2020 electorate will be more diverse than ever

Whether they differ by gender, age, ethnicity, or partisan leanings, next year’s voters will be more varied than ever before.

The growing number of Democrats running for president in 2020 are a diverse group of candidates. But they won’t be as diverse as the people voting for them.

According to projections from the Pew Research Center, a higher number of those who will cast votes for president next year will be younger than their counterparts in past presidential election years. There will be more eligible Latinx than African-American voters. And because of an increased number of naturalized citizens, one in ten voters will have been born outside the United States.

Nonwhites will account for a third of eligible voters — their largest share ever — driven by long-term increases among certain groups, especially Hispanics. At the same time, one-in-ten eligible voters will be members of Generation Z,  the Americans who will be between the ages 18 and 23 next year. That will occur as Millennials and all other older generations account for a smaller share of eligible voters than they did in 2016.

These projections from Pew — long considered the gold standard of polling research — are just that, based on demographic trends. But if the 2018 midterm election taught us anything, it taught us that conventional wisdom about certain voting habits and voting trends from past elections don’t necessarily apply anymore. The old polling models of who votes and in what numbers need a major overhaul.

Too bad pundits — and some candidates — haven’t learned that lesson.

It’s perfectly fine and even logical to look at traditional factors when trying to decide what voters are looking for in a 2020 presidential candidate. Although no one can predict who will show up on Election Day in 2020 (and who will cast ballots in the growing number of states with early and mail-in voting), exactly who those voters will be seems to be the most important factor of all.

The 50.3 percent voter turnout rate in 2018 hit a 50-year high for a midterm election, with 118 million certified votes. In 2014, turnout was 36.7 percent, the lowest turnout in 72 years. The 50-plus percent number is still lower than the average turnout in a modern presidential election, which usually ranges somewhere in the high 50th percentile — from 55.7 percent in 2004 to 61.6 percent in 2008.

Nevertheless, voter turnout in 2018 delivered some clues on new voting habits, and the voting shifts are worth noting. Voter registration surged in several states with key races, especially in the number of new young voters up to age 40. Much of that upsurge came after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, one year ago.

These factoids are from a compilation story by Bloomberg on voter numbers:

  • Voter turnout increased in House races across the country from 2014 to 2018. The vast majority shifted left.
  • Turnout from 2014 to 2018 increased in every district except two.
  • State election laws can influence turnout (see election results in Georgia, North Dakota, etc.).

Lots of factors can weigh on whether someone votes, but the biggest reason for high turnout in 2018 likely has more to do with the national political climate than local races and candidates.

“The obvious explanation is Donald Trump,” said Michael McDonald, associate professor of political science at the University of Florida who also runs the United States Election Project. “That really spurred an interest in politics—and whether you love him or hate him, you’re showing up to vote because you want to have your say.”

While it’s true that members of Trump’s base wanted to have their say, an even greater number of those who disapprove of Trump wanted to have their voices heard. We’ve seen these voting results reported many times since November 2018, but if you voted then, you probably will vote in 2020. According to another set of data from Pew Research about 2018:

  • The gender gap in voting preference is not new, but it is at least as wide as at any point over the past two decades.
  • Women college graduates stand out for their strong preference for the Democratic candidate.
  • Whites with less education — particularly men — supported the Republican.
  • Majorities of voters ages 18 to 29 (67%) and 30 to 44 (58%) favored the Democratic candidate.
  • Voters ages 45 and older were divided (50% Republican, 49% Democrat).

Probably the most important fact of all from Pew — because first-time voters are often given less weight in polling — “Among voters who said this was the first midterm in which they voted, 62% favored the Democrat and just 36% supported the Republican.”

So who will be the voters in 2020, and where will they come from? Here are more observations from Pew Research on the likely 2020 electorate and how they might vote:

  • Younger generations differ notably from older generations in their views on key social and political issues.
  • Nearly a quarter of the electorate (23%) will be 65 and older, reflecting not only the maturation of Baby Boomers but also increased life expectancy.
  • Baby Boomers and older generations, who will be 56 and older next year, are expected to account for fewer than four-in-ten eligible voters in 2020.
  • The changing racial and ethnic composition of the electorate likely has political implications in part because nonwhites have long been significantly more likely than whites to back Democratic candidates.

Probably the most interesting — and potentially most significant — projection from Pew:

Post-Millennials are on track to be more racially and ethnically diverse than their predecessors: In 2020, Gen Z eligible voters are expected to be 55% white and 45% nonwhite, including 21% Hispanic, 14% black, and 4% Asian or Pacific Islander. By comparison, the Boomer and older electorate is projected to be about three-quarters white (74%).

Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com recently joined former Obama economic adviser Austan Goolsbee at a forum at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics. Goolsbee, who teaches at U of C, and Silver, an alumnus, discussed predictions about 2016 and 2020. Silver still defends his 2016 work, since he said he gave Donald Trump a better chance of winning than other outlets. Yet for his 2020 predictions, he sees no reason to revamp his analytical model. “Not only do I think that adjustments are unnecessary, I think it’s the wrong thing to do,” Silver said. His current predictions are “even money” for a Trump reelection with a slight edge to California Sen. Kamala Harris to be the Democratic nominee. (Way to go out on a limb, there, Nate!) He further predicted a “messy election” and “trench warfare” in the Democratic primaries, despite the fact that most of the declared candidates enjoy collegial working relationships.

But after the 2018 election, how can anyone say that analytical models don’t need adjusting? The sheer number of women candidates and voters made up a very different electorate than past numbers would suggest. Almost every subgroup of women in CNN’s national exit polls moved towards Democrats, CNN reported days after the midterms. Those groups included white women, Latinas, white college-educated women, white non-college-educated women, Democratic women, and independent women. The percentage of black women voters — traditionally the most reliable Democratic voters of all — stayed about the same.

Maybe the Nate Silver of February 2019 should remember what the Nate Silver of November 2018 tweeted 10 days after the midterms (via a story from Vox):

As FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver pointed out, some 60 million people voted for Democrats in the House this year. That’s a big number, considering about 63 million people voted for Trump in 2016. …

Voters do appear to have been extra-engaged in 2018, and how that will translate over the next couple of years remains to be seen.

“Trump’s not going away in 2020,” McDonald said. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see record turnout.”

Any candidate who takes any voter for granted as we approach 2020 might find himself or herself on the losing end of an election — if he or she is on the ballot at all. Pundits who predict that “this is what voters are looking for” (as Politico did in a “How to Choose the Most Electable Democrat in 2020” piece) might as well turn in their laptops.

When “crazy socialist” ideas such as Medicare for all, greatly increased taxes on the wealthy, an ambitious climate action plan like the Green New Deal, and common-sense gun laws such as universal background checks are getting high support from voters, all bets could be off.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Feb. 17, 2019.

Parkland one year later: We’re still #MSDStrong

Young people led the March for Our Lives rally last spring. They haven’t given up, and neither should we.

In one sense, one year after 17 people died in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, nothing has changed. Then again, so much has changed.

The students who survived the shooting became national leaders as they worked through their heartfelt pain and anger. They spoke with eloquence, honesty, and facts. They weren’t afraid to call out the National Rifle Association and lawmakers who refused to take action on gun violence, often speaking through tears in videos that quickly went viral.

As student David Hogg, who was then managing editor of the student TV station at Stoneman Douglas and who will head to Harvard in the fall, reminded everyone: These kids knew what they were talking about when it came to facts about guns and violence. MSD students in debate classes and on the debate team had researched and argued about gun control the previous fall, gathering information that served them perfectly in their media interviews and talks with legislators.

Those students built a movement — one that went beyond gun violence. They spent the summer criss-crossing the country, registering young people to vote. They went from March For Our Lives to the Vote For Our Lives movement.

Attendance surged at meetings of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a group that saw an additional 500,000 people sign up, donate, and volunteer. Those same volunteers in their recognizable red shirts flooded state legislative sessions all year, making sure lawmakers felt pressure to enact common-sense gun safety laws. They had successes and disappointments, but last year eight states passed “red-flag” laws, which allow police to confiscate guns from people deemed to be a threat to themselves or others. Other states raised the age of allowable gun purchases, and several retailers stopped selling assault-style weapons.

Moms Demand also backed candidates running on a gun safety platform — an unheard-of position in days when the NRA seemingly had unstoppable influence. Many of those candidates won, both in primaries and in the midterm elections in November 2018. Now those elected officials are aiming for common-sense gun safety laws at the state and national level.

There has been no national gun safety legislation in decades. Yet now that Democrats are in the majority in the House, the House Judiciary Committee passed a measure that would require background checks for all gun sales and most gun transfers within the U.S. While it likely won’t even be voted on in the Republican-led Senate, much less be signed by Donald Trump, it forces the gun safety conversation out into the open.

Support for common-sense gun laws surged after the Parkland shooting. While that initial support has somewhat subsided, backing for universal background checks is still supported by 92 percent of Americans. Given that the NRA has lost much of its influence, I wouldn’t like to be a GOP lawmaker trying to explain to a constituent a vote against universal background checks.

In the year since the Parkland shooting, there have been nearly 350 mass shootings in the United States, or an average of about one a day. In the six-plus years since 20 children and six adults died in a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, there have been nearly 2,000 mass shootings.

And lest we forget, in remembering the Marjory Stone Douglas High School victims, Valentine’s Day marks another anniversary of a school mass shooting:

When will it stop?

Green New Deal rollout renews battle over climate change in Congress

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke about environmental issues at the January Women’s March in New York. Now the Green New Deal resolution shows that she means business.

Nearly every week brings news of another scientific study about the devastating effects of climate change and the critical importance of doing something to counteract it. With their new majority in the House of Representatives, Democrats now have a way to bring the issue to the forefront, and they’re going big. Because they’re not going home.

A joint resolution for a Green New Deal now has been released by New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Ed Markey. While it still doesn’t offer any actual legislative proposals, the resolution outlines more substantive details about the plan, which is a framework on how the country can move forward on climate action.

The overall aims of the Green New Deal, a jobs plan as well as an environmental one, are ambitious, to say the least. They include a plan to phase out fossil fuels and expand renewable energy by 2030, hoping for 100 percent use within 10 years; to build a national energy-efficient smart energy grid; and to create and guarantee millions of jobs at a living wage. A story on NPR said that “the Green New Deal framework combines big climate-change-related ideas with a wish list of progressive economic proposals that, taken together, would touch nearly every American and overhaul the economy.”

The nonbinding joint resolution is still more of an outline. The complete details of the proposal can be found online. These details are from the summary portion of the Green New Deal:

  • Five goals in 10 years, including net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.
  • National mobilization of the U.S. economy through 14 infrastructure and industrial projects, including upgrading and/or replacing every building in the U.S. for state-of-the-art energy efficiency.
  • Social and economic justice through 15 requirements, including job guarantees and “massive” federal investments to groups and businesses participating in the project.

Currently, the plan has backing from more than 65 House members and nine senators, including several 2020 Democratic hopefuls. Here’s a preliminary review from Vox:

It’s worth noting just what a high-wire act the authors of this resolution are attempting. It has to offer enough specifics to give it real shape and ambition, without overprescribing solutions or prejudging differences over secondary questions. It has to please a diverse range of interest groups, from environmental justice to labor to climate, without alienating any of them. It has to stand up to intense scrutiny (much of it sure to be bad faith), with lots of people gunning for it from both the right and center.

And of course, it eventually has to give birth to real legislation. …

The goals — achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, creating jobs, providing for a just transition, securing clean air and water — are broadly popular. The projects — things like decarbonizing electricity, transportation, and industry, restoring ecosystems, upgrading buildings and electricity grids — are necessary and sensible (if also extremely ambitious). …

Overall, this is about as strong an opening bid as anyone could have asked for.

The Sunrise Movement, the grassroots organization backing the Green New Deal, is asking voters to contact representatives and senators to be co-sponsors of the resolution. To build support and to show that they mean business, Sunrise Movement members plan to visit and even occupy congressional offices personally in mid-February in an action described as “Operation Green New Deal Blitz.”

Democrats began the environmental salvo by holding three House hearings on climate issues, concentrating on topics ranging from climate change itself to actions by the Interior Department during the partial government shutdown that kept oil drilling open. A story from Think Progress described the new focus:

“[This is] the issue of our time, the challenge of our time, the opportunity of our time,” said Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY), who chairs the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on the environment.

Testimony followed from scientists and economic experts, who helped to lay out a “green transition” — an eventual decarbonization of the economy coupled with the creation of new jobs in sectors like renewable energy.

At the same time, a second hearing on Capitol Hill, chaired by Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), also took aim at climate change. “In 2018, there were 14 weather and climate disasters, each with damages over $1 billion, total cost $91 billion,” Grijalva said.

The response from most Republicans was predictable. A few, such as Oregon Republican Rep. Greg Walden, described the need for bipartisan climate action. But Walden never bothered to hold a hearing devoted to climate chance when he was chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Most of the GOP representatives who bothered to show up at the hearings attacked the new emphasis on climate action as a form of “socialism,” “too expensive,” and an ill-thought-out proposal from new members Congress who are “too young” to know any better. From another Think Progress report:

Words and phrases like “socialism” and “top down” and “Soviet-style” are beginning to be used by Republicans to describe the Green New Deal, a major policy proposal to rapidly reduce emissions. The proposal has quickly gained momentum since the midterm elections in November through the popularity of one of its primary boosters, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and the youth-led nonprofit, the Sunrise Movement.

Republicans like Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado cited the 10-year-old proposal from the U.S. Green Party, not the new plan, in focusing his criticisms. Lamborn said the U.S. military would have to “close all overseas bases.” Not to be outdone, Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas claimed that the environmental plan would make America less safe. “We will not be able to protect ourselves properly from the threat of Russia, China, and even ISIS,” Gohmert said. (The always fact-challenged Gohmert didn’t provide specifics.)

It’s hard to fathom how cutting greenhouse gas emissions would embolden ISIS. So instead of Gohmert’s imaginary threats, here are reports of actual new environmental threats, including the fact that 2018 was the fourth hottest year on record. But the fact that it was fourth warmest means only that it barely got beat by the three years that preceded it.

Two new analyses from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration gave the data about 2018.

Global temperatures in 2018 were 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit (0.83 degrees Celsius) warmer than the 1951 to 1980 mean, according to scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York. Globally, 2018’s temperatures rank behind those of 2016, 2017 and 2015. The past five years are, collectively, the warmest years in the modern record.

Rising temperatures also play havoc with the oceans. Climate change will subtly alter the color of the world’s oceans, intensifying its blue and green regions, by the end of the 21st century. This isn’t a cosmetic change; it reflects significant changes to marine phytoplankton, or algae, which makes up the foundation of the marine food web. In other words, the less phytoplankton, the less life. The researchers who developed a model to measure the loss of phytoplankton published their results in Nature Communications. Their predictions said these color changes signal “early warning of wide-scale changes to marine ecosystems.”

Of course there was no mention of climate change in Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech, only braggadocio about fossil fuel dominance (a claim that wasn’t even true). There was no mention of the increased number of extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change. Nor did he talk about the two new major reports (including one from his own government) warning that the world has 12 years to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Trump always is derisive about climate change and climate action, as his tweets showed during the recent polar vortex cold snap. But one thing that the election of Trump has accomplished: A lot more Americans are now more worried about the issue. According to a piece by Maggie Koerth-Baker at FiveThirtyEight:

Americans are just more interested in climate change, in general, than they used to be. Polls suggest that in the past two years, the American public started to believe more in climate change — and worry more about its impacts.

So what gives? Big natural disasters probably have something to do with it, but both the journalists and the sociologists I spoke to think there’s another factor at play. As Slate’s science editor, Susan Matthews, put it: The urgency of climate change was one thing before President Trump’s election and something else entirely after. …

Ultimately, it would probably take both public support and presidential support to reduce the threat of climate change. And, for the last 40 years, those two things haven’t lined up very well.

Given that last year gave us 14 weather and climate disasters, according to NOAA, totaling around $91 billion in damages and killing at least 247 people, it’s way past time for presidential support.

Since many of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have announced support of a Green New Deal, the time for action could be January 2021. The question is: How long will Republican senators hold out?

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Feb. 10, 2019.

Hey, Howard Schultz: We don’t need another unqualified, inexperienced billionaire as president

Let people drink your overpriced coffee. Now take your money and go home.

When you’re white, male, and super-rich, you must think that the rest of the world owes you their attention.

And too many in the media (many also white, male, and wealthy, if not super-rich) are treating the teases from former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz about running as an independent as the most important story in the 2020 presidential race.

Note to media: Didn’t you learn anything from your mistakes in 2016? That’s how we ended up with Donald Trump.

Schultz is all over the airwaves with his pronouncements, from 60 Minutes to The View to NPR’s Morning Edition to a slew of morning shows. He doesn’t offer specifics about any policies. When it comes down to it, he just doesn’t want to pay any more in taxes, so he trashes all Democratic plans suggesting that idea. He thinks that gives him a “centrist” platform that will appeal to independents, saying that politics in America is “broken,” yada yada yada..

Maybe this is just a big ego trip for Schultz. Maybe it’s all about hyping sales for his new memoir, From the Ground Up. Maybe this is all a trial balloon that is soon going to pop. But we got the same “trial balloon” assurances about Trump in 2015.

Schultz says he’s a “lifelong Democrat” and has contributed thousands of dollars to Democratic candidate. (Of course, being a “lifelong Democrat” doesn’t mean he always bothered to vote.) Democrats are understandably furious that he might siphon enough votes away from a Democratic nominee to deliver a second Trump term. A new internal poll done by Schultz’ own people showed him drawing 17 percent support (highly unlikely) and tipping the election to Trump. Many moderate current or former members of Congress — from both parties — also are giving the idea of a Schultz candidacy a big thumbs-down.

Schultz repeats the centrist pablum that “both parties are broken” and that voters want more choices. A Politico story on Schultz destroys that argument.

Every election year, polls show that a majority of Americans say they would like to see a third party or independent candidate—and then they never vote for one. The fantasy of a Democratic-Republican unity ticket looks appealing until it runs up against the brick wall of policy. Schultz’s initial ventures into specifics are less than encouraging. Asked what he thought the corporate tax rate should be, he said, “I don’t want to talk in the hypothetical about what I would do if I was president.” Memo to Howard: That’s called “running for president.”

Schultz is hardly the first to want to use his wealth to run for office. So if he is really interested, let him do what others have done: Develop a platform and run in primary contests.

One fair metric is how have other billionaires have performed in public office. There are many examples of awful governance, such as Trump and Florida’s Rick Scott. Others, such as New York’s Michael Bloomberg and other wealthy leaders over the course of American history, have done better. But most of them at least started out in some form of public service.

Here in Illinois, the winner in the gubernatorial contest last November was billionaire J.B. Pritzker, whose fortune comes from the Hyatt Hotel chain and private equity investment. Pritzker spent $171 million of his own money in the election. (His opponent, GOP incumbent and near-billionaire Bruce Rauner, spent close to $70 million of his own money on the race, after spending millions four years ago.)

Rauner made a fortune in a private equity firm before he switched to politics. He eked out a win in 2014 in a bad year for Democrats. He had never sought public office before, and it quickly became clear that he didn’t know what he was doing. Illinois didn’t have a budget for more than two years because he had no idea how to deal with the Democratic majority in the Illinois Legislature (which has its own issues, but we won’t dwell on those here). He, like Schultz, claimed he was socially moderate and fiscally conservative. Rauner was a complete failure as governor.

It’s way too early in the game to judge Pritzker as the state’s chief executive — also his first elected office. But at least he’s been involved in politics before. In college, he served as a congressional aide to a California congressman. He worked on political campaigns and served on the staff of Illinois Sen. Alan Dixon. His foundation focuses on early childhood health, nutrition, and education initiatives.

With his wealth, he has formed political alliances with Democrats through campaign donations. During his campaign, he also formed alliances with several unions that backed him. Although some campaign positions were short on specifics, he backs action on progressive issues that matter such as climate change, gun violence, and more. He was very clear about backing a progressive income tax for the state — a tax in which he would pay more, not less.

People enter politics and public service from all walks of life, and with a wide variety of experience. There’s no rule that a successful CEO can’t run for office, and he or she doesn’t necessarily have to choose one of the major political parties.

But just because Schultz made a fortune with his Starbucks franchises doesn’t mean he’s qualified to be commander in chief. Or formulate foreign policy. Or oversee the executive branch of the government.

Schultz already has hired some top talent for his possible team. Republican Steve Schmidt, a GOP strategist who worked on John McCain’s 2008 campaign, became a “never Trumper” and an analyst for MSNBC. On the other side, Bill Burton, who worked on President Obama’s 2008 campaign and went on to serve as Obama’s deputy press secretary, also is on board. Talk about strange bedfellows.

Schmidt already had become an outsider to Republicans because of his Trump criticism and his MSNBC job. Burton is now drawing the vitriol of Democrats. Interestingly, in the 2016 contest, Burton often warned against voting for a third-party candidate, lest that throw the race to Trump.

Good luck getting work in politics after this gig, guys.

Maybe this whole thing is just a ploy to make sure that tax rates for rich people don’t go up. Declared candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren has been very clear in her plan to tax the super-rich. Freshman Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez has suggested raising the tax rate as high as 70 percent on income over $10 million, all to fund the Green New Deal. Raising taxes on the wealthy is turning out to be a popular idea as well — a Fox News poll says 85 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of Republicans want to raise taxes on those making over $10 million.

Of course, the wealthy don’t want to pay any more. MSBNC’s Joy Reid tweeted that one “charitable” reading of Schultz’s presidential tease is “an attempt to terrify Democratic primary voters into nominating someone who vows NOT to raise his taxes to give broke people college and healthcare.”

That’s probably the most likely reason for Schultz’s ego-filled crusade — keeping his money. Third-party candidates who run for president don’t win. Schultz would probably do better to take Washington Post columnist Alexandra Petri’s advice to go to space.

Going to space will satisfy the primary urge that motivates runs for president: the desire to spend vast amounts of money on something not useful. But, unlike running for president, it combines all the fun of wasting money on something not immediately helpful to anyone with all the fun of not accidentally contributing to a second term for Donald Trump! Schultz has said it is time to rise above the party system. Well, how better to rise above the party system than to climb aboard a spaceship and hover at least 62 miles above the Earth, probably even farther?

Actually, we need to give Howard Schultz the same advice that too many gave to Hillary Clinton after Clinton — the most experienced and qualified person ever to run for the office of president — received and still receives from too many (mostly male) pundits and political activists:


More and more Americans believe in #ClimateChange. When will lawmakers catch up?

Increased frequency of extreme weather events, like Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Florida, is causing people to feel the effects of climate change personally.

Defying GOP denial, a growing number of Americans now say they believe that climate change is happening — and is affecting them personally.

A new report says that 73 percent of Americans believe that the climate is changing, and 72 percent say that change is personally important to them. “The proportion of Americans who are very worried about global warming has more than tripled since its lowest point in 2011,” says the report’s executive summary.

The report comes from a survey by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication. Besides the increase in beliefs about climate change, 62 percent now say that such change is caused by human actions, an increase of 10 points since 2015. Only one in seven Americans believes that global warming is not occurring.

Why the increase? It’s mainly because of extreme weather. More frequent and intense hurricanes, prolonged droughts, hotter wildfires, bigger floods, and an increased number of tornadoes have convinced a big majority of Americans that it’s past time to take the issue seriously. According to a story about the report in The Guardian:

About two-thirds of Americans believe that global warming is influencing the weather, in the wake of a string of deadly extreme events in the US. About half say the disastrous wildfires in California and Hurricanes Florence and Michael, which flattened parts of North Carolina and Florida, were worsened because of rising global temperatures.

The Yale survey results mirror the findings of a similar new poll by the University of Chicago and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, which found that seven in 10 Americans believe in climate change. That poll measured how much the public is willing to pay to counteract the effects of global warming. A $1 surcharge to a monthly electric bill to fight climate change was OK with a majority of Americans, but more expensive surcharges gained less support. Overall, 44 percent were in favor of a carbon tax compared with 29 percent opposed.

To no one’s surprise, the difference in beliefs and attitudes is partisan. As the Guardian story says, “While 86% of Democrats say climate change is happening, just 52% of Republicans concur.”

This is why Democrats are willing to tackle the problem, with many lawmakers willing to sign on with an ambitious program like the Green New Deal, even as the details of that deal are still being developed. Republicans, unfortunately, are busy sticking their heads in overheated sand.

Here are just a few of the conclusions in the Yale study’s executive summary:

  • More than half of Americans (57%) understand that most scientists agree that global warming is happening, the highest level since 2008. However, only one in five (20%) understand how strong the level of consensus among scientists is (i.e., that more than 90% of climate scientists have concluded that human-caused global warming is happening).
  • Nearly half of Americans (46%) say they have personally experienced the effects of global warming, an increase of 15 percentage points since March 2015.
  • About half or more Americans think they (49%), their family (56%), and/or people in their community (57%) will be harmed by global warming. Even more think global warming will harm people in the U.S. (65%), the world’s poor (67%), people in developing countries (68%), plant and animal species (74%), and/or future generations of people (75%).
  • About two in three Americans (65%) think global warming is affecting weather in the United States, and three in ten think weather is being affected “a lot” (32%). About half think global warming made the 2018 wildfires in the Western U.S. (50%) and/or hurricanes Florence and Michael (49%) worse.

You can link to the entire report here.

There’s nothing like seeing footage of burning homes in a California wildfire or photos of rubble where houses once stood after a hurricane to convince people that the problem is real and getting worse.

A story on the AP-NORC poll in The Hill explained that personally experiencing extreme weather events is behind the uptick in attitudes. Those experiences also have led to a limited willingness to pay a price to counter the effects of climate change, the poll suggested.

Three-quarters said weather events like hurricanes, droughts and floods influenced their views, the most of any of the options polltakers presented to respondents.

Eighty-three percent of those polled who believe in climate change want the federal government to take action to mitigate it, and 80 percent want their state governments to act, the survey found.

“It is striking that 67 percent of respondents support a carbon tax when the funds would be used to restore the environment, compared to 49 percent when the funds are rebated to households,” Michael Greenstone, director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, said in a statement. …

Given a handful of options for where the funds raised from a carbon tax would go, 67 percent said they would be most supportive of a tax if it paid to restore forests, wetlands and other natural areas.

There’s no chance of anything happening on the national level as long as there’s a Republican majority in the Senate and Donald Trump is in the White House. During the recent spate of cold weather and snow, one of Trump’s snide tweets said he wished for some “good old fashioned Global Warming right now!”

News flash, Donald: It’s winter. And massive winter storms are just one manifestation of global warming.

Hey, at least Trump is not saying that climate change should be left to a “much higher authority,” as Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed on Fox News.

More immediate action is being tried at state and local levels. States have passed their own laws and regulations, with California leading the way with an ambitious set of energy laws. But it’s not the only state doing so.

The U.S. Climate Alliance was formed by a bipartisan group of governors (most are Democrats, but not all) representing states that are taking their own actions to fight climate change. The alliance originally had 12 members and is now up to 17 states and Puerto Rico. Illinois became the newest member in January when new Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed an executive order to join the group.

If your state isn’t part of the list (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington), it’s worth contacting your state officials to find out why and to apply a little pressure.

The group has three core principles:

  • States are continuing to lead on climate change. All of the states recognize the serious threat to the environment, people, communities, and the economy.
  • State-level climate action is helping the economy and strengthening communities. These states are creating new jobs in clean energy industries while cutting air pollution and boosting public health.
  • Climate Alliance states are showing the nation and the world that ambitious climate action is achievable.

The alliance now “represents 43 percent of the U.S. population and a nearly $10 trillion economy. The climate and clean energy policies of these states have created 1.4 million renewable energy and energy efficiency jobs, equivalent to over half of all clean energy jobs in the United States,” according to the alliance website.

So states representing nearly half the U.S. population are moving ahead with their own programs. But it’s going to take replacing GOP troglodytes, starting at the top, to really make a difference.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Jan. 27, 2019.

Nancy Pelosi: The real master of the ‘Art of the Deal’

Once again, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi showed everyone how it’s done.

Can we finally retire the narratives against Nancy Pelosi?

You remember the ones — they come up every election season. They’re false, they’re unfair, and after Pelosi stood her ground against Donald Trump, they should be put to bed once and for all.

She can’t be effective. Excuse me, but who led the fight for the Affordable Care Act, the type of health care legislation that Democrats had tried to enact for over 50 years? There were endless hearings about health care throughout 2009, and the original legislation kept getting pared down. When Democrats lost a Massachusetts Senate seat in January 2009, losing a cloture-proof majority, some Democrats were ready to throw in the towel. Even Rahm Emanuel, chief of staff to President Obama, wanted to focus on a piecemeal approach.

It was Pelosi who insisted: “We don’t say a state that already has health care should determine whether the rest of the country should. We will get the job done. I’m very confident. I’ve always been confident.” And it passed.

She represents “San Francisco values.” Every election season, Republicans are likely to run ads about and show photos of Pelosi in local House races, telling voters that voting for a Democrat will put the evil Nancy Pelosi back in power. The GOP really revved it up this time. Of course, Republican operatives hoped that voters would think that “San Francisco values” would translate to evil, tax-and-spend liberalism.

Pelosi raised money and worked for Democratic candidates all around the country. And the Democrats flipped 40 seats. Sounds like those values are working fine.

She’s too old. This comes up every election, driven more by the media than anyone actually running. The Atlantic suggested that having a speaker as old as Pelosi (she’s 78) was the reason that that young, talented Democrats were fleeing the House. Um, hello? Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat who voted for Pelosi for speaker, is now the youngest House member in history.

Too many Democrats buy into that narrative, and the media, thinking it must be a major story, dutifully asked just about every candidate if they would support Pelosi for speaker. Several said no and ended up voting for her anyway. After three weeks back on the job, she successfully stood up to Trump as no other politician — Republican or Democrat — has had the guts to do. A story on Vox pointed out that Pelosi handed Trump “the most humiliating loss of his presidency.”

Trump found his wall, and her name is Nancy Pelosi.

As a woman who will be signing up for Medicare myself before too long, I always roll my eyes at the ageism attack. Women of a certain age know more than anyone else about the bias against middle-age and older women — try applying for a job if you’re over 55. But we’re the ones who get the job done.

As author Sady Doyle wrote in Medium:

Nancy Pelosi is old. Her Republican opponents have been spreading the word on that for ages: Donald Trump Jr. called her “tired old Nancy Pelosi” in a campaign ad. Sarah Palin and Lindsay Graham joked about her getting face lifts. Former House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy called her the face of “the old, old past” on Fox News. Beneath the competent, lifelong politician, these critics warn us, there’s a 78-year-old grandma with wrinkled skin  —  do you really want that making decisions about your health care? …

Pelosi herself has answered the critique many times over: “Oh, you’ve always asked that question, except to Mitch McConnell… It’s quite offensive, but you don’t realize that, I guess,” she told a reporter in 2012. Pelosi claimed that she has always worked to elect younger representatives to Congress and was particularly interested in electing young women: “I wanted women to be here in greater numbers at an earlier age so that their seniority would start to account much sooner.”

But, then, that’s the problem: “Women” and “seniority” are not supposed to occur in the same sentence. The act of building a life over time, of working one’s way up to leadership or securing a position as a respected elder, is denied to us. Age, experience, and authority are intrinsically connected for men; we’ve all grown up with images of sage, white-bearded elder statesmen. We still live in a society where men are supposed to age into power and women are supposed to age out of sight. …

Our drive to remove old women from positions of visibility and power is also a drive to obliterate female solidarity and deny the feminist movement any lasting legacy. We don’t want to just edge those women out of their positions; we want to deny that their work ever mattered in the first place. After losing the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton was not just told to shut up and go away every time she appeared in public; she was erased from the history books in one Texas school district. …

It does no good to support a young leader like Ocasio-Cortez now if we intend to drop her the second she gets her first gray hair. … Movements cannot progress if they cannot remember where they started, and when feminist movements eat their elders, we condemn ourselves to be forever running in circles. Nancy Pelosi is old. Every young woman will be old someday, God willing. We can only hope that by the time we get there, being old is no longer a reason to throw us away.

Thank goodness that enough people remembered that lesson to value the experience of leadership. And some are learning it all over again.

Six rules for the media on how to cover the 2020 election

News on the next presidential race will be reported nonstop. How can the media do better this time around?

With the entrance of multiple Democrats into the 2020 presidential contest, and with several others either waiting in the wings or still pondering, the nation’s political reporters have a chance to do a better job than they did in 2016.

The question is: Will they?

Other journalists are offering advice and warnings. Many acknowledge that the media blew it in 2016, giving Donald Trump all the airtime he wanted and not taking him seriously — or looking at him critically — until it was too late.

Once media stopped giving Trump superficial treatment (especially after the election), pointing out his failures, never-ending lies, and actions of questionable legality (most of them aren’t so questionable), it was too late. Too many voters believed his taunts about the media being “fake news” and the “enemy of the people,” so they’re not likely to give the media the benefit of the doubt now. (A recent Poynter study showed that trust in the media is heavily polarized.) And because he is the president, the media have to cover him, even though they sometimes take the wrong approach in that coverage.

So the cycle begins anew. Democratic candidates announce, and women candidates are judged on their “moralizing tone” (Elizabeth Warren), their “hysteria” (Kamala Harris), or their “likability” (Kirsten Gillibrand and Elizabeth Warren). Sometimes candidates are dismissed immediately because they’re too old or too young, they’re no longer relevant, or their time has passed.

It’s true that most Americans — nearly seven in 10 people, according to Pew Research — feel exhausted and overwhelmed by the news. But that’s no reason to give short shrift to substantive issues for the 2020 election. If anything, news consumers want substance, not just coverage of the latest Trump tweet.

So what should the media do this time around? Here are six tips, compiled from advice by several journalists, along with some well-rounded common sense.

Don’t let Trump continually set the agenda. Trump is a master at saying, doing, or tweeting something outrageous to distract everyone from the government shutdown, the seesawing stock market, the effects of his tariffs, and the Robert Mueller investigation. He might have looked like a buffoon for serving cold fast food to the Clemson Tigers championship football team, but the whole time he was being trolled or Photoshopped on Twitter, coverage of the shutdown got moved to a back burner.

Frank Bruni offered his take in a New York Times column, wondering if the media would once again be Trump’s “accomplice.”

That’s a specific question but also an overarching one — about the degree to which we’ll let him set the terms of the 2020 presidential campaign, about our appetite for antics versus substance, and about whether we’ll repeat the mistakes that we made in 2016 and continued to make during the first stages of his presidency. There were plenty.

Trump tortures us. Deliberately, yes, but I’m referring to the ways in which he keeps yanking our gaze his way. I mean the tough choices that he, more than his predecessors in the White House, forces us to make. …

Our success or failure will affect our stature at a time of rickety public trust in us. It will raise or lower the temperature of civic discourse, which is perilously hot. Above all, it will have an impact on who takes the oath of office in January 2021. Democracies don’t just get the leaders they deserve. They get the leaders who make it through whatever obstacle course — and thrive in whatever atmosphere — their media has created.

Don’t cover Trump tweets like the Second Coming. The media asked themselves a serious question at the start of Trump’s term, namely, how should they cover his tweets? Since he wasn’t bothering with news conferences, and most interviews were on friendly Fox News turf, many a newscast leads with whatever spewed from his fingers in 280 characters or less.

In hindsight, the endless parroting was the wrong decision. It’s likely that many of his millions of Twitter followers are Russian bots (61 percent by some estimates), but a large number of them are in the media. Even when reporters don’t lead a story with a Trump tweet, they’ll often retweet whatever Trump said, often with a caustic comment. Guess what — he still gets his message out.

Stick to the substantive, not the superficial. Endless stories about who’s up and who’s down (while eventually necessary) rely more about name recognition than anything else. A story on how Democrats are polling in January of 2019 when no votes will be cast for a year is easy to write but meaningless.

Katrina vanden Heuvel pointed out the media’s “malpractice” in a Washington Post column and warned against a repeat:

As the 2020 presidential race gets underway, many journalists and pundits are already reverting to the personality-driven, horse-race-style coverage that plagued the 2016 campaign. During her first campaign stop in Iowa, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) talked passionately about taking on corporate power and tackling inequality in front of overflow crowds. In the corporate media, however, much of the coverage of Warren’s campaign rollout focused on her decision to take a DNA test and on implicitly sexist questions about her “likability.” …

Mainstream media coverage is frequently motivated by an insatiable desire for conflict — in war zones, on the campaign trail and in the nation’s capital. Too often, however, that coverage fails to inform people about conflicting ideas or alternatives to endless war, discredited economic policies and a downsized politics of excluded possibilities. As the new House majority rolls out its agenda and more presidential candidates enter the fray, outlets should reevaluate how they cover politics and policy. We can’t afford more media malpractice that degrades our democracy and drowns out real debate.

Don’t treat Trump like he’ll last forever. He won’t, even though sometimes it feels that way. While he certainly dominates news coverage and will always try to shout the loudest, he’s only as effective as his ratings.

Ted Koppel, a longtime veteran of “Nightline” at ABC News who now contributes to CBS News’ “Sunday Morning,” wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that Trump won’t “go quietly.” Koppel described Trump’s media mastery as “a multipurpose device, one he used adroitly in tandem with the endlessly adaptable political vehicle provided by social media during the election campaign and now during his presidency.”

Is there any reason to believe that what worked for Trump before he was elected and while in the White House won’t be equally effective after he leaves office? …

It is all but inevitable that whoever succeeds Trump in the White House will be perceived by 30 to 40 percent of the voting public as illegitimate — and that the former president will enthusiastically encourage them in this perception. Whatever his failings, Trump is a brilliant self-promoter and provocateur. He showed no embarrassment, either as candidate or president, about using his high visibility to benefit his business interests. Untethered from any political responsibility whatsoever, he can be expected to capitalize fully on his new status as political martyr and leader of a new “resistance” that will make today’s look supine.

I’m not so sure about that. As many of today’s rising political stars (think Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Beto O’Rourke) are showing, they can master social media as well as Trump, thank you very much. And they offer a fresher and more relatable image for younger voters. Plus, they’re more fun, and they’re not jerks.

Keep horse-race stories to a minimum, and make sure to offer perspective. Look, we all click on FiveThirtyEight.com regularly to check out poll numbers; otherwise, our political junkie credentials would be revoked. Every news organization runs polls now, just to keep up. (This is true even as there are reports of bribery to rig polls and Trump manipulating poll coverage.) Horse-race numbers end up dominating news coverage, throughout primary season, during the political conventions, and as Election Day approaches.

Politico ran a piece in defense of horse-race journalism, calling it “awesome.”

Horseracism might be scary if the campaign press corps produced nothing but who’s up/who’s down stories. But that’s never been the case. American newspapers overflow with detailed stories about the issues and the candidates’ positions.

“Overflow”? Since when?

At the end of the 2008 campaign, Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell sorted Post political coverage over the previous year and found 1,295 horse-race stories compared with 594 stories about the issues.

Those numbers are pretty lopsided; I rest my case. Still, Politico makes some important points. Voters want to back a winner and don’t want to waste campaign contributions on a losing candidate.

It’s not antidemocratic for journalists to measure support by checking polls, campaign donations, audience size and endorsements. In fact, such signaling makes democracy possible. Especially in the opening days of a candidacy, a politician must alert potential supporters of his existing supporters. Not many voters will join a bandwagon that doesn’t have followers or wheels.

Horse-race coverage also helps clarify the voters’ minds when candidates converge on the issues, as happens regularly in the Democratic presidential derbies. If there’s little difference between the views of the candidate you favor and the leader’s, horse-race coverage helps optimize your vote by steering you toward the politician most likely to implement your views. Pundits aren’t the only ones who worry about a candidate’s electability.

Finally, the most important piece of advice:

Lay off the both-siderism. Of all the things that make reading or watching political coverage maddening, it is the false equivalency of reporting on one candidate’s shortcomings and then feeling the need to “balance” the story with something damning about the other candidate. Probably no one suffered the effects of this more than Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Here’s just one example: The Clinton Foundation gets a four-star rating from Charity Navigator and has spent millions fighting AIDS in Africa, and no one in the Clinton family draws a salary for foundation work. The Trump Foundation gave money to a political candidate, used funds to pay Trump legal bills, and is being closed down. Yet you would have had to dig for such differences in 2016, when the media were all too eager to quote some Republican calling the Clinton Foundation corrupt.

Washington Monthly offered some perspective:

We’ve also seen that some people in the media are finally recognizing that the polarization we’re experiencing in politics these days is asymmetrical, with Republicans doing things to deepen, rather than heal the divide. And yet, the kind of both-siderism that gave us Donald Trump in the first place continues to find a home in too many places. …

The reason [NBC’s Chuck] Todd and [Cook Political Report’s Amy] Walter don’t accuse Democrats of bad behavior in the current process is because there hasn’t been any on display. That isn’t a partisan assessment, it is a fact. Accurate reporting would confirm the facts rather than go in search of a way to claim that both sides do it. Todd and Walter engaged in a distortion that gives Republicans a pass for what they are doing, which makes reporters like them complicit.

Welcome to the 2020 race. As Bette Davis said in All About Eve, “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Jan. 20, 2019.


The human costs of the Trump shutdown

Uncollected garbage piling up outside the White House Visitor Center is just a symbol of the garbage inside the White House itself.

Make no mistake: Donald Trump’s decision to throw temper tantrums and keep the government shut down until he gets his $5.7 billion border wall is hurting people. And the shutdown is going to hurt a lot more people before it’s over.

The worst-off, of course, are those employees who won’t get paid and are genuinely fearful about their ability to make a rent or mortgage payment. They’re worried about how they’ll afford groceries in the coming weeks to feed their families. They wonder where they’ll find the money for school fees. Whether those nearly 800,000 people are furloughed or forced to work without pay, it’s all the same — there won’t be money for necessities. There are stories about workers starting GoFundMe pages to pay rent. At least the Coast Guard was embarrassed enough to take down its online tip sheet suggesting that employees hold yard sales or babysit to make ends meet.

But sooner or later, we’re all going to feel the effects of the Trump shutdown, one way or another.

Those who don’t depend on the government for a paycheck might not realize how cutting off government services when employees aren’t around can affect all of us. Whether it’s curtailing a visit to a national park, waiting in a long line to board a plane, or worrying whether the food you buy at the grocery store is safe, this Trump shutdown is starting to mean inconveniences and hardships for many Americans.

The Center for American Progress issued an analysis that put the amount of missed paychecks at $2 billion every two weeks. That’s a lot of money to remove from the economy, even for a short time.

As the shutdown continues, it will get worse. “By the White House’s own estimate — which is lower than some outside forecasts — this shutdown will likely reduce quarterly U.S. GDP by 0.1 percent every two weeks that it continues,” the analysis estimated.

Since first-quarter GDP is projected to be roughly $5 trillion, Trump’s shutdown will cost the U.S. economy $5 billion in lost output every two weeks it continues based on the administration’s own impact estimate. That’s $2.5 billion per week, $357 million per day, or $15 million per hour.

An estimate reported in Politico was lower — $1.2 billion a week. But that could be enough to have ripple effects throughout the economy, such as lowering the country’s credit rating and causing an overall economic slowdown.

It’s tough enough for families of government workers. But those withheld funds also mean businesses where those workers would usually spend money are hurting, too. No federal workers buying lunch at a local deli. No families going out to dinner. No trips to the movies. No purchases at local stores and malls. Whole communities feel the effects.

We know that Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., are closed. We’ve all seen photos of garbage piling up on the National Mall and at national parks, even as groups of Muslim youths are volunteering to take care of that trash. Seven people have died at national parks since the shutdown began, as there is little supervision for visitors. Some parks, like Joshua Tree National Park in California, have closed their gates rather than risk more human injury and damage to the parks themselves.

But when it comes to public safety, the effect of the Trump shutdown soon could be much more widespread. Here are just a few of the ways the shutdown is causing inconveniences and creating dangers for the U.S. population:

Food safety. The Food and Drug Administration oversees about 80 percent of the nation’s food supply. With workers furloughed, the FDA “has suspended all routine inspections of domestic food-processing facilities,” according to a story in The Washington Post. The FDA typically conducts about 160 inspections a week, and a third of those are done at high-risk facilities.

Although FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb was planning to bring back some workers to inspect facilities that handle higher-risk foods such as cheese, seafood, and vegetables, there’s no way the number of those workers could be enough to meet the need. As the Post reported:

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit advocacy group, described the inspection reductions as unacceptable.

“That puts our food supply at risk,” said Sarah Sorscher, deputy director of regulatory affairs at the group. “Regular inspections, which help stop foodborne illness before people get sick, are vital.”

Foodborne illnesses are a major problem in the United States, sickening 48 million people each year and killing 3,000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates.

Romaine lettuce, anyone?

The safety net. Poor Americans count on government assistance for a variety of services, and those services are getting cut off. Whether it’s nutrition programs, housing subsidies, or low-interest housing loans through the government doesn’t matter; many are on hold.

Funding for food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is guaranteed only through February. The more entrenched Trump gets, the less likely it is that those relying on such aid will be guaranteed that benefit. And it’s a lot of people. Says a report by CBS News:

According to the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 42 million Americans received SNAP benefits in 2017. More than 68 percent of participants were in families with children, and more than 44 percent were in working families. …

Staffing for Food and Nutrition Services, which oversees the Child Nutrition Programs, SNAP, and WIC [Women, Infants, and Children], has been cut by 95 percent since the shutdown began.

Others are going hungry now. According to another story from The Washington Post:

Already, more than 2,500 grocers and other retailers are no longer accepting food stamps because their SNAP licenses were not renewed before the shutdown started Dec. 22, according to the Food Marketing Institute, an industry group.

Federal funding has also been shut off for cash welfare benefits, known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), for 3.4 million of the poorest Americans, the majority of whom are children.

It’s not just food; it’s also housing.

If the government does not fully reopen by Feb. 1, nearly 270,000 rural families who receive federal rent subsidies through the Agriculture Department would also be at risk of eviction because their landlords would no longer be paid, said Bob Rapoza, executive secretary of the National Rural Housing Coalition.

“These are the poorest rural people in the country,” Rapoza said. “They’re farmworkers, they’re senior citizens, they’re disabled.” …

And another 100,000 low-income tenants are already at risk because HUD did not have staff in place during the shutdown to renew at least 1,150 affordable housing contracts that expired in December.

That means apartment owners will not be paid and must now dip into their reserves to cover their mortgages which they may not be able to do indefinitely.

Fear of flying. Employees of the Transportation Security Administration must show up for work, even when they don’t receive a paycheck. But many of those who screen travelers at the nation’s airports have been calling in sick. Some are threatening to resign all together — or already have done so. According to a story on Politico:

The American Federation of Government Employees, which represents a chunk of TSA employees, said screeners were becoming increasingly panicked as the partial shutdown drags on. …

“Every day, I’m getting calls from my members about their extreme hardships and need for a paycheck,” Hydrick Thomas, president of AFGE’s TSA Council, said. “Some of them have already quit and many are considering quitting the federal workforce because of this shutdown.”

He added that a wave of resignations could create “a massive security risk for American travelers” since TSA cannot hire new screeners during a shutdown.

It’s one thing to be bothered by the inconvenience of long lines at airports when there aren’t enough TSA agents to process travelers. It’s a more serious safety concern when there are personnel shortages in air traffic control towers.

And TSA agents aren’t the only transportation employees on furlough: so are accident investigators who work for the National Transportation Safety Board. That means that the NTSB is having to postpone investigating serious crashes. According to Politico, the NTSB had to put off probes of 12 serious accidents. So far.

Those incidents include a tractor-trailer crash with a school bus that injured 15 people and a general aviation crash that killed four. In four other incidents, the shutdown prevented NTSB from gathering enough evidence to even decide whether it should launch an investigation or not.

Data not found. The loss of data collection might not cause any personal hardships now, but the lack of such data will hurt us all in the long run. Pew Research has a compilation of all the agencies that have stopped collecting and supplying data, “affecting everyone from investors and farmers to researchers and journalists.” Those include the Census Bureau, statistical offices in the Agriculture Department, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and more. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is up and running, but it might not have next month’s job numbers because part of its data collection is done with the Census Bureau.

The Center for American Progress did a breakdown of how the shutdown is affecting seven states — seven states where Republican senators face re-election in 2020. A few of those senators, such as Colorado’s Corey Gardner and Maine’s Susan Collins, have said publicly that they want to reopen the government without funding Trump’s vanity wall.

Another of those senators is Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who — so far, at least — shows no sign of budging and refuses to let senators vote on the House-passed bill to fund the government. You know — the same bill that passed on a voice vote in the Senate back in December.

“More than 6,000 federal government employees in Kentucky are furloughed or working without pay,” says a Think Progress report on the shutdown.

What do you say, Mitch? How much are you willing to screw over your constituents just to appease the big baby in the White House?

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Jan. 13, 2019.


Sexist double standard arrives early in 2020 race

Why is one man’s word taken seriously while one woman’s is ignored? Do we really even need to ask?

Well, that didn’t take long, did it? It’s 22 months until the next presidential election, and already one potential Democratic female candidate is being trashed while one Republican male who’s not even a candidate is being treated like an elder statesman who might challenge Donald Trump.

On the last day of 2018, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced the formation of a presidential exploratory committee—the first step in announcing an actual run—with a video that lasted four and a half minutes and gave details of what drove her to run for public office, focusing on her work to regulate big banks and to help consumers. Her website invites people to join the team.

Within a day, the specifics of her announcement were being ignored, and she was being criticized for being unlikable and inauthentic. Never mind the fact that she beat her opponent by nearly 25 points in the recent midterm election.

Mitt Romney, the brand-new junior senator from Utah, wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post criticizing Trump’s character, saying that Trump “falls short” of what a president should be (an obvious conclusion that the majority of the country agrees with), and it was front-page news everywhere. Now Romney is practically being treated like a possible Republican second coming. (That’s an interesting way to describe a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints, since Mormons believe that the new Jerusalem will be built on the American continent, likely in Missouri, and possibly in Independence, Missouri.)

There were immediate stories on how Romney could win in 2020 and how there were calls from Republican donors to Romney advisers, with those donors all but chanting, “Run, Mitt, Run.” Never mind the fact that Romney lost the nomination to John McCain in 2008 and lost the race in 2012 when he was the nominee—he’s the anti-Trump flavor of the week. But Trump allies were quick to counterattack, some even suggesting a change in Republican party rules so that it would be harder for a challenger to fight Trump for the GOP nomination. It all turned out to be much ado about nothing: Romney says he won’t challenge Trump in 2020.

So we have an actual candidate with actual ideas facing ridicule and a non-candidate being treated like a GOP messiah. The saddest part about all of this is that it’s nothing new. Men are taken seriously in high office, while women must fight for legitimacy every step of the way. We saw it in 2016, and now we’re seeing it in the 2020 race.

A story in Politico with the headline, Warren battles the ghosts of Hillary, starts with several paragraphs telling the reader what’s wrong with Elizabeth Warren. It takes a few minutes of reading—likely when many would have stopped reading, not to mention those who only saw the headline on social media—to talk about any of Warren’s positive traits.

In the year of the woman, it adds up to one unwelcome mat for the most prominent woman likely to be part of the 2020 field. But it also presents an unmistakable challenge: How does Warren avoid a Clinton redux — written off as too unlikable before her campaign gets off the ground?

It’s pretty shallow journalism to say that Warren is already “written off as too unlikable.” You wanna talk about unlikable? Try Sen. Ted Cruz, whom everyone reportedly hates but who beat the “likable” Beto O’Rourke in Texas.

Twitter was not kind to the Politico article.

I feel compelled to point out that Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Connie Schultz is married to Democratic Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, who also might throw his hat in the ring. But her tweet has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not her husband has presidential aspirations; it simply points out the double standard.

Farther down in the Politico piece was a comment by (finally!) a female Democratic operative.

Others see sexism in the barrage of Warren criticism and alleged parallels to Clinton. If there’s a public perception that’s personally rankled Warren, it’s the depiction that she’s cold, according to one of her former advisers.

“They say that about women — anybody who runs for president. As you go up the political ladder and go up in the polls, you will get that criticism,” said Mary Anne Marsh, a Boston-based Democratic strategist. “First it was Hillary Clinton. Then it was Nancy Pelosi. Now it’s Elizabeth Warren. Who knows who is behind her.”

When Mitt Romney—who lost the popular vote and the Electoral College to Barack Obama—criticized Trump, he was talked about breathlessly as a potential 2020 rival. When Hillary Clinton—who received nearly 3 million more votes than Trump—dared to speak her mind, she was advised to take up knitting, a suggestion that (to be fair) received widespread condemnation.

Even worse than the Politico article was a snarky piece in The Boston Herald quoting several “politicos” (all male, by the way) opining that Warren’s New Year’s Eve Instagram Live post of her and her husband having a beer was “inauthentic pandering” in an attempt to attract young supporters.

“Elizabeth Warren seems more like a chardonnay senator than a beer senator,” quipped Tobe Berkovitz, a Boston University politics professor who was a longtime Democratic communications specialist. “It’s just sort of trying too hard … and people have pretty good radar for that sort of thing.”

What, so now there’s an upper age limit for drinking beer?

You would think that after midterm elections that saw a record number of women running and another record number being elected to national office (not to mention being victorious in state and local races), at least some in the media would be over this kind of sexism. After all, more than 42,000 women sought help from Emily’s List in getting started with campaigns, compared with 920 in 2016, and the new group She Should Run helped 14,000 women candidates.

But then, not all of us have the mindset of the Beltway media, some of whom seem to have blinders that filter out anyone not white and male. Hillary hatred, decades in the making, apparently is being transferred to any candidate with two X chromosomes.

The Washington Post addressed this dilemma for female candidates with a story headlined Before you run against Trump, you have to run against Hillary (if you’re a woman):

Even as Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was elected House speaker on Wednesday, the women looking at White House campaigns continue to shoulder gendered criticism and demands not placed on their male counterparts: to be strong but not too tough; to be assertive without being pushy, lest voters turn away for reasons that they may not acknowledge are sexist but that researchers say are. …

It has also led some Democrats to openly wonder whether the party would be smarter to avoid a female presidential candidate in 2020 — a notion offensive to many in the party.

“It is ridiculous,” said Jess McIntosh, a Democratic strategist who worked on Clinton’s campaign. “We never look at loss by a man and say, ‘I guess we shouldn’t take another gamble on another white man’ or ‘I guess we should not have another veteran.’ ”

All of this doesn’t even address the ageism question: Trump is 72 and Romney is 71. Bernie Sanders is 77 and Joe Biden is 76. Compared with that lot, Warren is relatively youthful at 69. Yet her age is always mentioned, as was Hillary Clinton’s age in the 2016 race (she’s now 71).

This is not meant to be an endorsement or a criticism of Elizabeth Warren. At this point, I don’t have a favorite of the likely batch of Democratic hopefuls—it’s way too early for that (for me at least). I like and am impressed by several and dislike a few of the Democrats who are said to be considering running for the nomination. The number of names being tossed around could be as high as 30 people (if you believe The New York Times). Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez already has announced a plan for scheduling 12 debates among contenders.

But when the national media are unfair and sexist to women politicians and candidates, even at the very beginning of a campaign, we need to let those reporters and pundits know in no uncertain terms that they’re blowing their jobs of covering politics. The time for a double standard is long over. When will the media realize that?

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Jan. 6, 2019.

Republican losers we won’t miss in 2019

Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold of Texas, aka Mr. Ducky Pajamas, is no longer in Congress. The question is, how did he get elected in the first place?

The Blue Wave of November’s midterm elections brought a satisfying end to the public service (talk about an oxymoron) careers of many Republicans.

Of course, it wasn’t just the ones who lost at the ballot box. Many saw the proverbial writing on the wall and retired, choosing not to face voters again when their reelection chances were iffy at best. Some were forced out early in the face of scandal.

Some Republicans, including several in Donald Trump’s Cabinet, resigned, were forced to resign, were fired, or even were fired via tweet.

These GOP losers were at all levels of government and influence, from local and state government to national offices. House Speaker Paul Ryan, who announced early that he was calling it quits after flailing around for three years on the job with little to show for it, was second in line to the presidency, behind Vice President Mike Pence. Think about that for a minute.

There are way too many Republican losers to mention. So let’s take a look at just a handful of those in the 2018 edition of the GOP Hall of Shame. And beware: Vampires can rise from the dead.

Kris Kobach. The outgoing Kansas secretary of state lost the governor’s race to Democrat Laura Kelly. And there was much rejoicing.

In November, the man whom Jeet Heer of The New Republic called the face of voter suppression went down in flames, losing by nine points. In the red state of Kansas, no less.

What made Kris Kobach so evil? It was his relentless chipping away at voting rights, always for those who were more likely to vote Democratic. Chipping away, hell — the guy used a sledgehammer with his constant lies about “voter fraud.” And he did it all with a self-satisfied smirk on his face.

Kobach was poised to take his voter suppression battle nationwide when he was named as the leader of Donald Trump’s sham voter fraud boondoggle, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, but luckily for the rest of us, it was disbanded before it could do any real damage.

He did enough damage just in Kansas. His voter suppression work there probably made the difference in the 2014 gubernatorial race, in which the unpopular Sam Brownback won reelection, despite the fact that many Republican officials backed the Democrat, Paul Davis.

This will serve as Kobach’s legacy, via a story at Vox:

Kansas passed laws at Kobach’s urging requiring people not only to show photo ID at the polls but also to prove their citizenship when registering to vote. The law was thrown out in court earlier this year, and Kobach — a former law professor — was ordered to take a law class on evidence and rules of procedure.

“Ordered to take a law class on evidence and rules of procedure.” That had to burn, but it couldn’t have happened to a bigger jerk.

Scott Walker. Second to Kobach going down, the sweetest loss on Election Night belonged to the Wisconsin governor. A Google search of “Good riddance Scott Walker” brings up the same headline from a disparate group ranging from unions to Reddit groups to Wisconsin Democrats to those Walker tried to get fired.

Tales of Walker’s stupidity and sins are many. He was so ineffective as a Republican presidential hopeful that he dropped out of the race in September 2015, two months after he announced his bid and after he tanked during debates. And remember the time a New York blogger had him believing he was on a phone call with one of the Koch brothers?

Voter suppression? Check. Union-busting? Check. Here’s just a partial list by Paste Magazine of other nefarious Walker deeds:

Walker’s frequently been pointed to as the cause for large amounts of student debt. His state’s been ranked in the top ten worst for graduates with debt. He’s appointed openly homophobic judges and even taken money from lobbyists for legalized marijuana, only to turn around and suggest that the impoverished should be drug tested.

On his way out the door, he signed anti-Democratic legislation passed by an anti-Democratic legislature to limit the powers of Democratic successors. Way to cement your bad reputation, Governor.

Speaking of governors, if you’re from Illinois, like we are, savor these four words: Former Governor Bruce Rauner.

Paul Ryan. There’s so much to say (and none of it good) about the Eddie Munster lookalike. There were his multitude of sins and peccadilloes: his evil tax cuts for the rich; his nonexistent plan to replace the Affordable Care Act; his “expertise” as a financial policy wonk, which the media will probably fall for again; and his unearned reputation as a budget hawk.

All of that is disgraceful. For me, though, the worst thing was his constant and blatant lying, even about matters he had no need to lie about and that could be fact-checked so easily. It’s what earned him the moniker Lyin’ Ryan. While all politicians stretch the truth, Lyin’ Ryan took it to a whole new level (except for Donald Trump, of course).

Why lie about running a marathon in less than three hours, when he was finally forced to admit that he had shaved an hour off his running time? Why claim that President Obama was responsible for the closure of a GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, when its closure was announced seven months before Obama took office? Why continue to claim that GOP tax “reform” would mean Americans could file their tax returns on a form the size of a postcard, when it’s so obvious that will never happen?

Politifact compiled a list of Ryan’s lies, and it’s surely far from complete. On the day he announced his retirement in April, many media outlets published similar stories, such as this one from Vox in which Matt Yglesias called Ryan “the biggest fraud in American politics.”

Trump Cabinet secretaries. Not all members of Trump’s Cabinet were previous office holders, but most were partisan Republicans, and several are gone. Think of most of those as rats fleeing a sinking ship — except that they were flying high on the public dime. HHS Secretary Tom Price was the first to go, in 2017, but he certainly wasn’t the last.

  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The thing we’ll miss most about Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is Kate McKinnon’s portrayals of him on Saturday Night Live. Outside of that, not much—he tried to institute regressive policies on civil rights abuses, public safety complaints, rights of transgender individuals, “zero tolerance” on illegal border crossings, immigration crackdowns, recreational marijuana laws, and much more. Trump was so angry about Sessions’ recusal over the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia that he publicly berated Sessions for months and kept hinting at firing him before Sessions was forced to resign after the midterms. There were hints that he might run for his old Senate seat in 2020 to represent Alabama, but apparently he’s shooting down those rumors. Maybe he just doesn’t have the support after his spectacular fall from grace.
  • EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. Never has there been a more egregious and more pitiful grifter than Scott Pruitt, who was forced out as EPA chief. It’s hard to choose what was the worst thing about him. His sweetheart condo deal for $50 a night? The 24/7 security detail for $4.6 million? The $43,000 soundproof booth he had installed — and reportedly didn’t even use? Actually, his worst case of malfeasance was against the environment itself, practices he continued since the days when he was the attorney general of Oklahoma, backed by big oil money.
  • Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. The choice of a freshman Republican Montana congressman to be a Cabinet secretary seemed odd until it was revealed that Donald Trump Jr. pushed the Zinke choice — the two share an avid love of hunting. Besides his expensive travel habits (sometimes for partisan trips), Zinke was facing several corruption charges before he announced his resignation, and he still might be investigated by House committees that will soon led by Democrats. But there will be no more horse rides through the streets of Washington, $139,000 doors in his office, or the Interior secretary’s special flag that flew when he was in residence.

GOP House members we won’t miss. Democrats picked up 40 seats in the midterms. Here are some Republicans who resigned early, chose not to run for reelection, or ran and lost — and deservedly so:

  • Peter Roskam. Roskam was one of two main authors of the 2017 GOP tax overhaul (the other was Erik Paulsen in Minnesota, who also lost). Republicans thought they would ride that plan to victory, but they badly misjudged the public’s lack of support for a plan that delivered chump change to most people while slashing taxes for the wealthy. Among Roskam’s problems were his support for the law’s cap on state and local tax deductions, which hurt his suburban constituents. He was forced to soften his support, but the damage was done. Besides, Roskam has been an overall jerk since his days in the Illinois Legislature.
  • Dana Rohrabacher. The Republican from Orange County, California, was often referred to as Putin’s favorite congressman, but he spread his influence to right-wing leaders and lobbyists throughout the globe. “For much of the past decade, he has served as the voice of foreign autocrats in Congress,” wrote Anne Applebaum in The Washington Post. Since he lost his seat after 15 terms, he can now visit them in person overseas.
  • Trey Gowdy. The South Carolina Republican will forever be remembered as the congressman who wilted under Hillary Clinton’s 11 hours of testimony about a terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans. His two-year probe as head of a select House panel on Benghazi cost $7 million and produced an 800-page report that said basically nothing. He decided to leave office, and as his congressional career wound down, he finally admitted, “I don’t have a lot to show for the last seven years.”
  • Darrell Issa. The California congressman’s career turned ugly when he led pointless investigation after pointless investigation into the Obama administration as chair of the House Oversight Committee. He chose to retire rather than face a tight reelection fight. But he’s not going away just yet: Trump nominated him to lead the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.
  • Blake Farenthold. Maybe the Texas Republican wasn’t a big mover and shaker in the House, but he’ll always be remembered as the grinning guy in the photo wearing duck pajamas with his arm around a lingerie model. And as the congressman who was finally forced to resign after a series of sex-related scandals, some of which had settlements paid to staffers out of public funds.

Republican senators we won’t miss. Let’s hope the door hits them on the way out.

  • Jeff Flake. The retiring senator from Arizona comes across as a nice, pleasant guy. But the media constantly bent over backward trying to paint him as an independent voice of moderation who wasn’t afraid to challenge Trump or the powers that be. The trouble was that Flake was all talk and very little action. When it was time to vote, he almost always voted the party line. The Phoenix Times listed 15 Times Jeff Flake Criticized Trump, Then Nothing Happened. His decision to retire had more to do with the fact that he was likely to lose to a primary challenger than a principled ethical stance.
  • Bob Corker. Like Flake, the Tennessee Republican knew he might face a tough primary battle. LIke Flake, he liked to talk big but vote how Mitch McConnell wanted him to. Who cares if he gets into a Twitter war with Trump now, telling everyone it’s time to #AlertTheDaycareStaff? The damage has been done.
  • Orrin Hatch. It’s been a long time since the long-serving Utah Republican practiced bipartisanship. He was forced to express regret about a comment that he “didn’t care” if Trump broke the law. As he delivered his farewell address to Congress, he was being ripped on Twitter and in letters to the editor back home as being a spineless dinosaur. Since he’ll soon have more time on his hands, perhaps he can go back to his songwriting career.

Of course, some of these has-beens are likely to enter the public arena again. Some will run for a different office. Many will earn big bucks on the speaking circuit. Some will return to the world of finance, where they’ll figure out new ways to fleece consumers and pick people’s pockets. Some are bound to show up on the airwaves as political commentators on Fox and (when the network feels it must have some “balance”) CNN. No doubt some will join right-wing think tanks to develop new tools for voter suppression, new ways to gerrymander districts, and new laws to trample on women’s and minority rights. And some will form new political action committees to elect even more onerous Republicans.

As the old country song twangs, “How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away?”

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Dec. 30, 2018.


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