Saturday, August 25, 2018

Last Call For Superdelegate Superdeletion

The Democratic National Committee voted Saturday to neutralize the votes of unpledged convention delegates, part of a package of hard-fought reforms designed to prevent a repeat of the bitter 2016 presidential primary as the party looks toward the 2020 election.

“We listened and we acted, and I’m proud that our party is doing everything we can to bring people in and make it easier to vote,” said DNC Chairman Tom Perez after the reforms were unanimously approved.

The new party rules undo decades-old reforms that empowered hundreds of party activists and elected officials, often referred to as “superdelegates,” whose presidential convention votes were not bound to the results of primaries or caucuses. They also affirm the decision of six states to move from caucuses, which have favored insurgent candidates, to primaries, which tend to have higher turnout.

The Democrats’ journey to that decision lasted more than two years, and divided party leaders even as activists who had supported both Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) organized behind them. Anger at the results of that primary campaign, and at Clinton’s defeat, has dogged the DNC under Perez’s leadership; despite a run of election wins, it has raised $116.5 million since the start of the cycle, compared with $227.2 million for the RNC.

To mollify supporters of Sanders, Democrats in July 2016 created a Unity Reform Commission that met four times through 2017. It originally proposed a cut to the total number of superdelegates, a move that was changed when the reform package got to the Rules and Bylaws Committee, which met four more times to debate amendments. The eventual compromise — to prevent all superdelegates from voting unless a convention went to a second ballot — was proposed by Ken Martin, the chairman of Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL).

“This is a way for us to heal the wounds of the 2016 election,” Martin said in an interview before the vote. “Minnesota was a 62 percent Bernie state. People cared about this. We were dealing with a perception problem more than a reality problem, but that perception problem mattered. People believed so passionately that this issue cost their candidate the nomination, that we had to fix it.”

I'm not sure how I feel about this.  I honestly believe that when Bernie fails to secure the nomination in 2020, they'll find some other conspiracy to blame for his loss besides superdelegates, because given all the 50 states (plus DC and territories) caucuses and primaries, he still lost the nomination in 2016 convincingly.  It wasn't close, but blaming superdelegates was the way to go.

Moving six states from caucuses to primaries is a bigger issue and something that will help settle things, but again, this doesn't mean that the fight is over.

Perez and other delegate reform supporters succeeded in weakening the establishment opposition by giving it more time to protest. But the opposition made one final push, picking up on a theme that the Congressional Black Caucus had aired last month — that to take away the votes of black superdelegates was to effectively suppress them. The unofficial leaders of that faction, former party chair Don Fowler and California DNC member Bob Mulholland, are white. But Mulholland, a gruff Vietnam veteran, invoked the legacy of the civil rights movement to argue that his party risked alienating its most loyal voters to appease a faction of elite Sanders fans.

“There’s an awful lot of white males pushing this [reform] idea, and they have no idea of the message this is sending to the Latino community and the African American community,” Mulholland said Friday. “If I was Trump, and the DNC decided it’s not going to let black members of Congress on the floor to vote, I’d exploit the hell out of that. ‘The Democrats just threw out your vote!’ ”

But that message did not unify the DNC’s black members, some of whom pointed out that the 2016 pool of superdelegates skewed whiter than the delegates elected through primaries. While former party chair Donna Brazile gave a 10-minute speech decrying the reform, Nina Turner, president of the Sanders-founded group Our Revolution, whipped votes in favor of it.

Real voter disenfranchisement is living in a state where you forfeit your rights if you’re a felon,” Turner said. “Real disenfranchisement is officials closing down polling places that disproportionately affect black voters. This is a false equivalency, to talk about something that happens in the DNC and compare it to the hard, bloody fight to secure the franchise in the real world.

It pisses me off to no end to say this, but Nina Turner is correct here, mainly because being on the opposite side of the CBC is an easy layup.   If this was the real battle, and fighting GOP voter disenfranchisement of black and Hispanic voters united the Democrats going forward in 2018 and 2020, we'd be in much better shape.

Sadly, experience tells me that this won't happen.  More infighting is ahead, because it's what Democrats do.

Where The Country Goes From Here

"Surely," you say, "Donald Trump's personal lawyer pleading guilty and implicating Trump in commission of a felony for an illegal payoff of campaign funds for a playmate mistress, the same week his former campaign manager was convicted on fraud, the same week his long-time business CFO agreed to immunity from prosecution, is enough to break the hold on Trump's supporters and allow us to end this long national nightmare, correct Zandar?  Surely this is the inflection point where it all comes apart, yes?"

To which, I point you to this week's NY Times column by Roger Cohen, where the answer is "No, and they will never abandon him."

The thing about all the shocking Trump revelations — Michael Cohen’s about violating campaign finance laws by paying hush money to two women in coordination with a “candidate for federal office” being the latest — is that they are already baked into Trump’s image. His supporters, and there are tens of millions of them, never had illusions. I’ve not met one, Babcox included, who did not have a pretty clear picture of Trump. They’ve known all along that he’s a needy narcissist, a womanizer, a lowlife, a liar, a braggart and a generally miserable human being. That’s why the “Access Hollywood” tape or the I-could-shoot-somebody-on-Fifth-Avenue boast did not kill his candidacy.

It’s also why the itch to believe that the moment has come when everything starts to unravel must be viewed warily. Sure, Trump sounds more desperate. But who’s the enforcer if Trump has broken the law? It’s Congress — and until things change there (which could happen in November) or Republicans at last abandon a policy of hold-my-nose opportunism, Trump will ride out the storm.

There’s a deeper question, which comes back to the extraordinary Western landscape and the high American idea enshrined in it. Americans elected Trump. Nobody else did. They came down to his level. White Christian males losing their place in the social order decided they’d do anything to save themselves, and to heck with morality. They made a bargain with the devil in full knowledge. So the real question is: What does it mean to be an American today? Who are we, goddamit? What have we become?

Trump was a symptom, not a cause. The problem is way deeper than him.

It will take decades to clean up the mess that Trump has caused after just 19 months.   If he is allowed to serve out a full term, the rest of my lifetime will be required just to get us back to the post-Bush era of world mistrust against us.  If he is re-elected in 2020, it will never happen.

The main reason for that is the GOP enablers who have covered for Trump, most of all his supporters.  They simply don't care anymore.  We've reverted, full-form, to the American status quo, a country founded on slave labor, racism, Calvinist hypocrisy, and greed, the country that has to be dragged kicking and screaming to do the right thing, and only after everything else has been tried.

The Obama experiment was the right thing, but now everything else must be tried.  The fact we followed up with Trump, rather than elect America's first woman president, is everything you need to know.

Trump's not the problem.  It's the people who voted for him, and support him now.

Pardon, The Interruption

President Donald Trump’s lawyers and a cadre of informal White House advisers claim they’ve convinced him not to pardon Paul Manafort — but White House officials expect the president to do it anyway.

The president’s characterization of his former campaign chairman as a victim and “brave man” is being read by aides as a signal that Trump wants to use his unilateral authority to issue pardons to absolve Manafort, according to eight current and former administration officials and outside advisers.

“Trump is setting it up. He’s referring to the investigation as a ‘witch hunt’ and saying this never would have happened to an aide to Hillary Clinton,” said one former campaign official.

Three senior administration aides said the president has not expressed to them directly any immediate intention of pardoning Manafort, who was convicted earlier this week on eight counts of felony tax evasion and bank fraud. Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer, told The Washington Post on Thursday that the president had agreed not to pardon Manafort, who faces a second trial on lobbying violations in Washington next month, until after the midterms if at all. Giuliani did not return a call for comment.

Members of the president’s informal group of outside advisers, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, have stepped in over the past few weeks to caution the president against exonerating Manafort before the midterms.

“He certainly does not need to do it. The things Manafort has been convicted of have nothing to do with Trump,” Gingrich told POLITICO. “The president thinks Manafort’s biggest crime was running the Trump campaign. If he had run the Clinton campaign, then he would have gotten immunity and never would have had any problems.”

White House counsel Don McGahn is also dead set against a presidential pardon of Manafort, according to one administration official — though a person close to McGahn said that he and the president had not discussed the issue.

"Eight current and former administration officials", and I'm betting at least one of them is Trump himself, just to see how this plays in Peoria.  He's really terrified with Weisselberg and Cohen turning on him.  Manafort is his only real play short of waiting it out, and he knows it.

We'll see what the response is, but unless Republican senators start screaming bloody murder this weekend, this could happen (and even then he still may do it anyway.)  On the other hand, the fact that 60% of Americans are against it, and only 11% are for it, means he could be talked down.  Even Republicans aren't willing to back Trump on this (38% against, 20% for, 42% unsure) but that 42% unsure would almost certainly back Trump if he did it.

Stay tuned.

The Old Pilot's Last Flight, But The Plane Is Burning

I do not believe history will be kind to Sen. John McCain for the last decade.  The man who gave us Sarah Palin and began the cycle of elevating racist dogwhistles to mainstream Republican presidential politics, culminating in the rise of Donald Trump, has no one to blame but himself for his failures.  

He has done the right thing in his life every now and again, and he served his country well as a Navy pilot and survived a hell as a Vietnam POW that I wouldn't wish upon anyone, but when given the multiple opportunities to be the voice of reason to salvage the smoking remains of the Trump GOP, McCain bunted, punted, and stunted.

Now the 81-year-old veteran faces his final days on his own terms, foregoing further treatment for brain cancer as he has decided to surround himself with friends and family.

Mr. McCain, 81, had been undergoing treatment since July 2017, and has been absent from Washington since December. Mr. McCain’s family has gathered in Arizona, and people close to him say his death is imminent.

From his ranch in Arizona, Mr. McCain had managed to maintain a voice in key foreign policy and military policy debates, sharply criticizing President Trump after his summit meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, an old adversary of Mr. McCain. At home, he has welcomed close friends to renew ties. But after decades as a fixture in Washington and a larger-than-life character, he had largely retreated from the public eye.

Senators from both parties quickly wrote to comfort Mr. McCain’s family and lauded his service. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican majority leader and an occasional McCain sparring partner, wrote on Twitter that Mr. McCain has been a “dear friend” with whom he was lucky to serve in the Senate.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, said, “May the prayers and affection of his country, and of friends around the world, surround John and his beloved family in these peaceful final hours.”

The son and grandson of four-star Navy admirals who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, Mr. McCain rose to become one of the towering figures in American politics, twice seeking the presidency and winning the 2008 Republican nomination for president. In the Senate, he has been both revered as an iconoclast and criticized by many, including Mr. Trump, for his willingness to buck his party on issues like campaign finance reform and, last summer, the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Under Mr. Trump’s leadership, Mr. McCain has watched his party steer sharply away from many of the values he long championed. A fierce advocate for an expansive and interventionist American foreign policy, Mr. McCain has fretted as Mr. Trump moved the party toward “America First” policies, criticizing longtime American allies and institutions like NATO, while praising adversaries like Russia.

For decades, Mr. McCain advocated on behalf of refugees and was a leading — if intermittent — Republican voice in a few efforts to overhaul the American immigration system. Mr. Trump has tried to strictly limit both.

Though he was unable to vote on the Republican tax cut bill late last year, a top Trump priority, Mr. McCain’s endorsement helped secure its passage.

I'm hoping the old warhorse can summon one last condemnation of the party that has abandoned him and abandoned America in the name of white nationalism, and admit to his role in helping to enable it.  He owes the country, Barack Obama, and posterity a huge apology, quite frankly.

I'm not holding my breath.
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