Monday, October 24, 2016

Last Call For The Italian Job

Don't look now, but we could be six weeks away from yet another Brexit-level crisis in Europe, this time as Italy faces a referendum in early December that will make or break the government of Italian PM Matteo Renzi.

In the town of Pontida at the foot of the Italian Alps, Alberto Frassoni cheerfully admits he knows nothing about the country’s upcoming referendum, not even the date. 
What the unemployed 48-year-old does know is that the economy isn’t working for him. 
“The euro ruined us because prices doubled,” says Frassoni, who supports the anti-immigrant Northern League that wants Italy to abandon the single currency. “A few things have changed, there are better public services for young and old people, but my job opportunities haven’t changed.” Foreigners “have taken work away from me,” he says. 
It’s the sort of discontent that populists are thriving on, taking them from the vocal fringes of politics right into the mainstream. After Britain’s stunning decision to withdraw from the European Union, now comes another ballot that could topple a leader should Italy defy Prime Minister Matteo Renzi over what, on paper at least, is the constitutional issue of reducing the size and powers of the Senate.

Should the December 4th referendum fail, Renzi has promised to resign as PM, and a narrow loss is looking more and more possible as Italy turns to protectionism and populism (sound familiar?)

What is clear is that many voters don’t know what it’s really about. They fret over the economy, immigration and Italy’s future in or out of the euro. 
Renzi, 41, now has a little over a month to champion a reform that promises to end the political instability that has toppled dozens of governments since World War II. But polls show he could be narrowly defeated, an outcome that is likely to lead to elections and potentially a leader who wants to take Italy out of the euro. 
Pontida stands out neither for its beauty nor rough edges, riches nor poverty. Every year, though, it hosts the annual rally of the Northern League, making it a touchstone for its followers. A poster on the main street proclaims: “Renzi slave of Europe and banks.”
The good news for the prime minister is that Frassoni, a former delivery driver, is among a third of the electorate who polls show might not even vote. There’s also at least 20 percent of voters who haven’t made up their minds in surveys that put Renzi’s “Yes” campaign trailing by four percentage points.

It's a bold move by Renzi, but if it fails, Italy will almost certainly elect a PM who will want to make sure that Italy is the next country out of the euro currency or the EU entirely.

Keep an eye on this one.  So far the EU has dodged plebiscite bullets in Spain but Lithuania's new government is very nationalist and more such elections around Europe are certainly on the way, the big one being France next year where President Hollande is pretty much doomed and Marine Le Pen and her French Trumpites are waiting in the wings.

2017 is the year the EU could crack up completely, folks.  We may get out alive in November but the rest of the world won't be so lucky.

The Next Midterm Massacre

Chris Cillizza makes the case that even if the Democrats win back the Senate and achieve the impossible and win back the heavily gerrymandered House, that a 2018 Democratic midterm meltdown (without Donald Trump to drag down the GOP ballot) all but guarantees Republican control of Congress for the second half of a Clinton term.

If we are being honest, the presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is effectively over. Which means that the big fight over the next 15 days is for control of the Senate, where Democrats need a net gain of four seats to retake control. 
That prospect is looking more and more likely of late — thanks in large part to Trump’s collapse at the top of the ticket, a fall that appears to be dragging down the likes of Richard Burr in North Carolina, Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire and Joseph J. Heck in Nevada.

What few people talk about — but should — is that this could be a very short-lived majority for Senate Democrats, as the 2018 field is remarkably bad for them. 
The numbers for that year are stunning: 25 Democratic or Democratic-affiliated independents are up for reelection, compared with just eight Republicans. That’s as lopsided an election cycle as you will ever see.

But a look inside the numbers makes the Democrats’ challenge in 2018 all the more daunting. Fully 20 percent of the 25 Democratic seats are in states that then-Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney carried in 2012 (and even Trump is likely to carry on Nov. 8): Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia. 
All five Democratic incumbents in those states are expected to run for reelection, a prospect that gives Democrats a chance in each. But with 2018 looking almost certain to be the first midterm election of a Hillary Clinton presidency, it’s hard to see how her party avoids major losses in red states.

I hate to even consider the notion that a twit like Cillizza is correct, but...he's correct.  Jon Tester, Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Donnelly, Claire McCaskill and Joe Manchin are all going to face very long odds in 2018, plus Tim Kaine's seat would be open in Virginia and Sherrod Brown in Ohio, Bill Nelson in Florida, and Bob Casey in Pennsylvania would all be incumbent Dems with seats in play.

And if the midterms are yet another disaster the way 2010 and especially 2014 were, Democrats losing all of those seats would be a nightmare.  There's nothing at this point to make me think the DNC has their crap together enough to pull it off, either.

I'm not saying this is a done deal by any means, but the time for Dems to get the ball moving on defending the ramparts is going to be November 9th.  A third midterm disaster is just going to undo any gains made this year and then some.

But now that I've got that out of my system, the time to start moving on 2018 is just a few weeks away.  I know people don't want to hear that, but it's what the GOP is going to do, trust me.

We have to be ready.

The Big Orange Log Cabin

When it comes to LGBTQ rights and the Republican Party, apparently there are folks who sincerely believe that Donald Trump is the best the GOP is going to get on the issue to the point where they freely say they will continue to back him over Hillary Clinton folks like California GOP delegate Charles Moran.

As Trump’s chances of winning the election appear to continue to drop in the waning days of his campaign, many gay conservatives, an unexpected segment of the Republican Party, are still backing him.

“Donald Trump is the best candidate that the LGBT community has ever seen come out of the Republican Party,” Moran said. “We see a consistent line from Donald Trump that being pro LGBT and pro inclusion is a good business decision and I believe he’s going to bring that with him in the White House."

Trump earned a lot of credibility with gay Republicans when he became the first GOP presidential nominee to positively refer to the gay community in a convention acceptance speech, saying, “As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology. Believe me.”

When that comment drew applause from the audience, Trump then ad-libbed -- “And I have to say, as a Republican, it is so nice to hear you cheering for what I just said. Thank you.”

Moran said he was not expecting Trump to talk about the LGBTQ community in that speech.

“Right after his speech people were starting to text me, ‘What does the ‘Q’ stand for?’” Moran said. “So I said, ‘It’s either queer or questioning’ -- an instructional moment. And I like being able to have those with the Republican Party.”

Moran points to Trump’s LGBTQ inclusiveness at Mar-a-Largo -- Trump’s Florida country club -- where he says Trump broke with tradition by allowing gay members. Moran also notes that Trump publicly supported Elton John’s marriage to David Furnish.

“We see a consistent line from Donald Trump that being pro-LGBT and pro-inclusion is a good business decision and I believe he’s going to bring that with him in the White House,” Moran said.

Despite the fact that Trump’s Christian conservative running mate Mike Pence enacted anti-LGBTQ laws as governor of Indiana, such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Moran said he’s comfortable with Pence because he’s “not running for president.”

Moran notes that Pence later amended the religious freedom law after meeting with LGBTQ groups, which he says shows Pence is willing to listen.

Moran said he does get a lot of flak from his friends for being a Trump supporter.

“The running joke is that it’s so much easier to be gay in the Republican Party than it is to be a Republican in the LGBT community,” he said.

And it's easy and reductive to call Moran "self-hating" and throw up your hands and say "what is wrong with them?" but that's as unfair as saying that about black Republicans or Latino Republicans or Asian Republicans who still support Trump.

My problem is wondering how you're still Republican at all with Trump as your candidate given the abject awfulness of his behavior and the rest of his stated platform.  As I've said before, the problem with Trump as the GOP candidate is not Trump, but the people who selected and accepted him as the nominee.  They are the folks who threw up their hands and said "Well, he's not Hillary."

When you stand for nothing, and are against everything that's happened over the last eight years in the White House, you get Trump. And these are Republicans who find Trump OK and Mike Pence to be a bridge too far?

PS, the official platform of the GOP on LGBTQ rights are "you have none."


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