Sunday, October 23, 2016

Last Call For The Chief Executives

It's not just the Senate that is in danger for the GOP, but several governor's mansions are up for grabs this year and the Republican brand is suffering across the board, so much so that Democrats now have a serious shot of picking up several governor's mansions.

Democrats were initially uncertain about their chances to make strides at the gubernatorial level, given the number of conservative states — Missouri, West Virginia and Montana among them — the party had to defend. But the recent polls have given them a reason to be more optimistic.

“We’re in a map right now where we’re pleased, on a race-by-race basis, at how this looks,” said Jared Leopold, a spokesman for the Democratic Governors Association. “Everyone expected that 2016 would be a difficult cycle for Democrats because we were defending more.”

A Ball State University poll released Wednesday, conducted for WISH-TV in Indianapolis, shows former Indiana House Speaker John Gregg (D) leading Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) by a 48 percent to 43 percent margin in the race to replace Republican Gov. Mike Pence, Donald Trump’s running mate.In North Carolina, another Republican-led state, three surveys released this week show Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) locked in a tight race with Gov. Pat McCrory (R), who has faced nationwide backlash over the state’s law on public bathroom use for transgender people. Polls conducted by CNN and Survey USA showed Cooper with a narrow lead, while a survey conducted by the conservative Civitas Institute showed McCrory slightly ahead.

Surveys in two states led by Democrats, Oregon and New Hampshire, show Democrats up by significant margins in gubernatorial races.

A University of New Hampshire poll conducted for WMUR showed Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern (D) leading fellow Executive Councilor Chris Sununu (R) 44 percent to 38 percent. A MassInc poll conducted for WBUR released last week showed Van Ostern up 47 percent to 44 percent. Current Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) is running for Senate, hoping to boot the vulnerable GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte.

In Oregon, polls conducted for The Oregonian and Oregon Public Broadcasting show Gov. Kate Brown (D) leading her opponent, little-known physician Bud Pierce (R), by double digits. Republicans had hoped Oregon voters might punish Brown for supporting a ballot measure that would raise corporate tax rates, though the opportunity never materialized.

The one pickup Republicans are looking for?  Vermont.  Go figure.

With two weeks remaining before November’s elections, Republicans’ best opportunity to pick off a Democratic-held seat appears to be in Vermont, where unpopular Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) decided not to seek a fourth two-year term. A Castleton Institute poll conducted for Vermont Public Radio this week, the first poll of the race, showed Lt. Gov. Phil Scott (R) and former state Transportation chief Sue Minter (D) in a statistical tie, with Scott up 39 to 38 percent.

Minter will campaign this weekend with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I), who is wildly popular in his home state. Democrats believe Minter can ride a favorable wave to the governor’s mansion, while Democrats have sought to portray Scott as a New England Republican divorced from the national party’s conservative reputation.

Sure hope Bernie has enough juice left to save his own state from the GOP.

All In All He's Just An Orange Prick With A Wall

If there's any state where Donald Trump's lofty promises of a giant wall to keep out those people should play well, it's Arizona.  But with two weeks and two days before the election, giant walls aren't playing well in Arizona.  Not at all.

Donald Trump rode to the top of the Republican ticket promising a "big, beautiful, powerful" border wall with Mexico to stop the flow of undocumented immigrants. Along that border, however, Americans are more likely to call the wall a "waste of money", according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll.

The results show that while the New York businessman may have expected his tough stance on immigration to fire up support nationally, it seems to be falling short in a state heavily affected by illegal immigration, and where he is now facing a surprising challenge from his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

Asked if a wall would be “an effective barrier or a waste of money,” 47 percent of Arizona residents picked “waste of money” and 34 percent picked “effective barrier”, with the rest picking neither, according to the poll
. Among Republicans, 21 percent picked "waste of money” and 57 percent picked “effective barrier."

Most Arizonans also believed it is not realistic to expect Mexico to pay for the wall, something Trump has vowed would happen if he’s elected president on Nov. 8, according to the poll.

The results lined up closely with nationwide opinions of Trump’s immigration policy: 49 percent of American adults say the wall would be a “waste of money” and 31 percent say it would be an “effective barrier.

Uh-oh.  It seems like all Trump is doing is making sure Latino voters do just that this year: vote.

Florida is another closely-fought state that has seen large levels of illegal immigration, though by sea rather than by land. Some 41 percent of voters there said they believed Trump’s wall would be a “waste of money”, while 36 percent thought it would be an “effective barrier”.

Progressive activist groups in both Florida and Arizona have been using Trump’s hard line on immigration against him to mobilize Latinos for Clinton, who advocates a path to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants. Mi Familia Vota, for example, says they registered more than 15,000 people in Arizona this year.

We'll see what happens.  Trump may be the best thing to come along for the Latino vote ever.

For Democrats, that is.

Sunday Long Read: No Class Twits

I'm on Twitter as a social media platform and it's pretty useful and even fun from time to time, but the reality is the company has had a decade-long problem with harassment of women and the folks behind Twitter still haven't bothered to take the kind of steps needed to address more than cosmetic damage.

On May 22, 2008, Ariel Waldman ran out of options. Waldman, then a community manager and blogger, had signed up for Twitter in March 2007 and in months had become one of the platform’s 100 most followed accounts. She was, by her own account, “addicted” to the service.

But soon after, the abuse began — for no reason other than that Waldman was a woman writing articles that occasionally touched on sex and technology. In June 2007, a stalker posted some of her private information in a string of threatening tweets. Waldman contacted Twitter, which banned the user in question from the public timeline. But over the next eight months, the targeted abuse and stalking intensified. By March 2008, exhausted and disillusioned by a torrent of tweets calling her a “cunt” and a “whore” and publicizing personal information like her email address, Waldman reached out to Twitter again, this time to the company’s CEO, Jack Dorsey. After a series of phone calls to the company went nowhere, Dorsey and Twitter went silent. So in May, Waldman went public, detailing her ordeal in a blog post, which caught fire in media circles.

Twitter, then still a startup, was fresh off a buzzy SXSW debut, and Waldman’s post was an unfamiliar bit of bad press, depicting Dorsey in particular as an unsympathetic, even cowardly, chief executive. “Jack explained that they’re scared to ban someone because they’re scared if it turned into a lawsuit that they are too small of a company to handle it,” Waldman wrote. While Twitter founder Biz Stone issued a formal acknowledgment of the problem, arguing that “Twitter is a communication utility, not a mediator of content,” Dorsey was silent. Co-founder Ev Williams was more critical, posting tweets that cast doubt on Waldman’s claims and halfheartedly apologizing with a simple “our bad.” Waldman was crushed. “Prior to my coming out, I had great relationships with them and considered some of them my friends,” Waldman told BuzzFeed News this month of the fallout. “I took it very personally. It sucked.”

More than eight years after Waldman’s ordeal, harassment on Twitter is rampant — so much so that it has become a primary destination for trolls and hate groups. So much so that its CEO declared, “We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we’ve sucked at it for years.” So much so that numerous high-profile users have quit the service, citing it as an unsafe space. Today, Twitter is a well-known hunting ground for women and people of color, who are targeted by neo-Nazis, racists, misogynists, and trolls, often just for showing up. Just this summer, actor Leslie Jones was driven off Twitter after a barrage of racist comments and death threats, only to return after a personal reassurance from Dorsey himself. Last week, Normani Kordei of the pop group Fifth Harmony also stepped away from the service after suffering years of “horrific and racially charged” tweets. Despite its integral role in popular culture and in social justice initiatives from the Arab Spring to Black Lives Matter, Twitter is as infamous today for being as toxic as it is famous for being revolutionary. And unless you’re a celebrity — or, as it turns out, the president of the United States of America — good luck getting help.

According to 10 high-level former employees, the social network’s long history with abuse has been fraught with inaction and organizational disarray. Taken together, these interviews tell the story of a company that’s been ill-equipped to handle harassment since its beginnings. Fenced in by an abiding commitment to free speech above all else and a unique product that makes moderation difficult and trolling almost effortless, Twitter has, over a chaotic first decade marked by shifting business priorities and institutional confusion, allowed abuse and harassment to continue to grow as a chronic problem and perpetual secondary internal priority. On Twitter, abuse is not just a bug, but — to use the Silicon Valley term of art — a fundamental feature.

Twitter does have a lot to offer.  Unfortunately part of that offering is nearly guaranteed harassment and racist attacks (and the era of Trumpism sure as hell hasn't made the issue any better.)  I've had to fight off racist clowns on a regular basis, but I know the harassment can be orders of magnitude worse. I've been downright lucky by comparison to some friends of mine.

And the fact of the matter is people are leaving Twitter for that reason.  The company is scrambling to find a buyer and potential suitors are walking away at this point because of the harassment issue.  I'm finding I'm spending more time on Tumblr and other platforms these days, and even Facebook is better at curbing assholes. Whatever the next step in social media is, I hope the lessons of Twitter's 10-year campaign of failure are learned.

Down The Ballot, Down The Hole

The Trump Effect is blasting its way through the ranks of the GOP House and Senate candidates, and what were largely considered safe seats, like Sen. Marco Rubio's in Florida, are now toss-ups as Trump's collapse spread through the rest of the party like the disease he is.

Just months ago, Senator Marco Rubio was seen by the Republican establishment as one of its best hopes for taking back the White House. Now, Representative Patrick Murphy, a second-term congressman, iswithin striking distance of defeating Mr. Rubio in the senator’s race to keep his seat.

The race is the most consequential among several in Florida in which Republican incumbents find themselves in unexpectedly tough fights. The plight of Florida Republicans — who seem largely resigned to a Clinton victory, given Hillary Clinton’s four percentage point lead in the polls — is in large measure a result of the name at the top of the ballot. But Donald Trump’s candidacy has only accelerated trends that have changed Florida’s political landscape in ways that Democrats have been more adept at seizing.

Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the dean of Florida’s congressional delegation, is fighting more vigorously than she ever has to fend off a Democratic challenger, Scott Fuhrman, a businessman who has little name recognition and is campaigning against Ms. Ros-Lehtinen’s rigid defense of the Cuban embargo. President Obama won the district by a tiny margin in 2008 and by nearly seven percentage points in 2012. This year, Mrs. Clinton is leading Mr. Trump by 17 to 23 percentage points in the district, according to polling commissioned by Mr. Fuhrman.

The changing Latino electorate is the key factor, with Cuban-Americans, who once swung reliably Republican, increasingly up for grabs, particularly younger voters who are more socially liberal than their parents and less dogmatic about the Cuban embargo. Some 58 percent of Latino voters in Florida back Mrs. Clinton, while 28 percent support Mr. Trump, according to a recent poll commissioned by Univision.

This pains Rudy Fern├índez, one of the architects of the Republican Party’s efforts to earn Latino votes during the 2000 and 2004 campaigns, which were instrumental in George W. Bush’s Florida victories. “It was a very inclusive message, a positive message, Reaganesque,” Mr. Fern├índez said. In November, he said, he will unenthusiastically vote for Mrs. Clinton and hope that Mr. Trump’s defeat forces a reckoning that reboots the party’s approach toward Latinos.

What this has meant for Mr. Rubio is that he can no longer rely on Cuban-Americans as a stalwart base in a state where many voters have become alienated by his hard-line conservative positions on issues such as gay rights, reproductive rights, gun control and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and by his shifting stance on immigration reform. Of course, the Trump factor is substantial, too. Mr. Rubio, who once called Mr. Trump a “con artist” wholly unfit to be president, now backs him. Many former Rubio supporters find that galling and indefensible.

For these reasons, Florida voters should support Mr. Murphy. But defeating Mr. Rubio, who earned a reputation on Capitol Hill as a disengaged lawmaker who skipped scores of key votes and hearings, shouldn’t be the only motive.

Mr. Murphy’s positions on climate change — an issue that Mr. Rubio seems deeply ignorant about — gay rights, gun control and comprehensive immigration reform make him by far a superior representative for Floridians. Mr. Murphy has also challenged Mr. Rubio’s obstinate support for the failed embargo on Cuba, which puts him on the right side of history and, increasingly, public opinion in Florida.

So the question is will the Latino turnout be high enough to send Little Marco packing? We'll find out in a couple of weeks.  I certainly hope so.  And he'll have Donald Trump to thank.
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