “boys will be boys.”
The most outrageous take is from the men who argue that, if Kavanaugh loses his SCOTUS appointment, all men lose. From an essay by Lili Loofbourow in Slate:
Per this dark vision of the future, any consequence for committing assault — even being unable to move from one lifetime appointment to another lifetime appointment — is the beginning of the end of a just society. …
“The thing happened — if it happened — an awfully long time ago, back in Ronald Reagan’s time. … No clothes were removed, and no sexual penetration occurred.” What’s a little assault — or fearing for your life and having to fight free and hide—if no penises made insertions and the Gipper was in charge? …
It is now clear, and no exaggeration at all, that a significant percentage of men — most of them Republicans — believe that a guy’s right to a few minutes of “action” justifies causing people who happen to be women physical pain, lifelong trauma, or any combination of the two. They’ve decided — at a moment when they could easily have accepted Kavanaugh’s denial—that something larger was at stake: namely, the right to do as they please, freely, regardless of who gets hurt.
It’s cynical to say that we’re not surprised, but we’re not surprised.
All of those men who are feeling entitled and who think the Ford accusation is an affront to what they see as their rightful place in society also may get a stark wake-up call on Nov. 6.
To those white Republican men in the Senate: Think twice before you vote for Kavanaugh. For a few of you, it might be one of the last Senate votes you cast.
Originally posted on Daily Kos on Sept. 23, 2018.
The recent passing of my husband’s uncle brought the inevitable sorting of photos, papers, letters, and other memorabilia. Unearthed in all of this was a letter my husband’s grandmother wrote to Richard Nixon in 1974 asking him to ‘fess up to his part in the Watergate conspiracy.
It’s doubtful that he followed her advice (or even read the letter). I hope he at least apologized to his family, those around him, and some of his supporters, as she advised him to do.
It’s even more doubtful that Donald Trump would ever confess to, much less feel contrite about, his involvement in any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and any attempts to cover up Russian involvement. Actually, it’s doubtful that Trump ever feels contrite about anything.
Nevertheless, it’s nice to discover that Grandmother McConnell, as the family always called her, who was definitely a lifelong Republican, felt moved to call out Tricky Dick. Maybe some grandmothers of today’s generation will get a similar urge to call out Trump.
When the Watergate scandal and its coverup were unraveling, the exposure of Nixon’s tape recording system was the smoking gun. That came during congressional testimony from Alexander Butterfield, Nixon’s former deputy chief of staff, in July 1973. Over the next year, partial tapes were released (with some parts “accidentally” erased) as Nixon, the special prosecutors, and Congress battled over the release of the tapes’ content.
A year later, a unanimous Supreme Court ruled that Nixon must turn over all the tapes. Facing a growing likelihood of impeachment, Nixon resigned 15 days later, on August 9, 1974, and Vice President Gerald Ford was sworn in as president. Ford issued a complete pardon for the disgraced former president on Sept. 8.
She apparently wrote it out in longhand on her own personal stationery before mailing it. She also typed it as a record for posterity. (She obviously was not a skilled typist.)
Grandmother McConnell was a woman who stayed home to raise five children instead of working outside the home. She was one of those often described as a “pillar of the church” in her home Presbyterian church in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, so the inclusion of scripture and the advice to meet with religious leaders to seek forgiveness comes as no surprise. No doubt it pained her to go against her Republican leanings and write something critical of Nixon, but she must have felt compelled to write and send this missive.
As this letter was written before Ford’s pardon of Nixon, she likely thought Nixon might still face a trial and be forced to testify under oath. It would have been satisfying for the country to listen to him give such testimony, but we never got that chance. Nixon did offer at least a partial apology for Watergate in a series of interviews he did with David Frost in 1977. But in the same series, he also offered the infamous words, “When the president does it, that means it is not illegal.”
August 21, 1974
Dear Richard Nixon,
This letter is being written not out of malice, but in mercy and charity. I have only pity and hope for you, extreme sorrow for Pat, your two daughters, and their husbands.
In view of the past, will you be believed as a witness when under oath?
I believe you were sincere and contrite and that the family agreed with you, that you should suffer the consequences of impeachment and conviction (no ex-president pension and perquisites).
You have admitted “wrong judgments.” Would it not be better if you “came clean” and asked the country and those who, under your leadership, have been and may be in legal difficulties, to forgive you and your dissembling? (My father always said no one had good enough memory to lie consistently.) And to ask your family for their forgiveness?
Then above all, ask the good Lord, God our Father, to forgive you for disgracing the Presidency of the Unites States of America and being untrue to your family (Julie must not have known, either) and to so many of your supporters. This will be difficult to do, either publicly or privately, but it is necessary.
Jesus Christ said confession with true repentance is forgiven. “Go and sin no more.” Read David’s Psalm 51, asking for forgiveness.
Have you not been untrue to the Lord even more than to your country and your family?
If you alone cannot get the needed guidance and help through the words of the Bible and Jesus’ teachings, etc., maybe Billy Graham or Norman Vincent Peale would be glad to help you. You need something. My heart goes out to you and to your family.
I do not expect a reply to this, but I pray that this may all come about and President Ford’s hope that prayers for your peace will be fulfilled.
Helen S. McConnell
(Just a grandmother with five married children, twenty grandchildren, six and three-quarters “great grands”)
If any grandmother today wrote a similar letter to Trump, I have a feeling the language would be much stronger and not nearly so polite. “Dear President Trump: Why do you lie all the time? Why are you destroying the country?” might be one such offering. It’s hard to imagine a grandmother starting a letter with “Dear Slimeball” or a similar epithet. But you never know.
Helen Slagle McConnell died in 1985 at the age of 96. This photo, while undated, is likely to have been taken in the late 1960s or 1970s, possibly around the time she wrote the letter in 1974, as it is marked as being taken in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Presumably, Grandmother McConnell would have been as mortified about Donald Trump as she was about Richard Nixon. No doubt she would have asked him to apologize to his family and the country and would have offered some scripture to guide him.
Since her suggested religious leaders are no longer around, I’m sure she could name others to give Trump spiritual guidance. But I bet she could do better than some of the evangelical leaders who are so eager to suck up to Trump, such as Franklin Graham and James Dobson.
And although her father told her that “no one had good enough memory to lie consistently,” Trump is certainly doing his best to try — even if his lies are never consistent.
Originally posted on Daily Kos on Sept. 16, 2018.
With midterm elections less than two months away, it’s becoming clear that important positive factors such as greatly increased voter turnout and greater voter political engagement are pointing to an advantage for Democrats.
The primary season is almost over, and there has been greater overall growth in the number of Democratic voters than there has been for Republicans. At the same time, more Democrats are attending rallies, donating to campaigns, protesting, volunteering for candidates, and contacting elected officials.
And while Republican voting totals also are up in some states, it’s obvious that the greater momentum is on the Democratic side. This matches the voter enthusiasm since Donald Trump took office: 43 state legislative seats have flipped from red to blue. Even in congressional special elections in traditional GOP districts where the Republican candidate won, once-huge partisan voter gaps have narrowed to single digits.
An NPR story reported that the higher increases in turnout on the Democratic side match the voter enthusiasm of previous wave elections, such as when Democrats took over the House in 2006.
Democrats saw a 78 percent increase in turnout compared to the 2014 midterm election. Republicans, meanwhile, saw an uptick of 23 percent. That’s based on available data from 35 states that [Republican pollster John] Couvillon studied. And among those states, 29 had better Democratic gains in turnout than four years ago, with only six states having higher Republican turnout between the parties since the last midterm elections.
Democratic turnout accounted for 53 percent of primary ballots cast this year in those 35 states. In 2006 – the last time Democrats took control of the House – they made up 54 percent of the primary ballots.
Given voter suppression tactics and gerrymandered districts that favor the GOP, Democrats will need all of that 53 percent — and more — to turn all of this voter energy into wins on Nov. 6.
The changes in voting numbers vary by state, but some of the increases in Democratic totals are truly startling. According to the numbers in the NPR story:
Minnesota saw one of the biggest surges in Democratic ballots cast in the primary this year — a 206 percent increase from 2014. The state has four competitive House races this year, including two Twin Cities-area seats that Democrats hope to flip and two open Democratic-held seats on turf in districts President Trump carried by double digits two years ago. While the uptick in turnout is good news for Democrats, Republicans can hope that the 74 percent increase on their side will keep things competitive.
In two important Midwestern states with multiple House seats up for grabs, Democratic turnout spiked while Republican turnout actually dropped from 2014 levels. In Illinois — where there are four seats that the Cook Political Report rates as competitive — there was a 170 percent increase in Democratic ballots, while Republicans saw a 12 percent dip. And in Iowa, where as many as three of its four congressional races are competitive, Democrats had a 154 percent increase in turnout, while Republicans saw a 36 percent decrease.
Even in Texas, where so many Lone Star State Democrats hope for a victory for Beto O’Rourke over incumbent Ted Cruz in the Senate race, Democratic voting was up by 88 percent, compared with only a 16 percent jump in Republican voters.
And while GOP turnout was up in several places, Republican voter turnout actually fell in 29 of 35 state primaries from 2014 to 2018. But in some states, such as West Virginia and North Dakota, GOP turnout went up more than Democratic turnout, which could spell trouble for Democratic incumbents Joe Manchin and (especially) Heidi Heitkamp.
Besides voting, voter engagement is a key measurement that points to a Democratic advantage. A recent survey from Pew Research found that “voters who back Democratic candidates for Congress are reporting higher levels of political activity than GOP voters.”
Among registered voters who favor the Democratic candidate in their House district, 22% say they have attended a political event, compared with just 8% of those who support the Republican candidate.
The differences are more modest in the shares saying they have donated to political campaigns; still, 23% of Democratic voters say they have done this in the past year compared with 18% of Republican voters. Democratic voters are also more likely to have contacted an elected official (36% vs. 28%) and volunteered for a campaign (9% vs. 5%).
The Pew report adds that Republicans are slightly more likely to have expressed support for a candidate through social media, 39 percent to 35 percent, while Democrats are more likely to have expressed opposition to a candidate on social media, 35 percent to 31 percent.
There aren’t many gender differences in political engagement in the two parties. But in terms of education levels, college-educated Democratic voters win the prize. Nearly two-thirds of such voters who support the Democratic candidate in their House district say they have done at least one of the following: attended an event, donated money, contacted an official, or volunteered for a campaign.
Democrats also have a money advantage — on paper, anyway, including the amount of cash on hand. According to the latest overall figures on campaign donations from Open Secrets, part of the Center for Responsive Politics, Democrats held the money edge in both House and Senate contests. The totals as of early September were $621 million for Democratic House races vs. $470 million for GOP House races and $368 million for Democratic Senate races vs. $268 million for GOP Senate races.
Some caveats: These figures represent all the races so far, for primary as well as general election spending, and there were more Democratic candidates in contested races. And Republicans hold a big advantage in PAC money and huge funding from GOP mega-donors such as Sheldon Adelson and the Koch Brothers.
One question both sides definitely agree on: According to the Pew survey, both Democrats (78 percent) and Republicans (75 percent) say that partisan control of Congress is crucial. We’ll have to wait until Nov. 7 to see which side pushed its candidates — and its voters — harder.
Originally posted on Daily Kos on Sept. 9, 2018.
The political world is agog, agape, and aghast about the anonymous opinion piece in The New York Times trashing Donald Trump.
The Times essay, described as being written by “a senior official in the Trump administration,” delivers the news of a “resistance” within the White House itself, trying to protect the country from the worst inclinations of the 45th president. The op-ed describes a movement of many senior officials who try to stem actions that could send the country on a course of disaster. Trump is described as “impetuous, adversarial, petty, and ineffective.”
Mr. Anonymous (there’s no proof the writer is male, but given the plethora of white males in the Trump administration, it’s highly likely) pats Team Resistance on the back. “This isn’t the work of the so-called deep state. It’s the work of the steady state,” the op-ed reads.
Members of the political media are falling all over each other trying to pinpiont the writer’s identity. Various cable news shows offered guesses. CNN has a list of 13 possible and likely suspects, ranging from Vice President Mike Pence (“It uses the word lodestar!”) to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats (“He’s 75 and never going to run for anything again”) to first lady Melania Trump. Given that so many of Melania’s speeches and utterances were found to have been cribbed from Michelle Obama, she’s an unlikely suspect.
Some members of the media are miffed, saying that if the writer wanted to call out Trump, he or she should sign the op-ed and resign. Others see the op-ed as a way for the GOP to have their cake and eat it, too — it praises the few Trump legislative successes, such as the GOP tax scam bill, while it still bashes the boss.
The op-ed follows reports of the upcoming release of veteran reporter Bob Woodward’s damning new book, Fear: Trump in the White House, which names names of officials calling Trump’s sanity into question. “Crazytown” was just one of the many descriptions of Trump and his White House behavior. The book describes officials’ stealing letters off Trump’s desk so he can’t sign them. Pointing out that certain military actions could be illegal and possibly start World War III. Ignoring an order to assassinate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Let’s take a step back here.
Why are these revelations a surprise to anyone? They’re not a surprise to most of the American people, and they certainly don’t surprise anyone inside the Beltway. There are daily reports of Trump’s lunacy, especially since he took office.
Do we need yet another book or anonymous op-ed to tell us that Trump is unqualified and unfit? He proved that over and over again in the 2016 election, and he proves it daily in 240-character bursts of ego and idiocy.
Are we supposed to believe that members of the media are just now noticing that the candidate who dissed a Gold Star father, bragged about grabbing women by the pussy, made fun of a disabled reporter, and bashed all immigrants is amoral? Are they only recently learning that he doesn’t understand anything about domestic or foreign policy? Did they really not notice his extreme paranoia before?
None of this is news, and they’ve all reported it. It’s just more out in the open.
Actually, satirist Andy Borowitz has the best take on the anonymous op-ed.
Whatever happens to Donald Trump, however long it takes before he’s out of office, there’s one area where it will be hard to stop the spread of his poisonous politics: his stoking of racial hatred.
Trump and Republicans keep trying to turn the murder of Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts, allegedly done by an immigrant who may have been in the United States illegally, into a campaign issue, trying further to stir up anger and raise fears about immigrants among Trump’s base. But they conveniently ignore the murder of 18-year-old Nia Wilson on a BART train in Oakland, California, allegedly committed by a white supremacist.
It’s not hard to figure out their reasoning: Tibbetts was white, and her accused killer is Latino. Wilson was African-American, and her accused killer is white. Crimes by “others” are by definition bad and scary, to a racist’s way of thinking. Crimes by whites must be a sign of mental illness, right?
Multiple reports and analyses show that the number of hate crimes against minorities have risen since Trump became president, and that the number started rising the day after the election in 2016. “There were more reported hate crimes on Nov. 9 than any other day in 2016, and the daily number of such incidents exceeded the level on Election Day for the next 10 days,” says a report from The Washington Post.
Even the increase in hate crime numbers is no doubt understated, because hate crimes are always underreported. But they have been rising all over the country, in cities, in small towns, and on college campuses, ever since Trump’s election. Victims encompass all minorities: African-American, Latino, Muslim, LGBT, Asian-American, and immigrants of multiple nationalities. Except, of course, for immigrants from Western European countries like Norway. Immigrants from “shithole countries” are obviously still fair game.
Over the last decade, extremists committed 387 murders in the United States, according to a report by the Anti-Defamation League. Of those, 71 percent were done by white supremacists and other right-wing extremists. Islamic extremists were responsible for only 26 percent.
When do hate crimes occur? There’s no shortage of bigoted remarks and bombastic insults at his campaign rallies, often rousing his supporters into shouts against whatever minority group he currently has in his cross hairs, whether that’s the media, immigrants, Muslims, or whatever his outrage du jour.
But often, says one study, hate crimes occur right after a bigoted Trump tweet.
An online paper published on the Social Science Research Network found a pattern of an increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes after particularly virulent anti-Muslim tweets. From the paper’s abstract:
We show that the rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes since Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has been concentrated in counties with high Twitter usage. Consistent with a role for social media, Trump’s Tweets on Islam-related topics are highly correlated with anti-Muslim hate crime after, but not before the start of his presidential campaign.
A commentary on the study in Scientific American cautioned that the link between Trump tweets and anti-Muslim hate crimes is correlational and not necessarily causal. Still, the researchers “point out that their findings are consistent with the idea that Trump’s presidency has made it more socially acceptable for many people to express prejudicial or hateful views that they already possessed prior to his election.”
Making such prejudicial and hateful views “socially acceptable” is the crux of the problem. We all know that racism exists and always has existed. With Trump’s ascendancy, people with those racist views have ripped away the layer of social responsibility, giving them (in their own eyes) permission to express racism openly, with little fear of repercussion. The abundance of cell phone videos distributed on social media showing insults, harassment, arrests, attacks, and even some killings illustrates the fact that harassment toward people who are merely #LivingWhileBlack is an everyday occurrence.
A Washington Post column by editorial page editor Fred Hiatt called Trump’s willingness to play up racial fears to his base “The wound that may long outlive Donald Trump.”
Though Trump and Fox News fearmonger Tucker Carlson will always be able to find inflammatory cases of young white women killed by sinister brown men, studies overwhelmingly show that immigrants, including illegal immigrants, commit crime at far lower rates than do native-born citizens. As the percentage of foreign-born increased in the United States from 7 percent to 13 percent between 1990 and 2013, violent crime rates fell 48 percent.
Politically, though, what matters is the first statistic — the increase in foreign-born. […]
The always fraught challenge of incorporating this generation of immigrants — assimilating, learning from, being enriched by — will be that much harder and take that much longer. It will happen; most of those people are not going away, no matter how much Trump dreams of deportation, and the country’s adaptive genius will be stronger than the Trump poison.
But the poison will linger. And when history considers how the Mitch McConnells and Paul Ryans acquiesced to Trump’s many depredations, it will be their failure to stand up for respect and tolerance between one human being and another that will be judged most harshly.
The Southern Poverty Law Center agrees:
Since he stepped on the political stage, Donald Trump has electrified the radical right. Through his words and actions, he continues to deliver for what he clearly sees as his core constituency. As a consequence, we’ve seen a rise in hate crimes, street violence and large public actions organized by white supremacist groups that have been further emboldened by the president’s statements about “shithole countries” and his policies targeting refugees and immigrants of color.
Nothing will stop Trump from exploiting the racial and ethnic fear and hatred he has espoused for decades and brought out into the open when he descended that escalator in Trump Tower in June 2015, spouting nonsense about Mexico sending rapists and drug dealers to the U.S. Nothing will stop his base from cheering about a nonsensical wall that will never be built (and Mexico certainly will never pay for). Nothing will stop him from discarding the dog whistle and grabbing a bullhorn in his racist tweets and shouts.
Ultimately, that will be Donald Trump’s legacy: MARA — Make America Racist Again.
Originally posted on Daily Kos on Sept. 2, 2018.
August 26 was Women’s Equality Day. It’s the day in 1920 that the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was formally adopted, giving women the right to vote. It was finally fully ratified eight days earlier when Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the constitutional amendment, giving it the needed three-fourths of all states. August 26 is also the day designated by Congress in 1971 to commemorate American women getting their voting rights.
We already know that 2018 is turning into the Year of the Woman in electoral politics, specifically, the Year of the Democratic Woman, as Democratic women across the country rack up primary victories (and at much higher rates than Republican women). There will be a record number of women on the ballot in November, in races for governor, for House seats, and for state legislative seats.
Multiple polls show that the gender gap of Democratic-voting women and Republican-voting men is sizing up to be one of the biggest ever, likely even record-breaking, with one poll showing the gap at 24 points, according to FiveThirtyEight.com.
Why is that so important? Because women outvote men. Even though universal women’s suffrage has only been around for less than 100 years, women have cast more votes than men in every election since 1964. Women make up more than one-half of the U.S. population, and they have cast between 4 million and 7 million more votes than men in recent elections.
“In every presidential election since 1980, the proportion of eligible female adults who voted has exceeded the proportion of eligible male adults who voted,” according to research by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.
Women’s higher voting totals also hold up during midterm elections. In addition, more women than men are registered to vote.
So: More women running, more women voting, more women voting for women, and more women voting for Democrats. It all adds up to a Blue Wave come Nov. 6.
Some history: The women’s rights and women’s suffrage movement started in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848, although the suffrage movement didn’t really take off until after the Civil War. A constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote was first introduced in 1878. Obviously, passing voting rights for women took a while.
Of course, there are some caveats about the 19th Amendment. While it gave all women the right to vote in 1920, that obviously applied only to white women. It would take decades to remove barriers to voting such as Jim Crow laws, poll taxes, and other impediments, and today’s voter suppression tactics and voter ID laws still seek to limit voting by minorities.
But back in 1920, some states were ahead of the game in giving women the right to vote: A full 15 states granted voting rights for women before passage of the 19th Amendment, mostly in the American West. Five areas gave women voting rights while they were still territories. Twelve states allowed women to vote in presidential contests (but only in presidential contests) before the 1920 election.
Much of the country’s attitude toward women voting changed during World War I, as women took on more important roles at home while some men were fighting overseas. This is from an editorial from Hearst Newspapers, written by Arthur Brisbane, a leading and influential newspaper editor and syndicated columnist in the early 20th century (his grandson, also named Arthur Brisbane, was public editor of The New York Times from 2010 through 2012).
The editorial, reprinted by ThoughtCo. in 2017, is undated but is thought to have run in 1917, during the time that women suffragists were actively working for voting rights, as they had been throughout the decade.
The woman who votes becomes an important factor in life, for a double reason. In the first place, when a woman votes the candidate must take care that his conduct and record meet with a good woman’s approval, and this makes better men of the candidates.
In the second place, and far more important, is this reason:
When women shall vote, the political influence of the good men in the community will be greatly increased. There is no doubt whatever that women, in their voting, will be influenced by the men whom they know. But there is also no doubt that they will be influenced by the GOOD men whom they know.
Men can deceive each other much more easily than they can deceive women — the latter being providentially provided with the X-ray of intuitional perception.
The blustering politician, preaching what he does not practise, may hold forth on the street corner or in a saloon, and influence the votes of others as worthless as himself. But among women his home life will more than offset his political influence.
The bad husband may occasionally get the vote of a deluded or frightened wife, but he will surely lose the votes of the wives and daughters next door.
Voting by women will improve humanity, because IT WILL COMPEL MEN TO SEEK AND EARN THE APPROVAL OF WOMEN.
“Voting by women will improve humanity, because it will compel men to seek and earn the approval of women.” I like the thinking behind that. Of course, Arthur Brisbane never counted on a candidate like Donald Trump.
The National American Woman Suffrage Association published a list of 16 reasons “Why Women Should Vote,” which is housed in the Library of Congress. The exact date of publication is unknown, but it’s likely shortly after 1896. Perhaps the first reason on the list is the most important: “Because it is fair and right that those who must obey the laws should have a voice in making them, and that those who must pay taxes should have a vote as to the size of the tax and the way it shall be spent.”
The League of Women Voters, a group that evolved from the National American Woman Suffrage Association and was founded only months before the 19th Amendment was passed, reminds everyone that the best way to mark Women’s Equality Day is to register to vote. If you have any questions about your voter registration status, or if you need to register, find a polling place, or see a sample ballot, you can check online at the League’s affiliated website, Vote411.org.
Originally posted on Daily Kos on Aug. 26, 2018.
You get what you vote for.
Farmers in rural America overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. Figures from Pew Research show that 62 percent of voters in small towns and rural areas—men and women both—voted for Trump.
And now those farmers are seeing the results of those votes as the trade war over Trump’s tariffs—and China’s retaliatory tariffs on many American goods and crops—are resulting in lower prices for American farmers.
The crop taking the biggest hit seems to be soybeans, but the damage is not limited to soybean farmers. Prices for all agricultural exports fell 5.3 percent in July, according to an August 14 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s the biggest drop since 2011. On July 6, China started to impose 25 percent tariffs on a variety of American agricultural products. Soybean farmers, dairy farmers, and fishermen seem to be especially hard hit.
Even though China now says trade talks with the U.S. are back on, the scheduled talks are preliminary and being held by lower-level officials on both sides. The economic damage has been done.
“As ye sow, so shall ye reap” (Galatians 6:7). More than anyone else, farmers know all about sowing and reaping. Only in this case, what farmers got for sowing their Trump votes has turned out to be crops that are losing their markets. Their reaping isn’t exactly paying off.
Because of the trade war that Trump started, China has cancelled several soybean shipments from U.S. farmers and has turned elsewhere, mainly stepping up soybean purchases from Russia: China has tripled its soybean purchases from Putin-land. Those increases, however, represent only a fraction of what China usually buys from the U.S. Other countries picking up the soybean slack are Canada and Brazil. While other countries sell more, U.S. soybean prices continue to plummet; they’ve dropped 13 percent since the beginning of this year and have now hit a 10-year low.
The $12 billion in price supports Trump is touting are supposed to help farmers in four commodities that were hit hardest by Chinese tariffs: corn, cotton, pork, and soybeans. As usual in Trump world, that aid was announced with a big fanfare but has not yet been delivered. One farmer figured out that the farm payouts would be an average of less than $6,000 per farmer.
And what about other crops? If you grow anything else, you’re out of luck. As an editorial in The Modesto Bee, a newspaper in California’s agriculture-rich Central Valley, put it:
This trade war is hurting farmers across America, but it’s especially painful in Stanislaus, Merced and south San Joaquin counties.
After Trump threatened tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum, China retaliated by targeting almonds, wine, walnuts and more products grown here. China imports $2 billion in ag products from California alone – mostly fruit, nuts and wine. That’s what we grow.
Farmers were urged to sit tight as the master deal-maker worked his magic. Since then, more tariffs and more retaliation. It’s so bad that Trump is now asking for a $12 billion to help farmers who grow corn, cotton, pork and soybeans. We grow those things, too, but they’re insignificant compared to our fruits, nuts, vegetables and wines. And those who grow our most important products are eligible only for federal government purchases of surplus produce.
Midwest soybean farmers are bearing the brunt of Trump’s simplistic meddling, even while they’re expecting a bumper crop this year. According to a story on Huffington Post:
America’s trade deficit jumped 7 percent in June, based on the most recent data. And [Brian Duncan, vice president of the Illinois Farm Bureau,] said the annual estimated net farm income, which is typically about $60 billion, is estimated to drop by $20 billion because of Trump’s tariffs.
“Oh, we’re losing money already,” he said. “As soon as harvest comes ― it’s going to start in a month ― this becomes real. This becomes real.”
The effects of Trump’s tariffs could very well turn out to be a political point in Democrats’ favor in the midterm elections. As Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos, who represents many farmers in Central Illinois, said in the Huffington Post story:
“The numbers don’t lie. President Trump’s tariffs are putting the livelihood of thousands of hardworking farmers across the heartland at risk,” said Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), who represents the district where these farmers live.
“During his campaign, President Trump promised he’d ‘end this war on the American farmer,’” she said. “I just wish he’d actually do it because right now all we’re seeing is a trade war that gets worse from one tweet to the next.”
Republicans are left floundering, afraid to criticize Trump while facing the wrath of their farming constituents. Rep. Devin Nunes, whose 22nd Congressional District in California has a large agricultural base, was one of several California Republicans (along with several Democrats) signing a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue raising concerns about the tariff trade war. According to the description in The Modesto Bee:
Chinese tariffs, they wrote, are “making fruits, vegetables and tree nuts in our districts significantly more expensive than their competitors” and “threatening the economic livelihood of our businesses and communities.”
Too bad Nunes is too busy having his staff call 911 to keep constituents away from his offices rather than take the issue seriously and actually meet with voters.
Farmers worry about long-term disruptions to valuable business relationships. “Farmers welcome the aid, but would very much prefer the original markets to sell their products into,” says Michael Nepveux, an economist with the Farm Bureau, the trade association for farmers and ranchers. “Trade aid is not is not going to make them whole.”
An analysis from Axios showed that some Republicans are worried, especially in the Midwest.
If the high voter turnout in Democratic primaries this year is any indication, especially in Midwestern states such as Wisconsin and Minnesota, at least some of those farmers who were Trump supporters may be voting with their feet—all the way to the ballot box.
Originally posted on Daily Kos on Aug. 19, 2018.