Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Paul Ryan Is Extremely Vulnerable-- Despite A Massive War-Chest From Wall Street


Dave Weigel had observed for the Washington Post hours before Paul Ryan's fake CNN town hall-- in reality a deceitful infomercial gifted to his campaign with pre-screened questions and a pre-selected audience by CNN-- that the staged event had "turned into a marketing opportunity for progressives. Randy Bryce, Ryan’s likely Democratic opponent in 2018, has purchased time for two 30-second spots that will run during the broadcast in the Republican’s district. The first spot is designed like the sort of question-from-voters videos that are often used at town halls. Bryce fires off three questions, starting with one on the Congressional Budget Office’s coverage estimates for the American Health Care Act. Bryce then says: 'Donald Trump is clearly a racist. When will you censure him in Congress?'"

After the informercial ran, fake journalist and Ryan-booster Rachel Bade noted for Politico, an embarrassing lapdog, that Ryan, who is incredibly and increasingly unpopular back in the southeast Wisconsin district he abandoned "remains undeniably popular in his home state." She just gratuitously pulled that out of her ass-- as is her style of pseudo-journalism-- and it contradicts every single poll of WI-01 voters this year. A couple of paragraphs down, Bade was at it again, proving her devotion for the cardboard cutout congressman most Beltway types have now recognized as the fraud he's always been.
To be sure, Ryan is still extremely popular with Republicans here in the 1st District. All but one Republican interviewed for this story said he or she would vote for Ryan again, and others used adjectives such as “honest,” “tenacious” and “hard-working” to describe.

Some, like Franksville-native Bill Jaeck, even parroted Ryan’s talking points about House-passed bills stalling in the Senate.

But there’s a sinking feeling among some Ryan supporters that the man they’ve known and voted in for years is not the superman they’d hoped.

“Being speaker of the House has become a setback… It’s basically ruined his career for a while, because he’s forced to do many unpopular things,” said Marlene Lamberton of Caledonia, a longtime supporter.

The retired manufacturing employee said she’s worried that her fellow Republicans “blame him” for the lack of GOP accomplishments and that Ryan's popularity is declining. “He’s forced to make a lot of compromises," Lamberton said. "He’s trying to keep his promises but he’s bumping up against some wall.”

Ryan’s town hall at the Racine Theater Guild wasn’t like most GOP town halls. Jake Tapper moderated the talk, carried live on CNN. Some Ryan constituents who wanted to attend weren’t happy that they were locked out-- particularly since it was his first town hall since the fall of 2015.

“Why would you not hold a town hall for all of your constituents as opposed to this small, staged event where only a few are allowed in?” asked Kenosha resident Jeanne Lepp, a retired teacher and Democrat who wanted to attend the event but could not.

...As with most GOP town halls since Election Day, progressive groups came out in full force, gathering on the front lawn with signs that read “repeal and replace Ryan” and “your arrogance eclipses your duty.” Many protesters toted around pictures of Ryan’s head plastered on a “where’s Waldo?” outfit, with a sign that read: “Where’s Paul Ryan?”

Those signs tapped into a frustration even some Ryan supporters expressed: That the speaker has become less accessible as he’s risen through the ranks. Ryan's office denied that charge, arguing the speaker has reached more than 800,000 constituents through "tele-town halls" and taken questions during local tours of factories.

Those business tours, however, are closed to the public. And constituents said tele-townhalls offered little chance it mix it up with Ryan, since he does most of the talking.

"He may not like it, it may be contentious," said Ken Webber, a self-proclaimed Ryan voter from Pleasant Prairie, "but you have to have those town hall meetings.”
Most people in Wisconsin know who Charlie Sykes is. A popular conservative talk show radio host, he was widely credited with helping Ted Cruz defeat Trump in the 2016 primary. On the same April day Bernie beat Hillary, 570,192 (56.6%) to 433,739 (43.0%), Cruz defeated Trump 533,079 (48.2%) to 387,295 (35.0%). In the 8 counties where Sykes' WTMJ show dominated, Trump severely underperformed his statewide totals.
Dodge Co.- 32.6%
Jefferson Co.- 31.8%
Milwaukee Co.- 26.2%
Ozaukee- 20.5%
Racine Co.- 32.1%
Sheboygan Co.- 25.1%
Washington Co.- 23.5%
Waukesha Co.- 22.1%
Monday, Ana Marie Cox interviewed Sykes for the NY Times Magazine. He told her that he's "long admired Paul Ryan and thought of him as the future of the Republican Party. But he’s made a Faustian bargain. I keep thinking about that scene from A Man for All Seasons, where Thomas More says, 'What profit a man to gain the whole world if he loses his soul, but for Wales?' And I keep thinking, But for tax cuts, Paul?"

Even after Trump showed his racist/Nazi tendencies in the midst of the domestic terrorism debacle in Charlottesville, Sykes realized Ryan is just a lost cause. "I imagine," he told Cox, "that most of the elected officials are privately horrified in realizing that their bargain is increasingly untenable. But how that manifests itself, I don’t know. Ryan is not going to give up on tax reform because of this."

Cox asked him if the Republican Party is done for because of this dearth of leadership displayed by people like Ryan, McCarthy, McConnell and Cornyn. "It’s a moral, intellectual and political defining moment for the party. I just don’t see any long-term future if they don’t confront this. All this reveals something deeply troubling about the party itself but maybe also reveals something very troubling about what the electorate wants."

DC conventional wisdom says it's nigh impossible to beat a sitting Speaker of the House so Bryce is wasting his time. DC conventional wisdom says Ryan has tens of millions of dollars which he and his allies will use to pulverize Bryce so Bryce is wasting his time. DC conventional wisdom says people are used to voting for Ryan and they're not going to kick him out for some interloper who already lost 2 races, so Bryce is wasting his time. The DCCC may see it that way-- as do the DC insiders-- but we don't think so.

Polling shows registered voters in southeast Wisconsin are fed up with Ryan and his agenda and the way he has avoided them. Bryce is widely admired by working men and women who sense he's one of them, the polar opposite of "an interloper." He's running the best congressional campaign-- with no help from the DCCC-- in the entire country and has created a brand for himself that every political consultant is freaking out over because all their candidates are asking for the same thing. Even after the Republican legislature removed Beloit from the district and added in chunks of beet red Waukesha County to help Ryan, WI-01 is still a swing district where independent voters will cast the deciding votes. Independents have come to detest Ryan. The Bannon wing of the GOP seems willing to let the seat fall to a Democrat to get rid of their own bête noire. Breitbart wants Ryan out more than they want a red district. Bannon has some poison up his sleeves headed Ryan's way. But even without him, Randy Bryce can win this thing. Want to help? Below is a Stop Paul Ryan thermometer. Please click on it and contribute what you can.
Goal Thermometer

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Midnight Meme Of The Day


-by Noah

241 years later, America is again being run by a grotesque, greedy, severely mentally ill man. Might there be some great irony in the fact that the statue of England’s King George III that New Yorkers pulled down back in 1776 was gilded, not unlike Trump Tower is today?

Hopefully, Señor Trumpanzee will never have to worry about any Trump statues. In a righteous world, they will never exist.

I do, however, have a nice idea that I see as the only acceptable Trump statue. We should decorate fire hydrants across this great land with little white KKK hoods and extra long red ties. If Americans would do that, I might even get a dog.


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Kentucky May Be The Most Politically Confused State


PPP released a poll of Kentucky registered voters yesterday. And in a state that gave Trump a tremendous win over Clinton last year-- 1,202,971 (62.5%) to 628,854 (32.7%)-- his job approval rating is nothing like it is in most the country. Fully 60% of registered voters approve of the way he's doing his job. Only 36% disapprove. In light of that, though, this is odd:

And when asked if they approve or disapprove of the local version of Obamacare, Kynect, 34% approve, 28% disapprove and 38% are unsure. Asked if they approved or disapproved the healthcare bill rejected by the Senate, just 27% approved, while 49% said they disapproved. Here are some other questions on Trump's agenda where the voters who approve of the job Trump is doing, don't approve of the specifics of his agenda, although it is extremely doubtful if they're aware it is his agenda.

PPP also asked if the respondents approved or disapproved of the state's two Republican senators, Miss McConnell and Rand Paul. Neither fared well, but McConnell is off the charts! Not even 1 in 5 registered voters think he's doing a good job. Lucky for him, he's not up for reelection until 2020 because the poll indicates he would have a tough time being reelected.

There's no Senate race in Kentucky next year but it looks like one Republican, Andy Barr, may be in trouble. PPP didn't poll his race but there is a strong roster of Democrats jousting for who will get the right to challenge him in the general election. Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, who hasn't officially declared yet, looks like the strongest candidate, although Amy McGrath has released another strong video that has kept her in contention even without taking any positions on any issues, except in the vaguest and most uncontroversial way. Here's her new clip, which has almost 40,000 views. The first one had 1.3 million.

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2018-- Getting Voters Off Their Couches Will Be A Real Trick, Trump Or No Trump


-by Tom Sullivan

Off-year mobilization is tough anytime. But while Democrats here in North Carolina still have a statewide registration edge, unaffiliated voter registration is spiking. Getting voters to turn out will be especially challenging in 2018 because there will be no national or statewide races in North Carolina. Neither U.S. Senate seat is on the ballot in 2018. Congressional races will be the top of the ticket in the state's 13 famously gerrymandered districts. Republicans hold 10 out of the 13 seats. Fair redistricting in 2021 could make the rest more competitive for Democrats. But that means winning very local state House and Senate races to which many voters pay little attention.

Winning U.S. House seats here may help Democrats in Washington, but it won't do much for us in North Carolina unless those districts overlap state House and Senate seats where Democrats can field competitive legislative candidates who might benefit from coattails.

Getting volunteers and voters off their couches statewide will be a real trick, Trump or no Trump. Democrats prone to focusing globally on national and statewide races struggle when it is time to focus granularly on smaller districts. In rural ones where many legislative seats lie, county teams can be less experienced at campaign tech. And because party focus is always on short-term wins, there are never resources for longer-term infrastructure-building.

It is a perennial complaint in progressive circles that Democrats slack sufficient infrastructure for winning independent of having rock-star candidates to draw interest, donations, and volunteers. It's true. When a Barack Obama comes along with limitless money and boisterous volunteers, Democrats are hard to beat. The problem, however, is that campaign infrastructure appears overnight and disappears just as quickly when campaigns pull up stakes. If they show up at all where you live, state and national campaign teams expect to call the shots, leave little behind except unused office supplies, and state parties (as best I can tell) focus on immediate get-out-the-vote needs only, and then primarily in cities where the largest blocks of blue votes are. In 2-4 years, we start again from scratch.

Rural counties where big campaigns don't go are left to fend for themselves with little direction except in organizing precincts and pulling walk/phone lists. You'd go blue in the face holding your breath waiting for the cavalry to arrive with additional resources. And those places are where the state House and Senate seats are that Democrats need to win to flip state legislatures across the country.

Our county has the only Democratic state representatives and state senator west of Charlotte. What has made us successful is having campaign infrastructure that persists beyond Election Day. We built a progressive team. We have a plan. We know our jobs. We train our replacements. When one leadership team ages out, the next is ready to go. Know-how isn’t lost when the old team steps aside (and we do) to make room for younger blood. That inspires confidence in both volunteers and donors. When we ask prospective candidates to run for office, they have confidence we have their backs all the way to Election Day. When volunteer vans rolled in here last fall from Nashville and Memphis the weekend ahead of the election, Tennessee vols said they'd never seen anything like it. Not the first time I've heard that.

Volunteers persist year-round here. I left on August 9th to drive to Atlanta for Netroots Nation. I stopped by our party office on the way out of town. There were several cars in the parking lot. There were maybe 10 people inside doing organizing work in two different offices.

On a Wednesday.
In the middle of the day.
In August.
In an off-year with no federal or state races here.

That says something about the vitality of our team. The sad thing is it is so rare.

We build experience with each election cycle. To win here, we don't need marching orders from national campaigns that parachute in every four years. We sit them down and tell them how we expect them to work with us to elect their candidates and ours down-ticket. Imagine if every county in every state had that permanent foundation.

So I wrote a primer for teaching under-resourced counties typically not on the cutting edge of digital tech how to build an effective field campaign. It is intended for county-level party officers, not professional campaign geeks. No theory. No targeting. No messaging. It is not a magic bullet or magic beans that become a tower overnight, just teaching people how to put their pants on one leg at a time and tie their shoelaces, in that order. This is what Howard Dean meant the 50-state strategy to do, to build infrastructure from the bottom up, not from the top down.

For The Win is the field-tested nuts-and-bolts of how local parties can organize and coordinate a months-long, countywide effort to help national, state, and local campaigns win. On a shoestring. If it's in there, we've done it here. Sixty-six conversational pages, plus free tools and simple Office templates. They don't teach this at Wellstone. Over the next 6-7 months I hope to be exporting what we know to points east in my state. I'll be issuing an update in March for 2018.

We launched the online portion of this effort at Digby's place at the end of July. Requests come mostly from red states and red areas of blue states. So far I've had over 60 requests from Democratic activists (mostly) in 27 states, including from state party officers in a couple.

Because political campaigns are not just contests of ideas. They are contests of skills.

Can I get an Amen?

* * * * * * * *

Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.

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Don't Let The DCCC's Crooked Candidates Fool You About Medicare-For-All


So... as we discussed over the weekend, the DCCC and the Beltway consultants are telling their client candidates in tough primaries to just lie about healthcare. They tell the conservatives they back that the words "Medicare for all" don't really mean anything and that it's OK to use them as long as they don't get tied down in a pledge to sign onto John Conyers' H.R. 676, the actual very specific Medicare-For-All bill. Yesterday I sent a very simple e-mail to all the Blue America-endorsed House candidates, the candidates we're in the process of vetting and a few other random Democratic candidates. This is the entire e-mail:
Subject line: can you answer a yes or no question for me?

Will you sign on to John Conyers' H.R. 676, Medicare For All, when you take your seat in Congress in 2019?

All I want is a yes or a no, although if you want to include any explanation besides that, feel free. I'm writing a post about it. Thanks
The only difference between most of them was the number of exclamation points included after the "yes." Here were the responses that came in:

Dotty Nygard (CA-10)- "Yes"

Stephen Jaffe (CA-12) "Yes and Yes"

Ricardo Franco (CA-22)- "Yes! The serious issue of healthcare in our nation requires bold solutions. I would be happy to support the bill which would lower healthcare costs and expand coverage.

Wendy Reed (CA-23)- "YES !!!!!"

Katie Hill (CA-25)- "Just answered this in my FB live town hall.

"Not in its current form. My main issues:

"1) Reimbursement rates: HR676 requires a Fee for Service pay model, in which this Act requires not only “a uniform national standard” but to “be compensated at a rate...regardless of geographic region.” Meaning a doctor in California will have to see many, many more patients to make a living compared to a doctor in the Midwest.

"2) Transition time: it allows for only 1 year of time to implement. Having been very involved as the ACA was implemented over 4 years, I know 1 year is totally unreasonable, and 10 is a lot closer to what it would take.

"3) It literally outlaws insurance companies, and forces private companies to turn into nonprofits. It will be taken to court immediately, and almost certainly be struck down, throwing out everything that's valuable with it.

"Anyway, from implementing the ACA to countless other federal programs, I know all too well that the devil is in the details... and there are a lot of details here that need to be ironed out.

"Bottom line for me: to move to Medicare for All, we have to absolutely do it in a way that won't prove republicans right. We can't screw up royally and have this become the next Obamacare issue that republicans right for years and get power back because of it. We have to do it right.

"But, I would like to work on a version that makes necessary changes and would allow us to completely transform our healthcare system in an effective way. In its current form, HR676 doesn't do that."

Sam Jammal (CA-39)- "Yes. It's a no brainer. Medicare works. We should first preserve it from Republican attacks, but also expand it so everyone has access."

Kia Hamadanchy (CA-45)- "Yes will definitely cosponsor as an original on whatever day it's introduced in 2019"

Katie Porter (CA-45)- "Yes, I would! I've seen far too often during my work as a consumer advocate how a major illness like cancer, a sick child or an accident can literally bankrupt a family that was on sound financial footing just months before. So here’s what I believe: health care is a human right. No one should have to go bankrupt to care for a sick loved one, and families shouldn’t have to constantly worry that a major illness will ruin their finances. That's why I support Medicare for All, because every American should have access to health care-- regardless of their income."

Dave Min (CA-45)- "I believe healthcare is a basic human right, and that we need a system in which all Americans have affordable and high quality insurance coverage. However, at this time, and in its current form, I will not commit to signing on to H.R. 676, as there are too many open questions I have about it, and I don't want to simply sign a blank check. Just this weekend, I was talking with constituents about H.R. 676, and I continue to hear concerns about this bill’s transition, cost, quality of care, and its potential dilution of Medicare. I support a CBO analysis (and other independent analysis) of H.R. 676, to see if it brings us responsibly toward our goal of universal affordable insurance coverage.

"In the near term, I favor allowing people under the age of 65 to have the option to buy into Medicare or some other public option at an affordable price, extending Medicare to those 55 and older, fully funding Medicaid, and expanding the Children’s Health Insurance Program. I believe these measures would get us closer to our goal of universal affordable coverage, while also providing significant data on the efficacy of expanded Medicare and potentially creating a clear pathway to single payer if that is the direction this country (and my district) wants to take at that point.

"I realize that not everyone agrees with where I am on health care reform, but I want to be honest, consistent, and realistic about my policy priorities. I am tired of politicians making empty promises they can't keep, and then backtracking on those promises once they're in office. I promise to stand up for the general positions I articulate, and therefore I want to be thoughtful before I support any particular positions."

Harley Rouda (CA-48)- "I am for universal healthcare with a single payer system for all Americans, that still allows interested individuals to purchase private insurance. I am committed to working with a broad-based consortium of healthcare experts, stakeholders, and legislators to do so, and if in the end HR 676 is the best way to accomplish that outcome, then yes."

Tim Canova (FL-23)- "YES!!!

I will gladly sign on to HR 676!

Dr. Alina Valdes (FL-25)- "Absolutely!  I have already stated that in various social media venues and at events I have attended.  With the population and longevity in medicine I have had, I have advocated for a one payer system for over 30 years."

Michael Hepburn (FL-27)- "Yes!"

Geoffrey Petzel (IL-06)- "Yes."

David Gill (IL-13)- "This is a very easy one, Howie. Given that I have been a member of Physicians for a National Health Program for 25 years, and that PNHP helped Rep. Conyers write H.R. 676, my answer is: YES, OF COURSE!"

Victor Swanson (IL-14)- "Yes"

Dan Canon (IN-09)- "Yes."

Paul Clements (MI-06)- "Yes ... call time now w/ new volunteer."

Peter Jacob (NJ-07)- "Yes. We don't need health insurance in America, we need healthcare."

Alexandria Ocasio (NY-14)- "Yes!"

Jenny Marshall (NC-05)- "Yes!"

Tom Guild (OK-05)- "Yes."

Kerith Strano Taylor (PA-05)- "Yes. With gusto."

Paul Perry (PA-07)- "Yes"

Daylin Leach (PA-07)- "YES!!!"

Mary Ellen Balchunis (PA-07)- "Yes, I saw the benefits of universal care when I was in Sweden on my Fulbright and put my then 6 week old daughter in their healthcare system. Last Thurs., I was in Meehan's office asking his staff (We requested Meehan.) to have him support. Bernie's People's Platform, Medicare for All was the first issue!"

Derrick Crowe (TX-21)- "Yes."

Hector Morales (TX-29)- "Yes. Because our elected officials have normalized the notion that poor people should be sentenced to death because they cannot afford the healthcare they need. And all for a quick campaign contribution."

Dr. Kathie Allen (UT-03)- "Yes unless Bernie has a better proposal, or someone else does by that time. Conyer's bill is only about 15 pages long and I have my doubts that it is comprehensive enough to ease the transition from a profit-driven system to non-profit, universal coverage. It has a 10 year plan to partially 'buy-out' insurance companies, and advocates retraining insurance employees, but there is a lack of detail on how to do some of these things. I support the goal, however."

Randy Bryce (WI-01) has told me numerous times he plans to sign on as a co-sponsor to H.R. 676 and yesterday he responded to my question with two brand new memes. I especially like the "day one" phrasing:

You may have noticed there's a hot gubernatorial primary raging in Illinois. There are a couple of dynastic billionaires running, a Kennedy and a Pritzker and a trued and tested progressive, state Senator Daniel Biss. Prtitzker will say whatever he has to to get the nomination but he always seems to claim to back progressive issues... just before insisting they have to be enacted federally. I wonder what he thinks he'll be doing as governor. Biss, who has a record in the legislature that shows exactly what he plans to do as governor wants Illinois to be one of the states the show the federal government how to make a Medicare-For-All system work. "We need a single-payer health care system in Illinois that covers everyone," he told Illinois voters. This is what he said after the defeat of the TrumpCare bill in the Senate a few weeks ago: "Today's Senate vote brings us closer than ever to millions of Illinoisans losing their healthcare. Maybe now, Governor Rauner will feel like he has a 'motion to proceed' to get off his duff and actually speak out against Trumpcare. Today, we must do all that we can to protect the ACA. But we also must make sure that the conversation doesn't end there. In the long run, we must expand access to coverage through Medicare for All to ensure that no one is denied the care they need." He can't sign on to Conyers' H.R. 676-- but he will do something even better if he's elected governor of Illinois next year.

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Trump Flops Badly On Afghanistan


There is only one elected official who was ever right about Afghanistan-- just one: Barbara Lee, who stood alone among the entire Congress and voted against Bush's decision to attack and occupy Afghanistan 17 years ago. After Trumpanzee read the speech someone had written for him from a teleprompter Monday night, Congresswoman Lee released a statement criticizing Trump for his "failure to outline a comprehensive strategy to bring an end to our nation’s longest war. After sixteen years at war, one thing is clear: there is no military solution in Afghanistan. Any lasting peace in Afghanistan must be secured through diplomacy. Further military engagement will only put our brave servicemen and women in harm’s way while doing little to enhance our national security. This war has already cost our nation too much, in blood and in treasure. We have lost 2,386 brave American service members, and more than 20,000 American soldiers have been wounded. It is past time to end the war and bring all of our troops home. In 2001, I opposed authorization for this war because it allowed any President a blank check to wage endless war without Congressional oversight. The Constitution is clear: Congress must provide advise and consent in matters of war and peace. At a minimum, Congress should debate and vote on a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force before we commit to another surge that will keep our troops in Afghanistan for years to come and cost billions more in spending."

Way across the ideological spectrum, Rand Paul was also critical of Trump's stupid, knee-jerk reaction which was based entirely on his own fears and his own vanity-- exactly what you would expect from a deranged sociopath thrust into power by a kakistocracy. Paul, in an OpEd for The Hill reminded his readers that "The mission in Afghanistan has lost its purpose, and I think it is a terrible idea to send any more troops into that war. It’s time to come home now."
We went from striking back against those who attacked us, to regime change, to nation-building, to policing their country for them. And we do it all now with an authorization that is flimsy at best, with the reason blurred, and the costs now known. We do it with an authorization that was debated and passed before some of our newest military personnel were out of diapers. This isn’t fair to them, to the American people, or to a rational foreign policy.

The Afghanistan war going beyond its original mission has an enormous cost. First and most important is the cost to our troops. Deaths, injuries and unnecessary deployments causing harm to families are certainly the most important reason as to why you don’t go to wars that aren’t necessary.

Then comes the taxpayer. We have spent over $1 trillion in Afghanistan, and nearly $5 trillion on Middle East wars in the past 15 years. Would we not be better off with $5 trillion less in debt or using these funds in other, more productive ways?

Nation-building should not be our job, and it has consistently been a fool’s errand for us, particularly in this region. There is no reason to believe we can do it in Afghanistan, and certainly no reason to believe we can do it without a permanent, costly presence in the country.

So I strongly disagree with the administration’s actions here. I’ve spoken to the president, and I know he wants to end this war. We’ve all heard him say it. But talk won’t get it done. Although I’ve been informed that the president rejected larger expansions of troops than the one announced this week, that’s not good enough. He should have rejected this one and stuck to his principles. He knows this war is over, and he-- unlike the last two presidents-- should have the guts to end it for real, on his watch.

Regardless of the argument over the number of troops, I also will insist my colleagues take up a larger argument over the power to declare war. I believe we have allowed the executive to exercise far too much power in recent years.

This is one of the reasons I objected just before the recess when the Senate moved to consider the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). I have an amendment that I will insist be considered that would repeal the 2001 AUMF on Afghanistan. That AUMF is outdated, overcome by events, and provides a feeble bit of cover for people who still want to be there.

If the president and my colleagues want to continue the war in Afghanistan, then at the very least Congress should vote on it. I’ll insist they do this fall, and I’ll be leading the charge for “no.”
Derrick Crowe is currently the Blue America-endorsed congressional candidate for the TX-21 seat occupied by Trumpo rubber-stamp Lamar Smith. We first met him many years ago when he was the political director at Brave New Foundation’s Rethink Afghanistan project.

Right after Trump's speech, Crowe released a statement for TX-21 voters that I think is worthwhile for all Americans to read. "The Afghanistan War is a bipartisan failure," he wrote, "that should end with the immediate withdrawal of troops from that country. Instead, Donald Trump is making a profoundly stupid mistake by adding military forces, despite the clear evidence that the war isn’t making us safer and isn’t worth the costs."
Osama Bin Laden is dead, along with more than 104,000 people. This war created the second largest number of refugees and internally displaced persons behind Syria. Despite these facts, the United States continues to spend $4 million per hour on a war in which Washington, D.C. has lost the plot.

House Speaker Paul Ryan made the incredible statement on CNN Monday night that our enemies will just ‘wait us out’ if we put an end date on our military deployment in Afghanistan. I’d like to discuss with Speaker Ryan what he thinks is happening now in the longest war in U.S. history. There are people finishing graduate school now who were in fourth grade when this war started.

Continuing the Afghanistan War in any way at this point is a profoundly status quo decision, one that will send many more U.S. troops home with deep physical, psychological, and moral injuries, to say nothing of the civilian deaths and maimings that will result as we reheat the conflict. Congress must immediately repeal the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force and bar President Trump from tearing another festering war wound into the painful history of the last two decades of U.S. foreign policy.
Meanwhile Breitbart, the Trump-supporting neo-Nazi website run by the criminal Mercer family and Steve Bannon, wasn't all that supportive. Trump’s 'America First' Base Unhappy with Flip-Flop Afghanistan Speech was the headline.
President Trump’s “America First” base was the biggest loser of Trump’s speech on Afghanistan Monday night, and many quickly expressed their disappointment at the business-as-usual address from the president who had once promised to limit American intervention abroad and focus on nation-building at home.

Trump’s speech, in which he pledged to increase the number of troops in the 16-year-war, was the first since the departure of Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and confirmed the fears of many on the right that without a strong nationalist voice in the West Wing, the President would revert to the same old fare that Americans had voted to reject in November.

Using many of the same vague promises that previous presidents had used, including a repeat of Obama’s promise not to give a “blank check” to Afghanistan and a pledge to finally get tough on Pakistan, it was a far cry from the “America First” foreign policy he laid out in the months before election day.

Conservative commentator Ann Coulter, who had been an enthusiastic supporter of Trump during the campaign and penned a book called In Trump we Trust, summed up the weariness of the nationalist right when she tweeted: “It doesn’t matter who you vote for. The military-industrial complex wins.”
They noted that neo-fascist Putin supporter Mike Cernovich was making fun of Ivanka, Jared and McMaster during the speech. He was also laughing at GOP goof-ball Marco Rubio. You can always count on Cernovich to be opposing all policies and actions viewed negatively by the Kremlin-- and Trump's Afghanistan blunder is, a blunder a president in severely over his depth was pushed into by the Military Industrial Complex Eisenhower warned us about.   
The plan-- which will maintain an unspecified U.S. troop presence without withdrawal timetables and intensify pressure on Pakistan to crack down on terrorist safe havens-- was the product of a months-long strategy review in which the president’s national security team talked him out of ending the costly 16-year war. “It wasn’t a debate,” said a senior White House aide. “It was an attempt to convince the president.”

It was also an unsatisfying outcome for a president who likes to act boldly and who has called America’s commitment to Afghanistan a waste of money. But the president conceded that the world looks different from behind the presidential desk.

“My original instinct was to pull out,” Trump conceded, adding that “decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office.”

...While Trump demands obedience from his civilian subordinates, his decision to recommit to Afghanistan demonstrated a willingness to change his mind on matters of national security when his military aides press him hard enough. “It shows that he’s open to reconsidering his positions on national security, which is a good thing,” said Fred Kagan, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former adviser to Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq in the late 2000s.

...McMaster and Mattis, both of whom served in Afghanistan, stressed the weakness of the Afghan government, which controls little more than half the country, and warned that an end to U.S. military support would lead to a Taliban takeover.

In one of the last senior staff meetings before the president made his decision last Friday at Camp David, chief of staff John Kelly-- himself a retired Marine general-- played devil’s advocate, preparing Cabinet members and top aides for a grilling from the skeptical president. Kelly peppered the group with questions that reflected much of Trump’s thinking, according to a senior White House aide, from “Why can't we withdraw?” and “Why can’t we shift to a counter-terrorism only platform?” to “Why couldn’t we do this with paramilitary forces [supplied by the CIA] only?”

...[L]ike Obama, who later complained that his generals had boxed him into sending 30,000 more troops to the country in 2009, Trump chafed at the options presented to him by his military advisers.

“Obama was suspicious of what the generals were telling him. They were telling him to put in more troops than he wanted to,” said Eric Edelman, who served as Undersecretary of Defense for Policy under George W. Bush. “Trump does recognize that just pulling out is not an option. If the Taliban takes over and then there’s a terrorist attack, that is a big political risk for him,” Edelman added.

Although McMaster had hoped Trump would sign off on a strategy before a late May NATO summit in Brussels, allowing him to work out the new plan with allies there, White House aides say Trump’s resistance to the proposals from his national security team dragged out the process. In the spring, he told aides, including McMaster, that he had “campaigned against this” and had “been to Walter Reed and seen these guys with their arms and legs blown off.” He asked for more options and he demanded to know how he could justify an additional troop commitment.

White House aides say the president’s cabinet was united in its recommendation to the president, but there were skeptics and dissenters along the way. Chief strategist Steve Bannon, who was dismissed Friday, was a vocal opponent of the strategy endorsed by the president Monday, and though one White House adviser described him as a “ghost” in internal deliberations-- he preferred to speak privately with the president or to talk to the news media-- he succeeded, at least temporarily, in dubbing the effort “McMaster’s War.”

Some Trump advisers-- including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and Homeland Security Adviser Thomas Bossert-- worried that Trump’s approach might betray the promises he made as a candidate. The president’s national security team presented him with additional options, including a plan to outsource the war to contractors overseen by Erik Prince, the former Blackwater chief.

Trump was also intrigued, in two discussions with Afghan president Ashraf Ghani, by Ghani’s mention of the Afghan-istan’s huge mineral reserves-- which, he told Trump, the Afghans themselves lacked the technology and the resources to exploit. By some assessments, more than $1 trillion in mineral wealth, much of it in the form of lithium, could lay in the rock and soil of Afghanistan. But many analysts say that, given conditions in the country, it could be many years before it can be tapped at a significant profit.

After Trump raised the question of mineral wealth one cabinet meeting, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson-- a former ExxonMobil CEO who oversaw projects in several dangerous nations-- warned him about the risk of investing in politically unstable regions.

Trump nevertheless tasked Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross with examining any potential investment opportunities for the U.S. in Afghanistan, according to a senior White House aide.
Politico's Susan Glasser had a more informed perspective. She wrote that the one thing that the Trumpanzee speech proved "beyond the shadow of a doubt" is that "after nearly 16 years of fighting America’s longest war, there are no new ideas," despite Trumpanzee insisting that "his" plan is "dramatically different." Only his war-mongering rhetoric was different. Pakistan is not likely to change any substantive policies towards Afghanistan despite Trump's blustering. The only change will be that, with the disregard for collateral damage, many more Afghan civilians will die now, something that will further turn these people who never forget into eternal enemies. Meanwhile, by the by, the most historically ignorant president in history is pressuring other NATO members to send more troops into the pointless Afghan meat-grinder.

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Bannon's Departure Signals A New Season For The Trumpanzee Reality Show


The new season will likely divert viewers from reality with an epic brawl between Bannon/Mercer and their racist nationalists in one corner and Kushner/Cohn and their greed-obsessed kleptocrats in the other. Ratings could be higher than Game of Thrones, which is starting to feel a little long in the tooth with the zombiefication of Viserion Sunday night. Does Greg Sargent's Washington Post headline from early yesterday sound like a teaser for the next season of what? With or without Bannon, Trump will likely get a lot worse. Here’s what to watch for next. He then asserts that now that Bannon "has been booted from the White House, the political press is salivating at the prospect of a public struggle between Bannon as outsider and the 'globalists' who remain inside the White House. Bannon now rails that his ouster means the Trump presidency as he conceived of it is 'over,' and vows to use Breitbart to pressure the administration into hewing to the 'economic nationalist' agenda that (he maintains) the globalists may now derail. But looming in the near future are some major flash points that will test whether Bannon’s departure actually heralds any kind of new direction for President Trump. Here’s a partial rundown:
Arizona speech. Trump is set to hold a rally Tuesday night in Arizona. That was the setting for the festival of hate, lies and xenophobia otherwise known as his main campaign speech on immigration. Little has changed since: Trump recently embraced a plan to slash legal immigration and in the process has recently amplified more lies about the impact that low-skilled immigration has on U.S. workers and about the degree to which immigrants drain welfare benefits. If you hear more of these lies about immigration tomorrow-- and in coming days-- we’ll see little has changed post-Bannon.

New rhetoric about race. Meanwhile, some Republicans have urged Trump to use the Arizona rally to sound a conciliatory, unifying tone, after his refusal to unambiguously condemn white supremacy in the wake of the Charlottesville violence. But Bannon internally urged Trump not to back down on this point, arguing that he shouldn’t capitulate to pressure from the media. What Trump says tomorrow will tell us a lot.

The fate of the “dreamers.” The Trump administration faces a tough decision on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which currently shields around 800,000 people brought here illegally as children from deportation, while granting them permits to work. The White House won’t say whether Trump will cancel the program. If he does not, a coalition of states will sue to get it overturned, and the question then will be whether Trump will instruct Attorney General Jeff Sessions to defend the program in court.

Incredibly, the New York Times reports that Bannon had privately urged Trump not to show flexibility toward the dreamers, arguing that this would buy no goodwill for Trump from Democrats. (It’s always, always, always just about Trump, and the question of whether it is humane or just to scrap protections for hundreds of thousands of people brought here as kids, through no fault of their own, is beside the point entirely.) Trump’s decision on DACA will be revealing.

Joe Arpaio’s pardon. If Trump goes through with pardoning former Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio, an authoritarian racist with a fondness for dabbling in birtherism and a history of reprehensible abuses toward Latinos, that will speak for itself.

Afghanistan. Trump is reportedly set to expand our engagement in Afghanistan by several thousand troops, and the New York Times reports that Bannon’s departure tips the balance in favor of those who, unlike Bannon, favor a more interventionist military posture abroad. This is partly a reflection of Bannon’s “America first” foreign policy nationalism. But as Ben Smith notes, it’s more than that: Bannon has long dreamed of achieving a cross-racial political realignment of working people via a combination of protectionist trade policy, ramped-up spending at home, tighter immigration restrictions, and bringing home their sons and daughters from foreign wars.

Trump, too, campaigned on a similar narrative built of these same intertwined themes, vaguely suggesting he would be less inclined toward military adventurism abroad than bipartisan Washington elites tend to be. So it will be very telling if Trump departs from Bannonism in this area while retaining its hostility toward immigration. Which brings us to...

Trade, infrastructure and taxes. We have been told endlessly that the appeal of Trump/Bannon “populist economic nationalism” depends in part on Trump’s willingness to break from House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s orthodox Republicanism on economic policy and the safety net. But Bannon reportedly urged Republicans to support the GOP health bill, which would have slashed Medicaid for millions, including untold numbers of Trump voters, while delivering the rich a huge tax cut. In short, Bannon went all in with Ryanism when it really counted.

Now Bannonism will be tested again. We are told Bannon wanted Trump to adopt pro-worker protectionist policies; we know he has long talked of huge infrastructure spending; and word was leaked that he pushed for a tax hike on the rich. But we never saw the meat of any of these policies, making it hard to judge what the Bannonist agenda is really supposed to amount to, beyond the stepped-up deportations, the immigration restrictionism and the thinly disguised Muslim ban, areas in which (surprise) we have seen concrete policies. At some point, we may see plans from Trump and the GOP on trade, infrastructure and tax reform. If so, you’d think the now-unshackled Bannon will be unsparing in his criticism of them where they fail working people and benefit elites, and in so doing will finally reveal what the Bannon agenda really looks like in these areas. Right?

The most likely outcome: Trump will remain fully in thrall to Bannonism’s impulses on immigration and race while failing to offer anything on trade or infrastructure that actually benefits workers-- or anything that seriously challenges conventionally plutocratic GOP priorities on taxes.
Sargent left off the expected endorsement for an extremist lunatic-- Kelli Ward-- against Republican incumbent Jeff Flake at Trump's phony hate rally tonight (for which he's paying to fill the seats).

Bannon and his backers may hate Flake and encourage Trump to destroy him, but who they really hate is Paul Ryan and they are already plotting to defeat him in 2018, even if it means seeing a charismatic anti-fascist progressive, Randy Bryce, win the southeast Wisconsin House seat!

Anyway, for those keeping track, Jeremy Peters and Maggie Haberman pieced together the actual story on how the Regime offed Bannon, something that was part of the deal Trump was forced to agree to when he begged General Kelly to take the chief of staff job for his crumbling administration. Kelly and Bannon worked out an amicable departure in July, scheduled for a month hence.
But as Mr. Trump struggled last week to contain a growing public furor over his response to a deadly, race-fueled melee in Virginia, Mr. Bannon clashed with Mr. Kelly over how the president should respond. Give no ground to your critics, Mr. Bannon urged the president, with characteristic truculence.

At the same time, New York real estate investor friends told Mr. Trump that the situation with Mr. Bannon was untenable: Steve Roth on Monday, Tom Barrack on Tuesday and Richard LeFrak on Wednesday.

By Thursday, after Mr. Bannon undercut American policy toward North Korea in an interview published by a left-leaning magazine, Mr. Trump himself had concluded that Mr. Bannon was too much of a liability.

By Friday, when he was forced from his job as Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, Mr. Bannon had found himself wholly isolated inside a White House where he once operated with such autonomy that he reported only to the president himself.

Bannon’s opponents had long argued that he inflated his importance in White House debates and took more than his fair share of credit in plotting Mr. Trump’s victory. But he was someone with whom the president, for the most part, had long enjoyed spending time.

The two men, whose friendship was cemented during the two and a half months in which Mr. Bannon helped rescue Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, reinforced each other’s rough-around-the-edges tendencies. Both could be gratuitously foul-mouthed, viciously cutting to their enemies and unapologetically politically incorrect. “Dude, he’s Archie Bunker,” Mr. Bannon would say with fondness when talking about Mr. Trump.

Mr. Bannon fed Mr. Trump’s paranoid streak and shared the president’s penchant for believing in conspiracies. He viewed not just intelligence agencies but most of government as stocked with a devious bureaucratic underbelly, the “deep state.” Mr. Trump, who has never worked in government, eagerly adopted that view.

Mr. Bannon was notorious for maintaining his own, shadowy presence within the White House. He would frequently skip meetings where policy was discussed, injecting his views into the process in other ways, according to two administration officials. He did not use a computer, preferring to have paper printed and handed to his assistant to stay outside the formal decision-making process.

Mr. Bannon favored a culture similar to the one Mr. Trump brought with him from the business world to the White House-- a flat structure with blurred lines of responsibility and competing power centers. And early on Mr. Bannon benefited from that structure, sitting at the top, free to slip unvetted materials to the president without a gatekeeper to get past.

...Ideological differences devolved into caustic personality clashes. Perhaps nowhere was the mutual disgust thicker than between Mr. Bannon and Mr. Trump’s daughter and son-in-law. Mr. Bannon openly complained to White House colleagues that he resented how Ms. Trump would try to undo some of the major policy initiatives that he and Mr. Trump agreed were important to the president’s economic nationalist agenda, like withdrawing from the Paris climate accords. In this sense, he was relieved when Mr. Kelly took over and put in place a structure that kept other aides from freelancing.

“Those days are over when Ivanka can run in and lay her head on the desk and cry,” he told multiple people.

Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner, who had helped oust Mr. Kelly’s predecessor, whom they saw as ineffective, also told people that they wanted a new system for the same reason.

Mr. Bannon made little secret of the fact that he believed “Javanka,” as he referred to the couple behind their backs, had naïve political instincts and were going to alienate Mr. Trump’s core coalition of white working-class voters.

He told White House colleagues including the president that too many conservative Republicans in Congress would balk if Mr. Trump took their advice and showed more flexibility on immigration, particularly toward young undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.

He also advised that ideological softening would buy the president no good will from Democrats or independent voters, whom Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump believe Mr. Trump still has a chance of reaching.

“They hate the very mention of his name,” Mr. Bannon told them. “There is no constituency for this.”

His advice for the president: “You’ve got the base. And you grow the base by getting” things done.

Mr. Bannon’s disdain for General McMaster also accelerated his demise. The war veteran has never quite clicked with the president, but other West Wing staff members recoiled at a series of smears against General McMaster by internet allies of Mr. Bannon. The strategist denied involvement, but he also did not speak out against them.

By the time Charlottesville erupted, Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump had a powerful ally in Mr. Kelly, who shared their belief that Mr. Trump’s first statement blaming “many sides” for the deadly violence needed to be amended.

Mr. Bannon vigorously objected. He told Mr. Kelly that if Mr. Trump delivered a second, more contrite statement it would do him no good, with either the public or the Washington press corps, which he denigrated as a “Pretorian guard” protecting the Democrats’ consensus that Mr. Trump is a race-baiting demagogue. Mr. Trump could grovel, beg for forgiveness, even get down on his knees; it would never work, Mr. Bannon maintained.

“They’re going to say two things: It’s too late and it’s not enough,” Mr. Bannon told Mr. Kelly.

In truth, long before Charlottesville, Mr. Trump had begun losing patience. The arrival of Mr. Kelly to play precisely the gatekeeping role that would stymie aides like Mr. Bannon hastened his departure.

The president believed that Mr. Bannon had been leaking unauthorized stories about infighting in the administration for months before he ultimately took action.

Mr. Trump was irritated by a book, Devil’s Bargain, that portrayed Mr. Bannon as a brilliant political Svengali but put Mr. Trump in a supporting role... Bannon suggested timing the departure to Aug. 14, which was a day after his one-year anniversary working for Mr. Trump on the campaign. It made sense to everyone.

Mr. Bannon’s physical appearance was crumbling, and his mood swings had become pronounced.

In late July, after a weekend with Robert Mercer, the hedge fund billionaire who finances some of his projects, Mr. Bannon told him, “I dread going back” to the White House.

But after Charlottesville, Mr. Bannon maintained that an Aug. 14 exit would look like part of the president’s response to the violence. He did not want that, and others were understanding. So they discussed moving the date to around Labor Day weekend, although two administration officials said Mr. Bannon sought to entirely renegotiate the terms of his departure.

Then came Mr. Bannon’s unguarded comments to the American Prospect, published on Wednesday evening. He denigrated some colleagues, specifically identified one that he was going to see fired and said of striking North Korea, “There’s no military solution here, they got us”-- a direct contradiction to the message Mr. Trump had been sending. Mr. Bannon could buy no more time.
One more thing-- a little Gabriel Sherman reporting in Trump's least favorite magazine. "Bannon," he wrote, "was calling into the editorial meeting at Breitbart News, rallying his troops to continue the battles he waged inside the White House. 'We have a duty to the country to be the vanguard of The Movement,' he told his staff, according to one person on the call. Bannon’s main targets are the West Wing’s coterie of New York Democrat 'globalists'-- Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and former Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn-- as well as the 'hawks,' comprised of National Security Adviser H.R McMaster and his deputy, Dina Powell. 'He wants to beat their ideas into submission,' Breitbart News Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow told me. 'Steve has a lot of things up his sleeve.' The chaotic, war-torn West Wing of the past six months will be prologue, but the coming struggles will be as personal as they are ideological, waged not with leaks but with slashing Breitbart banners."
[T]he next phase has already begun. On Sunday, the website’s lead story was based on a Daily Mail report that said Ivanka was behind Bannon’s removal. “Trump’s daughter Ivanka pushed out Bannon because of his ‘far-right views’ clashing with her Jewish faith,” the article noted. Another piece was headlined: “6 TIMES JAVANKA’S DISPLEASURE WITH POTUS LEAKED TO PRESS.” In his feud with Kushner, Bannon may have a powerful ally: Reince Priebus, also recently departed from the White House with a quiver of grudges. Recently, according to several sources, Bannon has told friends he wants Priebus to give his account of the James Comey firing to special prosecutor Robert Mueller. According to a source close to Priebus, the former chief of staff believes that the decision was made during an early May weekend in Bedminster, where Kushner, Ivanka Trump, and Stephen Miller were with the president. Trump returned to the Oval Office on Monday, May 8 and told other aides he intended to fire Comey.

At Breitbart, Bannon has a brigade of similarly happy warriors. “We’re in a loud bar celebrating the return of our captain!” Breitbart’s Washington editor Matt Boyle told me on Friday night. Breitbart’s defense of Trump has so far helped keep the Russia scandal from gaining traction on the right. But that could swiftly change if Trump, under the influence of Kushner and Cohn, deviates too far from the positions he ran on. If that happens, said one high-level Breitbart staffer, “We’re prepared to help Paul Ryan rally votes for impeachment.”
They're also prepared, as I mentioned above, to help defeat Ryan's re-election bid. The far right fringe is, as always, filled with hatred-and-drug-fueled energy and a double dose of incoherence.

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Midnight Meme Of The Day


-by Noah

The Fashion Dreams Of Donald J. Trump; all made in China, of course.

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Monday, August 21, 2017

Running For Office-- On Marijuana Legalization... In Red States


Mike Ward was an extraordinarily progressive congressman from Louisville, Kentucky and later Associate Director of the Peace Corps. His mom, Lukey Ward, had been the day-to-day manager of the Kentucky chapter of Martin Luther King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference. It's a good family to be from and Mike's son, Jasper Ward, is an attorney in Louisville who, with his wife, is working on Legalize Kentucky Now... "legalize" as in marijuana. I like his perspective and asked him to write a guest post about what he's trying to do with this-- in a state that that went for Trump last year 1,202,971 (62.5%) to 628,854 (32.7%). Hillary didn't even campaign there-- a state that her husband had won both times he ran. But Democrats should never give up on states like Kentucky.

Green Wave
-by Jasper Ward

This waking nightmare that is America in 2017 is a disaster caused not just by President Trump, or even the criminal enterprise that is the Republican Party. Yes, Democrats share plenty of blame here, and 8 years of Obama in the White House covered up massive losses at the state and local level, like in my home state of Kentucky.

Democrats here managed to actually implement a popular health care program that drastically improved the lives of a lot of Kentucky voters, and then steadfastly refused to admit it on the campaign trail. Alison Lundergan Grimes famously refused to even cop to voting for Obama, which helped her with precisely no voters and lost her plenty of others. Now Republicans control the Governor’s mansion and both state houses for the first time in forever, and are going about ruining the lives of the people who put them in when they aren’t too busy going after trial lawyers and unions.

And who can blame them? Our esteemed Sen. Mitch McConnell has taught them that they should seek power for power’s sake, and then deftly manage using that power to reward contributors but not so much that you don’t have a reason to keep extorting money from them for the next cycle. It’s exhausting and depressing seeing how much bad Republicans can do in Kentucky and in Washington in such a short amount of time, and how hard it is to undo it.

Back to the Democrats. My God, the Democrats. I’m no stranger to Democratic politics, having worked as an intern and low-level staffer for the Gore campaign in Nashville, research director for Don Siegelman in Alabama in 2002, and then for various campaigns thereafter both as a staffer and wearing the dreaded “consultant” hat. Watching them steal Florida from Gore, Alabama from Siegelman (and then put him in jail on trumped up charges for good measure) and Democrats lose race after race from 2003 to the present, I come by my cynicism and despair honestly.

There are very few silver linings in the constant ongoing disaster that has befallen America. One that keeps me going is that there is a single issue that Republicans have handed Democrats on a silver platter, and the rise of wonderful non-DCCC fundraising and energy-challenging websites like this one means there are more candidates out there who might be willing to actually accept this wondrous gift. That issue is cannabis legalization, more commonly referred to as medical marijuana.

For Democrats to actually change America for the better, it is not enough to just get rid of Trump and the GOP Congressional majority. There must also be some sort of actual policy success in the 2019 or 2021 sessions. And while minimum wage, Medicare For All, postal banking, and trying to undo the damage of Trump are good progressive priorities, there is not one issue that affects so many people and so many other issues as marijuana legalization.

So my theory is this: Democratic candidates running in 2018 should run as “single issue” candidates whose sole issue is legalization, and ride this green wave to a majority with a mandate to actually legalize marijuana nationwide. And then actually legalize it. Because this is not really a single issue, it’s a way to talk about a number of other issues that most red state voters just won’t listen to Democrats talk about anymore. Here is why I think medical marijuana is the best possible issue for Democratic candidates to run on in 2018.

It’s The Right Thing To Do

Obviously legalization is the right thing to do. That’s always a good starting place for a revolution.

Legalization Cuts Across Democratic Factions

There’s a good reason there is no consistent Democratic economic message: the party leadership is influenced by big money and the economic ideas and interests of rich folk, if not to the extent of Republicans, at least sufficiently enough to prevent things like Medicare for All, high frequency trading taxes or similar Wall Street-focused revenue raisers, minimum wage increases and other basic working class progressive ideas. Even if we get majorities in Congress, I fear getting more “art of the possible” language coming from the leadership as half-measures and Rube Goldberg public-private partnership machines pass by a few votes. Honestly, if you are a Democrat running in a red district in Kentucky or statewide in Alabama, what can you offer voters from an economic standpoint that would cause them to even give you 10 seconds attention, much less their vote?

Legalization cuts across this dynamic. The big money against legalization is the big money that generally speaking all but a few Democrats aren’t hooked on: opioid drug makers and distributors, private prison conglomerates, the FOP/right-wing police organizations. As a pure economic message, legalization is an actual jobs creation program that would sell across the party, and there are few issues that check that box.

From a civil rights, personal freedom and racial politics standpoint, this issue can help heal the wounds from 2016 and ongoing coastal v. heartland democratic outposts like my hometown of Louisville, allowing Democratic leaders to talk about civil rights in an expansionary and proactive way, and not just defending rights from Trump and the rest of the GOP or trying to have it both ways on issues like police brutality.

Legalization, the Opioid Crisis and Rural America

Where does economic growth come from in the 21st Century? Do any Democrats have actual ideas for this? We know Republicans don’t yet somehow they are the ones that talk about economic growth and people believe them. If you are a Democrat, how do you expand persuadable voters in the red state districts and states that we need to actually take back Congress? How about an issue that would be just as beneficial for rural America as it would for people everywhere else?

Of the many, many “how did we get here?” thinkpieces post-Trump, the despair from the towns and counties across America ravaged by the loss of manufacturing jobs, the rise of the opioid crisis and the lack of any real long-term policy answer rang the most to me. Lost in the day to day personal lies and awfulness, Trump was able to close the campaign by lying constantly about policy and promising the moon to people, and damned if they didn’t vote for him based on the hope that at least he’d try to do something about opioids.

Legalization actually does something. The connection between medical marijuana for chronic pain and the reduction in opioids is a real phenomenon. Trump will likely make the opioid epidemic worse, or at least do nothing so that it gets worse on its own. Talking about legalization as a specific policy promise to fight opioids is both true and lets Democrats at least try to talk to communities that are hurting.

Finally, farmers, farming communities and small towns, will have to replace the economic bump they are getting from national reporters identifying every single Trump voter and interviewing them for newspaper articles. Growing, processing and distributing marijuana can take place in areas that don’t have another potential growth industry, unless they discover bitcoins in the hills of Eastern Kentucky or rural Ohio.

Legalization and New Ideas

There are a number of other policy issues that legalization effects and that Democrats have no ability to talk about to white voters in red states without looking like they are just trying to Sister Souljah-virtue signal their way to the top. Crime is an easy example: it’s not just dumb marijuana arrests, it’s the pretext stops, the probation revocation, the random drug tests for people on parole, the overcrowding of prisons, and all of the other nonsense hassles that criminalization puts (disproportionately African-American) citizens through. And cutting off easy money for drug dealers will actually reduce crime: making marijuana illegal increases illegal drug sales because you have to have a drug dealer to get it, and drug dealers can use horizontal marketing to leverage pot customers into increased sales of harder drugs.

The next time I hear a Democrat say they aren’t just “tough on crime, but smart on crime” the next words out of her mouth better be “legalize marijuana” or that politician has not gotten one new red state white voter and has probably alienated plenty of Democratic voters who might as well stay home.

Talking about legalization and legalization only helps Democratic candidates run on a message, instead of running on their own biography. Democratic candidates time and again lose elections because they make it about themselves and how much they want everyone to like them and how great they are. Republican candidates are fungible and easy to replace and all look alike and own a small insurance business back home; they are simply the messengers, the less interesting the better.

Because the message is not just about legalization, jobs, civil rights and opioids. The message can easily be this: “I’m a candidate who has strong beliefs and actual, honest-to-goodness new ideas. Legalization is so obviously good for everyone, but the current generation of elected officials still won’t do it. What other obvious solutions are they ignoring and blocking? The leadership of both parties have spent the last 2 decades presiding over multiple disastrous wars, deregulating everything and crashing the world economy, increasing income inequality to unsustainable levels, and handing over control of government to a handful of psychotic billionaires. The last election was ultimately a choice between someone promising orderly and responsible management over the decline of America and someone who specifically promised to set everything on fire and loot the treasury. Legalization is the exact opposite of more of the same.” Maybe too long for a bumper sticker, but you could fit that into a 30 second ad.


Democrats, especially in red districts and red states, can run against Trump in 2018, can run on the ideals of democracy and other high-purpose sounding messages that appeal to people’s better natures. Some may pull off a surprise, but more likely than not, they will run really cool ads that go viral on Twitter and raise a bunch of money that they can pay their consultants and then lose by 5-10 points in 15-20 point GOP advantage districts. That’s the safe play, and I understand why people do it.

There’s another option though. Louisville’s own Hunter S. Thompson wrote the wave speech looking back, seeing the crest and the aftermath. He earned his cynicism and depression too. I may be crazy, but I can see a green wave building across this country. Hopefully there are enough Democrats who see it too, and who are willing to hop on and ride it until it crests.

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