Manufacturing slump undercuts Trump claims of economic strength

The massive GM assembly plants in Lordstown, Ohio, shut down in March after 52 years, leaving thousands of autoworkers unemployed.

Of all the ridiculous arguments Donald Trump makes for his reelection, perhaps none is repeated more often than his claim that the U.S. economy is “the greatest economy in the history of our country.”

The claim is gibberish, of course, which is why the claim (or some variation thereof) continually rates three out of four Pinocchios from The Washington Post. And one of the reasons why the claim is wrong is that the nation’s manufacturing sector is on a downward spiral.

The Institute of Supply Management’s manufacturing index dropped to 47.8 in September, down from 49.1 the previous month, the lowest number in more than a decade. Any number above 50 indicates manufacturing expansion. A number below 50 indicates that manufacturing is in recession territory.

Companies are blaming the slowdown on Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods, which have escalated into a full-blown trade war with China as that country retaliates with tariffs of its own. According to a story from The Washington Post:

Manufacturing fell into a technical recession in the first half of the year, and the latest ISM data indicates the situation appears to be getting worse.

Concerns are rising that the contraction in manufacturing could spill over into the rest of the U.S. economy.

Even worse than a technical number from the index, numbers for manufacturing employment, new orders, backlogs, and production all fell in the Institute of Supply Management report. Because of Trump’s tariffs, parts cost more, so companies are ordering fewer of them, which also affects suppliers. In some cases, manufacturers worried about the future are laying off employees. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the manufacturing unemployment rate went up six-tenths of a percentage point just since June, and the manufacturing sector lost 2,000 jobs in September. The official September numbers from BLS showed that U.S. employers added only 136,000 jobs.

And guess where manufacturing job numbers are bad? In Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, three states Trump won narrowly in 2016. Losses in those three states could very well tip the election to a Democratic challenger in 2020.

A Bloomberg opinion piece points out that Trump’s trade policies are hurting both the farming and manufacturing sectors. A 2016 manufacturing recession may have contributed to Trump’s slim win in those three states that Democrats were counting on as a “blue wall.”

Manufacturing is still a major employer in those states — think steel and automobiles — and there have been layoffs as manufacturing has weakened. Even though Trump ran in 2016 promising to revive the country’s manufacturing sector, that promise sounds more hollow as time goes on.

Manufacturing employment growth in Wisconsin and Michigan has already fallen below the 2015 rate. Pennsylvania is dangerously close. At best, this makes it difficult for Trump to claim that his policies have led to a revival. At worst, it suggests that his policies have backfired.

Trump could conceivably turn the situation around, but at this point it’s hard to see how. Even if he announced an official end to the trade war tomorrow, it would be months before farmers and businesses could be confident that he was serious. After that, there would be yet more delays before equipment orders rebounded, and still more before a rise in manufacturing employment.

The 2016 manufacturing recession likely convinced some Trump voters that he would be an economic savior and save their jobs. “Now Trump has to campaign against a similarly weak backdrop,” the Washington Post story says.

Manufacturing accounts for about one-tenth of the U.S. economy, making it less of a barometer of what’s ahead of the U.S. economy than it once was. But most analysts agree that what’s happening to manufacturing is evidence Trump’s tariffs are doing real harm to the U.S. economy and is a warning sign for what could happen to other industries, especially as the tariffs expand by the end of the year onto nearly all Chinese products.

“We have now tariffed our way into a manufacturing recession in the U.S. and globally. What’s the strategy now? It better be more than the Chinese buying more soybeans,” said Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group, in an email.

Many factors affect a manufacturing recession, of course, including the global economy. In addition to concerns about trade wars with China, indicators in Europe also are pointing in the wrong direction. A joint forecast from several of Germany’s leading economic institutes sharply downgrades predictions for that country’s economy. Add to that the uncertainty about what will happen to the economy of European countries when the United Kingdom leaves the European Union — whether it’s a no-deal Brexit or not — and the economic future looks even bleaker.

But Trump’s tariffs have screwed U.S. manufacturers more than anything else. While the tariffs initially helped the steel industry, that bump was short-lived, and now some steel plants are closing.

A story from Markets Insider explains how this slowdown is Trump’s doing:

While US manufacturing has faced separate challenges, including a broader slowdown abroad, economists said a drop in demand for new orders showed how the sector has been directly affected by trade policy.

“The continued decline in new export orders suggests that the trade war is an important source of the ongoing slowdown in the manufacturing sector,” said Torsten Slok, the chief economist at Deutsche Bank Securities.

By effectively taxing American importers, tariffs on Chinese products have disrupted global supply chains and threatened to upend trading relationships that have been built over a span of decades. Domestic jobs have been put increasingly at risk as heightened costs and uncertainty weigh on the outlook.

Trump continues to spout nonsense on how the manufacturing slump should somehow be blamed on the Federal Reserve, because … I don’t know, something to do with interest rates?

Three out of four economists surveyed by the National Association of Business Economics are predicting a recession by 2021, if not sooner, perhaps even before the 2020 election. When you add the record number of bankruptcies for Midwest farmers, the higher prices U.S. consumers will pay for goods because of Trump’s new round of tariffs, and a prediction from Agricultural Secretary Sonny Perdue that small dairy farms might not survive, remember to take Trump’s words on how great the economy is doing with mountains of salt.

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

Political murder is headed to the cradle of democracy

The ancient sites may be fragile, but they still have much to teach us. We’re off to Greece to see the wonders of the Parthenon, the Temple of Apollo, the site of the first Olympic Games, and more. Maybe the Oracle of Delphi will give us a hint on who’s going to win the 2020 election.

So you’ll see only a few new posts at this site. But I’ll try to update the Political murder of the day every day (unless we’re drinking too much ouzo or we’re out of Wi-Fi range), so check out who died on this day in history by clicking the link above.

If you missed some posts from the past, click on Complete list of posts. You can revisit past opinions on the still-relevant news of the day. We have several about impeachment, such as Trump impeachment is now all but certain. Gun violence and mass shootings are still rampant, so you have to wonder: How many voters are Republicans willing to lose over guns? With the 2020 election just over a year away, Republicans want more GOP women in office. Good luck with that. Of course, the media started its sexist coverage early. ‘Democrats must nominate a white guy in 2020.’ Oh, really? And here’s a look at why the media can’t seem to get enough of Trumpland: 6 reasons for media’s obsession with Trump voters. While we’re at it, here are Six rules for the media on how to cover the 2020 election.

Of course, it’s not all bad news. Swedish teenager and climate activist Greta Thunberg has inspired a worldwide climate action movement. #ClimateStrike: Thanks to Greta Thunberg, the kids are all right. But the reason for her urgency is well-founded: #ClimateChange report states the obvious: Time is running out.

Finally, don’t forget about reading both books in the political murder series. The Political Blogging Murder, a funny mystery set at a Netroots Nation-type of convention, and Off With His Talking Head, in which murder infiltrates the world of Sunday morning talk shows, are both available at this site for a mere $2.99. You can read the initial chapters of both books by clicking the Book excerpts link above. Or check out how to order the books in a variety of electronic formats by clicking the Books: How to order link above.

So, go ahead. Read. We’ll be back with a new post later in October.

Impeachment support grows in polls. How’s it playing back home?

Voters are more ready than Trump realizes.

We can see how the arrow of public opinion is moving in favor of the impeachment — and even the removal — of Donald Trump. At the same time, there are doom-and-gloom stories warning Democrats, especially those in swing congressional districts that flipped from red to blue in 2018, that impeaching Trump will be done at Democrats’ peril.

Except for some on the House Intelligence Committee, many of the nation’s lawmakers are home on congressional recess to take the pulse of their districts in town hall meetings. While they’re bound to hear a mix of opinions, many of those representatives say constituents who are weighing in so far are paying attention, and that they like what they’re hearing from Democrats.

Various polls show increased support across the board for the impeachment inquiry, impeachment itself, and removing Trump from office. That’s not a surprise when the details of the impeachment argument are clear and easy to understand: On a call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump asked Zelensky for a “favor” — to smear Joe Biden, his possible Democratic rival in the 2020 election.

Support still breaks down mostly along partisan lines, and the inquiry itself receives more backing than removal. But a CNN poll showed growing support from Republicans, independents, and younger voters. From a story about the CNN poll:

The shift has also come notably among younger Americans. Sixty percent of those under age 35 now say they support impeaching Trump and removing him from office, up from 43% who felt that way in May, while support for the move among older Americans has held about even (42% now vs. 40% in May). Previous CNN polling on impeachment has not found such a stark gap by age.

And that shift is concentrated on the GOP side. Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents under age 50, support for impeaching Trump and removing him from office has risen from 9% in May to 22% now, while views among older Republicans and Republican leaners have held about even with just 8% in favor of impeachment and removal from office.

But representatives are still hearing more from constituents about the bread-and-butter issues such as health care costs, jobs, prescription drug prices, and gun violence, just to name a few — the issues voters feel strongly about and the reasons those voters elected Democrats in the first place.

While lawmakers are still hearing from constituents, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made sure to tell Democrats before they left Washington that the tone of the discussion about impeachment is important. “Our tone must be prayerful, respectful, solemn, worthy of the Constitution,” she told Democratic lawmakers. From a New York Times story:

Party leaders sent the rank and file home on Friday with instructions and talking points cards aimed at emphasizing the gravity of the moment. They contained two central messages for lawmakers to deliver to constituents: Mr. Trump abused his office, and Democrats would follow the facts.

“We want to keep this simple,” said Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island, who heads the party’s messaging arm, clutching talking points cards headlined “No One Is Above the Law.” He added: “This is not complicated. This is misconduct that the president has admitted to.”

Included with the impeachment talking points were packets on Democrats’ next major piece of legislation, a prescription drugs pricing bill, a major concern to voters. The bill would let the secretary of Health and Human Services negotiate prices of 250 drugs and would penalize drug companies that don’t negotiate with HHS.

In other words, Democrats are reminding their constituents that they can walk and chew gum at the same time.

The more moderate Democrats from swing districts seem confident that the facts about impeachment will speak for themselves. According to a story from Reuters:

Representative Susan Wild was among a number of Democrats from highly competitive “swing” seats in the House of Representatives who changed her mind to back an impeachment probe against Trump. She expects to hear about it at a town hall meeting next week in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Wild says her district is about equally divided between Democrats and Republicans, including Trump voters. But she doesn’t appear worried.

“I don’t think I have to convince them. I think the facts will convince them,” Wild told Reuters on Friday. Her office email and phone calls have been running 11-to-one in favor of an impeachment inquiry, a “marked contrast to the kind of communications that we’ve gotten the last few months from our constituents,” she said.

If a swing-district Democrat is hearing from constituents that they’re in favor of an impeachment inquiry by an 11-1 ratio, the truth is winning out. Other lawmakers report similar feedback. From a New York Times story:

In some of the more affluent districts that Democrats flipped last year, the first-term lawmakers have received reassurance in recent days that they are making the right decision. [Harley] Rouda, [Mark] Levin and [Gil] Cisneros all said in separate interviews that the calls and emails that had come into their offices in the last week had been overwhelmingly in favor of pursuing impeachment.

And Representative Dean Phillips of Minnesota, who was the first freshman lawmaker to come out for the investigation last Monday, said that he received a number of calls from Republicans and independent voters who had pressed him to hold the president accountable.

If any House Democrats are at risk for voting to impeach Trump, don’t forget that Republicans also could face electoral peril. Republican House members in swing districts and vulnerable Senate Republican incumbents could face a backlash, no matter which way they vote. From a story in The Atlantic:

The upcoming debate could create risks for Republicans too, in the states and House districts trending away from Trump, such as the concentration of suburban seats in Texas that Democrats are targeting. If impeachment reaches the Senate, Republican incumbents such as Susan Collins of Maine, Martha McSally of Arizona, and Cory Gardner of Colorado may be unlikely to vote to convict the president — which will bind them to him more tightly in states where his position is equivocal at best.

The Atlantic story adds that, if electoral history from the 1998 and 2000 elections is any guide, after House Republicans voted to impeach President Bill Clinton, Democrats don’t have too much to worry about. Democrats gained only five House seats in the 1998 election while Republicans kept control of that chamber, and only six House incumbents were defeated in 2000. Interestingly, one of those who lost in 2000 was California Republican James Rogan, who helped manage the House’s impeachment case during the Senate trial. The Democrat who beat him? Adam Schiff.

Every day, Donald Trump seems to commit another impeachable offense. The stonewalling that members of the Trump administration are doing to deny House committees the ability to question State Department employees, for example, would just add to the obstruction of justice charges. Overuse of executive privilege as a reason not to answer questions and to block a current or former White House employee from testifying does the same. And Trump’s rants from the Oval Office and his diarrhea of tweets on the subject, including retweeting the call for a civil war, just add more fuel to the impeachment fire.

Nancy Pelosi took a measured road to an impeachment inquiry. It took a piece of evidence that was itself a smoking gun — the White House-released transcript of the call between Trump and Zelensky — for her to come into the light.

It seems that voters are now following her down that well-lit road.

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

Trump impeachment is now all but certain

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Donald Trump tried to look chummy at their U.N. joint appearance.

“I would like you to do us a favor though. … There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it…”

With those words from the White House’s superficial version of a transcript of Donald Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump left no doubt that he was asking the head of a foreign country for help in smearing a possible election opponent. Trump might as well have sent the articles of impeachment to the Senate himself.

Trump’s behavior — and actions by unidentified White House officials trying to hide that conduct — were the subject of the whistleblower complaint regarding Trump’s conversation with Zelensky and the aftermath. Unclassified material from that complaint was released to the public with few redactions. Testimony from the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, before the House Intelligence Committee also confirmed the basis of the complaint.

The transcript — really notes about the conversation — doesn’t read like two human beings talking to each other, but it was obvious from the beginning that White House officials would put Trump’s words in the best possible light. Too bad for them that they’re still damning.

Except for GOP lawmakers, who insist that that there is no quid pro quo in the Trump-Zelensky conversation, and Trump himself, who reverted to his witch hunt claims during a rambling news conference, the consensus is that the contents of Trump-Zelensky phone call represent a disturbing, if not impeachable, offense. The rough transcript is devastating. How could Trump not know that? asked Washington Post columnist Max Boot.

On the call itself, Trump pivoted from Zelensky’s request for missiles to Trump’s request for an investigation of his political opponents.

Trump did no business on behalf of the United States on this call. He did not once mention any desire to root out corruption in Ukraine or achieve any other foreign policy objective. It was all campaign business — dragging a foreign head of state and his own attorney general into his desperate efforts to win reelection and remove any taint from his initial election.

The phone call was clearly an attempt to force Zelensky and his administration into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, with the help of Trump’s private lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and Attorney General William Barr. House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff equated the call to a classic Mafia-like shakedown. “Nice little country you’ve got there. Be a shame if anything happened to it…”

In the transcript, Zelensky shamelessly butters up Trump. You would expect a foreign leader to deliver compliments to an American president, and anyone paying attention over the last two years knows that Trump loves nothing more than to have his ego stroked. All reporting about this phone call listed eight times that Trump asked for Ukraine’s help in smearing Biden. This transcript, of a supposed 30-minute call, wouldn’t last half that time.

When Democratic lawmakers were finally able to read the actual whistleblower complaint, they agreed that the complaint’s contents were even more damning that the phone call transcript. Schiff said it showed evidence of serious wrongdoing from multiple officials in the administration. California Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier called the complaint nothing short of explosive. Besides the confirmation of the topics in the phone call itself, the complaint also explained how Trump officials hid the notes about the call on a server usually reserved for top security matters. This phone call doesn’t fall into that category.

And although Republicans at first dismissed the seriousness of the Trump-Zelensky phone call, at least some members of the GOP admitted that Trump could be in trouble. Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, while cautioning all involved to “slow down,” warned his GOP colleagues not to dismiss the complaint, saying, “Republicans ought not to be rushing to circle the wagons to say there’s no there there when there’s obviously lots that’s very troubling there.”

Lawyers representing the still-unnamed whistleblower say he or she wants to testify before Congress. (Let’s call the whistle-blower “Deep Pierogi,” in honor of the tasty dumplings native to Ukraine as well as Poland.) Acting DNI Maguire told the House Intelligence Committee that the whistleblower testimony will be allowed, although it has yet to be scheduled. Until that time, it’s important to remember the whistleblower’s opening statement from the complaint:

In the course of my official duties, I have received information from multiple U.S. Government officials that the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election. This interference includes, among other things, pressuring a foreign country to investigate one of the President’s main domestic political rivals.

House Democrats have now passed the majority number of 218 of those favoring impeachment or an impeachment inquiry. So it was obviously time for a flurry of news stories interviewing mostly Trump supporters on how impeachment could backfire (Democrats are “nervous,” Republicans are “dug in”). This sampling is from The New York Times:

In interviews with voters on Wednesday, there was no clear or surprising shift in sentiment on impeachment; some Republican voters pumped their fists with bring-it-on energy, and some Democrats pronounced themselves vindicated but also uncertain about whether the House — let alone the Republican-led Senate — would ultimately act against Mr. Trump.

Of course there isn’t going to be a sea change of attitudes, and certainly not in one day. It took months of televised hearings about Watergate before public opinion swung against Richard Nixon, finally forcing him to resign. That, and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling ordering the full release of the Nixon tapes.

But while Nixon felt at least a modicum of shame, Trump obviously doesn’t. He’ll never resign as long as his family is still making money off his office and he can use the institution of the presidency to feed his enormous ego.

There was no Fox News or right-wing hate radio in the 1970s, and no social media to spread right-wing conspiracy theories. There were enough Republicans in the 1970s who were finally willing to put country before party and say out loud that Nixon’s behavior was illegal and that he should be held accountable.

Today, not so much. Republican lawmakers are too afraid of Trump’s voting base and of possible Trump-loving primary challengers to stand up to him.

There are truckloads of reasons to impeach Donald Trump: obstruction of justice in the Robert Mueller Russia investigation, profiting off the presidency, infringement of the Constitution’s emoluments clause, stonewalling congressional investigations, blocking congressional subpoenas, and refusing to let anyone connected to the White House testify before Congress, just to name a few. His obvious approach to smear a 2020 opponent is only the latest.

How will all of this play out in the long run? So much depends on how it plays in the media, how Trump continues to play the victim card, and how members of both parties spin the information.

Trumpanistas will be dug in no matter what. Now, more than ever, it’s important to register new voters and make sure that voters can get to the polls. And vote.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Sept. 29, 2019.

Trump lost farm votes over his China trade war. Now climate change may cost him more.

Many U.S. farmers, like these Illinois soybean farmers, have seen markets collapse because of Trump policies.

Donald Trump is counting on the votes of the nation’s farmers to propel him to another electoral victory in 2020. But given all the ways they’re being hurt by his policies, he better think again.

Nearly 70 percent of the nation’s farmers cast votes for Trump in 2016. It’s likely that many from that group will do so a second time. But he has made enough of them angry that he shouldn’t count on all of those votes next November.

Between Trump’s trade war with China, in which tariffs have cut soybean sales to the lowest level since 2002, and Trump’s controversial policies of issuing biofuel exemptions to many oil refineries, causing the closure of some farm biodiesel producers, Trump’s support among farmers has dipped. According to a poll from Farm Journal, Trump has lost nearly 10 points in support from farmers since July — from a 53 percent strong approval rating to a 43 percent strong approval rating. Overall approval is even higher.

Those are still good numbers, but the more erosion there is in the Trump farm vote, the less likely it is that he can recapture some of the Midwest states that gave him an Electoral College win in 2016 (despite losing the popular vote by nearly 3 million). From a story on the Farm Journal poll:

According to Pro Farmer policy analyst Jim Wiesemeyer, President Trump realizes support in farm country is dwindling.

“Opinion polls are signaling some trouble for President Trump,” he says. “A ‘Fox News’ poll showed Trump slipping even among groups that have long been his supporters. Trump’s support is weakening in key areas, including non-college educated whites, rural voters and small-town voters.”

Trump’s approval ratings have taken a hit across the country, and farm states are no different. For instance, according to the most recent numbers from Morning Consult, Trump’s approval rating in Iowa has dropped by 18 percentage points since he took office. Only 44 percent of voters there approve of Trump, while 53 percent disapprove. His approval rating in Wisconsin has dropped by 19 points, with a 42 percent positive/55 percent negative rating. In Michigan, which he won by the slimmest of margins, he’s taken a 21-point hit, with another 42 percent positive/55 percent negative rating.

It’s no secret that farmers are being screwed by Trump’s policies on trade — farm loan delinquencies and farm bankruptcies are at a six-year high. Now, you can add environmental policies to the list: A bipartisan group representing some 10,000 farmers and ranchers is now backing — of all things — the Green New Deal. Because they believe it’s ultimately the only way to save their farms and ranches.

A letter sent to Congress by a group called Regeneration International calls for adopting policies outlined in the Green New Deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the agricultural sector. The letter had more than 500 signatures from individual farmers and ranchers in at least half the states in the U.S. and from 50 farming and ranching groups that were just as widespread, representing even more in agriculture. The newly formed bipartisan coalition backing the proposal is based in Minnesota and called U.S. Farmers & Ranchers for a Green New Deal.

We support the GND’s call to “. . . secure for all people of the United States for generations to come: clean air and water; climate and community resiliency; healthy food; access to nature; and a sustainable environment.”

We support the GND’s call to “. . . work collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible, including—by supporting family farming; by investing in sustainable farming and land-use practices that increase soil health; and by building a more sustainable food system that ensures universal access to healthy food.”

We also support the GND’s overarching climate goals, including the goal to achieve net-zero emissions by 2030 – 2050. We believe these climate goals are achievable—but only if the GND includes policies that spur two large-scale transitions: the transition away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy alternatives, and the transition away from industrial agriculture toward family farm-based organic and regenerative farming and land-use practices that improve soil health and draw down and sequester carbon.

The overall number of farmers and ranchers in this coalition might be small. Obviously, not that many farmers practice organic farming, and there are plenty of farmers working in industrial agriculture. But lots of farmers have been hurt badly — sometimes to the point of bankruptcy — by industrial farming, which has driven many small, family-owned farms out of business. Droughts and river flooding, exacerbated by climate change, make it even worse for farmers.

This video by the co-chair of the group, an Indiana farmer, Sherri Dugger, explains the group’s purpose:

It would be wrong to dismiss this group and its outreach, however small, as being too far out of the agriculture mainstream. There are currently some 2 million farms across the U.S., a number that has shrunk greatly over the decades. But the number of organic farms is on the rise — there were 14,000 certified organic farms in 2016, the most recent number available from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, and that number has increased 56 percent since 2011.

Regenerative agriculture is defined as “farming and grazing practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity — resulting in both carbon drawdown and improving the water cycle.” This position paper gives more details.

The new coalition of farmers and ranchers, as described on the group’s website, “is committed to working with Congress to ensure that farmers and ranchers have a seat at the table when it comes to defining and finalizing the specific policies and programs that will form the basis for achieving the goals outlined in the Green New Deal Resolution.” Their livelihoods depend on that seat at the table.

The coalition has several goals:

  • Combat climate change by reducing emissions and drawing down and sequestering carbon.
  • Contribute to a clean environment and restore natural habitats.
  • Provide access to locally produced, contaminant-free, nutrient-dense food.
  • Help build and support resilient local and regional food systems and economies.
  • Provide safe working conditions and living wages for farm workers.

This list of aims describes all of the group’s policy goals. As the group’s letter to Congress points out:

As farmers and ranchers, our businesses and livelihoods are uniquely vulnerable to the impact of climate change, with its increasingly frequent and extreme droughts and flooding. …

Family farmers are essential to combating climate change. A GND can make family farming economically viable again through fair farm prices, parity, and supply management.

Several Democratic presidential candidates also are backing sustainable agriculture practices in policy proposals. From a story on Huffington Post:

Taking cues from those pushing for a Green New Deal, several Democratic presidential hopefuls have made farming practices central to their climate proposals. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) earmarked $410 billion in his Green New Deal proposal to help “farms of all sizes transition to ecologically regenerative agricultural practices.” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called for breaking up agriculture monopolies as part of her broad rural platform. South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg vowed to “support farmers” by “paying them to capture carbon.”

Trump is still going to capture plenty of farm votes in rural America. The question is: Will he have turned off enough farmers so that they either vote for a Democratic candidate — or just stay home? And will that drop in support make enough of a difference to deny him a second term?

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Sept. 22, 2019.

#ClimateStrike: Thanks to Greta Thunberg, the kids are all right

These students’ signs at the climate strike in Chicago say it all.

Among the millions of people worldwide who marched in the Global Climate Strike, the majority by far were students and young people.

College students. High school students. Grade school students. They carried homemade signs with strong messages to adults who are failing to do their jobs to save the planet for generations to come.

“I’m missing my lessons to teach you some” was a common sentiment, along with messages seen at past rallies, such as “There is no Planet B” or “I can’t believe I have to march for science.” Some carried messages so in tune with teens that some older adults didn’t even get the references.

The sentiment is clear to teens, if not to all adults.

Climate activists estimate that more than 4 million people took part in climate strikes worldwide, with more than 2,500 events scheduled in over 163 countries on all seven continents. Yes, there was even a climate strike in Antarctica.

As a story on Vox put it, It “may end up being the largest mass protest for action on global warming in history.”

What was the motivation of all these protestors? Yes, some might have used the strike as an excuse to miss school, but their presence was so much more than that. More important, what was their inspiration?

Much of it boils down to a 16-year-old Swedish climate activist who started her journey over a year ago with a one-person protest in front of the Swedish Parliament because lawmakers weren’t fulfilling their responsibilities to fight climate change. A year later, that one-person protest grew to 4 million, and it has governments the world over listening.

As John Pavlovitz wrote in his blog, Stuff That Needs To Be Said, We Are Greta Thunberg.

It’s likely that the rest of us will never be as motivated or as active as Greta. However much we believe in the dire need for individuals, companies, and governments to take serious action to fight global warming, it’s hard work. But it has to be done, and we all need to be a part of it. Polls suggest that climate change is now a top concern, along with fighting gun violence, for young voters.

As Pavlovitz concluded:

There are so many ways to move. Let your voice be heard. Take public transportation instead of driving whenever possible. Walk or ride a bike. Cut down on single-use plastic. Reduce, reuse, and recycle packaging — or refuse to accept it in the first place. Elect lawmakers with solid plans and outlines to to take climate action, such as the Green New Deal, even if not all of those ideas make it into law.

So, move. And VOTE.

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.

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