A Trump dynasty? Only in sales to suckers

A political dynasty? THESE guys?

Trump reelection campaign manager Brad Parscale raised eyebrows and invited overall derision when he predicted that the Trump family would turn into a political dynasty that would last for decades.

“I just think they’re a dynasty,” he said at a retreat for California Republicans. “I think they’re all amazing people … with amazing capabilities. I think you see that from Don Jr. I think you see that from Ivanka. You see it from Jared. You see it from all.”

Oh, we can see plenty from all of them, all right. We can see Donald Trump Jr.’s failing businesses. We can see multiple people accusing Ivanka Trump of stealing designs for her clothing line. We can see how Eric Trump blamed “fake news and Democrats” when a new Trump hotel chain failed. We can see how Jared Kushner’s real estate companies had to be bailed out with foreign money from offshore accounts. We can see all of them continually lying, with tongues that have more forks than formal place settings for a White House state dinner.

In making his over-the-top prediction, Parscale demonstrated the quality that Donald Trump and his family of grifters value the most: sucking up to them at all costs. The White House aides who have lasted in the revolving door at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. are those who never stop fawning over Trump and his offspring.

It’s worked out for Parscale, too: By multiple reports, Parscale is profiting handsomely from his post as campaign chair. Red State Data & Digital, his digital data firm that he supposedly is distanced from but which employs his wife, earned $910,000 from a side deal with a Trump super PAC. I guess a little boot-licking over the boss and his family is easy when you can haul in close to an extra million. To sweeten the deal, Parscale hired Eric’s wife, Lara, as a liaison to the Trump campaign. Why not cover all the bases, right?

Amazing? The Trumps are amazing at one thing: pulling a con job.

Since its founding, America has had political families that spanned generations. The saying that “politics is in their blood” refers to success in getting elected or chosen for a political position or what got talked about around the dinner table rather than anything genetic. “The ledgers are filled with successful politicians — the Adamses, Kennedys, Bushes, Gores, Cuomos, Lodges, Udalls, Rockefellers, Daleys, Longs, Talmadges, Tafts, Browns and all the rest,” says a piece from Politico Magazine.

John Adams and his son, John Quincy Adams, were both U.S. presidents, and a son of John Quincy Adams, Charles Francis Adams Sr., was both a congressman and an ambassador to the United Kingdom. George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush were both presidents, but the extended Bush-Davis-Walker family had people in public office since 1778. The family has included multiple senators (Julius Rockwell, David Davis, Prescott Bush), a governor (Jeb Bush), two ambassadors (George Herbert Walker III to Hungary and Craig Roberts Stapleton to both the Czech Republic and France under Bush II), and multiple congressmen and state and local officeholders.

The Kennedy family might have started later, but they’ve been just as prolific: The family has had one president (John F. Kennedy), two senators (Robert Kennedy and Ted Kennedy), a lieutenant governor (Kathleen Kennedy Townsend), two U.S. ambassadors (Joseph Kennedy Sr. to the United Kingdom under FDR; Caroline Kennedy to Japan under Obama), three congressmen (Joseph Kennedy II, Joseph Kennedy III, and Patrick Kennedy), and several more who have served at other state and local levels.

But voters have grown tired of political dynasties and the sense of entitlement that they suggest. Joseph Kennedy III is considering a challenge to incumbent Democratic Sen. Ed Markey in Massachusetts, but he’s making the case for a generational change rather than a return to the Kennedy clan (Kennedy is 38; Markey is 73).

So how might voters react to the idea of Don Jr., Ivanka, or Eric running for office? After they picked themselves up off the floor from laughing so hard? Let’s hear what some pundits had to say.

A Politico piece, The Dynasty Ends With King Donald, squashes the idea flat.

Inside the family, Donald Jr. and Ivanka are battling one another for their father’s favor in an old-fashioned succession battle. Junior has the political edge, exciting the Trump faithful when he goes on TV or the hustings. But Ivanka, always the favorite child, still rouses the old man, who swoons at the thought of her becoming the first female president. …

If I were making book on the odds, I’d give Barron Trump a better shot at winning the office in 2060 — when he’ll be 54 years old — than any of his kin if only because his father’s taint will have ebbed to the point that we will be able to consider him his own man and not a dynastic heir.

Even Fox News’ Lou Dobbs thinks the idea is ridiculous. “This may be one of the dumbest things a campaign manager for a populist candidate ever said: Trump family building ‘dynasty’ for decades to come,” Dobbs tweeted. (Actually, the idea of referring to Donald Trump as a “populist candidate” is pretty dumb in itself.)

A CNN opinion piece by author Michael D’Antonio points out the obvious: “With the Trump presidency filling in the picture of Trump-style politics, Americans can now associate the family name with an unprecedented level of chaos.”

Chaos, cheating, dishonesty, disloyalty, illegality, laziness, unreliability, and an undeserved sense of entitlement — I’m sure I left out several negative characteristics that the Trumps share. But they’re all bad. After all, a campaign that sells overpriced merchandise like a $15 fine-point marker or a $15 pack of 10 plastic straws “just to own the libs” proved long ago that the family had no shame.

Actually, Rex Huppke of the Chicago Tribune nailed it. He writes that he knows how the Trump dynasty will last — by continuing to con the true Trumpanistas with “the coming Trump dynasty of aggrievement merchandising.”

That won’t lead the president and his various offspring to become a political dynasty. It’ll just lead to 40% of the population either realizing they got duped or continuing to exist in a perpetual state of aggrievement.

And aggrievement, particularly the white kind, is where the money’s at, giving the Trumps a fine opportunity to forge a dynasty of opportunists leveraging the fear of a changing world, and the fear of ever being proven wrong, for profit. …

They’ll find that “supporting” the Trump dynasty means opening up their pocketbooks. Buying “Trump Was Right!” T-shirts and “Trump Those Libs!” bumper stickers. Staying at new Trump properties aimed at luring lower-end customers and fleecing them with overpriced buffets and gift shops packed with Trump trinkets (made in China) and bias-confirming knickknacks.

Because, as Huppke concludes, “you never drop a con that works.”

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Sept. 15, 2019.

Students plan a worldwide climate strike on Sept. 20. It’s time for adults to join the fight

Climate activist Greta Thunberg at a student strike for the climate in February in Brussels.

Prepare to hear a lot of news about the climate crisis the last week of September.

A solid week of climate action is scheduled for Sept. 20-27 in the U.S. and around the world. The impetus is the movement started by climate activist Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish teenager who is taking a year off school in her push to get others to take on the urgency of the climate crisis.

Thunberg started her #FridaysForFuture movement on her own in 2018, camping out in front of the Swedish Parliament with her sign proclaiming Skolstrejk för klimatet  (“School strike for the climate”). She accused lawmakers of failing to uphold commitments to reduce carbon emissions that were agreed to under the Paris climate accord.

Before long, she was joined by other Swedish students. Then she started traveling to other cities throughout Europe, joined by hundreds, then thousands of other students. She gave a TEDx talk on climate that’s been watched 1.5 million times on YouTube, and 1.3 million people follow her Twitter account.

Thunberg spoke at two sessions of the United Nations Climate Change Conference. She demanded reductions in CO2 emissions at a European Commission conference and spoke truth to power at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“I don’t want your hope,” she said in her Davos speech. “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.”

Thunberg and the movement she started organized a global climate strike March 15. Some 1.4 million people in 2,200 cities in 128 countries worldwide joined the effort that day. Now, with even more groups taking part, organizers expect even bigger crowds for another global climate strike on Sept. 20.

In August, Thunberg, who eschews plane travel because of the environmental harm from the high emissions of greenhouse gases, sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in a solar-powered yacht to New York City. Besides the climate strike, she will take part in the United Nations Youth Climate Summit on Sept. 21 and address the United Nations Climate Action Summit on Sept. 23. The rest of the week is being called a week of action, which is likely to involve everything from holding sit-ins at pipeline projects to planting trees. Other planned events include music concerts, mass bike rides, teach-ins, people’s assemblies, protests targeting fossil fuel companies, and bike races.

Students got the ball rolling. Now it’s adults’ turn to step up. Why? Because it’s time to show climate deniers that we mean business.

The Global Climate Strike is set to launch Sept. 20. Students are urged to take off school, and employees are asked to skip work for at least part of the day to join the strike. So far, organizations in 150 countries are planning for the strike, and some companies and trade unions around the world are giving workers time off.

350.org put together a video featuring workers and union members who are supporting the action.

Thunberg and 46 other youth climate activists issued the call for adults to join their cause in an opinion piece in The Guardian in May. They want to “unleash mass resistance.”

We feel a lot of adults haven’t quite understood that we young people won’t hold off the climate crisis ourselves. Sorry if this is inconvenient for you. But this is not a single-generation job. It’s humanity’s job. …

Let’s all join together, with your neighbours, co-workers, friends, family and go out on to the streets to make your voices heard and make this a turning point in our history.

This is about crossing lines — it’s about rebelling wherever one can rebel.

An interactive map at the Global Climate Strike website lets people find details on climate strikes in their area and encourages them to start their own. In the U.S., there are currently 250 events planned in 49 states (what’s your problem, North Dakota?). As the website says:

This September, millions of us will walk out of our workplaces and homes to join young climate strikers on the streets and demand an end to the age of fossil fuels.

Our house is on fire — let’s act like it. We demand climate justice for everyone.

So far, there are 41 international partners in the Global Climate Strike and hundreds and hundreds of regional and local partners on six continents (sorry, no penguins). Many well-known environmental groups are on board, including 350.org, the Climate Reality Project, Food and Water Watch, Greenpeace, the League of Conservation Voters, the National Resources Defense Council, NextGen America, Sierra Club, and the Sunrise Alliance, just to name a few. Organizations can register to join the list of supporters.

You can even join a Digital Global Climate Strike on Sept. 20 on any website. Directions describe how to add a line of JavaScript to any page or a plug-in to a WordPress site to display a widget saying that a particular website is joining the strike. Alternatively, the widget can run as a footer to raise awareness while keeping the site open.

350.org has a special website that describes the many ways of getting involved. The website also has resources that people can use to organize their own strikes, including templates, videos, graphics, and presentations. And it’s no surprise that climate activist Bill McKibben, author and founder of 350.org, is on board for what he says will “almost certainly be the biggest day of climate action in the planet’s history.” As he wrote in Yes! magazine:

It’s not a “strike” in the traditional sense, of course — no one is demanding better wages. But we are demanding better conditions. In the most literal sense, the world isn’t working as it should (studies say that increased heat and humidity have already reduced human work capacity as much as 10%, a figure that will double by midcentury). And what we’re saying is, disrupting business as usual is the way to get there. …

But it can’t be just young people. It needs to be all of us — especially, perhaps, those of us who have been placidly operating on a business-as-usual basis for most of our lives, who have rarely faced truly serious disruptions in our careers and our plans. Our job is precisely to disrupt business as usual. When the planet leaves its comfort zone, we need to do the same. See you on the streets on Sept. 20!

The Democratic candidates running for president are on board, too, all with their own climate action plans. While details differ, many include the following (as described in this Washington Post story):

  • Rejoin the Paris climate accord and make the United States a leader on fighting climate change.
  • Make significant investments in clean energy research and creating green jobs.
  • Pay for it with taxes on the wealthy and/or polluters.
  • Require stricter pollution controls and transition away from fossil fuels
  • Hit net-zero emissions within a few decades.
  • Emphasize environmental justice so low-income and minority communities don’t bear the brunt of pollution.
  • Help those who now work in the fossil fuel industry and the communities in which they live make the transition to a new green economy.

Those who care about the planet are going to make a lot of noise on Sept. 20. And just in case those in charge didn’t hear them, they’re planning to do it again a week later on Sept. 27.

In the U.S., we can make a lot of noise at the ballot box on Nov. 3, 2020.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Sept. 8, 2019.

Republicans want more GOP women in office. Good luck with that.

If 2018 is any indication, the GOP is screwed.

The Republican Party, finally noticing a lack of lawmakers in their ranks with two X chromosomes, apparently is trying to elect more GOP women to Congress and state legislatures in 2020.

Actually, let’s restate that: Republican women are trying to elect more GOP women. The response from the the male leaders and the party as a whole? Meh, at best. GOP leaders are paying lip service to the idea that more Republican women should be elected. But when it comes to backing actual candidates, it’s a different story.

Given the fact that women vote more than men, both in percentages of eligible voters and in absolute numbers, it’s logical for Republicans to try to capture more of the women’s vote with more women candidates, especially after the dismal GOP results in 2018. But considering who’s at the top of the Republican ticket, they might have picked the wrong year to do it. A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey reports that 62 percent of women say they’ll vote for the Democratic candidate over Donald Trump, and that’s bound to trickle down to the rest of the candidates.

Republicans have seen drops in support from white women, the majority of whom have voted Republican in the past. “College-educated white women swung Democratic by 10 points from 2016 to 2018, and non-college-educated white women swung Democratic by seven points,” according to a piece in The Nation. “The pool of women willing to embrace the Republican brand is shrinking.”

The 2018 midterm election saw a record number of women running for office. There were 235 women running for the House and 22 for the Senate. The winners were lopsided by party: When the votes were tallied, of the 127 women on Capitol Hill, only 21 were Republicans, and only 13 of those were in the House, down from 22 Republican women in the previous Congress.

Even worse (for Republicans, anyway), two of those 13—Alabama Rep. Martha Roby and Indiana Rep. Susan Brooks, the House Republicans’ recruitment chair—are retiring at the end of their current terms.

By all accounts, there will be more Republican women running in 2020. But they’re not getting much help from their male counterparts. When Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik relaunched Elevate Pac in reaction to women’s GOP losses in 2018, the response from Rep. Tom Emmer, the head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, was, “I think it’s a mistake.”

They could be mighty disappointed the morning of Nov. 4, 2020.

NBC News reports that more Republican women are contacting groups that guide women candidates in running for office. Patti Russo, who runs the nonpartisan Women’s Campaign School at Yale University, sees high interest from GOP women.

“In the history of our school, we’ve never seen this before,” Russo told NBC News.

The school has received triple the number of applications from Republicans as last year, according to Russo, fueled by a surge in applicants yearning to take a more active role in the direction of the country and their party.

“They’re tired of being quiet, and they know they have a lot to give,” Russo said.

The school runs a five-day session each June. This year’s session attracted more than 500 applicants for 80 slots, Russo says, although she didn’t break down the applicants by party.

Emily’s List, which backs progressive women, saw a surge of interest for the 2018 election from Democratic women. While we’re months away from any 2020 primaries, Emily’s List has been contacted by more than 48,000 women in its Run to Win program since 2016.

Despite increased interest from Republican women, it’s a safe bet that there are still a lot more energized Democratic women than there are women GOP candidates. The Center for Women and American Politics at Rutgers University regularly updates a list of potential women candidates, either those who have filed or who have indicated an interest in running. By late August, Democratic women still far outnumbered Republicans: There were 322 Democratic women listed running for president, statewide office, U.S. representative, and U.S. senator. Only 128 Republican women made the same list.

But they’re trying. In October 2017, Republicans launched the Winning For Women Action Fund, hoping to become the GOP counterpart to Emily’s List. It’s described as “a GOP super PAC created for the sole purpose of electing more female Republicans in congressional races.” It has tapped some of the GOP’s biggest donors, including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and mega-donors Robert and Rebekah Mercer. The WFW Action Fund has a goal of electing 20 Republican women to the House in the next election.

Another such group is Republican Women for Progress. It formed to work against Trump in 2016, even starting a Republican Women for Hillary group. The women in the group say they want to change the focus of the party, to deliver “our brand of modern, forward-thinking Republicanism.” As the group told NBC News:

The group’s nonprofit arm is now working with roughly 50 women across the country who are pursuing elected positions at all levels of government — local, state and national.

“We can’t keep up with all the folks reaching out to us,” co-founder Jennifer Pierotti Lim told NBC News.

“Without a doubt, it’s definitely more Republican women than I’ve ever seen be interested in running. They feel like this is the time to step up … Women are reaching out to us who feel displaced from the current party.”

Yet another group is VIEW PAC. From a Reuters story:

Julie Conway, executive director of VIEW PAC (Value in Electing Women Political Action Committee), another group that supports Republican women candidates, said she has already met with as many as 85 women considering a bid.

“At this point in the 2017 cycle, it probably would have been a third of that,” Conway said, noting many of the women are looking to run in the competitive swing seats Republicans lost when Democrats seized control of the House in the midterm elections last year.

So there definitely will be more Republican women running in 2020, even though their numbers may be dwarfed by the number of Democratic women candidates. When are male GOP leaders going to follow through on supporting those GOP women running for office? With few exceptions, we could be waiting quite a while. NBC News talked to prospective candidate Anne Smith in Virginia, who described the frustration that such women face.

Smith, who describes herself as fiscally conservative and socially moderate, now feels like it’s the U.S. political system that’s broken — and her party is a part of the problem.

“I’m really frustrated with the Republican Party,” said Smith, 37. “It’s losing women voters, and it doesn’t seem to be doing anything about it.”

Smith said Trump’s controversial remarks about women haven’t made her question her party loyalty. Instead, they’ve actually strengthened her case for pursuing elected office now.

“It is disparaging and I can recognize that, but it’s not going to dissuade me from running,” she added. “In fact, I would just say there’s more of a reason to show that there are women who will stand up and be in the Republican Party.”

Consider the case of an Ohio Republican so frustrated by being shut out that she turned into a Democrat.

Emily Pelphrey ran for county prosecutor in her Columbus suburb, but did not secure her party’s nomination earlier this year. She said she was surprised by the lack of support from the county Republican Party during the campaign. But in the months since, she told NBC News, the president’s statements on race have made it impossible for her to support the Republican Party. In July, she reached out to volunteer for the Biden campaign.

“The GOP lost one more person,” Pelphrey, 43, told NBC News. “It really is the party of Trump now. And that’s not a party I want to be associated with.”

Like Pelphrey, many of the GOP hopefuls interviewed by NBC News said they were frustrated by the lack of support from the Republican Party, and some said they were actively discouraged from running by local party members or political consultants. These women said that they encountered concerns about female candidates being perceived as playing “identity politics.”

Here’s another recent example. After incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Walter Jones Jr. died in February, North Carolina scheduled a special election for the 3rd Congressional District. Democrat Allen Thomas won the Democratic primary on April 30, but the top two Republicans were forced into a July 9 runoff after neither reached 30 percent of the vote.

The runoff pitted state Rep. Greg Murphy, a urologic surgeon, against Joan Perry, a pediatrician who has never held elective office. Both are conservative, anti-abortion, and in favor of Trump’s border wall.

Perry had the support of all 13 GOP women in the House, Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, and Jones’ widow, Joe Anne Jones. The widow didn’t offer an official endorsement, saying only that she preferred Perry over Murphy, who happened to be her late husband’s personal physician (OUCH).

Murphy had backing from Reps. Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan of the House Freedom Caucus and several other GOP heavyweights: Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Women for Trump, Students for Trump, and the Tea Party Express.

Groups aiming to elect more GOP women spent a bundle on the runoff. The WFW Action Fund spent $900,000 trying to elect Perry. Women Speak Out, the partner PAC for the anti-abortion group the Susan B. Anthony List, spent $310,000 on Perry’s behalf. On the Murphy side, an ad by House Freedom Action called Perry a “lying Nancy Pelosi liberal.”

Murphy won by nearly 20 points and is favored to win in the Republican-leaning district.

Democrats couldn’t resist rubbing in the fact that establishment Republicans blocked the way of a woman candidate. According to the News & Observer in Charlotte:

“(This) primary result in North Carolina is, sadly, yet another predictable and staggering blow to Washington Republicans’ attempts to add vital female voices to their caucus. With their toxic policy platform of higher health care costs and their utter failure to support female candidates, it’s no wonder Washington Republicans continue to repel women voters heading into the 2020 cycle,” said Melissa Miller, spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, in a statement.

So Republican women, go ahead—launch your political careers. The more women involved in leadership, the better. But if you get shut out and you have a few progressive ideas, you might find out that you’re really Democrats.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Sept. 1, 2019.

How many voters are Republicans willing to lose over guns?

Members (and not just moms) of Moms Demand Action turn out en masse at state legislatures to demand action against gun violence, like they did last year in Louisiana to support a “red-flag” bill.

Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, and too many Republicans are showing their continued allegiance to a weakened National Rifle Association by refusing to consider meaningful gun safety laws. But they could pay a stiff price in the next election.

Immediately after the weekend of the El Paso and Dayton mass shootings, which killed 31 people and wounded 50 others, there was clamoring from the GOP (after the usual thoughts and prayers) that this time, they were really going to do something. There was rhetoric about so-called “red flag” laws that sounded good until the details were revealed. All Republican senators are willing to do is deliver grants to states that already have red-flag laws, which allow people to petition a judge to remove firearms from a person deemed a threat to himself or others. But even someone whose guns are taken away in a state with a red-flag law could buy one in a neighboring state. And while red-flag laws are effective in preventing suicides, they don’t have as much effect stopping mass shootings.

Trump initially touted the idea of background checks, only to back away from the idea after meeting with the NRA and after his own advisers warned him his base wouldn’t like any new laws limiting guns. Trump delivered the no-background-check news in a phone call to NRA Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre, who obviously thinks the NRA’s $30 million investment in Trump’s election was worth it.

Instead, Trump insists that fighting back against mental illness is key to fighting gun violence, even suggesting reopening “mental institutions” that have been closed for decades. He also insisted that “we do have a lot of background checks right now.” (That would be news to the families of victims killed by those who obtained weapons without such checks; new research shows that states with stricter background checks have fewer gun-related homicides.)

No doubt Republicans figured that the noise would die down after a few news cycles, and they could go back to their do-nothing response, just as they have after every mass shooting. Once Trump backed down, his Senate comrades followed along, giving a thumbs-down on both background checks and the red-flag proposal.

Hey, at least they’re not talking about the dangers of video games any more.

Too bad that large groups of voters are turning into gun sense voters. What are gun sense voters? Voters with the sense to vote GOP lawmakers who refuse to act on gun violence out of office.

A new Republican poll shows that three out of four suburban women want stronger gun safety laws, and gun violence stood out as the No. 1 issue for those voters, ahead of health care and immigration.

It’s not hard to see why. Mothers who send children off to school in the morning, whether they’re in kindergarten or high school, face the fearful reality that those children might never return.

Here are some of the specifics of the poll, according to a story in The Washington Post:

  • 72 percent of the women polled want stricter gun laws.
  • 55 percent say stricter laws would cut gun violence.
  • 90 percent want universal background checks.
  • 88 percent want a longer waiting period for gun sales.
  • 84 percent want a national red-flag law.
  • 76 percent want bans on assault-style weapons.
  • 72 percent want bans on high-capacity magazines.

The poll was done for the Republican Main Street Partnership, a firm supporting moderate GOP candidates (they still exist?), including five who co-sponsored the background checks bill passed by the House. As an official of the firm wrote in an email to The Washington Post:

“Suburban women have made it clear that they are ready for Congress to address the gun violence epidemic plaguing this country,” said Sarah Chamberlain, the president and chief executive of the Republican Main Street Partnership, in an email. “Our mission is to equip our members of Congress with pertinent information like this polling so that they may best address the needs of their suburban districts by crafting appropriate legislative responses.”

The Main Street Partnership might want to send those poll results to McConnell and the other troglodytes in the Senate who are holding up two gun safety bills passed by the House nearly six months ago. Just a suggestion.

Republicans have long counted on suburban women as part of their base. But that’s not the only voter group lost to them over gun violence. The 2018 turnout of young voters — those 18 to 29 years old — rose by 16 percentage points over the 2014 midterm election. Only 20 percent of voters in that age bracket went to the polls in 2014, but 36 percent of them voted in 2018. They’re planning to vote again in 2020, and gun violence and climate change are their top issues.

Of the voters in that age bracket, 43 percent plan to vote in Democratic primaries, compared with 36 percent who planned to do so in 2016. “The youth vote — especially young Democrats — is poised to play an even more significant role in 2020 than in the 2016 presidential contest,” concluded a Harvard Institute of Politics youth poll, which also stated that 58 percent of young voters are concerned that gun violence will affect them or someone close to them.

Who can blame them? This is a generation that grew up with mass shootings in schools, and some have seen classmates killed. They have practiced lockdowns and mass shooter drills since grade school.

That’s why the new Peace Plan for a Safer America from the survivors of the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, is likely to attract even more young voters. (Voter registration is another key part of the March for Our Lives effort.)

The ambitious program is similar to the Green New Deal in that it pushes the conversation forward on gun violence and the need for a strong plan. In essence, the plan includes:

  • Changing the the standards of gun ownership to include gun licensing and establishing a gun registry.
  • Banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
  • Establishing a national gun buy-back program.
  • Passing a national red-flag law.
  • Halving the number of gun deaths within a decade.
  • Holding the gun lobby accountable.
  • Appointing a national director of gun violence protection.
  • Generating community-based solutions.
  • Making voter registration automatic and establishing a “Safety Corps,” a Peace Corps for gun violence prevention.

No, all of those things aren’t going to happen, and they certainly won’t happen anytime soon. But just like the aims of the Green New Deal, some will be acted on sooner rather than later.

A no-brainer ban on high-capacity magazines should be first on any lawmaker’s list. If a shooter had to stop and reload, he — mass shooters are male — couldn’t kill as many people.

Support for stricter gun laws rises after every mass shooting, and recent polling is no different. The uncomfortable reality for Republicans, though, is that the support is not dropping. As a New York Times story put it:

More traditional polls have also shown increasing support for gun restrictions. Surveys from Gallup, Pew, Quinnipiac, ABC and NBC all show a modest recent rise in the share of Americans who say they believe controlling gun violence is more important than protecting gun rights or who say they favor more strict gun laws. …

There are factors beyond the top line of public opinion polls that could give gun control advocates hope that this time might be different.

The most recent attacks pose new political risks to Republicans. The president’s anti-immigrant rhetoric has been decried as a contributing factor to the violence, which may give Republicans new reason to take action. And gun control activists argue that some of the most recent shootings could have been prevented by so-called red flag laws.

Democrats have gotten the message. All of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have proposals on gun safety. All support universal background checks. Many back bans on semiautomatic rifles and high-capacity magazines. Some propose either a voluntary or mandatory assault weapon buyback program.

Grassroots gun safety groups such as Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America have only grown stronger after every mass shooting. Moms Demand membership soared to 4 million after the the Parkland shooting. The current number is nearly 6 million supporters, with chapters in every state. Gun safety groups have been holding and planning recess rallies throughout the country to show broad support for stricter gun laws before Congress reconvenes after Labor Day.

A CNN story quoted Peter Ambler, executive director of Giffords, the gun control advocacy group co-founded by former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was shot in the head during a mass shooting at a Tuscon-area constituent event in 2011.

“The folks that have been skeptical about the politics of gun safety for a long time are the same ones who feel the gun debate needs to happen within the four corners of a compromise amendment from six years ago,” he said, referring to the 2013 Senate vote on universal background checks. “The debate that we’re seeing happen at the national level, whether we’re talking about presidential politics or Congress, is derived from the fact that voters across the country are extremely angry at the status quo. … The fact that our leaders are responding to that anger is of enormous benefit to our legislative efforts and doesn’t distract (from them) in any way, shape or form.”

Despite the pressure and overwhelming support for common-sense gun laws, it’s unlikely that any meaningful gun safety laws will pass on the national level, with Mitch McConnell as Senate majority leader and Donald Trump in the White House. Just one more reason why it’s so important to reelect a Democratic House, retake the Senate, and oust Trump.

Gun rights voters are among the most reliable of GOP voters. But next year, gun sense voters could very well outnumber them. All of those Republicans too cowardly to act now might wake up to a strong message from gun sense voters the morning after Election Day 2020.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Aug. 25, 2019.

When will the media finally admit that the Trump economy hasn’t been ‘great’?

Stock prices rise and fall, but who’s really coming out on top in the long run? Not the American public.

Throughout the presidency of Donald Trump, the media has parroted the GOP talking point that the economy is “great” (or “booming” or “strong” or “humming along” or whatever word Republicans happened to be using on any given day).

Never mind the fact that the economy Trump inherited from President Obama was doing pretty well, thank you very much, and that it has continued to grow, although any argument about which president had the stronger economy is still evolving and won’t be settled until after Trump’s presidency is over. But throughout the 2016 campaign, Trump continually trashed the “Obama economy,” and the media dutifully repeated his words, spreading the idea that the U.S. economy was failing under the 44th president. And too many voters believed both Trump and the media.

During the campaign, Trump continually lied about the unemployment rate, claiming that the lowered rate under Obama was much higher than reported and might even be as high as 42 percent. Trump bragged that the economy would boom once he was in charge, growing by 4% per year and maybe even as high as 6% per year. Need we add that such growth never occurred? It never even reached his downgraded promise of 3% growth, and quarterly growth rates keep being downgraded.

Certainly, cutting regulations for businesses and cutting taxes for those same businesses did create a temporary boost. But for the most part, instead of benefiting the average American, the GOP corporate tax cuts only enriched those at the top. Companies have been buying back stocks at levels never seen before — buybacks that have reached what some analysts are calling dangerous levels. All the while, corporate executives reaped the profits.

When the U.S. stock market tumbles and the Dow Jones Industrial Average drops 800 points in one day, that’s a big deal. The media and the markets declare that the sky is falling, while economists deliver doom-and-gloom predictions, describing the warning signs of a possible global recession.

Yet until very recently, most of the media continued the upbeat reporting about the economy, playing sound bites of Trump and other Republicans bragging about the U.S. economy and why it would be Trump’s trump card to win reelection.

If that’s the trump card, It sounds like the deck just got reshuffled.

There were economic warning signs before the precipitous stock plunge. Faced with a likely no-deal, hard Brexit in three months, the United Kingdom’s economy contracted in the last quarter, the first time since 2012. Government forecasts say a no-deal Brexit could send the UK (and perhaps other countries that are still part of the European Union as well) into a recession, causing the UK stock market to fall by as much as five percent.

The German economy also saw shrinkage in the second quarter. The contraction of 0.1% is being called the end of the golden decade for the German economy. China’s economy is growing at the slowest rate in nearly three decades. CNN now reports that five of the world’s biggest economies are at risk of recession—the UK, Brazil, Germany, Italy, and Mexico. The Washington Post lists an even larger count of nine countries — the five listed, plus Argentina, Russia, Singapore, and South Korea. And the U.S. could work its way onto the list.

What about the U.S.? Whatever happens, Trump always claims that it must be somebody else’s fault. From a Washington Post story on the stock plunge:

Whether the events presage an economic calamity or just an alarming spasm are unclear. But unlike during the Great Recession, global leaders are not working in unison to confront mounting problems and arrest the slowdown. Instead, they are increasingly at each other’s throats.

And President Trump has responded by both claiming the economy is still thriving while dramatically ramping up his attacks on Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, seeking to deflect blame.

Trump’s word-salad tweet blasts between rounds of golf claimed that the U.S. was still “winning,” that other countries were saying “THANK YOU to clueless Jay Powell and the Federal Reserve,” that “China is not our problem,” and that it was all the fault of the “CRAZY INVERTED YIELD CURVE” (he likely missed the lecture or failed the test when his Wharton professors were explaining that one, since he sounds like he doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about).

Actually, there have been warning signs here in the U.S. for a while, even though the media didn’t report on them (much) and the Trump administration ignored them all. Here’s what most of the media have been saying about how the economy will affect Trump’s reelection chances. These are all recent headlines:

CNN: The strong economy is Trump’s safety blanket

Politico: How Trump is on track for a 2020 landslide

Los Angeles Times: How can Trump get reelected? It’s still the economy, stupid

But now media outlets are doing a 180, saying that Trump’s economic goose is cooked (some of these are opinion pieces):

Fox Business: ‘Great Recession’ to hit US, killing Trump’s reelection hopes

MarketWatch: Economy will drag on Trump’s reelection hopes

Washington Post: How a recession could doom Trump’s 2020 reelection

CNN: Trump 2020 can’t afford a recession

Economists are still divided on what lies ahead for the U.S. economy. Here are just a few of the factors leading up to what might or might not turn into a recession:

The ballooning deficit. Besides making the rich richer, the GOP tax cuts did one thing spectacularly — it raised the deficit to never-before-seen levels. The deficit is up 27 percent over a year ago and could reach $1 trillion by 2020. While deficits by themselves aren’t necessarily negative, a deficit this big will give the U.S. less flexibility to pump up the economy during a downturn or even a crisis.

The U.S.-China trade war. The Trump tariffs have been hurting U.S. consumers ever since he announced the first round of 25 percent tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese goods. Prices on appliances such as washing machines went up 12 percent. Trump announced a new round of tariffs on Chinese imports but delayed their imposition until Dec. 15 so as not to remind U.S. consumers of higher prices when they’re doing their Christmas shopping. Some analysts are calling the escalating trade war a self-fulfilling downturn.

Income inequality. This is not just a talking point for Democratic candidates. The level of income inequality in the U.S. is unsustainable in the long run. There are many factors — technology, globalization, the rise of “superstar” companies like Apple and Amazon, the breakdown of unions. America’s top 10 percent average more than nine times as much income as the bottom 90 percent.  The top 0.1 percent take in over 188 times the income of the bottom 90 percent. And the GOP tax cuts that rewarded the richest while leaving most of the rest of us behind made it worse.

Markets collapsing for U.S. farmers. Soybean farmers have seen huge losses as China stopped buying U.S. soybeans in retaliation for Trump tariffs. Total agriculture exports to China dropped by more than half last year and are down 20 percent this year. Soybean prices have dropped nine percent since the trade war began a year ago. And the payouts that the Trump administration has been making to farmers aren’t making up the difference.

U.S. economic isolation. Trump’s approach to global trade has not been winning him many friends on the world stage. The disaster of the U.S.-China trade war has no end in sight, and there are no dates set for the next round of trade talks with China. When Trump abruptly pulls out of trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and NAFTA, especially with no certain replacement, that doesn’t give our allies much reason to trust him on the economic front (oh, who are we kidding—on any front).

When the Dow dropped by 800 points, there was a good reason that #TrumpCrash, #TrumpSlump, and #TrumpRecession were trending by the end of the trading day. By the next day, markets were recovering in the U.S. and around the world, as they usually do. But the damage had been done to the perception of Trump’s approach to economic success.

If people stop looking at the U.S. economy as Trump’s ace in the hole to win reelection, he’s in trouble. When media start honestly reporting that the economy is not as great as he claims, he’s in even worse shape.

That must be why Trump is going all in on the white supremacy front. If he can’t convince his followers that their economic payoff is just around the corner, all he can do is fall back on bashing immigrants and expressing outright racism.

In other words, exactly the same way he started his campaign when he descended that golden escalator in Trump Tower in 2015.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Aug. 18, 2019.

Despite outcry over mass shootings, don’t look to Republicans for meaningful gun safety measures

Residents of Dayton, Ohio, made their feelings clear during a visit by Donald Trump.

The National Rifle Association might be losing money and its stranglehold on political influence, but it’s still got a toehold in the White House. And that means its $30 million investment to back the 2016 election of Donald Trump is paying off.

No matter how incensed and grieving the public is after the recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, which killed 31 people and wounded 50 others, don’t expect any serious gun safety legislation to advance at the federal level.

The gun lobby group lost $55 million in revenue in 2018. It shut down production of its online media arm, NRATV. Its chief lobbyist was forced to resign. The NRA and its longtime ad agency are suing each other. The group’s tax-exempt status is under investigation in New York. But they’ve still got the ear of the president of the United States.

The mass shootings have highlighted many issues that need to be addressed: White supremacy, domestic terrorism, racism, the stoking of these ideas on social media platforms, domestic violence, Trump’s incendiary language, and mental illness. Donald Trump and Republicans would prefer that the conversation sticks to mental illness and (laughably) video games. Except for video games, all of these topics deserve discussion and action.

What’s missing from that list are the guns themselves. But the only movement on any serious gun safety laws will come at state levels, if at all. Whatever might pass in Congress — if it even does — will likely be minimal at best.

Democrats and gun control groups have been increasingly forceful about the need for action against gun violence, and there are signs of a few cracks in the GOP wall against any gun regulation.

Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine is proposing both background checks and “red-flag” laws, which would allow people to petition a judge to remove firearms from a person deemed a threat to himself or others. But with a solidly GOP legislature, he’s not likely to get any further than did the previous Republican governor, John Kasich, who backed red-flag laws as well.

GOP Ohio Rep. Mike Turner, whose congressional district includes Dayton, tweeted that he, too, backs red-flag laws — and a ban on the sale of military-style weapons. Republican senators now voicing support for red-flag laws are South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, Florida’s Marco Rubio, South Dakota’s John Thune, and Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey. Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, who voted against a 2013 bipartisan bill to expand background checks, said, “I think we should look at everything.”

It’s easy to see why a red-flag law can pick up support, because it plays into the “mental illness” narrative the GOP wants to push. Trump mentioned the idea of red-flag laws and background checks in a White House address, giving Republicans some cover. That is, until he talked to NRA Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre. When Democratic Texas Rep. Veronica Escobar, whose congressional district includes El Paso, requested a phone call with Trump to talk about the El Paso victims, he refused to speak to her. But he had plenty of time for the NRA.

The Dayton shooter, Connor Betts, was killed by police, so pinning down a motive for him is hard, but signs indicate some mental health issues. An ex-girlfriend said she and Betts bonded over their shared struggle with mental illness and that he had a fascination with mass shootings. She also said Betts had a dangerous fixation on a past girlfriend, which could be indicative of a domestic violence streak — something that perpetrators of the deadliest recent mass shooters have in common. (There were blaring headlines about his “left-wing” and anti-police Twitter feed, but authorities found no indication that his politics had any connection with the killings.) Acquaintances said Betts had a history of having a “death list” and a “rape list,” which temporarily got him kicked out of high school.

On the other hand, the El Paso shooter, Patrick Crusius, with his diatribe against immigrants, started shooting and killing because of his racial hatred, stoked by Trump’s words and tweets. After all, he admitted that his goal was to shoot as many Mexicans as possible.

Once you get past motive, though, what the two shooters had in common were the weapons they used — weapons that should never be in the hands of civilians to begin with. They both used legally purchased, semi-automatic, high-caliber assault-style rifles with high-capacity magazines. The Dayton shooter killed and wounded his victims in 30 seconds.

We’ve all seen this show before: an awful mass shooting, demands for gun safety regulations, the “too soon to talk about it” excuses from Republicans, and measured proposals for action such as universal background checks, the kind of gun reform backed by more than 90 percent of Americans. But the NRA’s ownership of the Republican Party always has stopped such common-sense gun legislation from moving forward.

Even the red-flag legislation that GOP senators are touting wouldn’t be universal. The bill Lindsey Graham is proposing would offer federal grants to states to help them enact and enforce red-flag laws, also sometimes called “extreme risk protection orders.” Seventeen states and the District of Columbia currently have such laws. And rather than cut down on mass shootings, research shows that red-flag laws are most effective in stopping suicides, which still make up two-thirds of gun deaths.

The NRA still objects to state red-flag laws. Any such orders “at a minimum must include strong due process protections, require treatment and include penalties against those who make frivolous claims,” said NRA spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen. When Trump flirted with the idea of background checks, the NRA warned him that his voting base would be displeased with that action.

But without a universal background check, a person exhibiting worrisome behavior in one state could still buy a gun in another state. After all, the killer in the recent mass shooting in Gilroy, California, was able to circumvent California gun laws by buying his gun in Nevada.

Recently, federal legislation attempting to cut gun violence has died at the Senate’s door. Even Twitter hashtags such as #MassacreMitch aren’t likely to change Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s mind in bringing up House-passed bills on universal background checks and extending the FBI review period for background checks on firearm purchases.

Democrats and gun control groups support red-flag laws but insist they don’t go far enough. Bans on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines would go a lot further in cutting down the carnage of a mass shooting. According to a New York Times story, Democrats would like to incorporate a Senate-passed red-flag bill into the House-passed gun safety measures.

“The idea of a red flag law is O.K., but it doesn’t substitute” for a background checks bill, Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, told reporters on Tuesday. “It’s not enough.”

All of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have proposals on gun safety. All support universal background checks. Many back bans on semiautomatic rifles and high-capacity magazines. Some propose either a voluntary or mandatory assault weapon buyback program.

A new study published this spring in the Journal of Internal Medicine evaluated 10 kinds of state gun safety laws and found that three are the most effective in cutting gun deaths in the U.S. No gun safety law will stop all killing from guns, but the three with the most success are universal background checks, bans on violent offenders purchasing guns, and “may issue” laws, which give police discretion on issuing concealed-carry permits. States with all three of those laws had a 36 percent lower homicide rate than states without such laws.

According to a story on the study in CityLab:

Universal background checks are associated with a nearly 15 percent drop in the homicide rate. Measures that prohibit people who committed a violent crime from owning a handgun are associated with an even larger reduction in homicide, 18 percent. Conversely, requiring police to approve concealed-carry permits unless the applicant meets explicitly stated exclusion criteria — so-called “shall-issue” laws — are associated with a nearly 10 percent higher homicide rate. None of the other seven firearm laws had a statistically significant association with the homicide rate when controlling for other factors.

In other words, when police cannot deny concealed-carry permits instead of using discretion, there is a higher homicide rate. Both Texas and Ohio have relatively lax gun regulations, including “shall-issue” laws.

We know the current Senate won’t pass the kind of gun safety legislation that most Americans want, and we know Trump would never sign it. But with the vast majority of Americans supporting universal background checks and research showing that such laws are effective in cutting the homicide rate, isn’t it time for the Senate to pass one damn bill? Over to you, #MassacreMitch.

Americans are ready for that law. The nearly 6 million members and supporters of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, who regularly make their voices heard in state legislatures nationwide and who successfully elected Democratic lawmakers in favor of gun safety in 2018, are ready for such a law. The students who survived the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, who turned their anger and sorrow into a national movement against gun violence and a massive voter registration drive of young voters, are ready, too.

They’re ready for Mitch McConnell and for any other Republican lawmakers standing in their way.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Aug. 11, 2019.

Forget polls. What will Democrats eat and what policies will they tout at the Iowa State Fair?

Except for vegan Cory Booker and vegetarian Tulsi Gabbard, any presidential hopeful courting Iowa voters is likely to eat a pork chop on a stick, like Hillary Clinton did in 2015.

For presidential hopefuls, the food stands at the Iowa State Fair are as obligatory a campaign stop as making a speech at the Des Moines Register Soap Box. What candidates eat could count as much as the policies. Speeches are fine, but what really gets a candidate’s mug on TV are shots of them chowing down on a pork chop on a stick.

Some Democrats skipped the 2018 fair while other hopefuls attended. But at this year’s fair, Aug. 8-18, we can expect all candidates to be checking out some of the more than 80 tasty treats (besides pork chops) at the fair’s 200 food stands, including chocolate-covered chunky bacon maple nougat on a stick, bacon-wrapped pig wings, and pickle beer (I am not making that up). In between bites, they will make their Soap Box speeches (20 candidates are scheduled to make 20-minute talks, which will be livestreamed). While all will discuss several topics, given the audience, many will describe how their proposals will help farmers and people in rural areas. Then they’ll chomp on their snacks on a stick, combined with a visit to the fair’s famous life-sized Butter Cow.

The Des Moines Register polled fair-goers in 2018 to pick their favorite state fair foods. The story with the results included photos of many would-be presidents chomping on various food offerings: Mike Pence eating a hot beef sundae and Mitt Romney joining Chuck Grassley flipping pork chops on a grill, both adorned in jaunty red monogrammed aprons. The winners as chosen by Iowans (the foods, not the caucus winners):

  1. Corn dogs. They’re so popular that in 2008, during an event called the Corn Dog Chomp, fair-goers set a world record of 8,400 for the number of people simultaneously eating corn dogs.
  2. Pork chops on a stick, widely popular with politicians and sponsored by (no surprise) the Iowa Pork Producers Association, in a state that produces more pork than any other.
  3. Peppermint bars. Oreo crust, peppermint ice cream, fudge sauce. What’s not to like?
  4. Hot beef sundaes. This must be Iowa’s version of Canada’s poutine. It’s sponsored by the Iowa Cattleman’s Association and is described by the Register as “two scoops of hand-mashed, homestyle potatoes surrounded by slow-roasted, fork-tender roast beef topped with savory beef gravy, a sprinkling of shredded cheddar cheese and finished with a sweet red cherry tomato on top.”
  5. Deep-fried cheese curds. They also come on a stick, and there’s a related mozzarella stick that comes in a honey-sriracha variety.

What can Democratic candidates gobble up that will impress Iowa voters? There are newer food entries to choose from that will still meet candidates’ dietary guidelines. But their proposals on farm policy and positions on corn-based ethanol might win more votes than chowing down on deep-fried pecan pie on a stick topped with bacon and caramel bits.

In a series of profiles, The New York Times asked about candidates’ favorite comfort foods on the campaign trail. Here’s a complete list, which ranges from a baked potato for Amy Klobuchar to vegetables (naturally!) for Cory Booker. Pete Buttigieg will always accept beef jerky from a supporter. Marianne Williamson has NO comfort foods. Sad! So here are suggestions on how to impress voters with policy and still please candidates’ palates.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is apparently very fond of the pink frosted donuts favored by Homer Simpson and often orders Dunkin’ Donuts’ strawberry frosted sprinkles donuts for staffers. There’s no shortage of donut-inspired foods at the fair, including donut sundaes. Warren could woo small farmers with her policy position (you knew she would have a plan for that) against big agriculture and in favor of small family farms.

California Sen. Kamala Harris may have learned to master Indian cooking from her mother, along with her civil rights commitment, but there don’t seem to be Indian foods on the complete fair food list. Maybe she could find enough spice in the Caribbean leg of lamb taco to honor her father’s home country of Jamaica. (The same could be said of Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam, also the son of a Jamaican immigrant.) Otherwise, Harris could tout her bill to strengthen labor protections for farm workers, also backed by other candidates.

Former Vice President Joe Biden has a serious love of ice cream. His campaign staff gave away Joe Cones during the first Democratic debate in Miami, claiming they tasted “like victory” (how’d that work out?). If ice cream doesn’t do the trick, Biden could describe his policy for more investment in food, agriculture, and health programs in rural areas.

Speaking of ice cream: The Vermont ice cream moguls, Ben & Jerry’s, are longtime supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Ben Cohen even created a special ice cream flavor, Bernie’s Yearning, in 2016. This year, Sanders is courting farmers with a proposal to break up big agriculture companies and increase federal investment in struggling rural areas.

Being a vegan, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker is going to have to pass on many traditional Iowa favorites. Perhaps he can try one of the blended fruit smoothie coolers  available, though he could impress Iowa farmers with a roasted ear of sweet corn.  He’s more likely to impress farmers with his policy proposals against big mergers of food and agriculture companies.

Since her state is directly north of Iowa, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar should feel right at home with the gustatory delights of the fair. Klobuchar will woo corn farmers with her strong support of ethanol and has a proposal to protect the renewable fuel industry. When it comes to snacks, she should try the salad-on-a-stick, lest she repeat the infamous eating-salad-with-a-comb incident.

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg stirred up some social media controversy early in the campaign when, in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” snippet, he declared definitively that a hot dog isn’t a sandwich. He likely won’t think a corn dog is a sandwich, either, although you can get them wrapped in bacon, in a jalapeno double bacon variety, as a corn brat, in a veggie version, and gluten-free. Or he could just talk to Iowans about how his New Rising Tide plan would expand federal protections to farm and domestic workers.

Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke loves to hop up on restaurant counters and tabletops to address crowds of Iowa voters, although his Soap Box speech is as elevated as he’ll get. As a Texan, he might enjoy some of the numerous barbecue offerings, despite the false claims of his 2018 Senate opponent, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, that O’Rourke wanted to ban barbecue across the state. But he might pick up support from Iowa farmers with his plan for farm-to-table restaurants in all communities to eliminate food deserts.

In 2014, when San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro was nominated to be President Obama’s secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, his twin brother, Texas Rep. Joaquín Castro, gave him advice on the best Mexican restaurants in Washington, D.C. We obviously don’t want to stereotype Castro’s food choices, but there’s no shortage of Mexican food at the fair, and guacamole made fresh with ingredients on a cart and served with fresh chips sounds especially tasty. As policy, Castro would strengthen protections for immigrant guest workers.

A natural fit for former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennett, and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock would be Rocky Mountain oysters, which they could munch while Hickenlooper describes his farm-to-table program as governor and Bennett criticizes how Donald’s Trump’s trade war with China has hurt farmers.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, whose state grows an average of 2.5 million tons of apples a year, can choose an apple item such as apple eggrolls or apple tacos while he describes his goals for growing agriculture. New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio concentrates more on urban than rural farming but he also might enjoy snacks that remind him of the Big Apple. New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand especially might like the boozy pecan caramel apple, since she told The New York Times that her favorite comfort food on the campaign trail was a glass of whiskey at the end of the night. But she’ll try to win over voters with her Safe School Meals for Kids Act that bans pesticides from school lunches.

Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton listed burgers as his favorite campaign comfort food, but in between bites he could tell voters about his plan to support small-scale farmers and increase access to local food. Former Maryland Rep. John Delaney likely wants to win points with his Heartland Fair Deal to expand agriculture markets, so eating corn on the cob might make an impression.

Ohio Rep. TIm Ryan is another ice cream fan, which could contradict the subject of his book, The Real Food Revolution: Healthy Eating, Green Groceries, and the Return of the American Family Farm. Former tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang, pushing the idea of a universal basic income to fight the encroachment of automation, might like anything as long as it’s not made by robots. Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard might feel at home with the Hawaiian Pineapple Bowl as she talks about her plan for tax breaks and incentives for small food producers. Author Marianne Williamson founded Project Angel Food, which delivers healthy meals to those with serious illnesses in the Los Angeles area, so she might check out the many healthy choices available at the fair.

Joe Sestak and Tom Steyer? These late entries can find their own snacks.

To learn more about where candidates stand on these issues, check out Civil Eats, a website about the American food system and sustainable agriculture. The group has compiled a list of all candidates’ positions on food and farming.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on July 21, 2019.

No surprise: States with the most guns have highest rates of domestic violence gun deaths

In April, Sen. Amy Klobuchar joined a group of House Democrats asking the Senate to follow the House’s lead in reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act. So far: crickets.

A new study confirms what anyone who pays attention to domestic violence already knows: The presence of a gun raises the chance of a fatality, and the victim is most likely to be a woman.

As a tweet from Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America puts it, “Gun violence IS a woman’s issue.”

The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, compared state-by-state rates of gun ownership with rates of gun homicide from 1990 through 2016. The study did not find much correlation between gun ownership rates and overall gun homicides. But when it comes to domestic violence, the study’s authors found that states with the highest gun ownership rates had a nearly 65 percent higher rate of firearm homicide compared with states with lower gun ownership rates. What is needed to lower that rate, they say, are stronger state laws.

“Overall, these findings support the need for state firearm legislation directed toward protecting victims of domestic violence, as access to firearms uniquely increases the likelihood of homicide among this population,” the authors say in their conclusion.

A New York Times story about the study pointed out that the results are not surprising. It quotes Aaron Kivisto, an associate professor of clinical psychology at the University of Indianapolis and the study’s lead author.

The study reaffirms a well-known connection between access to guns and abusive relationships turning deadly, at a time when intimate partner homicides are on the rise. Research has shown that women killed by their partners are more likely to be murdered with a firearm than by all other means combined, and the presence of a gun in domestic violence situations can increase the risk of homicide for women by as much as 500 percent, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Both men and women were at increased risk for domestic homicide when firearm ownership increased, the study found. “But the important caveat to that is, whereas men are victims in about three out of four typical homicides that occur, it fully reverses when we are talking about intimate partner homicide,” Dr. Kivisto said. “Women are three in four victims of intimate partner homicide.” …

“It is women, in particular, who are bearing the burden of this increased gun ownership,” he said.

What laws can curb such violence against domestic partners? That is, besides  common-sense gun laws such as universal background checks, which are supported by more than 90 percent of Americans? The study points out that some federal laws are aimed at reducing domestic violence gun deaths. Unfortunately, these laws are not always enforced, so some states have countered with their own statutes.

The rate of estimated gun ownership varies widely, ranging from about 10 percent in Hawaii to 69 percent in Wyoming, with an average ownership rate of 39 percent, according to the study. Higher rates are found in Southern and Western states, and lower rates of gun ownership are found in the Northeast.

The number of murders committed by intimate partners is on the rise nationally. From 2010 to 2017, gun-related domestic killings increased by 26 percent, and the majority of victims are women. The study’s authors suggest that more state laws could help lower the number of those deaths by making it harder for violent partners to obtain and keep guns.

“Studies into these policies suggest that states with laws that prohibit individuals at high risk of intimate partner violence from possessing firearms and require them to relinquish any firearms they currently own have a lower incidence of domestic firearm homicide,” the study’s conclusion says.

Here are ways that some laws help and how they fall short.

Violence Against Women Act. A federal law that addresses such domestic violence is the Violence Against Women Act, but it is currently in limbo until the Senate acts on reauthorization (if ever). The act was first passed in 1994 as part of the original crime bill that year. It has been reauthorized three times: in 2000, 2005, and in 2013 (delayed because some conservatives objected to provisions extending provisions to same-sex couples and to undocumented immigrants). The many provisions of the law established and funded broad community responses to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. The act helped to protect victims of sexual and domestic violence, adding stricter provisions regarding domestic abusers and gun ownership. It prohibited gun possession by people subject to permanent restraining orders against committing violence against intimate partners.

The law expired during the government shutdown in December 2018 and January 2019. It was temporarily reinstated by a short-term spending bill but expired again in February 2019. The House passed a reauthorization bill in April but the Senate has refused to take up the legislation. The supposed reason for the Republicans’ refusal is a new provision protecting transgender people. Another new provision would close the so-called “boyfriend loophole,” meaning a violent partner who was not married to or living with the victim would be subject to the law. The restraining order provision was expanded so that the law would bar not only those under a restraining order but also those convicted of abusing, assaulting, or stalking a domestic partner from buying guns.

The Center for American Progress points out the need for continued enhancement of the Violence Against Women Act:

Since its original passage as part of the 1994 crime bill, VAWA has established a vitally important and previously nonexistent infrastructure that responds to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. Now is not the time to shy away from the serious work of improving the federal government’s responses to gender-based violence. … Congress can and must continue to push for comprehensive approaches to end violence against women.

Gun Control Act of 1968. Another federal law cited in the study is the Gun Control Act of 1968, passed after the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Robert Kennedy. It primarily focuses on regulating interstate commerce in guns. It is supposed to prohibit interstate gun sales except by licensed manufacturers, dealers, and importers, but it’s too easy for private sellers and buyers at gun shows to skirt the law.

The Gun Control Act prohibits all convicted felons (including those convicted of felony domestic violence against a partner), drug users, and the mentally ill from buying guns, but the study points out that it, too, is poorly enforced.

Red-flag laws. Several states are trying to lower the threat of violence by passing so-called “red-flag” laws. A total of 15 states have passed some version of a red-flag law, which permits police or family members to petition a state court to order the temporary removal of guns from someone who may present a danger to others or themselves. Many of those laws were passed after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in February 2018, which killed 17 people. Another 21 states have passed some steps toward such a law.

Besides lowering the threat of domestic gun violence, the laws also have been successful in lowering suicide rates, as many of those identified as being potentially dangerous intended harm to themselves.

We already know that the majority of mass shooters also have a history of domestic violence, according to research by Everytown for Gun Safety. More than half of all mass shootings in the United States are related to domestic or family violence. Of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in recent U.S. history, nine were committed by domestic abusers. And the act of mass shooting is not the first instance of domestic violence by these perpetrators.

Everytown for Gun Safety calls the combination of guns and violence against women America’s Uniquely Lethal Domestic Violence Problem, as women in the U.S. are 25 times more likely to be shot and killed as are women in other high-income countries. Common-sense gun safety laws in this country, as well as the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, could save a lot of lives.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on July 28, 2019.

Ignore conservatives’ advice on how to pick the Democratic presidential nominee

After the first Democratic debates, Joe Scarborough declared them a “disaster” for Democrats and hoped no one was watching. Talk about being out of step: 15.3 million watched the first night and 18.1 million the second, and viewers liked what they saw.

Spare us from supposedly well-meaning conservative pundits telling the world whom the Democratic Party must — and must not — nominate for president. They’re out of step with the times.

It’s still more than six months until the first votes in the Iowa caucuses, a year before the Democratic National Convention, and nearly 16 months before the actual 2020 election itself. Yet conservative columnists and television commentators — many who fall into the “Never Trump” category — think they hold the secret to the perfect Democratic nominee.

These conservatives contend that the only way Democrats can win back the presidency is to nominate someone that they approve of. A moderate — nay, a center-right — nominee is the only possible pick who could capture those “white, working class voters” that all conservatives think are necessary for a winning path to the White House.

Here’s an idea, conservative pundits: If you want to help pick the Democratic nominee, become a Democrat. If you can’t stand Trump (and many of you have said publicly that his presidency is a racist disaster) and you still want to offer advice to Democrats, give advice that reflects a Democratic mindset, not just your own.

If you still want to stick with your conservative values and want to keep your GOP credentials, fine. Tell your own party to dump the racist-in-chief and choose a new candidate.

Business Insider recently ran an opinion piece by Democratic campaign strategist Matt Herdman that was the written equivalent of someone banging his head against his desk. The conclusion in the headline: Republican pundits keep offering Democrats advice. It’s almost all terrible.

Usually it comes from “Never Trump” Republicans, who share a common interest in beating President Donald Trump in 2020. I’m glad that these Republicans are on the team, but I hope none of the Democratic presidential candidates take the bait and listen. …

Polling suggests voters, and independents, support a popular vote rather than the electoral college. It also suggests that voters favor the Green New Deal, creating new social programs like Medicare for All and expanded funding for childcare, and Warren’s wealth tax. But you wouldn’t pick up on that from these pleas for Democrats to run as diet Republicans.

Charlie Sykes, a conservative MSNBC contributor and editor-in-chief of the Bulwark, listed 11 steps in Politico that he claims would ensure Trump’s re-election. The advice is what you would expect from a conservative as policy losers: Abolish private health insurance, license guns, be vague on open borders, promise free stuff without paying for it, etc.

As to that last point: Probably the most satisfying answer at the first Democratic presidential debate was when California Sen. Kamala Harris, when asked a “how-will-you-pay-for-it” question, shot back, “Where was that question when Republicans passed their tax cuts, now that the deficit is out of control?”

Just for the record, Charlie (hey, I worked with him at The Milwaukee Journal), Democrats aren’t “vague” on borders and support border security as much as any Republican. The proposals on gun safety stress the common-sense restrictions such as universal background checks that are supported by more than 90 percent of Americans.

Or take the advice from writer George Will. His recent column in The Washington Post advises Democrats that their best bet would be to nominate … Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet.

Reading too much George Will all at once can cause a serious case of eye-rolling. Will says he favors Bennet because “He can distinguish between what he calls ‘the Twitter base of the Democratic Party’ and the ‘actual’ version.” (I’m leaving out Will’s wordy attempts at showing off vocabulary and knowledge of ancient Greek historians.)

Don’t get me wrong. I like Michael Bennet. His election in 2010 as a Democratic senator from Colorado was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal year for Democrats. His entry into the crowded Democratic field was delayed by treatment for prostate cancer, so other candidates gained followers who might have gone to him. His positions could hardly be called conservative, yet he doesn’t embrace some of his colleagues’ ideas on issues such as Medicare for All and the decriminalization of migrant border crossing.

Bennet remains optimistic that he still has time to break out of the lower rungs of the crowded field into a higher position. Never mind that he is receiving between zero and 1 percent support in national polls reported by FiveThirtyEight.com and likely won’t qualify for the September debates. Despite a decent performance in the June debate, his poll numbers remain unchanged. Yet Will thinks that Bennet is a sure winner.

Another Washington Post columnist, Robert Samuelson, made the often-repeated charge that none of the candidates seems presidential. Samuelson’s complaints — that the candidates resembled a “gaggle of graduate students” — centered on ideas you would expect from conservatives. They aren’t saying how they’ll pay for everything when they should be cutting budgets (tell that to Republicans blowing up the deficit). They don’t have foreign policy experience (as if the current occupant hasn’t turned the U.S. into a laughingstock on the international stage).

Samuelson’s most ridiculous complaint was that the Democats don’t come off as “leaders.” Well, sure, if you’re defining leadership as being a white, male Republican.

There are a lot more, from the usual suspects such as Bret Stephens of The New York Times and Peggy Noonan of The Wall Street Journal. But they’re all basically saying the same thing: The country needs a “center-right” Democrat, even if that’s the opposite of what Democratic voters want.

An intriguing theory on why all of this dated advice sounds the same comes from a piece in New York Magazine: The pundits in this country are still adhering to old rules — from a time when they wrote the rules. “In all of their hand-wringing, they seem not to have noticed that, in fact, assumptions about a safe center are crumbling in the hands of a new generation of political leaders willing to make a stirring case for radical ideas.”

Where many Americans have seen the emergence of compelling and charismatic candidates who don’t look like those who’ve preceded them (but do look more like the country they want to lead), some prominent pundits seem to be looking at a field of people they simply can’t recognize as presidential. Where many hear Democratic politicians arguing vigorously on behalf of more justice and access to resources for people who have historically been kept at the margins of power, some prominent columnists are hearing a scary call to destabilization and chaos, imagining themselves on the outside of politics they’ve long assumed should be centered around them.

Altogether, what’s emerging is a view of a presidential commentariat that — in terms of both ideas and diversity — is embarrassingly outpaced by the candidates, many of whom appear smarter, more thoughtful, and to have a nimbler grasp of American history and structural inequities than the television journalists being paid to cover them.

No, Democrats aren’t going to run as “diet Republicans,” as Herdman dubbed those mythical creatures in the Business Insider piece. No matter the nominee, he or she will embrace progressive ideas in the campaign, even if political reality means scaling back some of those ideas once the winning Democrat has been sworn in on Jan. 20, 2021. But how will we ever know if we don’t try?

Originally posted on Daily Kos on July 21, 2019.

Of course Trump’s tweets were racist. But they’re a losing proposition in the long run

Donald Trump’s itchy Twitter fingers are getting him in trouble once again.

Donald Trump’s tweetstorm telling four Democratic congresswomen of color to go back to the “crime-infested and corrupt” countries they came from reflected the kind of racism he espoused during his campaign and throughout his presidency. He’s planning to double down on that racism to try to win reelection, and immediate polls showed that his standing rose with Republicans.

The trouble for him is that the racism expressed in these tweets are sinking him with the swing voters he desperately needs.

Trump sent a flurry of incendiary tweets clearly aimed at the four progressive congresswomen known as “the squad” — New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley, and Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, all of whom have been strongly critical of Trump. Besides telling them to return to their countries (three were born in the United States, and Omar moved to the U.S. as a refugee from Somalia when she was a child, and all are American citizens and members of the U.S. House of Representatives), he questioned their patriotism, lied about their past statements, and said they “hate” America. It was the kind of message Americans have come to expect from Trump, except it reached a level of overt racism that he usually doesn’t express out loud — or only expresses at his rallies.

There’s a big partisan divide on how people view Trump’s racist missives. A USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll showed that a clear majority of Americans object to Trump’s messaging: 68 percent think the tweets were offensive, and 59 percent called them “un-American.”

The tweets were widely condemned around the world as well. British MP David Lammy branded Trump’s comments as “1950s racism straight from the White House.” Reactions from Belgium, Germany, New Zealand, and the West Bank included phrases such as “sickening,” “ugly sentiments,” “clearly racist,” and “an insult to values America purports to uphold.”

In the USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll, 93 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of independents polled agreed that the tweets were offensive. Even 37 percent of Republicans gave them that label.

On the Republican side, though, the reactions tell a different story. Fifty-seven percent of Republicans polled said they agreed with Trump’s tweets, including a third that “strongly agreed” with Trump’s words.

Well, sure. That’s his base. Those are the people who will vote for Trump in November 2020 no matter how racist he sounds. But that base isn’t enough to win reelection.

As a USA TODAY story describing the polls put it:

The dispute could be costly for Trump among key voters in his bid for a second term. Three-fourths of the women polled call his tweets offensive. Independents, by more than 2-1, say the comments are “un-American.”

One interesting takeaway from the poll is that most Americans are fine with political criticism. From the USA TODAY/Ipsos poll:

There is a broad consensus among those surveyed that it is patriotic “to point out where America falls short and try to do better.”

There’s no doubt that Trump’s Twitter thumbs went into overdrive because he was trying to shift the focus from an outbreak of negative publicity. His bad news included losing the fight to get a citizenship question on the 2020 Census, the continuing horror stories of migrant children being locked in cages at the border, and the wealth of material showing him with multiple ties to Jeffery Epstein, the billionaire newly indicted on sex trafficking charges, including a video of Trump and Epstein (and a lot of young women) whooping it up at a Mar-a-Lago party.

In the weeks leading up to the Trump tweetstorm, a mostly media-driven battle had emerged between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the four women of the squad. The differences were blown up by media interviews, incendiary tweets, and messaging by both sides.

After Trump took to his phone, however, all Democratic sides united in response. The Democratic-led House passed a resolution condemning Trump’s tweets, with four GOP votes and one vote from Michigan’s Justin Amash, a Republican recently turned independent when he publicly backed Trump’s impeachment.

There’s no secret why those in the GOP are so frightened of crossing Trump: They’re afraid of losing the support of Trump voters. As former Republican Rep. Joe Walsh wrote in The Washington Post:

In a world where more Republicans still sincerely thought of our party as the Party of Lincoln, condemning the president’s words should have been a no-brainer, and, in theory, should have been the tipping point where Republicans started hopping off the Trump bandwagon.

But it won’t be. …

Most of them care only about getting reelected. The same rudderless politicians who’ve let Trump give plum jobs to unqualified cronies and run up the deficit are too scared of his base to do anything other than comply.

Keep your base, Trump and his fellow Republicans. You could be in for a rude awakening when you wake up on Nov. 4, 2020, only to find that the majority of people in this country are so sick of Trump’s racism and your unwillingness to stand up to him about it that they voted for Democrats.

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