Sunday, March 11, 2018

Last Call For Betsy Flunks The Test

Trump Regime Education Secretary Betsy DeVos did not acquit herself well on 60 Minutes tonight when it came to defending the Trump approach to "school choice" in her home state of Michigan.

Lesley Stahl: Why take away money from that school that's not working, to bring them up to a level where they are-- that school is working?

Betsy DeVos: Well, we should be funding and investing in students, not in school-- school buildings, not in institutions, not in systems.

Lesley Stahl: Okay. But what about the kids who are back at the school that's not working? What about those kids?

Betsy DeVos: Well, in places where there have been-- where there is-- a lot of choice that's been introduced-- Florida, for example, the-- studies show that when there's a large number of students that opt to go to a different school or different schools, the traditional public schools actually-- the results get better, as well.

Lesley Stahl: Now, has that happened in Michigan? We're in Michigan. This is your home state.

Betsy DeVos: Michi--Yes, well, there's lots of great options and choices for students here.

Lesley Stahl: Have the public schools in Michigan gotten better?

Betsy DeVos: I don't know. Overall, I-- I can't say overall that they have all gotten better.

Lesley Stahl: The whole state is not doing well.

Betsy DeVos: Well, there are certainly lots of pockets where this-- the students are doing well and--

Lesley Stahl: No, but your argument that if you take funds away that the schools will get better, is not working in Michigan where you had a huge impact and influence over the direction of the school system here.

Betsy DeVos: I hesitate to talk about all schools in general because schools are made up of individual students attending them.

Lesley Stahl: The public schools here are doing worse than they did.

Betsy DeVos: Michigan schools need to do better. There is no doubt about it.

Lesley Stahl: Have you seen the really bad schools? Maybe try to figure out what they're doing?

Betsy DeVos: I have not-- I have not-- I have not intentionally visited schools that are underperforming.

Lesley Stahl: Maybe you should.

Betsy DeVos: Maybe I should. Yes.

DeVos is the only Cabinet secretary protected by a squad of U.S. Marshals because she's gotten death threats. She's frequently met by protesters who accuse her of pushing an elitist agenda.

She often manages to offend, as when she called historically black colleges and universities "pioneers" of "school choice" – as though they had a choice.

At this commencement speech at Bethune-Cookman University, students booed and turned their backs to her.

Lesley Stahl: Why have you become, people say, the most hated Cabinet secretary?

Betsy DeVos: I'm not so sure exactly how that happened. But I think there are a lot of really powerful forces allied against change.

Lesley Stahl: Does it hurt?

Betsy DeVos: Sometimes it does. Sometimes it does. Again, I think-- I think--

Lesley Stahl: Do you ever say--

Betsy DeVos: --I'm more misunderstood than anything.

Of all the Trump cabinet secretaries, DeVos is second only to Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the sheer amount of damage she's doing to the country, particularly to people of color.  Naturally if given a choice, people want to send their kids to the best schools, but all DeVos's plan is doing is taking money out of public schools and putting it in the pockets of "education reform" companies, opening charter schools across the country that are nothing but huge scams.

Oh, and there's the issue of DeVos's brother, Erik Prince, and his involvement in Trump's foreign fundraising and how DeVos ended up with this job when she's clearly unqualified for it.

There's no way DeVos should have this job, but she does.

Trump Cards, Con't

Trump's hour-plus long rally in Pennsylvania last night for GOP candidate Rick Saccone Donald Trump went as how all the other Trump rallies go here in the era of permanent cult of personality.

The trip was ostensibly an effort to help Republicans stave off a deflating defeat in a western Pennsylvania congressional district that President Trump won by 20 points.

And in a rally at Pittsburgh’s airport on Saturday evening, Mr. Trump did mention the Republican running in Tuesday’s special election, Rick Saccone, a handful of times. A good man, he called him.

But for almost all of his 75-minute performance in front of a raucous crowd packed into a hangar, it was in-his-element Trump, vintage 2016: rambling and fiery, boastful and jocular — the part of being president that he loves perhaps the most.

Ricocheting off the teleprompter, the president showed the kind of free-flowing attitude that his aides have said they expect to see this year. He ticked off what he said were his achievements — some coming just in recent days — on a laundry list of issues like North Korea, trade and the economy, and attacked his predecessors for their failures on the same.

He spoke admiringly of foreign laws imposing the death penalty on drug dealers, and seemed to brush aside the notion of due process as he spoke of American officers grabbing gang members “by the neck” and throwing them in the paddy wagon.

He derided past presidents as stiffs and lousy entertainers. He pummeled his favorite targets: Democrats and the “fake” news media. And, always the showman, he dropped a bit of news, revealing the slogan for his 2020 re-election campaign:

Keep America Great. With an exclamation mark, he said.

Trump loves running for president.  He hates actually having to do the job.

Steve M. argues (successfully, in my opinion) that if Clinton had won in 2016, Trump would have spent the last sixteen months on the trail for 2020.

The GOP/right-wing media complex would have gone into a stance of maximum resistance to Clinton -- or maybe just short of maximum. (Would Republicans in Congress have refused to certify her election? I think they'd have stopped just short of that.) She'd be the subject of multiple investigations and a lot of impeachment talk. Republicans might not want Trump as a figurehead, but he'd simply designate himself as the key player in this effort, and the media would lavish attention on his efforts.

He'd hold rally after rally. Hillary-hating Republicans would join him. Even non-Fox news organizations would be obsessed with Clinton's alleged misdeeds, while ignoring most other news. The Trump rallies would play unedited on cable. They'd ensure that Trump remained the most popular politician in America among Republican voters.

And since there'd never be a good reason to impeach Clinton, or 67 votes to convict her in the Senate, and since incumbents are routinely renominated even when they're struggling in the polls, it's likely that the 2020 election would have been a contest between the incumbent and the Republican base's favorite candidate, a man so fond if campaigning he'd be in the process of doing it nonstop for more than five years.

We could have had an electoral rerun in 2020. And given the likelihood that Clinton would have had four years of bad press, while Trump would have been, in an awful way, a media darling, I think he could have won outright the second time.

We'll never know if that would have been the case, but I honestly believe the urge by Trump voters to not just punish but to completely obliterate the Obama/Clinton coalition in 2020 would be, in this scenario, absolute.

And yes, our lovely media would have made sure that the Trump Show would be playing in 2020. 

Sunday Long Read: Chalk One Up For The Ladies

This week's Sunday Long Read takes us to the dimly-lit pool halls of San Francisco, where the game is nine-ball and the action is as smooth as the shots are glorious.  But the players here are all women, and the skill level is remarkable as they compete for a spot in the Vegas big time.

Renée Mata is a 4-foot-11 ball of irrepressible good vibes. She never stops grinning and stops talking only slightly more often. So when she takes a break from shooting pool one Saturday morning in mid-January to tell me, still smiling, that she’s “in a funk,” I honestly can’t tell if she’s joking.

Thirty-year-old Mata (Ren, to her friends) is one of 30 women at Billiard Palacade, a dark pool hall in Balboa Park, one of the last ungentrified neighborhoods in San Francisco, and there’s nowhere she’d rather be. But the funk is very real: she didn’t get much sleep last night because she didn’t get home from work—pouring beers and cooking hot dogs at another pool hall six miles uptown—until 2:30 a.m., and her shift had been so busy that she didn’t get much time to practice her game. That same day had begun with a 6:30 a.m. baking class at the City College of San Francisco, where she learned how to make pot de crème. Now it’s time to compete at the penultimate stop in what may be the most competitive regional women’s pool tour in the country.

“These girls are all my friends, but they’re also crazy good pool players,” Mata tells me, fresh off a streak of eight consecutive hugs with her competitors. “So if I’m not on top of my game because I didn’t get enough sleep or didn’t eat right or didn’t have a good practice session last night, I’m going to have a rough day.”

The event is the eighth stop in the West Coast Women’s Tour, a series with monthly events across Northern California. The tour focuses on nine-ball billiards, in which players must use the cue ball to strike the lowest-numbered of the nine balls on the table. Top performers will qualify for the annual American Poolplayers Association Championships in Las Vegas in August, and several of the regulars travel widely for bigger competitions. But the California tour is not just for elite players—the women at Billiard Palacade range in age from their teens to their 70s, and the spread of skill levels is at least as wide. A handicap system encourages women of all abilities to participate: the pro player who cofounded the event in 2007 has to win eight games to win a match, while newbies must win just five.

Mata falls somewhere in the middle. For the past five years, her life has revolved around pool. She quit her job managing a Bay Area Target store when she convinced the owner of her favorite pool hall to hire her, so she practices nearly every day at work. She plays in a team league as well as on the women’s tour. When she was a kid, her dad loved watching pool on TV, and she dreamed of playing professionally, too. But the only pool halls near their home were inappropriate for little girls—so she didn’t start playing regularly until she was 23, when her brother’s girlfriend asked her to join her team. She wasn’t very good, she admits, but her drive to improve was insatiable. “[My brother’s girlfriend] says she created a monster by inviting me to play,” Mata says. She’s not sure she wants to go pro, but she’s working toward bigger tournaments, like the one in Vegas. And while she has the talent to beat almost any player in Northern California, she’s inconsistent, so starting a tournament in a funk does not bode well.

Because pool is a mental game, the atmosphere during a tournament is generally silent but for the crash of cue balls striking the other nine. As the women twist cues together and run precision-shooting drills, Mata’s voice and laugh are among the few sounds that slice through the quiet. I hadn’t recognized her when I first spotted her across the room: during her shift two nights earlier, four piercings (two in her nose and two below her lip) had been her only facial adornment. Today, aware that a photographer is coming, she’s in full makeup, with dramatic cat-eye eyeliner and pink, glittery eye shadow that matches the highlights in her black hair. The second-shortest player in the tournament, she has to stand on tiptoe to make many of her shots, and she has found one of the few chairs in the room that will allow her feet to reach the floor when she sits down.

Two days earlier, Mata told me that she thinks of this particular tournament as more of a fun time than a competition—“This is my girls’ weekend, with no boyfriends or men at all”—but make no mistake: she is here for a prize. When the draw is announced and players move to their assigned tables, even the bubbliest player in the room goes mum, the smile suddenly gone from her face. She jams in a pair of white earbuds, turns on a playlist that ranges from Demi Lovato to Childish Gambino, and racks the balls into the diamond shape that begins a game of nine-ball. As the tournament begins, six 20-something men who have just walked in look crestfallen: the women are using all 15 tables, so there’s no room for them to play.

Women of all ages, from all walks of life play here, for the love of the game, for the challenge of competition, and just to prove a point.  But that doesn't always go over well with men in the sport, or at the halls, and even in 2018, billiards is still a "macho guy thing".

These women are looking to change that, and more power to them.

Chasing The Dropouts

A group of political scientists make the mathematical case in the NY Times that Democrats would be far better served winning back the more than four million Obama voters who stayed home in 2016 (rather than voting for Hillary or anyone) than the six million Obama voters who abandoned the Democrats for Trump.

Before the 2016 election, these voters were often identified as part of the “rising American electorate” by Democratic strategists who hoped that demographic shifts would be a boon to the party. But these shifts are meaningless if Democrats can’t get enough young people of color to the polls.

What do Obama-to-nonvoters prefer, policy-wise? Are they more similar to Obama-to-Clinton voters or to Obama-to-Trump voters? The answers to these questions have important implications for the future of Democratic Party politics, so we analyzed the preferences of all three groups of voters across a broad range of domestic policy areas, including support for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, abortion rights, E.P.A. regulation of carbon emissions, cuts in domestic spending, an increase in the minimum wage, and an end to mandatory minimums in criminal sentencing, as well as opposition to the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Two clear patterns emerged. First, it will come as no surprise that Obama-to-Trump voters adopt the most conservative positions. In fact, Obama-to-Trump voters express the most conservative views of any Obama voters in each of the seven areas examined in this analysis.

Second, the preferences of Obama-to-nonvoters are almost always closer to the preferences of Obama-to-Clinton voters than they are to Obama-to-Trump voters. For example, nearly three-quarters of Obama-to-Trump voters supported repeal of the A.C.A., while less than half of Obama-to-nonvoters did. The extremely high degree of support for repeal of the A.C.A. among Obama-to-Trump voters clearly played a role in the 2016 election and in the negative reaction to Mr. Obama among this group of voters more broadly. However, considering how strongly Obama-to-Clinton voters in particular favor the A.C.A., it is hard to imagine how Democrats could incorporate anti-A.C.A. voters into future Democratic coalitions.

Obama-to-nonvoters are most similar to Obama-to-Clinton voters on the minimum wage, though the proposal draws strong majority support from Obama-to-Trump voters as well. Obama-to-Trump voters are most out of line with the Democratic coalition on issues relating to race and gender. They are less supportive of a path to citizenship, and a supermajority (64 percent) of Obama-to-Trump voters support deporting undocumented immigrants. At 72 percent, Obama-to-nonvoters are also far more in favor of abortion rights than Obama-to-Trump voters are (55 percent). Over all, Obama-to-nonvoters are quite close to the emerging Democratic consensus on issues of class, race, gender and the environment.

Democratic strategists should recognize that Obama-to-Trump voters do not represent the future of their party.
Obama-to-Trump voters diverge from the Democratic Party on many core issues, and in any case they are not particularly loyal Democrats: Less than one third of Obama-to-Trump voters supported Democrats down-ballot in 2016, and only 37 percent identify as Democrats.

In stark contrast, Obama-to-nonvoters share the progressive policy priorities of Democrats, and they strongly identify with the Democratic Party. Four out of every five Obama-to-nonvoters identify as Democrats, and 83 percent reported they would have voted for a Democrat down-ballot. A similar share of Obama-to-nonvoters said that they would have voted for Mrs. Clinton had they turned out to vote. In short, while reclaiming some Obama-to-Trump voters would be a big help to Democratic prospects, re-energizing 2012 Obama voters who stayed home is a more plausible path for the party going forward.

Whether Democrats can mobilize these voters is an open question, however. Significantly, only 43 percent of Obama-to-nonvoters reported being contacted by a candidate in 2016, compared with 66 percent of Obama-to-Clinton voters. While analysts have focused on why many conservative voters switched to the Republican Party, a better question might be why a campaign that sought to energize young voters of color failed to do so. That’s the question that will decide the future of American politics.

Getting these voters to the polls on Election Day is the most important task for progressives. And given their outlook on the important issues of the day, Obama-to-nonvoters are also likely to be easier to mobilize after two years of a Trump presidency — never mind four.

Two observations here:  First, the "Obama dropouts" here are overwhelmingly voters of color.  More than a third of them are black, that represents 1.5 million voters, another 10 percent were Latino, another 450,000.

Second: these are the voters who were pushed out of the electorate by the GOP through Republican voter suppression efforts in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, as well as Florida, North Carolina, Arizona, and more.  More than two dozen states enacted Republican voter ID laws between 2012 and 2016, and we now know that Russian election meddling through social media specifically targeted black voters in swing states to demoralize them.  The combination cost Clinton millions of votes and the presidency.

So yes, getting these younger voters back should be top priority rather than older, more conservative voters who left the Democrats over "identity politics" and showed their true colors by voting for Trump.  The Democrats don't need them.  They do need the younger voters who were by and large pushed out of the electorate.

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