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Like convicting Capone for tax evasion. Whatever serves to put him where he deserves to be.

2018-06-30 21:20:00 Andy Schmookler

Question: Is it the case that having someone other than (better than) Whitbeck would have made any difference to what’s happened to the VIrginia Republican Party– i.e. how much of Corey Stewart getting the nomination, and of the statewide Republican tickets losing, was within the reasonable powers of any state party chairman to affect. I’m really asking.

2018-06-30 21:09:00 Andy Schmookler

There seems to be a lot of readiness among the Dems in Washington for the fight over filling the Supreme Court vacancy. I’m having trouble seeing this battle clearly. One particular part of the picture in particular perplexes me.

Senator Cory Booker was on TV last night, making major assertions concerning the wrongness of Trump appointing someone to the Court while he and his campaign are under criminal investigation and important questions that bear upon that investigation might come before the Court.

(For example: 1) on whether the President is obliged to obey a subpoena, or 2) whether the President can be indicted while still in office.)

I get that. But what I don’t get is whether the person who is appointed to replace Justice Kennedy will make any difference in how such matters get decided.

If Cory Booker’s argument prevailed, and the seat was kept empty until the investigation — and any Court cases growing out of it were resolved — there would be eight justices. Which means that those cases would either command a majority of at least 5-3, or the Court would deadlock at 4-4.

If it was a 5-3 (or larger) majority, the new justice would not have changed the outcome. But what about if it were 4-4? Would that deadlock help or hurt the cause of making sure that Trump cannot put himself above the law?

That depends on another question, the answer to which I don’t know: Would such questions as on the subpoena or indicting a sitting President go STRAIGHT TO THE SUPREME COURT? Or would they be heard first in lower courts.

If they go straight to the Supreme Court, it seems to me that a 4-4 decision would help Trump. My thinking may be off, but in the absence of a decision from the Court, it would seem to me that at least the subpoena issue would leave Trump free to do as he wished: in the absence of an order from the highest Court, such as Nixon received, Trump would not be under legal obligation to defer to Mueller/Justice on the matter. (Would that apply also to the question of whether he could be indicted?)

But the matter would be different if the Supreme Court gets these matters after some lower court would rule on those cases. In THAT case, a 4-4 deadlock would mean that the lower Court’s decision stands (I think). And it is THAT scenario — and I think only that scenario — that would make Booker’s argument matter.

In other words, a deadlocked Supreme Court is better than a 5-4 conservative majority regarding the Mueller investigation only if that means that a lower court — having first ruled on the matter — would be where the case is decided, with the Supreme Court evenly split and thus rendered impotent.

So the question: Do such cases go directly to the Supreme Court? If they do, Booker’s argument might be irrelevant. (Though it might serve a useful political purpose in calling attention to Trump’s position as a possible criminal who has been trying to use his presidential powers to put himself beyond the reach of the law.)

I note two things from the precedent of the U.S. v. Nixon.

First, in that case, there WAS a lower court order– from the famous Judge John Sirica– for Nixon to hand over the subpoenaed tapes. But if I recall, Sirica was already involved in the hearing of the Watergate matters, so he was already in the picture– and I’m not aware of any lower court that would be similarly involved if Mueller were to get the grand jury to issue a subpoena for Trump to testify.

Second, the case of U.S. v. Nixon was decided unanimously, which the justices believed was of importance in such a case involving the President. (Though apparently only eight justices were party to the decision– I’m not sure why Justice Rehnquist was not. He was not the only Nixon appointee on the Court at the time.)

It would be a wonderful thing if we could assume that the Court would be as committed to the rule of law now as it was in 1974, and that the case against Trump’s stonewalling — which is, if anything, more compelling than that against Nixon — would likewise result in a unanimous decision. But it has become more difficult to think of the conservative justices on the Court now as principled judges, rather than as Republican partisans in robes, and so I am unable to make any such assumption.

But if the Court were to be similarly principled now, in a case involving Trump’s refusing to comply with a subpoena, then the worst a newly appointed justice could do is cast a dissenting vote against a majority against Trump.

So does Senator Booker’s argument make more legal (as opposed to political) sense than I am seeing?

2018-06-29 15:47:00 Andy Schmookler

I guess, from what you say here, you would assert that the politics of the 1850s in all the various election contests were local, not to be understood particularly in terms of any issue of national scope– like for example slavery.

2018-06-27 23:20:00 Andy Schmookler

I’m not sure why one would believe that, at a time like this, politics would be INCREASINGLY “local.” The nation is clearly at a point of grave national crisis. (More than 2/3 of Americans believe that our democracy is getting “weaker.”)

The crisis is at a national level, and perhaps more than at any time in living memory, almost all the political contests are part of a national battle.

Why else would there be this Blue Wave in elections around the country– including in elections for state legislatures.

This is the age of Trump and the Party of Trump. The survival of our constitutional order is at stake. Candidates should deal with that reality, not pretend it’s not there by acting as if “all politics is local.”

2018-06-27 22:19:00 Andy Schmookler

And a bumper sticker to accompany the other uses of such a slogan:

Beneath the main line (“Truth, Justice, and the American Way”) another short line saying “VOTE D” with the “D” big and in blue.

2018-06-27 14:08:00 Andy Schmookler

These supposed believers in “states rights” had no problem pushing the Fugitive Slave Act through Congress, trampling all over the rights of the states in the North in the cause of protecting the ability of the slaveholders to retrieve their human “property” that managed to escape.

2018-06-26 16:43:00 Andy Schmookler

I’m interested to know that you responded, True Virginian. I have not seen that response.

2018-06-26 16:39:00 Andy Schmookler

Never Forget! Every 5-4 “conservative” SCOTUS decision is stolen justice.

2018-06-26 16:37:00 Andy Schmookler

“Force” as a word choice. Meaning “compel,” but not coerce. But I would have preferred something like “get them to see.” It is really all about persuasion. And did you really, True Virginian, think that either I or Kinder (whose sentence I was quoting) have in mind any kind of coercive measures– like re-education camps, or concentration camps, or whatever Mao used in the Cultural Revolution? Hard to believe that you imagined any such thing, though your “textbook definition of fascism” seems to imply you read it that way.

As for the WWII quote, please note that “since World War II” does not include World War II. I will stand by my belief that we have more at stake now — in terms of the kind of America our children will live in, the kind of world they will live in, and the kind of lives they will live — than the United States had at stake in the Korean War, the Vietnam War, either war in Iraq, or the Afghanistan war.

(Consider this: the outcome of the Vietnam War was a defeat for the United States. How much has that outcome affected adversely any of those “stakes” I listed above?)

Certainly one seeks to have one’s narrative be accurate, and not twisted. What’s your narrative for this time of Trump, True Virginian? Do you see this presidency as no more dangerous to the nation than others you’ve been witness to?

2018-06-25 20:47:00 Andy Schmookler

I, too, appreciate the job you’ve done here, Kindler. Clearly, a lot of work went into generating this taxonomy, and providing illustrations for each of the dishonest moves you’ve catalogued.

And I want especially to underscore the importance of your statement: “To stop America’s descent into madness requires that we force the Not-Sees to see and accept their complicity in the ascending horrors.” (Or, at the least, to withdraw their enabling support from those who are committing these horrors.)

The question that needs to be addressed is how to bridge between the taxonomy of lies and the processes of the Not-Sees who buy these lies. I’m presuming that the Not-Sees are people who — at most — parrot the lies, rather than originating them.

The counter-moves proposed here seem directed mainly at the various liars– Sarah Sanders, Paul Ryan, Kellyanne Conway, etc. They all seem like good moves for defeating such foes in the ways that arguments are generally scored. And it is important for all their dishonest tactics to be exposed in real time, every time it can be done.

Will those counter-moves win over the Not-Sees? I don’t know, just as I don’t know if my own efforts to awaken the Not-Sees to the reality in front of their faces will work.

Clearly, the Not-Sees have not come to their point of view through evidence and logic. Something deeper, less conscious, more pernicious is going on. Concepts that sometimes seem relevant to me are things like “trance state,” and “collective madness.” So the good argumentation provided by these countermoves is likely helpful, but not the only kind of tool required.

It really is quite extraordinary what’s going on over there on the Trumpian side of the American body politic. What’s needed, in addition to all these good countermoves you present here, is some understanding of this cult-like state of mind, and some insight into how THAT can be effectively overcome.

2018-06-25 17:44:00 Andy Schmookler

A thought that came to me as I ponder the problem of immigration, that is taking one form here in the U.S., and that reportedly is threatening to topple Angele Merkel in Germany. Looked at as a whole, it is clearly a difficult challenge for even decent societies to know how best to deal with. But this is what comes to me to say:

Whatever policies are adopted to deal with the problems of immigration in a world with plenty of suffering and disorder, they should always express the spirit of love.

2018-06-18 22:01:00 Andy Schmookler

Laura Bush’s op/ed piece is a brilliantly written piece of work. And the points it makes are powerful. Whether it was the former First Lady herself who crafted this, or some ghost writer putting her feelings and moral commitments into form, I salute.

2018-06-18 21:58:00 Andy Schmookler

Absolutely agreed that getting Democratic control of the Congress in the coming elections– for a great many reasons.

But given the President’s being pretty thoroughly in control of American foreign policy, I’m wondering what you envision a Democratic-controlled Congress being able to do to protect and/or restore — or help lay the groundwork for future restoration — of that international system that Trump is dismantling.

2018-06-17 20:56:00 Andy Schmookler

That “Trump Doctrine” piece, cited above in the news summary, begins thus: “Decades from now, we may look back at the first weeks of June 2018 as a turning point in world history: the end of the liberal order.”

What I’m wondering is this: What can be done now — even while Trump is still President — to lay the groundwork for the restoration of that liberal order?

McCain’s tweet last weekend — that America stands with them even if our President does not– was a step in that direction.

What can Democrats in Congress do now — what can we as American citizens do now — to help our traditional allies see the United States apart from Trump, to make it so that when America returns to sanity and decency, that order that Trump is trying to wreck (doing Putin’s bidding?) can rise again from the wreckage?

2018-06-17 18:07:00 Andy Schmookler

I am left uncertain about where you come down, Robert, on the “strategic blunder” question.

I have not wondered particularly how they might justify doing evil. I’ve been watching the Republican Party be swallowed up by what I’ve described (at book length) as an “evil force” for many years.

So I appreciate your comments about brainwashing, and about rationalizations, etc. But I can’t tell from reading your comment here: do you think that they are calculating reasonably well their own political interests in tying themselves so closely to Trump, or do you think they’ve made a bad misjudgment, and that they could have had a much better cost-benefit pay-off if they’d chosen otherwise (i.e. not to involve themselves so tightly with Trump’s Mueller investigation problems)?

2018-06-16 20:02:00 Andy Schmookler

Question for people here: am I wrong in thinking that the news of yesterday — of which much was made — about Michael Cohen’s “encrypted” messages and shredded documents is likely much ado about nothing?

The encrypting seems to be just about using the “What’s Ap” texting system. I’ve used that when my son was abroad and he said it worked better. I didn’t even know that it involved any encryption. So might it not be the case that Cohen used it for other reasons than to HIDE things?

As for shredding, a couple of things. First, the FBI raid on Cohen was one of those unexpected, no-knock affairs. In other words, whatever Cohen shredded — the 16 pages that the FBI has pieced together — wasn’t presumably done in a panic, the way people in the movies fling papers into the blazing fireplace when the police are coming for them. More like routine shredding.

And second, I have a shredder. I’m not a very private person, but matters of family health and finances that aren’t anyone else’s business I put through the shredder rather than throw them into our rural recycle dumpster with the junk mail and old newspapers.

So is there any particular reason to suspect that Michael Cohen’s shreddings would contain juicy secrets of interest to a criminal investigation.

I’m not saying that these encrypted messages and shredded documents couldn’t contain incriminating material. Just wondering if there’s any particular reason to think that these are much more likely to be of interest than all the many, many other documents seized by the FBI in their raid on Cohen.

Anyone’s thoughts?

2018-06-16 18:45:00 Andy Schmookler

Am I right, Robert, that when you are talking here about “Trump supporters,” you mean all the regular citizens who have jumped aboard this collective-madness train?

If so, let me clarify that my question in this piece is not about all the folks who believe the lies, but about those congressional Republicans who are part of the lying right-wing machine.

My question is about the professional politicians who have chosen to make what looks to me like an unforced error, a strategic blunder.

Or is it your belief that these Republicans in Congress who have chosen to become Trump’s active accomplices (rather than mere passive enablers) are “delusional people” just like the consumers of the lies?

2018-06-16 17:28:00 Andy Schmookler

And one more point: even if Trump is very useful to them in those ways, it is not clear that they would need to become his accomplices in order to work with him where that advances their agenda. They could do things like pass that tax cut for the rich and get his signature without putting themselves in the line of fire while the Mueller investigation puts Trump in its sites.

2018-06-16 02:14:00 Andy Schmookler

You make a good case. But a couple of things:

First, could they not do the same under Pence with less nightly scandal battering them?

Second, why is it that the Republicans — in control of both the legislative and executive branches — seem to have virtually nothing in their legislative wish list? (Once they passed the tax cut, it seemed they were essentially done.)

How do those things square with the idea that they have made Trump’s problems their own in order to accomplish their long-sought agenda?

2018-06-15 20:47:00 Andy Schmookler

A friend just sent me this, too delicious not to share. It is said to be “from From Stonehenge, Washington Post this morning”::

“Justify won the Belmont Stakes, becoming the 13th triple Crown winner, and turned down an invitation to the White House. Asked why, the winner neighed, ‘If I wanted to see a horse’s ass, I would’ve finished second.'”

2018-06-14 16:18:00 Andy Schmookler

Invitation for anyone within reach of Harrisonburg, VA.

This evening (June 13), I will be holding a public event titled “How to Bring Light to the Political Darkness in America Today?”

It will consist of a brief talk and a longer Q & A session. You are invited to come and participate.

Here are the particulars regarding time and place.

at 7:00 PM this evening (Wednesday, June 13)
in the Music Room at the Simms Center
620 Simms Ave
in Harrisonburg

2018-06-13 13:42:00 Andy Schmookler

When BV held that poll on “who do you think will win?” in the various congressional districts, I was surprised when Volosin polled somewhat stronger than Lewis. I wondered what I might have been missing.

Now I’m surprised that the BV community’s collective expectations — as registered in that poll — proved to be so much at variance with the actual results, in which Lewis has received almost twice as many votes as Volosin. That leads me to wonder what led people to believe that Volosin would prevail.

Admittedly, we never had polling information. But what were the signs that made Volosin seem to so many so much stronger than he proved to be?

2018-06-13 01:06:00 Andy Schmookler

The value of my testimony is limited– I know nothing about precincts other than mine, and I wasn’t sure I understood what I was told about my precinct. But for what it’s worth, I believe that the Democratic turnout in my precinct is a higher proportion of the total vote thus far than usual.

2018-06-12 15:38:00 Andy Schmookler

Based on my observation the Republican electorate in the 6th, I would be surprised if there are many Dunbar supporters who will not unify with the Republican nominee.

In 2012, many of likely the same voters (who now went for Dunbar) voted for Karen Kwiatkowski over Bob Goodlatte in the Republican primary. She got more than a third of the primary vote, as I recall. (Goodlatte had been in office long enough to create a lot of disappointment and bitterness– which I doubt Ben Cline is the target of.) Despite all that, in the general election the pull of Republican party loyalty was strong enough to give Goodlatte pretty much what you’d expect from a 2:1 Republican electorate and a political culture that has made party loyalty almost a religious commitment.

2018-06-12 14:23:00 Andy Schmookler

About VA=06, where I live, and where I once ran against Bob Goodlatte. That 2.4% is a lot lower than the 16% chance that Predictit.org market is saying. I’m dubious about it’s being 16%. Not sure if 2.4% is in the right ball park. Certainly the wave would have to be a tsunami.

2018-06-12 03:59:00 Andy Schmookler

Today is the 74th anniversary of D-Day, the allied invasion on the beaches of France to begin to drive back the Nazi power that had taken control of almost all of Europe.

We today need to do something pretty much analogous, by pushing today’s Republican Party back, forcing it to relinquish its control over the government of the United States.

In the name of much the same set of values.

2018-06-06 20:38:00 Andy Schmookler

A propos of that whole discussion — of people believing what they want to believe — something has come back to mind that I recall from my experience campaigning against Bob Goodlatte back in 2011-12.

What I noticed was that many people have taken the very American idea that “everybody has a right to his opinion” and turned it into the (also very American) idea that “everybody’s opinion is worth much as anybody else’s.”

That wasn’t the first time I’d encountered that attitude– and I’d say that it grows out of not just our American liberties but also our American egalitarianism.

On the one hand, it could have the benefit of having a nation of people who think for themselves. (If only. It seems that a lot of people on the right, who think they think for themselves, are in lock step with their political tribe.)

On the other hand, the idea that “my opinion is as good as anyone’s” means that people don’t feel any obligation to pay any special attention to people who know a lot about the matter in question. Expertise can be dismissed. What the climate scientists are saying is not given any more weight that what some ignorant person thinks is his equally respectable opinion on the matter.

And it would seem that this would be another factor that would facilitate people coming up with beliefs that please them — i.e. believe what they WANT to believe — without the kinds of intellectual habits that tend to tether people closer to what’s TRUE.

2018-06-03 19:03:00 Andy Schmookler

Thank you, then, for the tip about FANTASYLAND. It sounds like he’s seen something in our history that I’ve not seen.

2018-06-03 18:36:00 Andy Schmookler

If you say that I jumped to an incorrect conclusion, I’m glad to stand corrected. After all, you’ve read the book and I haven’t.

Judging from what you’ve said about his thesis — ” that Americans’ willingness – even eagerness – to believe whatever the hell they want to believe “is deeply embedded in our DNA,” just waiting to be exploited by hucksters, flim-flam men, and also more dark/diabolical forces like those represented by the Republican Party of the past few decades” — it would seem that a test of whether the conclusion I jumped to was incorrect might be this:

Does Anderson make a good case that this eagerness of Americans “to believe whatever the hell they want to believe” has been a serious problem before this era when “dark/diabolical forces” arose over the past few decades?

As I look over American history, I don’t see this thing “in our DNA” as having been any huge problem before now.

It might have created a vulnerability to what’s happened more lately. What I would want to understand about that possibility would be: are Americans — with this in our “DNA” — any more susceptible to believing lies than other societies?

The Germans of the post World War I era proved vulnerable to the Big Lie. And I wouldn’t say that the German culture, shaped by such things as Luther and the Prussian state, etc. had in their cultural DNA a propensity to believe whatever the hell they want to believe.

But then, the Germans went over to the dark side after enormous national traumas, whereas a whole bunch of Americans got led astray by liars when there were no huge national injuries to cope with.

2018-06-03 17:59:00 Andy Schmookler

Excellent synopsis, Lowell.

Although I think Anderson hits some real targets glancingly, from my perspective — he misses the main story here. If he’s saying that it is intellectual freedom — where anyone can believe whatever they wish — that has led us into this miss by “metasiz[ing] out of control,” he is locating the problem in our liberty, whereas the problem is the way power has exploited what opportunities a system like ours offers to evil.

In the American democracy, those opportunities have always involved the use of the lie. And the reason is not hard to see.

In a situation like Europe coming out of the Dark Ages, power could be had by the sword. The force of evil in that era might concern itself somewhat in what people believed — e.g. the enforcement of religious orthodoxy — but that was secondary. Armed and armored men on horseback could subdue the people, turning themselves into lords fortified in castles, and the mass of people into serfs, compelled into servitude.

The American experiment, by contrast, has rested on “the consent of the governed.” So when evil has arisen, it has been through the manipulation of the opinion of the people, not so much the use of brute force.

For that reason, the “confidence man” has long been a major figure in the American imagination. Herman Melville wrote a novel with that name — THE CONFIDENCE MAN — and in that great American novel (HUCKLEBERRY FINN), Mark Twain created a couple of major characters who were confidence men.

Deceiving the people has long been a major tool in American politics.

So to that extent, Anderson’s sense that something of this goes way back seems to me correct. And there have been dark times in our history in which the Lie has played an essential role. (The Lie figures importantly, for example, in the era leading up to the Civil War.)

But what we see now in America has risen visibly over the past generation. Of course, our politics were never purely honest. But I would say that if there were a graph of the role of truth and the role of falsehood in American politics over the past century, truth would be seen as preponderant over that period– until the proportions began to change radically about a generation ago– tipping toward the Lie with the rise of Gingrich and Limbaugh, accelerating in that direction with W’s presidency (and Rove), becoming still worse during Obama’s presidency as the Rs were able to lie their way into control of Congress and of the statehouses and legislatures of maybe 2/3 of the states, and now elevating a truly prodigious liar to the Presidency, supported by the Party that controls Congress.

So what Anderson leaves out is the whole quest for power by a destructive force that arose on the right, and worked systematically to poison people’s minds and get them to believe a false picture of the world. And then lend their power to that force by voting for the confidence men who have been the agents of that force.

And one more thing, to tie this to the main thing I’m trying to say these days: the success of this force of the Lie has only been possible because that side in the political battle that has remained pretty true to the truth has not wielded that truth powerfully enough to defeat the lie..

2018-06-03 16:56:00 Andy Schmookler

Can you give us a brief synopsis of Anderson’s thesis? Like maybe 4 (or more) sentences.

2018-06-03 15:47:00 Andy Schmookler

An odd pair of recent polling findings:

On the one hand, 59% of Americans believe that the Mueller investigation has not yet discovered any crimes (despite the various guilty pleas and indictments),

On the other hand, 49% of Americans say they’ve paid a lot of attention to the Mueller investigation.

2018-05-29 14:33:00 Andy Schmookler

That David Frim piece above (“The Measure of Trump’s Devotion,” at https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/05/the-measure-of-trumps-devotion/561368/) is masterful.

2018-05-29 14:28:00 Andy Schmookler

I’ve been hearing some smart and good people (on MSNBC shows) talking about Rosenstein RESIGNING rather than complying with Trump’s inappropriate/illegal demands. For example, the otherwise excellent Harry Litman argues in a Washington Post piece, titled, “Rosenstein and Wray have only one real weapon: Resignation” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/rosenstein-and-wray-have-only-one-real-weapon-resignation/2018/05/25/0a19e03e-5f83-11e8-a4a4-c070ef53f315_story.html?utm_term=.381012fec057&wpisrc=nl_popns&wpmm=1):

“Rosenstein and Wray could credibly have chosen to resign rather than carry out either of these outrageous demands. Resignations are a time-honored response for executive-branch officials and Cabinet members ,,,confronting orders that violate their consciences or oaths of office.”

I don’t know if I’m missing something, as unlike Litman I’ve never served in the U.S. Department of Justice, but this seems plain wrong-headed to me. Resignation makes their departure the choice of the person standing up for what’s right. It does not require the lawless President to put his fingerprints on their removal from office.

Better than resignation, it seems to me, is to take the stand of straight-forward disobedience. “Sorry, Mr. President, but your order is a violation of the American legal order, and I cannot in good conscience, and in fidelity to my oath of office, obey it.”

Which means staying in place, and giving the President the choice between backing off, or FIRING them.

Rosenstein should NEVER resign. What he should do — if it comes to that — is stand his ground, and make sure that if he’s ousted, the people know he didn’t jump but was pushed by the President.

Murder, not suicide, is the way to maximize the costs to President Trump.

2018-05-26 15:11:00 Andy Schmookler

Yes, Shifflett is a big local name hereabouts (Shenandoah County). There’s a Shifflett pictured on the front page of the Sports section of today’s NORTHERN VIRGINIA DAILY (high school baseball).

2018-05-19 21:42:00 Andy Schmookler

Back in 2011-2012, when I was running against Bob Goodlatte, I heard Ben Cline described as Goodlatte’s heir apparent. It seems that the path to fulfilling that prediction proved to have more twists and turns in it than expected, but it has nonetheless arrived at that destination.

2018-05-19 21:38:00 Andy Schmookler

Since this is a convention the Rs are having, and not a primary, their nominating Dunbar wouldn’t be terribly depressing. Conventions attract the most activated, and it is an observable fact that the crazy tend to be more activated than the sane.

But had it been a primary, I’d find it a major bummer to think that the R voters (even that comparatively unrepresentative segment that shows up for primaries) would go for someone so off the wall as Dunbar.

I felt the same about Blankenship in the recent WV Republican Primary to oppose Manchin. I know that many Democrats wanted Blankenship to win, which would have lessened whatever threat there may be to Manchin holding his Senate seat. And I get that logic.

But nonetheless, I felt relieved when Blankenship came in a distant third. Even after the election, we have to share a country with those people who vote in a Republican primary in WV these days.

And the short term benefit of a bit of extra safety for Manchin (who ain’t much of a Democrat anyway, but does at least count for which party has the majority), for me, has to be weighed against what an appalling reality would have been manifested if enough voters went for Blankenship to give him the nomination.

I don’t know how those two competing goods (or evils) should be compared in weight. But I do know that my reaction on seeing Blankenship’s poor showing was predominantly one of relief.

2018-05-16 16:32:00 Andy Schmookler

I don’t claim to have any great insight into the dynamics of this VA-06 contest on either side.

But if I had to bet — and I wouldn’t bet any serious money on any of this — I would bet that 1) the GOP convention will NOT adopt the rule that the Dunbar people wanted, whereby the candidate that gets the most vote on the first ballot will get the nomination, and that therefore 2) Dunbar will NOT be the nominee, but rather 3) Ben Cline is perhaps the most likely winner.

And on the Democratic side, if I had to bet, I’d bet on Jennifer Lewis coming out of the primary with the nomination, though I know that Velosin has his fans and that he also has the advantage of coming from the main population center of the District (Roanoke)– so if I’m wrong about Lewis then I expect it would be Velosin.

I should add here that Predictit.org actually has a market on which party will win this seat in November, and the market gives the Democrats a 1 in 4 chance of winning. Which is surprisingly high, given that the District is about 2:1 Republican. Maybe that reflects the belief that Dunbar — contrary to my prediction — may well be the nominee, and that her extremism will drive voters to the Democrats and/or lead Republicans to stay home.

(Doubtless, Lowell, that’s why you express the hope that Dunbar will be the nominee.)

2018-05-16 14:02:00 Andy Schmookler

We will see if the GOP chooses that worst of candidates, Cynthia Dunbar.

2018-05-16 01:45:00 Andy Schmookler

We all have our own experience. Mine is drawn largely from hundreds of hours of conversation I conducted with some of those people over the course of a decade, including most of the 1990s.

I experienced a real goodness in them.

The telling thing here is that a great many of the liberals in my area say much the same thing about their neighbors– even while decrying their crazy politics, finding some of them to be exceptionally good people, in the parts of their lives that are apart from the political realm.

The right-wing has been a study in how to get some basically good people to align themselves with a force of evil in the power system of the nation.

The challenge is how to revive that goodness, and bring it into the political role that they play.

2018-05-09 00:33:00 Andy Schmookler

A question for anybody here: just how immune are members of Congress from criminal prosecution?

The question arises from this from a recent New York times article (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/02/us/politics/trump-justice-department-house-republicans.html) : “A former federal law enforcement official familiar with the department’s views said that Mr. Rosenstein and top F.B.I. officials have come to suspect that some lawmakers were using their oversight authority to gain intelligence about that investigation so that it could be shared with the White House.”

So, if it were true that handing sensitive information from a Justice Department/FBI/Special Prosecutor investigation to the subject of the investigation were judged to amount to the crime of “obstruction of justice,” would those in Congress who engaged in that activity be in any legal jeopardy?

Or do the immunities that members of Congress enjoy protect them from any legal consequences to such activity?

(Reading about congressional immunity here — https://definitions.uslegal.com/c/congressional-immunity/ — I don’t see a clear answer. On the one hand, they are not immune if they commit a felony, and I believe “obstruction of justice” is a felony. On the other hand, it says that the immunity “is applied broadly to evidence or testimony about all acts that occur in the regular course of the legislative process. It therefore applies to activity taken in the course of legislative fact-finding.”)

So can they demand materials in order to help the president know things that he, as the subject of the investigation, should not know– and face no legal consequences?

2018-05-08 14:00:00 Andy Schmookler

Just a miscellaneous thought, regarding the Guiliani performance:

To explain Guiliani’s inept performance, a number of people have cited how long it has been since he has practiced as an attorney. The idea is that he was really smart when he was a U.S. Attorney 30-plus years ago. But, like some baseball player who hasn’t swung at a pitch in decades, he’s lost his coordination.

To me, that explanation seems just this side of nonsense.

Let’s just stipulate that Guiliani was once pretty good at the legal biz. As I recall, he was something of a hot dog, but he must have had something going to be able to parlay his prowess into becoming Mayor of New York City.

Are we to think either that

1) practicing law — as a prosecutor or otherwise — would keep someone tuned up in ways that are required for dealing with the completely unique circumstance of advising and doing PR for a President of the United States like Donald Trump, embroiled in the situations he’s now caught up in? Or

2) discontinuing the practice of law (but being engaged in such challenging activities as being Mayor of NYC and running for President) would mean that a person would lose the ability to think in a lawyerly way, or any other clear-thinking and strategic way, that would be needed for playing the role Guiliani is playing for Trump?

I don’t see how either of those is plausibly the case.

Whatever is wrong with Guiliani — whether he never had what it takes, or whether he’s lost what he had (due to age-related cognitive decline or otherwise) — I don’t think it has anything to do with his not having been a practicing lawyer since the 1980s.

2018-05-06 13:35:00 Andy Schmookler

My thoughts are in much the same vein,

I’ve read some pushback against those who criticized Michele Wolf’s talk– pushback couched as if the criticism were some sort of attack on free speech.

The problems with Wolf’s performance was not that she went after people who ought not be lampooned. The problem is that her routine was crude and unpleasant and lacking in grace or comic skill.

If one compares her comic performance with, say, that of Barack Obama a few years back, the contrast could hardly be greater. Obama wielded a scalpel, Wolf a rusty and dull blade. Or perhaps a better metaphor: Obama’s wit was like the barbs of a picador, while Wolf attacked with a sledge hammer.

Wolf was nasty and crude in a forum and form where deft and skillful are essential to the task.

2018-04-30 16:16:00 Andy Schmookler

Something that puzzles me regarding the history of the White House physician, lately nominee to head the VA, Dr. Ronny Jackson:

It has come out that there was an inspector general’s report on Jackson back in 2012. I’ve heard portions of it, and the descriptions they give are extremely damning. The kind of things one would think would sink a career.

How is it that such an IG report could come out in 2012, and that Jackson could then stay on as the physician to the President through the whole of Obama’s 2nd term and into the presidency of Donald Trump?

Can anyone illuminate how this could happen?

2018-04-26 17:43:00 Andy Schmookler

For those who like to see the execrable Bob Goodlatte called out, there’s a piece on Slate by the always astute William Saletan.

The focus of his piece is Trey Gowdy, of Benghazi infamy. But what he’s talking about is a document put out not only by Gowdy but also by the disgraceful Devin Nunes as well as Bob Goodlatte.

(The trio are the chairs of the House Oversight, Intelligence, and Judiciary Committees.)

The devastating take-down can be found here: https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/04/the-republican-hit-job-on-the-comey-memos.html

2018-04-23 16:54:00 Andy Schmookler

Your confidence, Lowell, impresses me. I know you to be an insightful analyst of power relations, and to be someone who cares about the well-being of Israel (a concern that we share, even as we also share a distaste for its current leadership).

It seems to me that you may be underestimating the threat that Iran poses. Maybe you know as much or more than I about the tens of thousands of missiles that have been supplied to Hezbollah, and about the danger — which Israel has tried to allay through something like 100 air attacks — of Iran becoming able to manufacture in Lebanon (and now perhaps in Syria) high precision missiles with which to target Israel. I gather that these would have an accuracy within meters, and thus if they could be launched in sufficient numbers could wreak havoc on major Israeli cities.

Despite having studied warfare for not quite a half century, I feel quite unable to judge what kind of scenarios are possible in this developing confrontation between Israel and Iran. But for me, the picture presents much to be worried about– not only for Israel.

You very rightly raised the issue of “regional power politics.” I read an article earlier this week that spoke of Iran’s having now built a whole arc of nations which it substantially dominates. The article listed the capitals where much power is now in Iranian hands– from Tehran (its own capital) through Baghdad (thanks to W’s war, handing power to the Shia) now through Damascus and on to Beirut (through its proxy, Hezbollah, which is more powerful than the official Lebanese army).

The Iranian regime has problems at home. But their success in extending their power through that arc is also quite remarkable. And if Syria becomes an Iranian base, that’s a lot of proximity to Israel.

You express concern lest Israel “overreact” to the threat it perceives from Iran. I share that concern– especially since Bibi Netanyahu has already shown a willingness to sacrifice the good of the nation (attacking the system of justice, just as Trump has done here in the U.S.). With indictments quite likely coming soon, might he utilize some sort of “wag the dog” strategy?

But from what I can see from here, it seems to me that the Israeli reaction to the Iranian threat in Syria has been appropriate. Tough, even fierce, but perhaps also what’s called for.

I’ve been following issues of Israeli policy and security since before the Six Day War. And I can say that this confrontation with Iran seems to me by far the most dangerous threat to Israel since at least since 1967– and perhaps since 1948.

2018-04-22 02:55:00 Andy Schmookler

You are certainly right, Lowell, about the issue of “regional power.” And I’d be glad for you to be right about the “zero chance” of destroying Israel.

A UPI article has as its first line, on this very day: “Iran’s military head said Saturday that forces are preparing to “annihilate” Israel’s Zionist regime within 25 years after recent threats between the foes.”

(The article is at https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2018/04/21/Iranian-general-threatens-to-annihilate-Israel/8071524333946/ )

Maybe such things can be dismissed as mere bravado and chest-thumping.

As for the relative military powers of Iran and Israel, this site — https://www.globalfirepower.com/countries-listing.asp — ranks Iran 13th in the world, and Israel 16th.

Of course, everyone — including the Iranians — knows that Israel has nuclear weapons. Maybe that’s a guarantee of some sort. Maybe not.

2018-04-22 00:39:00 Andy Schmookler

Reading various things concerning the Comey book and ABC interview, I think it bears repeating what I argued in the piece I posted here on BV on Friday: With respect to the battle going on presently between Comey and Trump, the only thing about Comey that is relevant is his credibility as a witness, and in that respect there is nothing whatever that should call into question the honesty of his testimony. (Which contrasts completely with the liar-in-chief and his consistently dishonest media allies.)

2018-04-16 15:17:00 Andy Schmookler

Where this piece appears on Daily Kos, a commenter has said:

“I completely agree with you.

“What we say and do in response to the message campaign they are waging will in one sense be a visible tell for how fragmented we may still be in our skill set in setting priorities for immediate response. This is not about whether we do or do not march. It is about communication…”

To which I have responded:

“Some of the communication of which you speak can be done by us, individually. But the main work of that communication will have to be done by our leaders, those who command a big public platform.

“Comey will be part of that effort, of course. But I’d like to see Democratic leaders — especially those Democrats who want us to nominate them for President in 2020 — to step up and say what needs to be said to the nation.

“Doing well at that will show a candidate to have one of the abilities that we need in our future standard bearer.”

2018-04-13 21:20:00 Andy Schmookler

The Republican b.s. gets so tiresome. And the infrequency of obvious rejoinders to expose the b.s. can be disappointing.

I’m thinking of the Republican line, heard from McConnell and others, by which they deflect the call to pass legislation to protect Special Prosecutor Mueller from Trump.

The line is along the lines, “I don’t think that will be necessary.” Perhaps there have been slap-backs to say the obvious, but I haven’t heard them.

The obvious retort is: “If you’re right, there’s no harm done in passing a protective measure that wasn’t necessary. But if you’re wrong, there’s plenty of harm in failing to pass it. So your stupid line is no reason at all not to pass such a measure.”

(Another b.s. line that I thought should have been slammed every time it was uttered was when the Republicans, regarding the issue of climate change, would say, “I’m no scientist.” That was supposed to be a way of not having to have an opinion, or to do anything, about climate change. But of course that’s nonsense. If you’re not an expert, then your obligation as a member of Congress is to hear and heed what the experts say.)

Dishonesty and the dishonest nonsense the Rs continually employ should be rendered non-viable by mockery or denunciation every time it’s used.

2018-04-13 14:41:00 Andy Schmookler

For now, I’ll let yours be the last word on this round (of the n rounds you and I have gone on these matters).

But there will be more from me on this, as my argument on this is made neither lightly nor on the basis of thinking about these matters superficially. (Nor is there any disagreement between us on any of the matters that you stress as important.)

Coming soon: A series titled “Press the Battle: Fighting for the Soul of America(ns)”

2018-04-12 17:52:00 Andy Schmookler

I agree: the immediate urgent priority is not persuading these people (what I’m calling “the Trump 37%,” but defeating the political force with which they are now aligned.

At the same time, it should be noted, the Blue Wave that’s building has been about the “enthusiasm gap” between the Rs and the Ds. Everything that increases that gap helps build the wave: which means that demoralizing the Rs so they stay home is equally valuable for the Blue Wave as activating the Ds.)

Any reclamation of the Rs will doubtless mostly have to be a long-term process. So the immediate task is predominantly as you say. But the long-term prospects for American political health will require that greater sanity obtain among the 37% than the craziness that has taken hold now.

2018-04-12 16:55:00 Andy Schmookler

I won’t get any answers. The Republicans in this era send out only trolls to engage “the enemy.” And any conservative reader on whom such a message as this has any impact will almost certainly keep it to themselves, because that political subculture has no tolerance for deviation from the orthodoxy.

As a result: 1) my messages will predictably yield the same public lack of response whether they are falling on deaf ears or they are succeeding in getting under people’s skin and maybe even moving them in the ways I’m seeking; and 2) the communication is inevitably a one-way matter.

Dialogue with conservatives was possible in the 90s, and I had lots of good exchanges with them on the radio back then. But since Karl Rove’s toxic influence took hold (say, in the election campaign of 2004), no real dialogue has been possible on matters having to do with the politics of these times.

2018-04-12 15:23:00 Andy Schmookler

Wondering, James, about your not seeing any change in the proportions.

Do you see that with Limbaugh, Fox News, Rove, and Trump, et al., there’s a mighty propaganda effort focused on the Republican base unlike what conservatives were hearing from their media a generation ago or all the way back to the Eisenhower era?

And if there’s a lot of energy and creativity that’s being directed to falsifying their picture of the world and to working them up into an ugly state, how would that NOT result in a change of proportion.

It would seem that if the proportions were unchanged, then all that right-wing propaganda that’s been loosed on the nation for getting nigh onto 30 years was just a lot of wasted energy.

There’s that old Native American story about the two wolves– basically the good and the evil. And the boy asks the wise man which will win their battle. And the old wise man says something like, “Which ever one you feed.”

2018-04-03 02:49:00 Andy Schmookler

It’s true that some aspects of this brokenness have been there forever. But I am convinced that important for understanding our times is to see how the proportions have changed, as this force has worked to emphasize the broken and exclude the whole from these people’s political role in our power system.

A false picture has been sold in conjunction with the fanning of hatreds and fears. By these means, this destructive force has altered the balance of power between good and evil in America.

That’s why the matter of proportion is so important. History shows that America can make real progress with the level of brokenness we had in the era from FDR through even up to Clinton. But we cannot make progress with this magnification of those things that have been there forever, but less dominant.

Nothing new about racism in America, nor anti-Semitism, nor nativism. But one sees in the rising numbers of various kinds of incidence that it is the broken stuff that has gained in power.

2018-04-02 21:19:00 Andy Schmookler

Thank you, James.

What makes me persist is two things. The one that I most want to convey to others is my sincere belief, based on years of thinking about the transformation I’ve witnessed among these people, that addressing this Republican base in an impactful way should be one important component in the overall battle plan against the destructive force that has won these people over.

But there’s another, personal thing that plays a role: I once had with SOME of these people — the ones I imagine as I write — a rich relationship that I valued very highly. I’m not good about becoming indifferent to people, once I’ve cared about them.

I don’t believe this personal desire to make a better connection possible — even if that’s just “less at war” — has biased my judgment about how much the problem of America is centered in this 37%, and what has been done to their political consciousness. (It is because of the Republican base that we have a President Trump. It wasn’t the Party that wanted him.)

They are like the engine that drives the power of this destructive force that’s been systematically dismantling what’s best about America for many years.

Like destroying their energy supplies, so that the Panzer tanks run out of gas and the battle is won.

2018-04-02 19:53:00 Andy Schmookler

After this coming January, it is probable (70% chance according to the futures market), the third in line will be a DEMOCRATIC Speaker of the House.

2018-03-26 17:26:00 Andy Schmookler

Speaking of Mike Pence, something I’ve been wondering:

I’ve never heard a word about Mueller’s team calling Mike Pence in for an interview. (Did I miss something?) Yet Pence was in charge of the transition, and seems quite likely to have known things about the problems with Mike Flynn, though he claimed not to have known anything about those problems. So I would think he’d be among those called to give testimony.

So how is the lack of mention of Pence to be interpreted? Does it mean that the VP is not going to be part of the overall picture that Mueller will present? Or, alternatively, does it mean that Pence is one of those big fishes that Mueller and his team are working their way up the food chain ultimately to reach?

As suggested above, Pence’s questionable honesty in his public statements would seem to make him a person of interest. So it would seem strange if Mueller never took any interest in uncovering whatever Pence’s role may have been.

And if Pence IS part of the overall picture, and if Mueller and his team are working their way up to Pence just as they are working their way up to Trump, what might that mean about whether any removal of Trump from office would automatically mean — as most generally assume — that Pence would become President?

2018-03-26 14:58:00 Andy Schmookler

Yes, we’ve had this discussion, and we return to the same point: I agree with everything you say we need to do, and you disagree with the one thing I think should be added to the list of things that need doing.

My agreement with you was articulated in advance by my Postscript, above: “Lest I be misunderstood, I do not propose this as taking precedence over taking power away from the Trump Party in the upcoming 2018 elections. That is the most urgent priority.”

2018-03-24 22:03:00 Andy Schmookler

BTW, I think I should add to all the rest that’s been said: what has happened to this 37% (or to that proportion of the 37% who were reasonably sane and constructive — or whose parents were reasonably sane and constructive — a generation ago) took the deceivers and manipulators a long time to accomplish. I do not expect that their movement from their current condition to their becoming sane and constructive is going to happen overnight. What took a generation to corrupt might well take a generation to make more whole.

2018-03-24 21:29:00 Andy Schmookler

You are almost entirely right, Lowell, in what you say about the automatic rejection of anything they hear from someone with a “D” after their names. As well I should know, having run against Goodlatte out here for Congress in 2012, and having supported by wife (April Moore’s) run against Mark Obenshain for the Virginia Senate seat in the 26th District in 2015.

And I surely agree with you that we need to work to make sure that the bigots and authoritarians etc. are on the losing side of as many elections as we can.

But while I agree with the PROBLEM you identify, and agree on the importance of the SOLUTION you propose, I continue to believe that solution to be only a partial one: i.e., to have more than one third of the American people in such a space that they can “approve” of the presidency that’s been on display these past 14 months is truly incompatible with a healthy future for America. There are just too many disasters that can grow out of that– the election of Donald Trump being the current obvious (and possibly catastrophic) one.

Which brings us back to the PROBLEM. Yes, at present this group has a virtually impermeable bubble of bad information and worse impulses. But as I say, I don’t think that our side has really made a concerted, large-scale attack on that “Uncracked Nut” (as I called it in a piece here on BV back in 2013, in the wake of my congressional run).

If something really NEEDS to be accomplished, then every effort should be made to accomplish it. And if the efforts to this date have been only partial and small-scale (e.g. the small effort by yours truly here in the 6th district six years ago), while nothing like a “movement” has been attempted to focus energy and attention on THE PROBLEM OF TRUMP’S 37%, then I think wisdom and prudence require that all possible be done to accomplish the necessary.

2018-03-24 21:22:00 Andy Schmookler

I would be interested, Dave, in knowing what you mean by my “approach.” Do you mean being concerned to address the 37% in ANY way, or do you mean the particular way that I am addressing them?

Your comment about exacerbating the divisions suggests that it is the manner in which I’m addressing them that you are rejecting. In which case, I would like to ask you what approach you recommend.

As for my approach, two things I want to say:

First, what I advocate is NOT that everyone who gets on board with the large-scale effort I am proposing do it the way I’m doing it. I don’t think that there is any one way that would be optimal for all to take. Rather, I believe that what would be best is a whole diversity of approaches– ideally in proper proportion, and in appropriate coordination, but since that won’t be achievable, I’d recommend that people just put their shoulders to that wheel in whatever manner seems right to them.

Second, I believe that it is an error to imagine that Liberal America has exacerbated the divisions in America by virtue of confronting the other side with their defects too aggressively. In fact, having followed all this rather closely, I believe the very opposite has been true for most of the past quarter century: i.e., that the liberals have not returned fire, while the people on the right — worked up into a state of political war by the likes of Limbaugh, Gingrich, Rove etc. — have treated liberals like the scum of the earth, more worthy to be treated as enemies than as fellow citizens with whom they might work to move the nation forward.

It is the liberal forfeiture of battles that really needed to be fought — the failure to denounce what should be denounced — which has enabled the right to develop into this toxic mess that is full of that “tribalistic” passion for battle. (BTW, I think using the word “tribal” to describe this does an injustice to tribes.)

Liberalism really needs to stop ENABLING ITS ABUSERS. And I think at last that is starting to happen, but I still see considerable residues on the liberal side of the holding back from confrontation.

I will be writing something about the liberal enabling of the rise of this darkness on the right, by forfeiting one battle after another. Watch this space.

2018-03-24 21:11:00 Andy Schmookler

An exchange from where this piece appears on Daily Kos.

A commenter writes:

“So what do you suggest? Talking to these idiots is like talking to a brick wall! I suggest we outvote them and then wait for them to die out. I have not seen any way to get through to these idiots and I am not going to waste my time trying to do so.”

To which I replied:

“Good question— and I will address it in a future piece. The quick version is: the task is not for each of us individuals to talk to our Trumpite neighbors, but rather a) to press our leaders to address them collectively, and b) to address them collectively through other collective means (like what’s happening in the streets of Washington today about the gun issue).

“Given the nature of the right-wing bubble, best not to do retail. Wholesale will be less traumatic both for the confronters and the confronted. And probably more effective, as it will enable the confronted to absorb the impact privately, thus potentially less defensively.”

2018-03-24 15:00:00 Andy Schmookler

Some thoughts about that 37%, or 40%, or whatever that figure is that’s ranged between 32% and 43% over recent months.

If I didn’t live among Trump supporters, my impression of Trump supporters would be pretty unitary as the ones I’d have contact with would be those right-wing trolls that are out there in the arena spewing their insults and contempt and hatred and willingness to discourse in bad faith so long as they can bother their enemies.

I’ve been dealing with those trolls since 2004, and I have really no thought of their moving in any good direction.

But I do live among Trump people, and my impression is that they are coming from a different place from the trolls. For them, it’s mostly about conforming with their community.

To continue the connection touched upon in my exchange with James McCarthy regarding the previous historical crisis involving slavery: the right-wing trolls are the kind of people who were glad for a chance to do a lynching, and the others in those community might well share some of the racism, might be afraid to speak up against a lynching (it is not a community that tolerates well outspoken dissent), but are not comfortable with the ugliness and cruelty.

At least so is my image of what goes on.

I believe that a substantial part of the 37% is less militant about their pro-Trump position than some here might believe. I would not expect them to go public with their displeasure with the orthodoxy of their community, but in the privacy of their thoughts some movement may be possible. And in the privacy of the voting booth — or in staying home and not voting — that displeasure might get expressed in ways that help turn the dark tide back.

2018-03-24 02:37:00 Andy Schmookler

I agree with you about Liberal America not sleeping through the moral horror of slavery. That was a very different time, in terms of the cultural relationship with morality. The moral relativism that has crept into Western civilization — through logical positivism, scientism, and other currents — had not become associated with the liberalism of pre-Civil War America.

UNCLE TOM’S CABIN was a moral statement in the form of a novel, and it kindled a moral flame that transformed sentiment on the anti-slavery part of America. Liberalism was very concerned about where the grapes of wrath were stored.

I have been looking through some of the fine liberal voices that have arisen in the era of Trump, wondering if any of them have it in them to be the Lincoln for this time.

Regarding contemporary liberalism and the efficacy or lack of it of speaking in moral terms to the 37%– I do not claim to know. Some say that nothing will work. That could be. I speak as I feel called to speak, and my message for some years now has been various forms of “It’s not OK.” I do what is in me to do, and that’s what is summoned forth– and I can only hope it has some beneficial impact.

One last point, James. You write: “It may be a fact that liberals slept at the wheel while the right flourished but not because of a failure or unwillingness to draw conclusions moral or otherwise.”

Having certain knowledge in such matters is, of course, not possible. But I do want to say that my asserting that connection — the connection you deny in that sentence — is not done casually. I’ve been watching this stuff closely since 1992, and this connection has sure seemed to me to emerge clearly as one important element in the whole complex picture of the conduct of American Liberalism over that whole period.

2018-03-23 21:14:00 Andy Schmookler

You make two comments here, James McCarthy, that I want to respond to. With one of them, I am happy to agree. The other I regard as representative of something that I spoke about during the 1990s, that I thought had gone seriously amiss in the worldview of many liberals.

The one I agree with is your statement that our fellow citizens among the 37% “are not enemies – although among them are some horrible individuals and leaders – but potential allies.” It remains to be seen how many of them might escape the grip of the destructive political force that has led them to where they are enough to become our allies. But that is a goal that is worth working toward, and nothing would do my heart so much good as to see some significant movement in that direction sometime when I’m still around.

The other statement, which to my eye has embedded in it some unfortunate habits of the mind: “To conclude that something has gone seriously ‘wrong’ translates into a moral conclusion about the political beliefs of a population subset.”

During the 1990s, I did a lot of talk radio– mostly with the conservative audience here in the Shenandoah Valley but also with liberal audiences around the nation. I recall doing a show on Wisconsin Public Radio on the subject of “Judgment.” So many of the good liberals that called in to that show seemed to think that it was wrong to pass moral judgment– except to condemn “judgmentalism.”

You, too, seem to be assuming that there is something amiss with my taking a position that equates to my drawing “a moral conclusion about the political beliefs of a population subset.” You are right that I am truly drawing a moral conclusion about their beliefs which allow their approval of this President. And I think that this conclusion is an important one, and pretty easy to establish.

I have written about students of mine who would not judge the Nazis’ conduct at “Auschwitz.” I’ve used as the representative quotation of that point of view this statement: “What the Nazis did at Auschwitz isn’t something I would have done, but it fit with their own beliefs and values, AND SO IT WAS RIGHT FOR THEM.”

This way of thinking, I believe, is one important factor in having made Liberal America blind to what was rising on the right over the past quarter century, and weak in responding to it. If you do not believe in the importance and validity of making such moral judgments, then you will not recognize the dark and destructive spirit that can show up in the human world and break apart so much that is of value.

And so, as Limbaugh and Gingrich and Fox News and Karl Rove and all the others leading up to Trump showed an increasingly ugly and menacing face to the nation, and as these leaders of the right led tens of millions of our countrymen into a space where, by 2016, they could look at a monster of a man like Donald Trump and think that he was a good person to entrust with the presidency– while all that was going on, too many liberals thought it would be wrong to draw any “moral conclusions” about a force that reasonably could be called “evil,” and about the state of thought and feeling of our fellow citizens who were misled into giving that force their support.

And so, sleeping through the rise of a moral crisis in America to which only the crisis over slavery might be compared, Liberal America enabled the darkness to gain in power, and do such damage to the nation that it is questionable whether a generation will be enough time to repair it.

2018-03-23 19:26:00 Andy Schmookler

I hope, Lowell, that you’ll tell us your prediction on this. I really don’t know nearly enough about the various races, and I know you’re pretty well steeped in such knowledge as is available.

So I’m not voting. But I hope it’s OK if I express here the basis of how I’d vote if I knew the particulars of the races. I believe that the Blue Wave that we’ve seen around the nation in recent months will still be just as powerful when we get to November.

Which might mean that the Dems in general carry races in places where, in normal times, they would lose by less than 12-15 percent.

Of course all kinds of events can intrude between now and then, affecting the political climate. These are not stable times.

But if I had to bet — and please see what I just posted here on VB about this — Donald Trump’s conduct will become increasingly disgraceful and alarming, which I believe would magnify that Blue Wave.

So, here in VA, I’d bet on Dems winning all seats that are R+(12 or less).

2018-03-18 16:26:00 Andy Schmookler

Bob Goodlatte has come out with a despicable statement praising Sessions for firing Andrew McCabe, and explicitly expressing his gladness that he was fired before he could collect his pension.

I ran against Goodlatte in 2012, and I have never for a moment regretted my going after him for his being a hack for a dishonest and corrupt Party. But there is one regret that I am feeling at this moment: that I didn’t take the gloves off more and called him out in less gentlemanly a manner.

Even as he heads into retirement, he is a disgrace. Chair of the House Judiciary Committee! Who has done absolutely nothing while the Constitution and the rule of law are under naked attack from the President he’s been protecting!

2018-03-18 15:05:00 Andy Schmookler

Thank you, Esther. Some interesting numbers. The fact that 89% of voters in that district thought health care either the “most important” issue, or a “very important” issue is striking. What we saw about the health care issue in the Virginia elections seems to be true more broadly. After all those years of “repeal,” it seems that this issue is a winner for Democrats.

2018-03-15 19:03:00 Andy Schmookler

Did anyone do an exit polling with that Lamb-Saccone election?

What I’d be interested in having asked are two questions: 1) Who did you vote for today? and 2) Who did you vote for in 2016 for President. I’m wondering how many Lamb-Trump combos there would be.

It’s great if the Trump base gets demoralized. I’d also like to see it suffering from serious attrition. I’ve seen some in the polling, but I’d also like to see if its showing up in the voting.

2018-03-15 03:07:00 Andy Schmookler

I’m wondering what impact, if any, Trump’s campaign appearance had in the Pennsylvania congressional district in which Conor Lamb seems to have overcome the hole any Democrat would usually be in, in a Trump + 20 District. Did Trump narrow the margin of Lamb’s (apparent) very close victory? Or did Trump grotesque way of doing his event (supposedly “for Saccone”) repel enough people strongly enough to help get more voters for Lamb (who becomes the latest Democratic sign of a Blue Wave fueled by anti-Trump feeling).

Or, to put it another way, What if anything can we learn from what happened when Trump intervened to try to block the Blue Wave?

2018-03-14 20:39:00 Andy Schmookler

I’ve begun wondering whether the Stormy Daniels affair is going to have more of an impact in hurting Trump than I first believed. My first take was that everyone already knew — or should have known — that Trump was sleazy in sexual matters, and that the hush money aspect wouldn’t add much to the mountain of other legally questionable things he has done (and continues to do). But as the thing continues, I have started to wonder if somehow this little scandal won’t prove so inconsequential.

I’d be interested in hearing what others think about how important this will prove to be, on a spectrum ranging from “no impact” to “major damage.” And if impactful, how that would be.

2018-03-13 15:17:00 Andy Schmookler

So what’s your sense, Lowell. If you were in the Senate, would you vote for this bill as you see the balance in this mixture?

2018-03-12 20:15:00 Andy Schmookler

Hadn’t, but have now.

I haven’t heard anyone disagree with the community banks aspect of this bill. But the thing is, the community banks part that everyone agrees should be adjusted seems to be another example of the Republicans taking hostages.

Like “I’ll give you DACA if you give me the Wall and the end of family unification, etc.”

Of course there will always have to be some horse-trading. But the hostage-taking has led Democrats astray more than once over the years, and I’m not sure that the ransom is proportionate to the kidnap victim.

It should be remembered that the impetus that led to Dodd Frank was that the lack of adequate regulation almost tanked the entire global economy. That scale should be kept in mind as we consider what the risks might be of any kind of roll-back of the regulations Dodd Frank put in place.

Have you read the Brookings Institution review of the pros and cons of this bill? (It’s not as condemnatory as, say, Warren, but if I recall, it does sound like the bad outweighs the good.)

2018-03-12 19:17:00 Andy Schmookler

The Democrats I’ve heard talk against this bill — Sherrod Brown and Elizabeth Warren — acknowledge the good aspects of relieving the burdens on small community banks.

But Warren description of what this bill does explicitly contradicts this statement from the passage above: “Under this bill, the vast majority of lenders — including large banks — would have the same data collection requirements as they have now, meaning they would still have to report the race of loan applicants to regulators to guard against discrimination.”

And it is not only community banks, she says, but also banks that are really very large that get excluded from the Dodd-Frank regulatory regime.

So I’m still wondering why Kaine would come down on the other side on this from Warren and Brown.

2018-03-12 18:32:00 Andy Schmookler

Last I heard, both of our Democratic Senators are backing this bill that weakens the Dodd-Frank provisions. So far as I can tell, Elizabeth Warren’s view of this bill as a big move in the wrong direction is valid. So the question arises:

Why are Senators Kaine and Warner supporting it?

(I really would like an explanation. I called their offices last week and registered my objections, but I’m still in the dark about why they are siding with the Republicans and the bankers here.)

2018-03-11 19:40:00 Andy Schmookler

My second reply to you, Roger Miller, concerns the idea of being empty-handed if Trump were to leave the scene.

I believe that the positive vision can be presented in conjunction with the attack on Trump and the Trump Party.

Any good way of being against Trump can be expressed also as a way of being for something.

Every scandal that Trump is mired in is a scandal because he violates some value, some law, some norm.

Every lack of human decency he manifests can be the occasion for speaking out for the human decency he lacks.

Every bad policy Trump advances — like a tax bill that widens the already-dangerous level of wealth inequality — can be attacked in a way that expresses a commitment to good policies that move the nation in the right, rather than the wrong, direction.

2018-03-08 23:21:00 Andy Schmookler

What one thing do you imagine could lead to Trump’s impeachment within three months?

The fact that Trump has manifestly done NOTHING to defend the nation against the continuing Russian attack on our democracy through our elections hasn’t seemed to move them.

If the failure of a commander-in-chief to defend the nation against an enemy’s attack doesn’t do it, what would?

And there’s another point, which I’ll make in a separate comment.

2018-03-08 23:18:00 Andy Schmookler

About the security-clearance business, something puzzles me:

During the Porter episode a few weeks ago, all the talk I heard concerned the danger of someone (with access to highly classified material) being vulnerable to blackmail.

The danger of blackmail in Porter’s case, however, was presumably non-existent before he was forced out of his position. Non-existent because maybe a few hundred millions people already knew — because it had been the main story of the week — that Porter was a wife-beater.

So if blackmail was no longer a danger, what then would be the grounds for not clearing him? Had he told the truth, and not engaged in efforts to influence his accusers, would he have been approved? Is it the case that wife-beating IN ITSELF constitutes grounds for not giving someone a security clearance?

If that’s the case, I never heard it said.

And if that’s the case, what else is sufficient grounds for denial of a clearance? Do the bases for refusing such a clearance always concern how safe America’s secrets are likely to be with such a person? Or are there judgments of a different kind — altogether separate from the “security” aspect of a security clearance — that are used to determine whether a person passes or fails the process?

2018-02-28 18:16:00 Andy Schmookler

Implausible Deniability:

I am struck by this dysjunction.

On the one hand, Manafort responds to Gates’ guilty plea by doubling down on his insistence on his innocence and his determination to fight against the “untrue piled up charges.” against him.

On the other hand, I’ve heard it said repeatedly by experts on federal prosecutions that many of the indictments against Manafort (particularly in the first batch, from last October) are so fleshed out with documentary evidence that the cases are essentially made, the truth of the charges pretty irrefutably established, and his conviction virtually assured.

I guess that Manafort is of the Trump/Roy Moore school of thought in which mere denial is thought to be an effective defense. (And apparently, in the whacked out court of right-wing opinion, it seems to be.)

2018-02-24 17:19:00 Andy Schmookler

Brilliant idea about arming teachers.

Is there a problem caused by the US being awash in dangerous weapons like no other free society (all of whom have much fewer gun deaths or mass killings)? Well, obviously the solution is for America to become still more awash in lethal weapons.

2018-02-22 20:03:00 Andy Schmookler

As for when this preemptive attack, this warning, should be delivered, I’d say it is at the moment that it becomes publicly clear what kind of vise Mueller has put Manafort in.

2018-02-22 18:51:00 Andy Schmookler

I think the answer is that they didn’t imagine that Sanders was going to be president. Did the futures markets ever give him anything like a strong possibility of becoming President? I don’t think so.

And here’s a place where you and I, Robert, apparently disagree. You write: ” those friends said they would not vote for her because of that. They were right.”

I do not understand how you can say, “They were right,” after seeing the Donald Trump presidency for the past year. Whatever Hillary’s shortcomings, or even wrongdoings — and I’m not interested in litigating any of that — surely they pale compared to Trump’s, and the damage he is doing to the nation, and the planet.

2018-02-20 23:03:00 Andy Schmookler

My guess is that the Russians, like most observers, figured that Hillary Clinton was quite likely to be the next president. And their desire was to do all they could to prevent her from being an effective president. Both the Trump and the Sanders candidacies would have looked good to them for that purpose.

I doubt they thought they had a great chance to get Trump elected, but even if Trump fell short, he could help to wound her. Having 1/3 of Americans thinking that “Lock Her Up!” was an appropriate sentiment is not a congenial situation in which Hillary might have taken office.

As for Sanders, that did indeed turn out to be wounding to Hillary. However much you want to fault Hillary, there’s plenty of other blame to go around. I voted for Sanders in the primary, but I ended up very disappointed in him: as I wrote here in May of 2016, by the first week of that month it was quite clear that Hillary was going to be the nominee, and it was time for Bernie to rally his supporters to her cause, or at least to motivate them to do all they could to make sure that Trump was not the next President.

But that’s not what he did, and I believe that what Sanders did — and said to his supporters — during the period between that beginning of May and the Democratic Convention did a great deal to weaken Hillary. Enough, I feel pretty certain, to have effected the outcome.

How much the Russians contributed to this, I don’t know. But my guess is that if one looked at what the Russian bots were up to, they did all they could to make Bernie supporters hate Hillary. So that by the time Bernie got around to saying how important it was for Trump to be defeated, a lot of those who were hot for Bernie had their minds too poisoned against Hillary to follow him in that.

2018-02-20 20:57:00 Andy Schmookler

What a jerk!

I’d thought she’d begun trying to color herself more reasonable. But putting out this FBI stuff– which is both nonsensical and pernicious, should blow any of that makeover idea out of the water.

2018-02-19 17:51:00 Andy Schmookler

Rachel Brand is leaving her job at the Justice Department. She’s been # 3 there, just below Rod Rosenstein, and would ascend to Rosenstain’s job — including supervising the Mueller investigation, if Rosenstein should be ousted. So she is in the position that Ruckleshouse was in during the Saturday Night Massacre.

It is not known, apparently, why she left. But the discussion I heard on Ari Melber’s show THE BEAT centered on the idea that it was unpleasant to be at the Justice Department, that she didn’t want to be in the line of fire with this abusive President, and that she had a great offer from the private sector.

I surely hope that there is some better reason, even that there’s some reason that she judges she can somehow play a more constructive role from outside the Justice Department– in terms of being a witness, or something.

I think it would be a failure of patriotism on her part of she left because it would be better for her to be out. Staying may entail unpleasantness and certain kinds of danger, but she just happens to be situated in a position of some importance in the battle to defend the rule of law.

The crucial thing right now for the future of the United States is that battle over the rule of law, over whether the investigation will be able to proceed to the proper conclusion, given how the system is supposed to work, or whether it will be blocked by President Trump and his allies.

Little any of these people will do in their lives can measure up to the importance of the contribution that people like Rachel Brand — a moderate Republican with a reputation for integrity — can make from where they sit.

Just as we expect a soldier who finds himself at the crux of the battle to be prepared to make personal sacrifice, if such is needed, to help win that battle, so also should someone in Rachel Brand’s position put the good of the nation first. (At least she doesn’t have to risk being maimed or killer.)

Lately I saw the film GETTYSBURG, a big part of which concerns how the regiment (?) from Maine happens to find itself at a pivotal point at Little Round Top. They sacrificed mightily, and their heroism helped assure that government of the people, for the people, and by the people should not perish from this earth.

I hope that Rachel Brand has some reason that serves the nation. If she’s a person of integrity, as she is reputed to be, and if there isn’t such a reason, she ought not abandon her post.

2018-02-10 00:53:00 Andy Schmookler

I don’t know if this is a good idea or not, but it seems to me at least worth considering:

Trump has attacked Congressman Adam Schiff, tweeting:

“Little Adam Schiff, who is desperate to run for higher office, is one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington, right up there with Comey, Warner, Brennan and Clapper! Adam leaves closed committee hearings to illegally leak confidential information. Must be stopped!”

Schiff is a cool customer, very smart, and possessed of the kind of skills of argumentation that could completely skewer an ignorant, blustering blowhard like Donald Trump.

So I’m wondering: Might Schiff challenge Trump in some such way as this:

“President Trump has called me “one of the biggest liars” in Washington. How ironic, coming from someone like President Trump. I have made a strenuous effort throughout this difficult time to speak only the truth to the American people. And so I challenge President Trump to a public debate to enable the American people to judge for themselves which one of us has been lying to the nation about the current investigation and about the need to protect the integrity of our election process.”

2018-02-05 20:21:00 Andy Schmookler

Robert Reich writes, a propos of the Nunes Memo:

“To maintain power, Trump is willing to foment a virtual civil war in America — between the 37 percent who still support him, and the majority who know he’s unfit for the job and may have got it with Russian help. Along the way, he’s willing to destroy trust in the institutions that maintain the rule of law. If this is not despicable, I don’t know what is.”

2018-02-04 17:38:00 Andy Schmookler

I am wondering what proportion of the American people will buy the ridiculous hype about the Memo — hype still coming out from Trump and Hannity — and what proportion will recognize what a dud at all levels that memo is.

To know it’s a dud, one has to take into consideration how it simply makes no decent case for anything. But to buy the hype, all one has to do is be swept up by the rhetoric and combative posturing of the leaders, while paying no attention to any evidence.

Are there independents out there that pay enough attention to absorb that Nunes and Ryan and Trump have failed to deliver (and acted scandalously)? Are there Republicans who can recognize that their leaders are feeding them bullsh*t?

2018-02-03 22:55:00 Andy Schmookler

Oh, and one more thing that I would invite you to consider, True Virginian: you believed what you believed about the IRS, and about the significance of this FBI guy Strzok, because you were told to believe it by people who knew it was not true.

Some of the Republicans actually believe crazy stuff, but for the most part the Republicans and Fox News know that what they are telling people is bullshit. They lie to get the effects that they want, which is to give them the power to make America what anyone would judge is a more broken place. They know that it is about getting wealth and power, by taking the people’s power (and more than their fair share of the wealth) which requires persuading people that they are doing something else.

Gingrich and Limbaugh and Rove and McConnell KNOW they are lying. With Trump, it has gone so far that it seems likely that he really doesn’t have any strong sense of “truth” at all, so he lies copiously AND he is really bad at forming accurate pictures of much of anything. He lies, but also often he may believe his lies, believe that his crowd was the biggest ever and that he lost the popular vote because of millions of illegal aliens voting. Believe those things because his narcissism, his caring only about himself, require that they be true.

No President has ever had so tenuous a relationship with the truth. This is how far the power of the Lie in American politics has grown in our times, that such a liar as Trump clearly was could nonetheless be elected President, and maintain the support of the overwhelming majority of the voters of a major America party.

A people who used to insist on the image of the President as being HONEST now producing a whole electorate — the Republican electorate — that does not mind having a President who lied — according to a careful tally maintained by one of America’s greatest newspapers — roughly 2000 times in his first year in office.

How far away from the Republican Party who gave us President Eisenhower, a man whose honesty was so trusted that when he was found to have lied — probably justifiably (in relation to the shooting down of the U-2 plane over the Soviet Union), it was a great shock to the nation.

Now, that Party continues to rally around Donald Trump, the least honest person I believe I have ever seen in any capacity, let alone in the capacity of the President of the United States. The Republicans have been so taken over by the Lie that they “approve” of the way Trump is performing his job as President, even as he lies to the world about five times a day.

2018-02-03 19:09:00 Andy Schmookler

There remains a difficulty, True Virginian, that I think ought not be papered over. Of course, we can agree with such anodyne statements that “regardless of the news source, the information presented is either true or false. We can discuss whether it is or is not as it presents itself. Is this acceptable?”

But what’s missing is the crucial thing. Conceding that Ds have been more accurate in their statements, on average, than the Rs makes the issue sound like a small one.

It is not. It is probably the most dangerous story in the history of the United States — in terms of the survival of the nation as an essential “hope” on earth (Lincoln at Gettysburg — since the nation tearing itself apart over the issue of slavery.

The problem with right-wing lies is at the heart of an assault on American democracy and its democratic values that has been gaining momentum over the past 25 years.

During that time, the Republican Party morphed from a normal Party to one that advances brokenness in (by now) virtually every thing it does. It is easily shown that the R Party in THESE times is unlike anything ever seen before in a major American Party. And in all the ways it is unique, it is damaging.

THe list of injurious things that the Rs have done since the rise of Gingrich, Limbaugh, Fox News, Karl Rove, Mitch McConnell, and now Trump — THAT HAVE BEEN UNPRECEDENTED, is very long. From torture and torture memo, to across-the-board obstruction, to refusing to consider anyone a duly elected President would nominate for a seat on the Supreme Court, to a President who assaults the free press, the independent judiciary, the intelligence services, and now law enforcement and the whole idea of the independence of the justice system and the centrality of the rule of law.

Lies are an indispensable tool of the destructive political force that has taken over the Republican Party, and that depends on the votes of a lot of people who think themselves “conservatives” while also supporting a Party that is the opposite of what it claims.

Let me put here a series of Tweets from Paul Krugman that I put out here on this website. It captures what might be the Central Lie of the Republicans, which is so big that it clears the path for them to lie about every particular thing that comes along. That Central Lie is that what they stand for is precisely the opposite of what they CLAIM they stand for.

Krugman’s tweets:

One key lesson of 2017 was that everything liberals have said about right-wing hypocrisy was true — in fact understated 1/

The religious right claimed to care about moral values, but is fine with a guy who cheats on his third wife with a porn star; it was never about morality, it was about patriarchal privilege 2/

The flag-waving super-patriotic right is fine with people who colluded with Russia, and in fact is eager to help in the coverup, because it was never about patriotism, just about power 3/

The economic right is fine with policies that actively discriminate against clean energy in favor of coal, because it was never about free markets, it was about rewarding special interests 4/

And of course the law-and-order right is fine with demonizing and trying to destroy the careers of dedicated law enforcement officials if the pursuit of justice happens to threaten Republicans 5/

2018-02-03 18:12:00 Andy Schmookler

Sure. I can certainly agree that the information we get from whatever source is either true or false (or some mixture of the two), and that it’s important for us, as citizens, to sort out what’s what.

BTW, I have remembered that third falsehood from 2004 — believed by watchers of FOX News as they went to vote in that presidential election– concerning the Iraq war:

They believed that the world in general applauded the Bush/Cheney invasion of Iraq. The truth, of course, was quite otherwise.

That election was so close, that it is fairly safe to say that the voters who cast their ballots on the basis of those false beliefs about that Iraq invasion — which was the central issue of that time– made the difference in that very close election that got W his second term, and defeated John Kerry.

(That falsehood, plus the campaign of disinformation that “Swiftboated” war hero John Kerry into a coward, and privileged service-avoider George W. Bush into a kind of war hero.)

2018-02-03 16:29:00 Andy Schmookler

Would I be correct, True Virginian, that when you used the word “pretense” in your first sentence, you meant to say “premise”?

Assuming that to be the case, I have to say that while I recognize that not EVERYTHING from Fox News and the GOP is false (I’m excluding “conservative sources” because I don’t know what these might be), I think it quite mistaken to make an equivalence between Fox and the GOP, on the one hand, and, say, Huffington Post and Blue Virginia on the other.

Blue Virginia — and, for example, programs on MSNBC like Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow, and Lawrence O’Donnell — is “biased” in the sense of its advocating a particular side. In that respect, it is like those sources on the right. But Blue Virginia and those MSNBC programs combine their advocacy with intellectual integrity. (For example, on those occasions when Rachel Maddow discovered that she had made a mistake, she went out of her way to make sure her audience heard a correction from her.)

That kind of intellectual integrity is virtually wholly lacking with Fox people like Hannity.

The difference between, say, Rachel Maddow and Sean Hannity is like the difference between a lawyer who makes an honest case for his side and a lawyer who suborns perjury. Both are pushing a side. But only one is honest.

It has been established by various studies that watchers of Fox News have a less accurate picture of events not only than people who get their news from other sources, but even than people who follow NO news sources.

Back in 2004, after that election, it was found that watchers of Fox News had completely mistaken “knowledge” on several issues absolutely vital to that election. They believed that weapons of mass destruction HAD BEEN FOUND, when they had not. They believed that American troops had been welcomed as liberators, when they had not. (And there was another such important false belief that escapes me now.)

I would assert that a similar non-parallelism can be found — on the whole — between Democratic and Republican politicians in this era. While politicians are in the business of speaking often more with care than with candor, and while there are some Republicans who have stood up and spoken the truth in these times, on the whole, the Republican Party has become the Party of the Lie.

his is true to an extent that I — as a lifelong student of American history — find quite astonishing. Meanwhile, the Democrats are, I would judge, at least as honest as has been normal for American politicians. And actually, it seems to me that — perhaps in reaction against the lies of the right — I think it’s possible that the percentage of the Democrats’ statements that are truthful/accurate/honest is higher than the average for politicians in American history.

The idea of there being some symmetry between liberal voices and those allied with today’s Republican Party is one that I most emphatically reject.

In 2012, I ran for Congress against Bob Goodlatte. My concern for truthfulness was expressed in my campaign slogan: “Truth. For a change.” I was so offended by all the GOP dishonesty, of which Goodlatte was quite representative.

Now, in 2018, I have to say to the me who ran in 2012: “When it comes to lying, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

2018-02-03 03:48:00 Andy Schmookler

You seem to be asking sincerely, True Virginian, and not in the spirit of pointless confrontation I’ve experienced from so many right-wing trolls over the past 13 years. So I’ll give what I hope will be a constructive answer.

1) Your examples reveal what I feel confident is a distorted picture of supposed problems on the liberal side. For one example, that bit about the IRS going after conservative groups was proved to be a falsehood: the groups the IRS went after, a close examination showed, were on both sides of the ideological divide. (The IRS officer the right-wing propagandists attacked in particular, if I recall, turned out to be a Republican.) Another example, pointed out by another commenter here, is that the FBI guy you name –Strzok — actually played a role in the FBI move that almost certainly was important in losing the election for Hillary Clinton.

2) But even if Strzok was anti-Trump, so what? He has not driven the investigation. He was eliminated from it. And of course in any large group of people, there will be people with varying political views. The FBI is known to be politically conservative overall — every single director the FBI has had (even under Democratic presidents) has been a Republican– and this whole endeavor to paint it as a liberal bastion out to get Trump is ludicrous.

That paragraph above about Strzok and the FBI is to illustrate a second point: a real lack of proportion in your picture. No doubt some liberal problems can be found– but geez, they are miniscule compared to what we see now. I am betting that you think that Hillary’s email issue is a BIG DEAL. I believe that there’s every reason to think that whole thing was quite minor, not a sign of any huge fault in Hillary, but was blown up by the Republicans — and then by Trump — into something orders of magnitude larger than the proper proportions.

Never in the history of the nation, so far as I know, have falsehoods been so prevalent and powerful as they have been on the political right in these times. Anyone getting his picture of the world from Fox News, the GOP, and Trump, will know less than nothing, because so much of what he “knows” is false.

That’s what I meant by an alternate reality.

2018-02-02 15:13:00 Andy Schmookler

I’d hate to think that living in an alternative reality is required for being a “True Virginian.”

2018-02-01 16:49:00 Andy Schmookler

Do you have a hypothesis, Mr. Meyer, about what should be made of that?

2018-02-01 03:10:00 Andy Schmookler

I just read another article about Gowdy’s retirement, and it provides some plausible explanations. On State.com: https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/01/trey-gowdy-former-benghazi-committee-chair-retires.html

2018-01-31 20:43:00 Andy Schmookler

I just read that Trey Gowdy will not seek re-election, and I’m struggling to understand what that means.

He’s a congressman from South Carolina, so I am not imagining that the Wave the Democrats are threatening would be big enough to endanger Gowdy’s re-election. So Gowdy’s retirement would not seem to be like Corker’s and Flakes, whose honesty about Trump cost them their standing with their Republican Electorate, and who therefore will not seek re-election.

But if he’s not afraid of losing, what has moved him to retire from Congress. He always seemed to me like an ambitious show who was building up political capital in the hearts and minds of Republican crazies. After all that investment, why would he walk away from it now?

Anybody here have an explanation to propose, and/or evidence that could be a clue?

2018-01-31 20:24:00 Andy Schmookler

I may over-estimate the possibilities of orchestrating something successfully, but it is not the case that I’m “missing” the problem in the House and the White House.

Trump has said he wants to be good to the DACA crowd, but he seems continually to revert to his racist hostility to immigrants who aren’t white like him and the Norweigians. Nothing can pass the House unless the Speaker is willing to bring it to a vote of the whole House, rather than insist that it be favored by “a majority of the majority.”

The question is whether sufficient pressures can be brought to bear to get Trump to lean on Ryan and Ryan to suspend the Hastert rule. What the Dems have going for them is the widespread popularity of what the Democrats want to achieve for the DACA people. And they’ve got potential leverage over shutting down the government.

Whether those two levers, plus an effective rhetorical campaign to drive public opinion and involvement, can be sufficient to get something accomplished is uncertain. It may be a long shot. But then, with the Rs in charge of everything, it was bound to be difficult to accomplish anything on immigration, whether this (first) shutdown had continued or not.

So if the goal is to take care of the DACA people, it was always going to be a challenge, wasn’t it?

2018-01-24 01:39:00 Andy Schmookler

The Washington Post scores this as a win for Trump, and not good for Dems. I don’t believe it is wishful thinking on my part, but I see it otherwise. Three weeks in which deals will or won’t be kept, in which Trump will or won’t sabotage the deal, in which Ryan will or won’t waive the Hastert rule and allow a vote on immigration. At the end of which, if McConnell or Trump or Ryan have refused to allow an immigration deal to move forward, the shutdown option re-appears. It seems to me that either something will be accomplished, or the onus will be on the obstructionists– i.e. those who refuse to do what the great majority of the American people want done on DACA and other immigration reform issues..

2018-01-22 21:00:00 Andy Schmookler

Ezra Klein, on his Vox.com website, concludes his analysis of the shutdown situation — https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/1/19/16908894/shutdown-trump-dreamers-democrats –this way:

“Taken in its entirety, the ‘shithole shutdown’ is the perfect encapsulation of governance in the Trump era: dysfunction and chaos driven by anger and fear toward America’s changing demographics, and the congressional GOP’s cowardly acquiescence to Trump’s ever-shifting demands.”

2018-01-19 23:47:00 Andy Schmookler

Fred Kaplan on State.com has an excellent piece https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/01/americas-leadership-still-matters-trumps-retreat-from-the-world-has-proven-it.html on how Trump is breaking down the international order. It contains this passage:

“The absence of any moral values, in [Trump’s] words or actions on the world stage, highlights the fact that America once did stand for something. Of course, these principles were often laden with hypocrisy, or used as cover for neo-colonialist ventures, but at least we stood to be judged—by ourselves and by others—on the standard of those ideals.”

The overall thrust of the piece is that the world is NOT doing OK in the absence of the American leadership that it has relied on for so many years. Nothing is showing itself as a replacement that does what needs to be done to maintain a decent, secure, international order congenial to the democratic values central to this nation.

2018-01-19 19:36:00 Andy Schmookler

It has always been an important dimension of conservatism that they act as “Keepers of the Dogma.” And in many important historical situations, that has been a useful function. It can be useful because the belief systems that have evolved in societies often have demonstrated some useful functionality. So conservatives tend to say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

That can lead to stagnation, since the old systems are always flawed. But it can also function as a barrier to chaos.

(It is the characteristic error of people on the left to underestimate the dangers of chaos. I was part of the counter-culture of the late 60s and early 70s, and I witnessed that kind of underestimation and consequent disorder. And I recognize also that I, too, took too much for granted, and was too willing back then to throw out some of our social “dogma” that I later saw was there for some good reasons.)

But the problem with the current “Keepers of the Dogma” is that what they are maintaining is not some well-established (if also flawed) traditional beliefs. Rather, they are maintaining the dogmas concocted by Limbaugh and Fox News and Rove– not repository of traditional “truths” but a tissue of lies.

These lies are sold not through the part of the conservatives that are committed to genuine conservative values, but through their basest prejudices and passions.

The whole NFL-kneeling controversy illustrates this. It pretends to be about patriotism, about respect for the flag and (somehow, about supporting “our troops.” But beneath that set of lies and distortions, Trump sells it through appealing to the darker side of his base– i.e. their eagerness to indulge their racist passions, which the GOP has been fanning for years.

2018-01-14 19:29:00 Andy Schmookler

Quite right. Projection solves a lot of problems for people are — what shall I call it? — integrationally challenged.

2018-01-14 19:18:00 Andy Schmookler

I read a piece in “The Hill” (http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/368745-gop-senators-say-they-do-not-recall-trump-referring-to-shithole). The Hill seems to call into question the veracity of the reports of Trump’s remark about “shithole countries.”

The piece reports that “Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) issued a joint statement saying they did not recall the president making the exact comments and called out Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) for confirming the comments.”

It also reports, almost in passing, that the meeting also included Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, and then almost in passing adds about Graham that “Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said confirmed the remarks to him…”

If one Republican confirmed to another Republican that Trump made the remarks, that should settle the matter for any reasonable person.

But then, what to make of Senators Cotton and Perdue saying they do not “recall” any such remarks?

Maybe they weren’t paying attention. Maybe they’ve got memory issues. I mean, no one would suspect that these Republican senators were LYING, would they?

2018-01-12 21:54:00 Andy Schmookler

Yes, Trump is not the only agent of brokenness in his administration. But one might add to the list of examples of Trump’s own reflexive atttactiom to the broken his choosing people like Jeff Sessions, Scott Pruitt, Betsy Devos etc to fill those important positions.

2018-01-08 22:58:00 Andy Schmookler

Yes, that’s really necessary. But it does not address the problem I present in Scenario 3.

A large component of the population consumed by a sense of grievance that is founded on falsehoods is a cancer on the body politic.

Consider the Civil War, which the Union won on the battlefield. But despite that victory, look at how the poison remaining in the South — the noble Lost Cause, the denial of what it was really about, the festering hatred about The War of Northern Aggression– which continues to corrode American politics even a century and a half later.

Driving the GOP out of power is essential. But as long as Trump is alive, he will weaponize whatever support he has, and the more he can retain, the more he will poison the nation.

2018-01-04 19:22:00 Andy Schmookler

An observation that seems worth making:

While there’s scant support expressed here for the idea that we should do anything to rescue the people in the Republican base from their present dark and crazy place….

No one has called into question the main proposition that this essay asserted. Namely, that so long as Trump holds onto his present base (maybe 1/3 of the electorate), there is NO SCENARIO for dealing with this Trump scenario that is likely to protect the nation.

Nor does anyone among the commenters here propose some alternative strategy for getting around the threat to the nation that an intact Trump bases poses to America.

2018-01-04 18:59:00 Andy Schmookler

” All that is required of our side is to maintain empathy for the radical right and continue to attempt to persuade them.”

The idea that we should “continue to attempt to persuade them” implies that such an attempt has been ongoing.

I’m glad for your supporting the notion that such an attempt is required of us. But my impression that, up to the present, there has been very little such effort.

All I’m asking is for such an effort to be added to the other elements of the liberal political strategy (like winning elections and driving this morally corrupt Republican Party out of power).

2018-01-04 18:52:00 Andy Schmookler

“You don’t actually think right wingers give a rat’s hindquarters what liberals think, correct?”

Human realities are not so cut and dried as “don’t give a rat’s hindquarters” versus do care. If you’ve watched closely (as I have) how the right-wingers got to be the way they are now — as opposed to how they were when, say, Bush I assumed the presidency — you know that a big part of how the likes of Limbaugh roped them into the right-wing bubble was to play on their sense of being disrespected by educated liberal coastal types.

Limbaugh et al. distorted the picture, but there was some basis for the feeling of some of those who have been led off into the crazy that they were sneered at by some people more sophisticated and better educated than themselves.

So yes, they did care, and at some level doubtless still do. That was why Hillary’s statement about “deplorables” was a gaffe: even if what the Rs did with it ignored what she tried inartfully to say, it fit readily into the well-fanned resentments concerning what they believe liberals think of them.

What I do with my weekly op/eds could, in part, also feed that sense of being disrespected, because I go after what I believe are some false propositions the people they’ve mistakenly trusted have sold them. But I also truly care about those people, and I also have years of familiarity with their values, and I try to utilize those two elements in composing messages to them that might have some impact. I also try to present myself as the person that I am, which might make it harder for them to apply to me their stereotype of the liberal whom they simply dismiss as the enemy.

As I’ve said many times, I do not claim that I’ve solved the problem of how to get through to them. Maybe I have, maybe I haven’t: even if I had, no one in that subculture would acknowledge it publicly.

But my approach is just one of a wide spectrum of approaches that might be taken– it’s a function of my particular mixture of strengths and weaknesses. The number of other possible approaches, as I’ve said, is virtually limitless.

I come from a family of teachers in my parents’ generation, and of clinical psychologists in the next two generations. Reaching people, changing people, healing people– not easy, not entirely predictable, not automatic. But experience shows that artful, creative communication based on genuine insight CAN SOMETIMES HAVE A SIGNIFICANT IMPACT.

Anyone who ASSUMES there can be no approach — or no mixture of approaches from one community of belief to engage another community of belief — that can do any good is likely looking at things in a simplistic way, not imagining the full range of how things can unfold in the human system.

One more point that’s relevant here, and that like the general issue harkens back to previous exchanges we’ve had on this very score: it has been asserted previously that these people are simply bad/evil people, because their support of Trump is thought to be sufficient proof of that. But once again, human things are not so cut and dried.

Those who know Trump voters through the ugly stuff we see of them in the political realm will understandably take an extremely negative, and two-dimensional view of them.

But those who have lived among them, had a rich set of experiences with them across a variety of domains, will see their toxicity and craziness in the political realm as but one facet in a more complex human reality. They are connected with evil in that realm, but they also manifest goodness in other realms.

Once we recognizes that there is some wholeness in them that can be made into a resource from which to repair the brokenness that has been cultivated in them by the force that has taken over the Republican Party, then one can recognize also the potential for finding ways to enlist that wholeness to overcome their allegiance to the force of brokenness.

And since that force of brokenness relies on their support for its power, and as that power is being used in these times to dismantle what’s best about America, the effort must at least be made to do whatever good can be done.

2018-01-03 23:31:00 Andy Schmookler

The record of my eliciting effectively zero interest among liberals — in the task of moving the people on the right from the crazy and America-damaging place they are in — remains intact.

The record of Liberal America leaving these people to the lying right-wing propagandists over the past quarter century likewise remains intact.

That has worked so well in the past, what reason would anyone find to change from such a policy of neglect now?

2018-01-03 22:01:00 Andy Schmookler

What you say may be true, Lowell. You have certainly been completely consistent in expressing that belief each time I have proposed that it is essential that we find ways of engaging with, and moving, the people who make up the Republican base.

But when the stakes are as high as they clearly are — the battle for the soul of the nation — is it wise to proceed as if what MIGHT be true, or even if PROBABLY true, is CERTAINLY true. “IMHO” stands for “in my humble opinion,” and I hope your use of that phrase indicates that you would agree that beliefs on such matters should be held with some humility– meaning a recognition that one could be wrong.

For me, the notion that there are POSSIBILiITIES for useful communication directed at Trump voters is bolstered by another reality: when it comes to communications, there is a virtually infinite range of possible forms it might take. How one might approach them is limited only by our creativity, and if that creativity can be aided by some kind of insight, who knows what kind if impetus might be imparted into that right-wing “untracked nut.”

But in any event, when it is ESSENTIAL that something be accomplished, is it not obligatory that the effort to accomplish it be undertaken– just in case one’s sense of its impossibility (“nil”) has failed to take into account what the combination of creativity and insight could achieve?

2018-01-03 17:44:00 Andy Schmookler

An observation and a question:

Sympnds criticizes her opponent, and probably wisely doesn’t complain about the judges. But of course it’s the judges job to enforce the rules.

As she is implicitly asking the judges to admit they did wrong, the question arises: is there any appeal beyond that judges’ panel?

2017-12-28 18:06:00 Andy Schmookler

No need to choose between the two approaches.

Have an attractive platform to campaign on.

Meanwhile, protect the Constitution and the rule of law.

2017-12-28 05:09:00 Andy Schmookler

An exchange about this piece on Daily Kos:

A reader commented:

“Emotionally I find myself in full agreement with you. On another, and admittedly tactical level, I am much less sure. Despite or even in view of Alabama I think there is a deep and abiding racism in America in many that would become activated should Obama use his eloquence and stature to engage with trump. I fear that could muddy the waters that much more. What are your thoughts about this?”

To which I responded:

“Your concern has some basis. And I pondered this and other concerns that came to my mind for a week and a half before deciding the idea had sufficient merit to overcome that and the other concerns.

“About the racism concern in particular:

“The racism is already pretty strongly activated. Recent studies have shown, as I understand it, that white racial resentments are the major basis for assembling the Trump-supporting part of the electorate. The white supremacists are already out there in the arena, more prominently than we’ve seen them since the days when segregation/Jim Crow was being dismantled.

“So the horse is already out of the barn. How much more is there to lose on that score.

“Also, there was the noteworthy statistic that while Trump has an approval rating in Alabama of 48, Obama’s in that same state (wherein was the first capital of the Slave Power’s Confederacy) is 52.

“If Obama were to play the role I propose, I expect that this 52% favorability would decline. But when it comes to political capital, what’s the point of saving it rather than using it. Especially for someone in Obama’s position, never running for office again.

“Finally, maybe it would be good if we had someone with all of Obama’s assets but without the handicap of coming up against white racism, but I don’t see that we do. The guys up there on Mount Rushmore, and FDR as well, are not available. So if I’m right that Obama’s the only one with the standing to match the abomination now in possession of the bully pulpit, then it seems to me that we’ve got to go with the option we’ve got.

“Better that than what we’ve seen the past couple of weeks (since the plea deal with Michael Flynn), with the momentum and attention being so strongly shifted to the lying Trump-protectors in Congress and Fox News.”

2017-12-21 22:17:00 Andy Schmookler

I can entirely understand your feelings, woodrowfan, because I have felt for well over a decade the wish that I did not have to live in the same country, under the same government, as the people who voted for George W. Bush (remember the 2004 headline, “How Can 55 million Americans Be So Dumb?”), and now with those who have elected and supported Donald Trump.

I wish they could ruin their own country, and leave alone the one that I and my friends and family live in. I wish they could ruin their own planet, and that I could live on this one treating it with respect and loving care.

But the fact is, we are tied together. We are like the two men in that oldish film, THE DEFIANT ONES , who escape from prison together. One, played by Tony Curtis, is a white Southern man, with the attitudes toward blacks that you’d expect. The other, played by Sidney Poitier, is black. They are literally chained together, and neither can escape unless they both do, and that requires a degree of agreement and cooperation.

So we’ve got emotions on one side and necessities on the other. If these people remain as whacked out as they’ve become, we will all pay a price in one form or another. (Maybe, as now, with their terrible leaders in power; maybe with problems of violent insurgency if we manage to take the power away from them.)

So if our goal is a healthy polity, what FEELS right — rejecting them in anger — and what is required of us are not the same thing.

2017-12-19 01:47:00 Andy Schmookler

I wish it were only 20%. I generally say “roughly one-third of the American electorate.”

2017-12-12 22:51:00 Andy Schmookler

On the Republican attack on Mueller, here in a nutshell is why it is incumbent on the Democrats to be vocal in his defense: the right is in full attack mode (from Congress to Fox News, to the White House), while the object of their attack — Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller — is mute, as befits the professional requirements of his job. If no one else speaks up to counter what the right is saying, then the public discourse is one-sided. The battle is inherently about the hearts and minds of the American people. The stakes are the rule of law. It is unacceptable for the side of the rule of law to be mute, or even out-shouted, by the side of obstruction of justice.

2017-12-12 22:11:00 Andy Schmookler

Another thing that preoccupies and disturbs me is how the Republicans are now going after Bob Mueller and his whole investigation. I can see what they’re doing, and I am disgusted and outraged by it. But I’m also worried about it, because I can’t judge just how much power there is in this Trump-defending counter-attack on the Special Prosecutor as he’s closing in.

I can’t tell if the rule of law will be defeated, or if it will prevail.

And I ponder what will happen in America if Mueller does survive and presents the nation the picture of Trump criminality (and maybe even treason) that I would strongly predict he’s uncovering. Will Trump have succeeded even so in sowing the seeds of a kind of Civil War by this campaign to impugn the integrity of Mueller’s investigation?

And will the Democrats ever start fighting with the intensity that this threat to the rule of law calls for?

2017-12-12 21:59:00 Andy Schmookler

Like everyone else, I’ve got an eye cocked on Alabama. I’m hoping the futures markets are wrong, and don’t see this thing coming: they give Jones about a 1 in 3 shot. I’m hoping they under-estimate factors that might make turnout in Alabama skewed blue as happened in our Virginia elections. The passionate against the demoralized.

Also I’ve been wondering how much damage it would do to the Republicans if Moore were defeated, and how much if he won. Maybe Moore would be a good albatross around the necks of the Republicans (the Party of the sexual assaulter in the Oval Office and the sexual predator over in the Senate)– now with that issue having become so paramount at this cultural moment.

But I think there are so many albatrosses to hang around the Republicans’ necks that the value of one more — even about sexual misconduct against non-consenting females — is not worth the Senate seat.

(The problem is not with the lack of damning GOP albatrosses but rather with the power with which the Democrats hammer the Republicans with the albatrosses that are there.)

Moreover, the Rs need to get a message about the public’s rejection of what they’ve become. The Rs losing a Senate seat from Alabama — Ala-freaking-bama ! — should be a signal to the Rs that the public is not going to keep giving them power no matter how ugly they become.

So I’m hoping for a Jones victory– but I’m not counting on it. And I’m ready to hope that if Moore does get elected, he’ll prove to be the toxin that continually saps the GOP, and the gift that keeps on giving to the Democrats, that some say he’d be.

2017-12-12 21:23:00 Andy Schmookler

I doubt that there is a Tea Party nationalist saying anything like what I am saying in this series. Which leads to specifying ONE of the many aspects of asymmetry we have in this liberal/conservative divide.

If one takes a look at all the various mentions of things like “bi-partisanship” or “bridging the divide” or “how to bring people together,” etc., one immediately is struck by a glaring fact: whether we’re talking about interactions among citizens or about the words spoken by those serving in Congress, virtually ALL of the speakers are on the liberal side.

My columns are attempts to reach our to a conservative readership. I can’t remember seeing a conservative reaching out to liberals.

2017-12-11 19:23:00 Andy Schmookler

There is no symmetry here, Mr. Kenny. Sorry if it sounds condescending to you for me to say so. But just because different groups of people believe different things, that doesn’t mean that both sets of beliefs are equally valid.

In terms of listening to the other side of the argument, I did talk radio across the liberal/conservative divide for a decade. I introduced each show with some words about speaking with each other in a spirit of “mutual respect, as if we might actually learn from each other.” And I meant it.

(And, as I’ve written in my op/ed columns before, during those years, I felt a genuine respect, and affection, for my conservative interlocutors.)

But what has happened on the right since then has created an asymmetry that makes the right actually quite unmoored from reality, makes most of the beliefs on the right invalid.

I don’t know if there are some tricky skills that would enable someone to deal with that reality in a way that would not bother you. But if there are, I don’t have those skills. What I do claim to have is some skill at discerning the truth, and at speaking that truth.

Doubtless that will seem arrogant and unreasonable to people like you. I regret that. But I do maintain without concern that I am mistaken that what I am saying here is substantially true, and I do regret that I can’t do anything more than speak that truth to bring conservatives back from the dark place to which they have been led.

2017-12-11 18:40:00 Andy Schmookler

I agree about both points, but disagree that they point out “mistakes” I made. You make a distinction between the “religious” and the “tribal.” I see the religious dimension — the evangelical Christian — as one important component of the tribalism. I say above that SOME conservatives are Christian, and they are. Moreover, from my 25 years of having conversations with conservatives in the Shenandoah Valley — including as a candidate campaigning in the whole of the 6th District — I know that the Christian component is a big part of the conservatism I am addressing in these newspapers.

And I agree also that there’s been a whole lot of twisting of Christian belief to rationalize following a spirit that is entirely different — and in many ways profoundly antagonistic toward — the teachings that Jesus imparted. I emphasize the actual teachings of Jesus here not because I don’t know that their Christian-political leaders have perverted the implications of the faith, but because it might be a useful reminder about what their main authority — the word of the Lord — had to say about how a good Christian will deal with other, with neighbors and even with enemies.

2017-12-09 03:10:00 Andy Schmookler

Yes, Flake and McCain voted for the monstrosity for some reason other than that they fear the base. And presumably some reason other than that they feel a need to ingratiate themselves to the billionaire GOP donor base. (They won’t be needing either the votes or the money.)

Just what that reason is, I’d like to know.

There’s a good article — https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2017/12/01/republican-delusions-go-far-beyond-trump/?utm_term=.ef98b701d8d3&wpisrc=nl_popns&wpmm=1 — talking about how the Republicans seem, like Trump, to believe a lot of their own lies. So maybe the problem with Flake and McCain is that they really don’t know what they are doing in passing this monstrosity.

2017-12-02 18:47:00 Andy Schmookler

The developments of the past day have left me with one more question, this one having to do with the other big story– the Flynn/Mueller deal.

I’ve been reading and watching a variety of knowledgeable legal experts discuss that deal and, strangely, there seem to be two interpretations of the deal that differ in an important respect.

One interpretation has it that Flynn got himself a very sweet deal (which is interpreted as meaning that he’s offering Mueller a whole lot of useful testimony). According to this interpretation, this deal means that Flynn WON’T be prosecuted on any of the other counts on which we all know he is vulnerable.

The other interpretation reads the same agreement and concludes that Flynn got rather little– that there is no mention of his being freed of the danger of being prosecuted on other crimes he committed prior to the reaching of the agreement; that there is even no mention of Flynn’s son being given a pass on his involvement in some of those crimes.

So I’m left wondering: which is it? Did Flynn get a sweet deal, or does Mueller continue to have a pretty full quiver of arrows he can shoot Flynn’s way?

2017-12-02 18:06:00 Andy Schmookler

And another distortion I hear is that otherwise often insightful commentators make a big deal about this tax monstrosity being TRUMP’s bill– as though it’s because Trump is president that the Rs have gone ahead with such a disgraceful measure (and in such a disgraceful way).

But really, this tax bill has little to do with Trump. Yes, he and his heirs will benefit. And no, Trump doesn’t care about how much this bill will hurt millions of the people who voted for him. But the bill is the creature of today’s Republican Party.

And it should serve as another reminder — if any were needed — that the rottenness of this Republican Party preceded Trump, is not dependent on Trump, and will continue to be a threat to the health and well-being of the United States even after we are done with Trump.

2017-12-02 17:43:00 Andy Schmookler

Yes, fearing the Trumpster base. That’s what I’ve been saying lo these many months. With the overwhelming majority of Republican voters still back Trump, Republicans who want to get re-elected would likely be signing their political death warrant if they acted responsibly to deal with the Trump crisis. So they just stick together and pretend it is not the clear and present danger they know it to be. Except, of course, the guys like Corker and Flake and McCain who don’t expect to face those voters again.

2017-12-02 17:40:00 Andy Schmookler

Am I missing something? Or is this the nonsense it seems to me to be?

In the wake of the passage of the tax bill, I’ve been hearing again — from people who do not seem like fools — an idea that has been around pretty much all year: that the Republicans have been sticking by Trump because they want him there to sign their legislation.

But what sense does that make?

If Trump weren’t there, they’d have Pence. And if Pence also got eliminated, they’d have Paul Ryan. And either of them would sign whatever the Republicans in Congress passed. Right?

So why does this idea persist? Does it make some kind of sense that has escaped me?

2017-12-02 17:15:00 Andy Schmookler

It took us a generation to degenerate to this point. What takes a generation to rise up, and infiltrate itself into the culture –into the political power system, the corporate system, the consciousness of the people — will not be extirpated over night.

The crisis that is coming to a head over Trump runs as deep as did the brokenness surrounding the Civil War. This is not a small thing, and it will test our mettle whether we have what it takes to meet this challenge.

That news may not be comforting, if one has not seen how darkness was gaining ground lo these many years.

But it should be comforting at least to a degree to see how the sight of this all-too-blatant ugliness has galvanized so many people; to see how the wake-up call that was the election of Donald Trump to the presidency has fostered an uprising (a Resistance), an energy that served a few weeks ago to deliver to the Democratic candidates a victory whose sweep surprised even most of the optimists.

To paraphrase Churchill’s words when the tide of battle began to turn toward the Allies in World War II. This is not the end, Churchill said. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it may be the end of the beginning.

2017-11-30 22:24:00 Andy Schmookler

The issue of Trump, and whether or not to indict or impeach or 25th amendmentize him– that is but part of a much larger battle. Trump is central to the drama now, but he still must be seen as a symptom of a much more widespread rot on the right.

He only won because of the ugly thing the Republicans turned their base into.

And if that isn’t sign enough that Trump is but a part of the beast, one need only take a look at this “tax reform” monstrosity– a measure so gross it’s hard to believe that an American political party could calculate that it is in its own amoral political interest to pull off this reverse-Robin-Hood deal right out in the open, appeasing the donors while somehow not losing all the people they’re screwing.

The rot is widespread, even if focused on the man who commands the bully pulpit and who gets to launch a nuclear war. And at present, that rot is in control across all three branches of the government of the United States.

No doubt, the battle will do damage. But if we are wise it will be more like the damage of good surgery and less like the transmission of the same kind of poison that led to the Civil War into the future even after that war was concluded.

If Trump gets away with all of what I suspect we will soon know that he’s done, that in itself would go a long way to destroying the country that our founders passed along to us with the Constitution and the commitment to the rule of law.

2017-11-30 21:20:00 Andy Schmookler

In an earlier draft of this piece, I went on from this ending to make a couple of other points for which the foundation had been laid. Eventually I decided that, however crucial these two points may be in the large picture of present American politics, their addition to this piece not only threatened to make the piece too long, but it also took away from the form or structure of the piece. So I omitted that ending.

Here is the passage that was the first ending, but was then omitted:

“But there are also some important political lessons to be drawn:

“One of these is how vital it is — for the health of America’s political system — to change how our political campaigns are financed. When the disgraceful – and constitutionally unjustifiable – Citizens United decision was handed down, opening up the floodgates for money to buy political power, many warned about the pernicious effects it would have on our democracy.

“Now, the sight of one of our major parties trying to hammer through a tax cut for the superrich – even at a time when the gap between the richest and the rest has already been dangerously widened beyond anything seen in living memory—shows how justified those warnings were.

“A second lesson is that this display of the Republicans’ willingness to sacrifice the American people – and even their own supporters – to satisfy the greed of their “donor class” should make it easier to recognize that the Republican position on climate change represents the same morally bankrupt Faustian bargain:

“In their service to the mighty fossil fuel companies, the Republicans have made themselves into the only major political party among all the advanced nations to deny climate change, and block efforts to meet that challenge.

“Why wouldn’t the Party that would take health care away from millions of Americans to enrich the billionaires, also be willing to sacrifice our children’s and grandchildren’s future to increase the short-term profits of some of the world’s richest corporations — who are also their donors?”

2017-11-28 18:20:00 Andy Schmookler

Where this piece appears on Daily Kos, there are a couple of fine comments which elicited responses from me. I’d like to share those exchanges here:

Commenter # 1:

“I would also point out that a lot of the movies from the 1930s and 1940s can be cringeworthy in their casually racist views of blacks and their casually sexist views of women. Native Americans are almost always portrayed as enemy “savages,” and Hispanics are at best, laborers and at worst, “banditos.” And gay and lesbian people don’t exist, unless it is hinted at as some sort of pathology that’s kept hush-hush because polite people don’t talk about such things.

“I’m not sure that current movies do that much better (and I’d add Muslim equals terrorist as a disappointing addition), but at least a large part of the audience is aware of these things and doesn’t just accept them as “the way things are.””

To which I responded:

“You’re entirely right about the movies of that earlier era reflecting strongly some significant defects of the American culture of that time. Racism had not been generally condemned at that point, and the injustice inflicted on the Native Americans was not generally acknowledged. The stereotyping of the sexes was stronger then, with women consigned to a role lacking many forms of power, and the sexual dimension was either repressed or sublimated.

“But it also was not an era where a man so utterly without morals or ethics or even decency — like Donald Trump — could have been elected president.”

Commenter # 2 (in a similar vein):

“Interestingly, your chosen timeframe almost precisely corresponds to the period in which the “Hays Code” was observed by Hollywood, with its official end date in 1968 “after several years of minimal enforcement” per Wikipedia. I am not faulting you for preferring stories in which one can tell the difference between Good Guys and Bad Guys. I cringe at the U.S. embrace of torture and blatant Realpolitik myself, having grown up in a time when the My Lai Massacre was a scandal precisely because American soldiers were not expected to do such things (and indeed, the massacre was eventually stopped because the commander of the helicopter sent in support was so appalled that he reported it directly to his commander). However we must realize that there is a chicken and egg thing going on here. The old movies needed the Hays Code because Americans in the 1920s and 30s were unwilling to tolerate sex, profanity, or discussion of whether The Law was right or wrong. It became obsolete and was eliminated because America as a whole had become less naive and willing to believe in Victorian morality.”

To which I responded:

“The moral understanding of those times was somewhat straitjacketed and simplistic. I was part of the 60s counterculture that called for modifying some of those stultifying and hypocritical moral standards.

“The problem is, we underestimated how important it is for there to be SOME such framework to hold a society together and to keep the forces of destruction and brokenness contained, and unable to take control of a society.

“So we launched an attack on a culture with real faults, but failed to work as hard at making sure our revisions would leave the culture equipped to keep the forces of wholeness stronger than those (already strong, but somewhat contained) forces of brokenness.

“The work of creating an enlightened moral framework — able to meet the needs of our times, and expressing the better insights of the counterculture— is still a work in progress.

“(The sexual harassment dam-break of these months is one of the developments in that process.)

“And meanwhile, the wholly unprincipled occupy the Oval Office and control both Houses of Congress.

“So the crucial question for American in this moment is: do we have enough power behind wholeness that we can prevail over that broken force that now occupies the places of power?

2017-11-26 23:24:00 Andy Schmookler

Yes, indeed. No disagreement here.

I had expected that when I referred above to “the political culture of the Deep South,” the main thing that would spring to mind is the centrality of White Supremacy to the brokenness to be found in that culture.

It was over slavery that Alabama seceded and fought a civil war. It was over Jim Crow segregation that Alabama produced a George Wallace to declare, “Segregation now! Segregation forever!” and then became a presidential candidate in 1968 and carried Alabama and four other states of the former Confederacy.

And of course, everything about that historic White Supremacy is broken: the injustice at the macro level, and at the individual level the projections of the intra-psychic conflicts afflicting whites socialized into that cultural system.

2017-11-14 16:49:00 Andy Schmookler

A thought about the Republicans’ defense of Roy Moore in which they emphasize that it was nearly 40 years ago, with the implication that there should be some sort of statue of limitations on condemning a person’s character for what they did 40 years ago.

To a point, I think that’s a valid argument. A lot of people go through moral transformations in the course of 40 years, and can see and repent their previous misguided or sinful or foolish or even evil ways.

But even if that point is granted, the manner in which Roy Moore has postured as so much holier than thou for so long bespeaks another sin that he has been engaging in right before our eyes up until the present days: a raging hypocrisy.

Were he really a man of reformed character, he would be more humbled about how far astray he went, in moral terms, as to molest this 14 year-old girl. He would speak as if he got Jesus’ point when he declared, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”

But Moore has entitled himself to take on the job of casting stones throughout his career and pretending to be someone of righteousness that the Post article makes pretty clear he is not entitled to be..

2017-11-11 23:21:00 Andy Schmookler

I do not believe that the idea that the civil war is over answers my question.

I will skip over the matter of whether or not the struggle over the GOP is, in fact, finished. There is Bannon’s threatened war against incumbent GOP senators, and there is the announced McConnell PAC’s plan to go after Bannon. In addition, between now and the beginning of 2019, there are these retiring GOP Senators (plus McCain, who is likely dying) who may or may not use their freedom from the base to go after Trump and/or where the Party is heading. (And who knows what dramatic events might change the complexion of the situation that induces the careerist, opportunist Republicans NOW to “surrender to Trump.”

But let’s grant for the moment that the domination of the Party by Trump is a done deal, as you report Shields and Brooks as saying.

My question has to do with whether the Republican Party will self-destruct. It doesn’t have to be through intra-party strife. A Party unified in support of this terrible, lying, unpopular, reckless, dangerous President does not have any secure future guaranteed to it.

In terms of the dynamics that may play out in the future, the Party’s embrace of Trump may be the scenario that leads to the death of the GOP. (Or it could create the vehicle by which the United States travels further down the path to ruin and/or fascism and/or World War III.

As I say, I feel uncertain how this will play out. But if I had to bet, I’d wager that while tying themselves to Trump will prove to be the means to these politicians’ SHORT TERM survival, it is more likely than not to lead to lasting (possibly fatal) damage to the Party itself in the long-term.

2017-10-28 02:36:00 Andy Schmookler

About this GOP “civil war,” I’m feeling quite uncertain how all this is going to play out.

More specifically, I’m wondering whether the recent developments — which people are characterizing as the more sane Republicans being driven out, while the GOP presumably becomes “the Party of Trump” –represent a positive (or negative) step with respect to the goal I’ve been hoping for (and working toward, in my small way) for many years: namely, the destruction of the Republican Party in the form it has
assumed over the past generation.

Trump is terrible, true. But the GOP has been increasingly terrible for a
generation. The party of Gingrich/Rove/W/Delay/Cheney had already been damaging
America for years before Trump took to the stage.

I did not believe that Trump would win, but I did think that — win or lose —
Trump’s getting the nomination would lead to one kind of disintegration or
another of the Republican Party.

Now he’s president. The base is sticking with Trump, driving those — like
Corker and Flake– who have enough decency to find the Trump presidency
intolerable, to retire. And the rest of the Party is clinging to the monstrosity their electorate loves. Meanwhile, Bannon and McConnell declare war on each other.

How does this play out? Is this how the ugliest elements of our body politic
will get a greater grip on power? Or is this how the Party that’s been taken
over by (I think it right to call it) an “evil force” will self-destruct? (And is there a role the Democrats can be playing to help assure that it will be the second?)

The dynamics at play here are not at all clear to me.

2017-10-27 18:32:00 Andy Schmookler

Another piece of the picture that is yet to be clarified, and that bears on whether the Flake story of yesterday is good news or bad news:

Will the freed Jeff Flake vote any differently from the one who was continuing to hope to perpetuate his Senate career?

It has been noted that Flake VOTED with Trumpian/GOP policies a high percentage of the time. How much of that was conviction, and how much a matter of protecting his political position?

Will the tax cut measure be a good test case? The GOP tax plan, it appears, will add greatly to the national debt– all to give more money to the richest. Is Flake one of those people who sincerely cares about fiscal discipline (and not just when it’s Democrats who are controlling the allocation of resources)?

The Rs are back in the position they were in with health care: they can only afford to lose two Republican Senators if the Democrats hold firm together.

Will Flake, Corker, and/or McCain vote against a terrible tax bill, now that they are free to follow principle against their unprincipled Party, and use their remaining days in office to play for the history books?

2017-10-25 16:43:00 Andy Schmookler

I would agree that it is unclear just how this will impact the 2018 Senate race in Arizona. But we also ought not forget about the larger battle at the national level, where we have a crisis because Donald Trump is president.

Republicans calling out Trump — as Flake just did, as Corker and McCain and W. Bush have lately done — can matter in terms of the larger destiny of the nation.

There was some talk last night about whether we are getting closer to any kind of “tipping point” in terms of dealing with this unfit president. I don’t see that yet becoming visible. But this gathering cadre of Republican Trump-denouncers is not trivial.

And on balance, and even given all the uncertainties, I think that Flake’s becoming free to speak out is a net plus for the nation’s political health.

2017-10-25 16:30:00 Andy Schmookler

As indicated by the recent commenters, Flake wasn’t going to be the Republican nominee.

(Flake has been too critical of Trump since too far back to maintain strong support in the Republican base, despite his being far to the right on issues. Apparently, according to Democrats in Congress, Flake is a person of integrity, for whom Trump’s damage and threat to the nation comes up against strong principles.)

A right-wing-nut will be easier for a Democrat to defeat to the extent that Flake-type Republicans in Arizona can be persuaded to support a decent Democrat, or at least not the Republican. (Though admittedly, with Flake out, someone else may win the nomination by being more sane like Flake but without having accumulated the baggage.)

And Arizona is a state where the 2016 race, though won by Trump, was reasonably close. It is a state that is trending blue.

So it will be interesting to watch at least two things: 1) whether Senators Flake and McCain will try to bring a part of their base away from the Trumpist GOP (and whether, if they do, they will succeed), and 2) whether the Democrats will be able to field a strong candidate.

(I lived in Arizona during the era of Mo Udall, and of Bruce Babbitt, so I know the Democratic Party in Arizona has fielded some strong leaders. But I am not up to date on what kind of bench the Democrats have there now.)

2017-10-25 04:06:00 Andy Schmookler

Is it reasonable to hope that Flake might end up helping the Democrat to win the seat next year? After all, if the GOP nominee is the right-wing nut-job who was challenging him, and who would clearly help prop of Trump, and if Trump represents the threat to basic American values that Flake conjured up in his speech today, how is he going to support Trump through supporting the GOP in that election?

He COULD just be silent. But if he’s serious about the problem with Trump and what he’s doing to American democracy with his lies and his indecency, perhaps he will come out and endorse the Democrat who will use that seat to try to limit the damage that Trump is doing.

Which will it be: 1) support the Republican, 2) stay silent, or 3) endorse the Democrat? I think # 1 is the least likely of the three.

2017-10-24 23:16:00 Andy Schmookler

This can be good news. I just wrote in my notes today, “I hope that more sane GOP leaders retire in this cycle. Retirement frees these Senators from needing to woo the Republican base. And maybe, like Corker and John McCain, they can use their freedom to talk to the American people about the danger that Trump poses to the nation.”

Now Flake has retired. But he will remain a U.S. Senator from now until the beginning of 2019. And that gives him a platform to speak, when it is a time when many of the people who elected him and elected Trump need to hear important things said.

I am betting that Flake will indeed be speaking up. His leaving the Senate means that he’ll likely never have a major political role again. So this is his chance to play this role for the history books.

That’s what John McCain is clearly doing. And he’s having the time of his life. I hope that Jeff Flake is made of similar stout material.

2017-10-24 22:04:00 Andy Schmookler

I heartily agree with Senator Kaine. Everything I’ve seen of AG Herring’s performance since he took office has impressed me favorably. A class act. Four more years!

2017-10-22 22:15:00 Andy Schmookler

You’re right, Kenneth Ferland, that the Vice President is still included in the process even if the Congress creates an alternative body. (“Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal
officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress
may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate
and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written
declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and
duties of his office…”)

It seems to leave open the initiation of the process to that “body,” and not just the VP. It would be interesting to see how Pence would deal with such a thing. (But I am not expecting this to play out– but neither do I rule out such a scenario.)

One advantage that the VP has over the members of the cabinet: Trump can’t fire him. Pence was elected VP as much as Trump was elected P.

2017-10-18 20:13:00 Andy Schmookler

It is not clear how you arrive at your certainty at what “unable to discharge the duties of the office” means. The Constitution is deliberately framed to leave matters — “due process,” “unreasonable search and seizure,” etc.– sufficiently unspecific as to make the document flexible. So it is with the 25th amendment.

Regarding Iranian compliance or non-compliance:

This from Reuters: ” U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Tuesday
Iran was fundamentally in compliance with its nuclear deal,”

From VOX: “The International Atomic Energy Agency, which is in charge of monitoring the deal, has repeatedly certified that Tehran is complying with the
limits on its nuclear program. The Trump administration has yet to
produce any evidence to the contrary.”

And yes, you’re right that it people can be found who think blowing up the Iran deal is a good idea. You could bring in the redoubtale John Bolton, whose hawkishness was too extreme to get him confirmed even during the W administration.

2017-10-18 03:47:00 Andy Schmookler

The language I provided above was the actual language of the 25th amendment– a ” “majority of either the principal
officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress
may by law provide.”

So this idea of another body, provided by Congress, is not some iffy notion that couldn’t pass “constitutional muster.” It is right there in the Constitution.

2017-10-18 03:30:00 Andy Schmookler

Quite likely, you’re right, Lowell.

It should be noted, however, that a measure is being introduced in Congress (by Jamie Raskin — good Democrat from Maryland), that calls for an independent commission to be given the task of making such a judgment, rather than the VP and the Cabinet.

The amendment does make provision for its happening that way, saying that it can be initiated by a ” “majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide”,

That being said, the outcome remains unlikely. First, passage of Raskin’s measure must be a long-shot.

Second, Trump would be certain to contest that judgment, which would mean that 2/3 of both the House and the Senate would have to vote to remove him from office.

Maybe the Rs would be ready to do such a thing after Trump blows up the world with a war over NK nukes, but it’s unclear what he could do short of that — shoot TWO people on Fifth Avenue? — that would move them to the point where they’d see greater danger to themselves from keeping Trump than by dumping him. (It has been a long time since the R Party has shown any concern for the good of the nation.)

Nonetheless, there is a useful purpose to the article: chipping away at his support. I see that the most recent polls show that Trump’s support among Republicans is steadily slipping. So though it has proved sticky, that support is not set in stone.

2017-10-17 17:32:00 Andy Schmookler

“Fake news” strikes again.– from the Failing New York Times.

2017-10-16 19:44:00 Andy Schmookler

Congratulations to “well-read liberal Virginia blogger,” Lowell Feld.

2017-10-16 17:04:00 Andy Schmookler

A propos of the piece I posted here last weekend — “Calm Before What Storm? Can Trump Start a Nuclear War on His Own?” at http://bluevirginia.us/2017/10/calm-before-what-storm-can-trump-start-a-nuclear-war-on-his-own — there’s this quote in Gabe Sherman’s big piece in VANITY FAIR:

“One former official even speculated that Kelly and Secretary of Defense James Mattis have discussed what they would do in the event Trump ordered a nuclear first strike. “Would they tackle him?” the person said.”

Sherman’s article, which is about Trump “unraveling,” is here: https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/10/donald-trump-is-unraveling-white-house-advisers

2017-10-12 14:47:00 Andy Schmookler

Where this piece appears on Daily Kos, some interesting points have been made among the comments. They can be found here: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2017/10/8/1705270/-Calm-Before-What-Storm-Can-Trump-Start-a-Nuclear-War-on-His-Own?_=2017-10-08T10:39:49.788-07:00#comment_67983218

I added this comment to that discussion, after the first 16 comments:


Some good and interesting comments, above. Most seem to believe that we have little or nothing to protect us against a reckless decision by Trump to initiate war.

A couple of points I’d like to make:

Marsanges writes: “is it not so that the US technically still is at war with NK?” [His point being that Trump wouldn’t have to START a war, but just resume one already begun and never ended.]

I’m not sure that this is the case. We call it “the Korean War,” but at the time what it was called officially, if I recall correctly, was a UN “police action.” I am virtually certain that the United States never declared war— because I’m pretty sure that the last time the U.S. officially declared war was the day after the “day of infamy,” i.e. the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

But the fact that we’ve been engaged in a whole lot of hostilities since WW II does demonstrate that a “declaration of war” is not needed for there to be war.

Another point concerns the second point from Tanzik above, regarding the chain of command, and bringing in the important historical precedent of how, in Nixon’s last days in office — when he was drunk and unstable, “the Joint Chiefs, Kissinger, Al Haig agreed that any nuclear launch orders Nixon gave would be ignored. “

I think that there’s plenty of evidence — e.g. Tillerson’s “moron” remark, the reported “suicide pact” among Tillerson, Mattis, and Mnuchin that if Trump moved against any of them, they all would resign — that Trump’s authority among his major deputies is not so much better than Nixon’s was in those last days.

So while there might be a kind of constitutional crisis if people did not obey the commander-in-chief, we are already getting into a level of crisis, because of the gross unfitness of this president, that refusing to obey a catastrophic order would not necessarily be so large a step from where we already are.

2017-10-08 20:27:00 Andy Schmookler

We won’t have to wait all that long to see whether the scenario I’ve envisioned here — and to which I’ve given a 1 in 5 chance — comes to pass.

To operationalize what would be confirmation of this happening, I would say that if Trump’s net approval rating with the American public has not declined by more than 3% by Halloween, then this scenario has NOT played out. (Last I saw it was at 36%, so it would have to dip below 33%, which is the lowest I’ve ever seen for Trump so far.)

The one-two punch on Trump from Puerto Rico — the combo of the poor handling and his response to the complaint — may or may not break through his apparent carte blanche with his Republican supporters.

But it’s a good sign that both of those disgraces are continuing to be highlighted by various prominent voices: celebrities, media reports, and this guy from this morning’s news summary: “So mad I could spit”: a former disaster relief official on Trump’s response to Puerto Rico (“He described the Trump administration’s response as ‘malpractice.’”)

I have heard that Congress will be taking up Puerto Rico relief this coming week. If that’s so, it could provide an occasion for Democratic leaders to speak up more loudly on this than they have thus far.

2017-10-01 15:18:00 Andy Schmookler

Quite right, Lowell: “at this point, I’m more concerned about his supporters. What about them, do any of them have any decency?”

I would rephrase that question. Having experienced personally, over a long period of time, that a great many of these people do have some decency, the question that arises is will they at long last bring any of their valuing of decency to bear upon their role in our politics.

Because, due to their lack of adequate integration — a chronic problem with people on the political right, cross-culturally — they have split themselves into their political selves and their social selves.

Their political selves suffer from what was described in that piece you posted the other day about “The Paradox of the Trump Voter.” Namely, when they feel threatened, they go into hostile mode in which anything goes.

That article also talked about their “agreeable” selves, which is how they operate when they are not consumed by their hatreds and fears that arise out of their sense of threat.

2017-09-30 22:27:00 Andy Schmookler

Interesting. I don’t believe I am misremembering that earlier poll. I wonder if I’m mistaken about that, if something has changed, or if the polls asked different questions. But it is certainly a remarkable statement to affirm, that NOTHING the man could do would lead to their disapproval. Do they really mean it? Are they just sticking it to the pollster, using this question to say, defiantly, “Trump’s my guy, dammit.”

2017-09-30 22:01:00 Andy Schmookler

BTW, I make more of a case with an expansion of this comment into an article here on BV, posted a little while ago, titled “Will This Be Trump’s “Have You No Decency?” Moment?” It’s here: http://bluevirginia.us/2017/09/will-this-be-trumps-have-you-no-decency-moment

2017-09-30 21:55:00 Andy Schmookler

If I recall correctly, there was a poll sometimes maybe a month ago, in which it was about 1/3 of Trump supporters — a larger group than what you likely mean by his “base” — who indicated that nothing they could think of Trump doing would get them to bail on him.

If that’s to be believed, that would leave 2/3 of his support that might move if Trump did something offensive enough to them.

Based on my knowledge of at least a good chunk of those people — people who fall into those traditionalist, evangelical, rural categories — I believe that it is possible they will see his treatment of these people in trouble as crossing a line.

It is relevant that out here in the Trumpland of the Shenandoah Valley, a person in need — whether a car breakdown by the side of the road, or an illness in the family, or some other such emergency — is more likely to get help quite readily than in the more liberal places I’ve lived in over the years. At least so it has seemed to me.

What remains to be seen — aside from whether the media and the Democrats and other voices make a big issue of this — is whether that commitment to helping people beset by an emergency will outweigh the racism and other negative factors that Trump tries to bring to bear. (Like when Trump introduces the image of the “lazy” Puerto Ricans.)

2017-09-30 21:49:00 Andy Schmookler

“Why would this?” I’ve given my reasons — so profound and palpable an ugliness about a kind of “decency” that Trump-type people I know generally value– but there’s a good chance you’re right.

My understanding is that there’s a sizable chunk who (pollsters discover) cannot imagine anything Trump could do that would lead them to withdraw their support. But that kill-someone-on-Fifth-Avenue kind of Trump supporter is not the majority of his base.

So if something registers negatively enough, it could have an impact. And this looks to me especially clearly outside the conceivable range of decency and acceptability.

2017-09-30 20:39:00 Andy Schmookler

A thought, that leads to a question: The thought is that maybe it would help if someone were able to stand up and play the part of Joseph Welch. That was a special situation, they were on national TV together at that moment. But maybe someone could effectively direct attention toward the shameful behavior. Which leads to the question: if such a role might be played, who in America is the best person to step up and challenge the president over this, “Have you no decency?”

2017-09-30 19:05:00 Andy Schmookler

Something big may be happening, in terms of a blow to Trump. I am not going to claim that I can foresee how this latest from Trump is going to play out. Whether this particular piece of Trump behavior will break the camel’s back is impossible to predict. I will only say this:

The way that Trump has turned his response to the problems of Puerto Rico into an attack on the San Juan mayor who begged him for help– the ugliness of that is profound enough, and palpable enough by the values of many Republicans and Trump voters, that it is a plausible candidate for being a kind of turning point.

The way that Joseph McCarthy could never recover from that moment of profound shaming when Welch said, “Have You No Sense of Decency?” It’s at least possible that some measurable kind of breakdown of support for Trump might result for the shamefulness of a President responding to a humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico as Trump has, and then to attack the mayor who begs him for more vigorous help in an emergency.

Such human indifference doesn’t sit well with most people, almost all of whom care about human decency.

2017-09-30 17:46:00 Andy Schmookler

I agree — as far as that goes. The challenge, as I see it, is to find ways of “making a fuss” that capture national attention. Not easy to do, but I don’t see evidence that an all-out effort is being made, or gathering steam.

When I consider that challenge, my thoughts go in two directions: 1) getting prominent-enough spokespeople with dramatic-enough messages to get massive coverage; and 2) getting throngs into the streets enough to get massive coverage.

A last point: “running against it in 2018” sounds too far off into the future. My sense is that turning Obamacare into a “disaster” could happen before the end of 2017. And I believe it is important for the finger of blame to be pointing straight at Trump BEFORE the Obamacare markets get really terrible.

2017-09-29 15:16:00 Andy Schmookler

I have a concern about whether the Democrats are prepared to deal effectively with the challenge posed by the article above (the “Ongoing, Quiet Repeal”– https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2017/09/changes-to-open-enrollment/541263/). Namely, that Trump wants to sabotage Obamacare and then declare that it was the program itself — not his demolition of it — that was a “disaster.”

The challenge here is to make sure that the American people understand what Trump is up to. The better this is accomplished, the more likely the Trump gang is to change course in order to avoid having the blame for the problems fall on them. And if they do nonetheless continue to sabotage the program, it is important that public opinion exact a big political price on the Trumpians, and not be duped into believing that Obamacare was irremediably flawed by itself.

My question is: what can the Democrats be doing to meet that challenge? And do we have any reason to be confident that they will manage to do it?

2017-09-29 14:45:00 Andy Schmookler

The “Trump Voter Paradox” piece is a good one. One of its virtues is that it provides a basis for bridging a controversy that was played out here on BV between me and some of the other people here: namely, the dispute over whether my describing as “decent” people the people among whom I live who have supported Trump.

Many here thought not, arguing that anyone who can support something so vile as Trump cannot, by definition, be decent.

This piece brings in a kind of bridge by emphasizing a kind of bifurcation in the psychic system that gets switched one way or another depending upon the level of THREAT experienced. Here’s a quote from a Professor Renfrew, one of the authors of a study titled “Divided We Stand: Three Psychological Regions of the United States and Their Political, Economic, Social, and Health Correlates.”

“[As long] as everyone is respectful and abides by the social norms, everyone is
happy and agreeable. But when threats are made against one’s reputation
or values, acts of violence and physical aggression are considered
appropriate forms of retribution. In some ways, the profile we observe
touches on the surface of this profile — the friendly and considerate
aspect when all is well. But I think we’re now beginning to see more of
the aggressive aspects. I think many people, perhaps especially in this
region, have begun to feel threatened by the changes taking place in
society and are reacting with anger.”

This seems to me pretty much on target. However, one vital thing is left out: the lies and manipulation.

The quote talks about the people beginning “to feel threatened by the changes taking place in society.” But that gives reality too big a role. Essential to understanding why the sense of threat has grown so great is the right-wing propadanda campaign that has been waged for more than a quarter century.

Just to give one example: If the liars have persuaded you that your declining economic prospects are due to the brown people streaming illegally across our borders — AND NOT BY THE WHITE PLUTOCRATS WHO ARE STEALING THE GOVERNMENT FROM THE PEOPLE — one’s sense of threat from undocumented immigrants (“rapists!”) will be magnified. And the targeting of one’s anger will be misguided, but useful to the very people you are listening to and supporting.

So also with lies about welfare, about ACORN, etc. So also with Trump’s fictional crime wave and “American carnage.” So also with stoking people’s fears in the wake of 9/11, for no purposes other than creating fear to put those people in a condition where they can’t think straight because they feel so threatened.

So it is the way the GOP and their media allies who have worked assiduously — and effectively — to toggle the switch in the consciousness of these people with their “happy and agreeable” side, and their “angry and aggressive” side.

Both are parts of them. And America suffers if lies so magnify their sense of threat that the ugly side switches on and stays on.

2017-09-28 14:12:00 Andy Schmookler


2017-09-26 20:38:00 Andy Schmookler

Well done, Lowell– with clarity and reason, which are not in abundant supply these days.

2017-09-26 19:38:00 Andy Schmookler

“people so bent on dividing America” says Jackson.

Jackson– such a great unifier! And Trump, of course.

2017-09-24 16:04:00 Andy Schmookler

The Republicans and right-wing media have spent more than a quarter of a century demonizing Democrats, liberals, etc.

That demonization, accomplished over such a long stretch of time, using such powerful propagandistic techniques, won’t be undone in a hurry.

You emphasize, Kellen Squire, that “We’ve lost our trust credibility with the American people…” How much is it that we’ve been less than trustworthy? And how much is it that the battle for the hearts and minds has been won by the demonizers?

As far as I am aware, a close examination of Nancy Pelosi would show her to have done a credible job of fighting for the American people. Am I mistaken?

2017-09-12 16:28:00 Andy Schmookler

Once again, reporting on some developments in the comments on Daily Kos, where two commenters have interpreted my remarks as being some kind of call for appeasement. I would hope that the readers here, unlike those on Daily Kos to whom I am presumably a stranger every time I appear, are sufficiently familiar with my position to know that — far from recommending a wimpy posture — I have been critical of Liberal America for its weakness, and failure to “press the battle..” But in any event, to prevent any such misinterpretation of the present piece, let me paste here what I just said on DK:

I say nothing about HOW we should engage them. I do not speak of
compromise, or conciliation, or meeting them half way, or coddling them
in any way.

What I do say is: 1) unless or until they change, the United States
is in serious trouble; and 2) we should spend time and effort to find
the best ways to effect the change that’s needed.

My own approach has been to challenge them continually, telling them
truths they seem not to recognize. I try to do it in a way they might
hear. Which means that I try to frame my message in terms of values that
they said, during my radio work, that they care about. I try to do it
with an appeal to the best in them, as I believe I know it. I do not
express my challenges with contempt or rage or disgust. I try to convey
that I believe them capable of living up to the values they have
declared are important to them.

Whether that is an effective approach or not, I cannot say. I’ve not
seen evidence that it is (but I was effective with them before Rove got
hold of them).

Truth be told, I’ve not seen ANYTHING tried that has been visibly
effective, and I’ve been watching since 2005 for some way that would

Which would certainly entitle me to give up on them. Except I don’t,
because I believe that, as I say in the piece and in this comment above,
I believe that having so large a portion of the American electorate so
severely poisoned is extremely dangerous. I’ve been warning about that
since before the rise of Trump. And Trump’s ascendancy has certainly not
disabused me of that notion.

When something MUST be accomplished, I believe that it is imperative
that everything possible be tried to accomplish it, however unclear it
is that it is possible. We cannot know that it is IMpossible.

So I say, engage them in whatever ways we think will work best. My
guess is that it would be a combination of various kinds of engagement.
But nothing that I am saying should be interpreted as saying we should
give ground, or that we should not fight the fight that needs to be

I have spent some years writing articles, and a book, that say, PRESS THE BATTLE.
(That’s the title of a series I wrote in 2014-2015.) So it is
frustrating to have my words interpreted as some sort of desire to

2017-09-07 00:48:00 Andy Schmookler

I have just posted a substantive response to the objection raised in the comments below, objecting to my use of the phrase “decent people” to refer to at least some of the Trump voters to whom I am directing my op/ed commentaries, like the one above.

That piece is here: http://bluevirginia.us/2017/09/relating-to-the-one-third-of-our-countrymen-who-support-the-atrocity-that-is-president-trump

2017-09-06 21:53:00 Andy Schmookler

I’m going to reply, in a way that I hope will take the issue to a different level, in a separate posting. When it is up, I will be back here to post the link.

For now, I will only say that any difference between us is NOT a difference in how atrocious we think Trump is. Nor is about how much we are revolted by the fact that so many of our countrymen can support such a monstrosity as president.

2017-09-06 20:05:00 Andy Schmookler

A commenter, Spambolaya, wrote where this piece appears on Daily Kos:

“‘How did so many decent people come to get such gratification from this drama…’

“Simple. They’re not decent people.”

To which I responded:

“One can define the phrase “decent people” in different ways. One person I know proposes that anyone who supports Trump cannot, by definition, be a “decent person.”

“However, that person doesn’t really know these people, other than through their alignment with destructive and dishonest political forces. I wonder, Spambolaya, how much experience you have of any of these people.

“I moved out to the Shenandoah Valley in 1992. These people are and have been my neighbors. I conducted radio conversations with them for a ten year period before Karl Rove and his boss turned them fully toward the dark side.

“So I see a degree of complexity here: their terrible politics is combined with a whole lot, visible to not only me but others in the Democratic minority in this rural area, that looks very much like what most of us would think of as good and decent people. How they are as neighbors, how they are to deal with in daily life, what some of them do in acting out positive values they hold.

“Human beings are not all of a piece. Some people especially are not well integrated. But to just dismiss them is to ignore a piece of the reality. It is to side-step a strong truth about the human condition, and the mixture of elements that make people up.

“All that plus one more thing: as I indicate above, this piece is written to appear in newspapers in an area mostly populated by these people. They THINK of themselves as the good people. Is it not appropriate that, as I challenge them, I also do not dismiss them as bad people, but rather affirm the goodness I know is there, as I use such pieces as this to call them back to the better angels of their nature?”

2017-09-06 18:34:00 Andy Schmookler

I feel for you, Lowell, being called a SINNER and told SHAME ON YOU! for your failure to feel responsible for whatever some group of people who oppose some things you oppose might do.

The point that needs to be stressed here, it seems to me, i.e. the point that shows the NON-PARALLELISM between the GOP and the white supremacists and neo-Nazis on the one hand, and the Democrats and the antifa on the other, has to do with the GOP in the age of Trump having a relationship with the extreme right while the Democratic Party has no relationship with this antifa crowd.

One might quibble over the question of whether there was such a relationship between the GOP and the white supremacists during the era of the “dog whistle.” I mean, during the time when the Rs vaguely encouraged, and certainly did not denounce, the birther lie to delegitimize Obama’s presidency. Or one might even go back to the time of Trent Lott toasting Strom Thurmond on his 100th birthday; or even to Reagan’s starting his 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, MS, where the civil rights workers had been murdered, and speaking favorably about “states rights.” Or even all the way back to Nixon’s Southern strategy.

But in the age of Trump, there’s no need to quibble, no need to draw fine lines. Trump has encouraged the white supremacists. Anyone who doesn’t believe that need only ask the white supremacists, like David Duke, who have told us so.

No Democrat has said a word, that I know of, to encourage antifa.

The white supremacists laud Trump. Can anyone point to the antifa folks speaking in similar enthusiastic terms about any Democratic leader.

The Republicans in the age of Trump are strongly connected with the white supremacists and neo-Nazis. Their connections also involve particular issues– like anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-Hispanic, etc.

Whether or not David Duke should be regarded as a Republican is beside the point (he did run for Senate as a Republican a number of years ago). The reality is that Duke and the rest of that gang strongly backed the Republican candidate for President, and that candidate (now president) has gone shockingly far in encouraging and supporting them.

There is no connection between the Democrats and these anarchists. The fact that they both oppose the fascists does NOT represent a connection between them.

All the Democrats are called upon to do is to affirm the importance that protests be non-violent, that the First Amendment rights of all should be respected (even people whose views we find abhorrent. That cuts against extremists of various kinds, and it stands for the liberal values that the Democratic Party is committed to.

2017-08-28 21:03:00 Andy Schmookler

Here’s what I read about the polling:

“In a new HuffPost/YouGov poll, a third of Americans favor removing statues and memorials of Confederate leaders, with 49 percent opposed. Just 29 percent of Americans favor changing the names of streets, schools and buildings commemorating Confederate leaders, while half are opposed.”


2017-08-24 02:53:00 Andy Schmookler

Out watering some wilting plants just now, I got clear about one thing concerning the question I asked you, Lowell.

About the general nature and depth of the feeling in the culture, I feel pretty confident that I see something real that has sometimes been importance.

But about how powerfully that feeling might be primed to play right now, in the present political environment– that I really don’t know, and I can’t claim that I’ve any record of perceptiveness about what’s going to catch fire or what will fizzle at any given moment.

(Would UNCLE TOM’S CABIN have been such a big deal, igniting passions in the North, had it been published in 1838 instead of 1852? I strongly doubt it.)

It’s entirely possible that amidst all the feelings swirling around Trump, and Charlottesville, and Neo-Nazis and the KKK, that the feeling — long utilized for white supremacy — has lost some impetus. Maybe this recent history has given white supremacy a bad name.

So it could be that the tinder is wet and the matches the Republicans will try to light will just go out without kindling anything.

2017-08-23 21:27:00 Andy Schmookler

Is it your sense that I’m seeing something that isn’t there? Or, that what’s visible to me in rural, conservative Virginia (specifically, the Shenandoah Valley) am seeing things that are not visible in your environs?

2017-08-23 20:58:00 Andy Schmookler

Maybe I should give some background relevant to my being scared about that issue. (If the GOP misfired this time, there could be a better shot next time.)

I did not grow up in the South. Never lived below the Mason-Dixon Line until I was in my mid-forties. A Yankee (Michigan, Minnesota, Massachusetts) through and through.

But I have done talk radio in the Shenandoah Valley for 25 years, especially for a ten-year period therein. And I did several shows about the Civil War, which gave me some feeling for how the image of the Confederacy operates in the minds of people native to this area.

That experience, plus some book-learning about the way race has played in the South from, say, the 1830s onward, are what make me scared of Northam (and others?) getting swept away by some kind of “defend our heritage” tide.

2017-08-23 20:38:00 Andy Schmookler

Delighted to hear it. Does that Twitter mockery give an indication of how this attack will play with the electorate generally?

2017-08-23 20:29:00 Andy Schmookler

This issue scares me, in terms of this fall’s election in Virginia. At the heart of all this is whether white Virginians can be led to understand how these monuments are legitimately understood as expressing white supremacy, And legitimately (and painfully) experienced as such those Virginians have been the targets of white supremacists (to one extent or another) for generations.

At the core of this understanding is correcting a distortion of history that has been ingrained in Southern whites since just after the Civil War: the idea that the South fought the Civil War for reasons other than to defend slavery. In fact, it was ALL about slavery for the South. Indeed, throughout the 1850s, just about everything was all about slavery for the South.

I’d like to think that Charlottesville had created a teachable moment on that point: Here was white supremacy showing its ugly face, demonstrating over a statue for a Confederate hero, and carrying some Confederate flags along with signs of the KKK.

But the polls seem to indicate that the “both sides” interpretation is winning out, which suggests to me that most people are not seeing Charlottesville as showing that ugly face that connects with the true message of these monuments.

So Charlottesville offers too little support within the electorate for a candidate to be able to alter a belief that has been connected with Southern loyalty for a hundred and fifty years, and that has been instilled by the culture in each generation. It is not a belief easily corrected, like telling somebody who thinks Kansas City is the capital of Kansas that no, it’s Topeka.

If any such teaching is to be done, it should probably be done far from the candidate. Northam ought not explicitly challenge any reigning Southern myths, but find much fuzzier language, or framing it in terms of vision for the future, rather than permanently defining ourselves in terms of a particular era of our history.

The Republicans’ Smart Move on the White Supremacy Issue, which is my attempt to make that Republican move less smart, by pointing out how it rests on falsehoods. Maybe others can find ways?

I’m still uneasy about this issue. That 7% lead is probably way less than the advantage among white Virginians of the “Civil War was noble cause” versus the “Civil War was all about Virginia” views of Virginia history and the meaning of the monuments..

2017-08-23 20:09:00 Andy Schmookler

Could you characterize their counter to the monuments-attack? And do you feel the approach they’re taking is a well-chosen one for the purpose of getting the voters who might be in play on this issue to see Northam’s side favorably?

2017-08-23 19:41:00 Andy Schmookler

This is the attack that I was anticipating over the weekend, that led to my posting here the piece, ”

How Northam Might Handle the Confederate Monuments Issue.
I believe that a well-designed response would be much better for Northam than just ignoring the attack. The springs the Republicans are trying to tap run just too deep.

It is notable that this attack is coming from the Party. Is Gillespie also putting this out, or is he keeping this dirt off his own hands and letting his minions do the job?

2017-08-23 18:56:00 Andy Schmookler

I just read something that talked about the danger to the Democrats if some of their anti-fascist allies (vigilantes was the word used) were to vandalize the Confederate monuments.

I don’t think even good leadership can restrain some people who might seize the opportunity for such destructive acts, but I believe there’s a way that Democrats can minimize the danger.

My pessimism about prevention derives from my experience from when I lived in Berkeley, CA (1968-1973– except for one year). In that era, I recall being in protests against the war in Vietnam, and I recall also there was also an element you wish were not on your side– the kind who would throw a rock through a Bank of America window.

My sense was that this kind of person is not really being political. Such people, rather, are using the situation as an opportunity to act out something angry in themselves.

So what I think the Democrats should do is to get out in front of the issue. Call explicitly for a process of working this through which involves no violence, like we saw in Charlottesville, and involves no abusive speech toward other groups.

Whenever the issue of the monuments must be dealt with, Democratic leaders should loudly declare that these statues should continue to be treated with respect. Call for a process of working this through that leads to the best possible resolution, and — while advocating their removal to become displays in museums, say that no one should damage or deface what we hope will have a prominent place in some Virginia museum in the future.

Then if something happens, the position of the Democrats will be publicly on the side that called for respect and a good non-violent process; and they won’t be tied to vandals simply because they were against maintaining the monuments’ status quo.

2017-08-19 20:28:00 Andy Schmookler

Continuing to thinking out loud here… In the previous comment, I wrote:

“Perhaps a candidate, like Northam — as “our next governor” — might throw out a creative challenge: tell us — better still, show us — what statuary would be appropriate for a Virginia that has moved beyond the social order represented by the old statuary.”

Ask people; Show us what you’d build that would be as meaningful and as great a source of pleasure for Virginians generally as a statue of Robert E. Lee was satisfying for those who erected such Confederate-hero statuary for only the dominant part of the old Virginia.

I’d try to turn the issue toward a vision of the future. The statue would represent a piece of “mission statement.” An expression of the ideals behind the best of Virginia.

It could be a warrior, again, or a mother holding a child, or a giant bust of Thomas Jefferson. Or perhaps something for Jefferson like what that newish FDR monument in Washington does for him.

(As FDR’s monument presents words carved in granite–words that conjure up a most wonderful set of values and deep humanity, so also the best of Thomas Jefferson (or George Washington) could likewise conjure up a set of ideals worth celebrating together as Virginians and as Americans.

Celebrating the nation — the United States of America — that these great Virginians did such a good job to define and to shape. Celebrating the nation that the “heroes” of the Confederacy are famous only for their heroic efforts to break apart.

2017-08-19 20:10:00 Andy Schmookler

In the previous note, I spoke of “repudiating” the monuments. Upon reflection, I think that’s an unnecessarily harsh approach. Better to redefine their place in the surrounding society. Changing their status. Better to indicate that we now stand for a society of a different sort from the kind for which the Confederacy fought. Time to come up with new images that capture what we stand for — a society in which equality is honored, difference is appreciated, and groups deal with each other with mutual respect and consideration.

Perhaps a candidate, like Northam — as “our next governor” — might throw out a creative challenge: tell us — better still, show us — what statuary would be appropriate for a Virginia that has moved beyond the social order represented by the old statuary.

Another point: though I do not have any proof of this, I do believe that the graph of the power of the white supremacy passion in America, over the years, is not a straight line. Rather, that it dipped in the post-War era, and that it has been on the rise in recent years, as people like Donald Trump (with his birther lie all the way to Tuesday’s press conference) have inflamed those old passions.

The Republicans have been feeding the beast for a generation– more really, but increasingly so with people like Limbaugh and a Supreme Court that would gut the Voting Rights Act.

2017-08-19 19:57:00 Andy Schmookler

Just a word to make something more explicit– about how this relates to Virginia politics.

I got that information that 62% of Americans support the position that Gillespie’s taking from an article from NBC news that Lowell linked to in yesterday’s news: The title of the article indicated that the Monuments issue was somehow framing the 2017 Virginia elections. (Virginia Campaign Shaping Up as a Referendum on Confederate Monuments)

I don’t know how much there is to that assessment, but however prominent it becomes, it will need to to be handled adeptly. A way needs to be found to prevent Gillespie from tapping successfully into some deep springs that have been instilled in many Southern white voters — people whose culture has taught powerfully for generations the importance of solidarity where racial status is on the line.

There are strong loyalties there that are readily summoned up from the deep. That’s long been the work of demagogues who understand the route into that set of traumas and rages. And the skill that these people have — people like Trump — is that they can play on the forces of darkness.

Gillespie will do it in a far more refined way than Trump does. But what he will do is still playing with darkness: he will be encouraging white voters to vote to defend the “heritage,” while obscuring that this “heritage” has had white supremacy at its core.

Thought should be given to how to overcome the force of that subtle and dark appeal. And how it might be possible to increase the public’s understanding of what this is really all about. And how this issue can be creatively dealt with in a way that minimizes the conflict over race that has lately been raising its ugly head more in America.

I just saw a historian on MSNBC make an important distinction that could be useful: the issue is not whether we keep hold of our history, he said. We should keep all our important history preserved. The issue is not whether we PRESERVE that history, but rather what in our history we choose to HONOR.

The proposal should not be to get destroy or dispose of these statues. Rather, according to that historian, to put them into a museum setting, which is suitable for conveying to people what the history has been.

But from the time a century or so ago that these were first deployed, it was in such a way as to HONOR the Confederacy through the image of warriors who fought to preserve slavery. (It was to preserve slavery — which is about WHITE SUPREMACY — that the states of the Confederacy chose to break up the United States to defend– even though it was under no imminent threat as an institution, the question being only whether its empire could be expanded.)

If I were Northam, I’d try to minimize the role of this issue in the election. But to the extent that this issue must be fought out, I’d compose a diplomatic way of helping voters to see that the the monuments convey a historic message of WHITE SUPREMACY.

In other words, I would tie it back to Charlottesville. Very gently. History tells us that the monuments are a more beautiful way of making some of the same supremacist assertions that were done in such an ugly way by the KKK and the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville.

2017-08-19 19:39:00 Andy Schmookler

A variety of comments on this piece, where it appears on Daily Kos, elicited from me the following response:

The main drift of the comments here, at this point, seems to be that
idea that an impeachable offense is anything the House of
Representatives thinks it is.

That’s true. But it really misses the point.

Think about what the nature of the battle is here in America, at this
point where we have a president like Trump. It’s a battle that involves
the force of opinion. It is a battle in which an important part of the
task is to expose Trump for what he is so that as many people as
possible want him out, and as few people as possible support him.

I trust that you folks know that it is Trump’s continuing support in
the Republican base that keeps more Republicans from repudiating him.
And that it is the increasingly intense opposition to him by the
majority of Americans that frightens the Republicans about being tied to

So how does all that relate to this piece?

What the piece does is present an argument that, if properly used,
can frame a pardon for Arpaio IN ADVANCE to show that larger point about
Trump’s abuse not only of his abuse of power, but his abusive
orientation toward the Constitution itself: “a president who looks at
the Constitution not as a guide to his responsibilities but an arsenal
of weapons to be used in his quest for unchecked dominance. ”

It has the potential, if properly used, to help people see that he is
trying to use his rightful power for the wrongful purpose of putting
his allies above the law. As pmc6 says above, it constitutes an attack
on the judiciary, and the legal process altogether.

Just as a variety of shots have been fired across Trump’s bow to say
that firing Mueller would be unacceptable — a warning that thus far he
seems to have been restrained by— the argument presented above could
serve as a kind of warning to Trump about pardoning Arpaio, which is
similarly illegitimate, even if strictly within his constitutional

If that were to inhibit Trump from issuing the pardon, that would be
reason enough to promote that argument. But I don’t see that as likely.

But more likely is that it can be added to the weight of all those
things that weigh against allowing this man to continue as President. It
joins his various obstructions of justice. It compounds the picture of
Trump as — in Lawrence O’Donnell’s words of last night — our

It is one more way of exposing a man who violates the spirit of his oath of office on a continuing basis.

So yes, the Republicans in the House are not about to impeach him.
(The Chair of the House Judiciary Committee represents my District in
Virginia, and is the man I ran against as the Democratic nominee in
2012. And he is doing absolutely nothing to make this president accountable.) But every salvo softens the enemy’s ability to resist. And this provides one more salvo.

At one level, Gerald Ford was right in saying that ““An impeachable offense is anything the House of Representatives thinks it is.” But at another, very important level, he is also wrong. The Constitution, when it speaks of impeachment, does not
say what Gerald Ford said. It speaks of various forms of wrong-doing
which the framers wanted to disqualify someone from retaining his

2017-08-18 22:01:00 Andy Schmookler

As I see it, if one were to graph the power of the white supremacist belief/passion, it would not be a straight line over time. Rather, it would have dipped during that era where many of us believed that it was receding, and then it would have risen once again starting I’m not sure when– but certainly it was on the rise during the presidency of Barack Obama.

About that revival of racism, it needs to be said that it did not just happen on its own. Yes, times of economic challenge feed the anger and frustration that, in turn, feed bigotry. But there’s more: the political force that’s taken over the right, starting well before Trump, deliberately fed this racial bigotry as a means of extending its power.

In this context, it is worth touching upon that notion at the core of a piece I posted here almost two years (“Cry the Benighted Country”) http://abetterhumanstory.org/2017/06/20/cry-the-benighted-country/ : namely, that the balance of power between the forces of wholeness and the forces of brokenness (between good and evil) can shift in a society over time, for better or for worse. and in America — in this respect and in many others — recent years have seen “An Adverse Shift in the Balance of Power Between Good and Evil.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andy-schmookler/the-fraudulence-of-the-re_b_5608009.html

2017-08-15 15:24:00 Andy Schmookler

Is it your belief, Dave Schutz, that there was nothing that the Democrats/Obama could have done, beginning with the day McConnell announced they’d consider no nominee from President Obama, that would have led to a different outcome– EITHER in terms of whether the Republicans ended up stealing the seat OR in terms of their paying a political price for the theft?

2017-08-11 17:06:00 Andy Schmookler

I wonder if there’s some confusion here, Edward. You write that “telling voters ‘to go find a link to explain your ideas’ is a shameful and unproductive practice for a candidate.”

We have been discussing a piece that is posted here on Blue Virginia by me. I am not a candidate, and I am not writing to the readership here as an assembly of “voters,” nor as a random group of citizens. How I write in this situation is different from how I spoke, as a candidate some years back, to, say, a Labor Day crowd in Buchanan, VA.

I expect, Edward, that the idea that one gears one’s communications to fit the audience is familiar to you. My own experience with audience ranges from doing many years of talk radio conversations with an audience consisting mostly of people without a college education to writing books, published by university presses, for a sophisticated audience.

I’ve endeavored to learn how to do both tasks, appropriately, and to establish a good relationship with my interlocutors and my readers. Whether I always judge correctly or not, making those judgments is something I’ve put a lot of thought and effort into.

In the present case, you think I have misjudged. But it is not clear — as per that “candidate” and “voters” comment of yours — whether you’ve made your own judgments about the present communication on a sound basis.

Here’s what I believe about the audience here on BV for whom I wrote the piece above– concerning in particular the issue on which you have been castigating me: namely, on my having written about the corporatist majority on the Court prior to Scalia’s death, that they have “consistently rul[ed] in favor of corporate interests at the expense of
protecting the average citizens whom the American government is supposed
to express and serve.”

My belief about the readership here is that 1) a reasonably large proportion of these readers, if handed a blue book and asked to substantiate that claim, would be able to provide concrete examples; and 2) the great majority of the rest would have sufficient knowledge in the back of their minds that, even if they couldn’t provide the examples, would feel that they knew that the statement was true.

In other words, I doubt that many of the readers here NEEDED what you’ve been insisting that I must provide in order to give their assent to the point I made, and to place it solidly into the overall framework of the argument of the piece.

Is it your belief that I over-estimate the audience in that respect? Is it the case, Edward, that YOU yourself needed concrete examples in order to be able to judge whether that one point, in a large argument, was valid or not?

With communication, there is always another dimension, aside from the successful transmission of ideas. And that is the establishment of a good relationship with the people one is trying to persuade. Which leads me to wonder what you were hoping for in your communication here with me.

Perhaps you didn’t care about how you came across to me. Perhaps the audience you cared about was the other people who would read your comments, so that it was OK with you if you antagonized me so long as the readers would assent to your put-downs addressed to me.

But if you did care about how your instructing me about how I should do things differently would be received by me, you should know that your tone of condemnation and condescension and castigation did not help create receptivity to your ideas.

How other people here regard them I don’t know. But the tone and manner you adopted does not seem congruent with what appears to be your explicit commitment to constructive and empathetic communication..

2017-08-11 15:33:00 Andy Schmookler

Yes, I supposed you’re right, Edward N Virginia: it is certainly “elitist” to assume that my readers know something about the decisions the corporatist majority on the Court have handed down in recent years. I apologize for making such an assumption.

And surely, rather than just make such an assumption, I should provide a list of such decisions — we could start with CItizens United and McKutcheon, which put even more of our government up for auction to the highest bidder than it had been before.

But perhaps that would be too elitist also, unless I were to write a brief essay outlining the essential components of each decision and explaining the ways in which each takes power and/or money away from average citizens and gives them to the corporate system and to those people who already have the most power and wealth.

But by then, I’ve got a small book going. Which is inappropriate for the forum.

So instead, for those who cannot provide the illustrations of the general idea of the “conservative” majority being a “corporatist” majority from their own mental files, I’ll provide a couple of links to articles that go into some of the concrete examples and the general pattern. Such as:



2017-08-10 18:15:00 Andy Schmookler

You refer here a few times to “elitism,” and “PATERNALISTIC ELITISM,” which you ascribe to this piece.

Could you please indicate what it is that you think elitism has to do with the argument of this piece?

Are you unaware of how the decisions of the Supreme Court impact the lives, and real needs, of the Americans you describe (“who go to work on a schedule, with supervision,restrictions and
inspection (even how much time and when they can go to the toilet) and
who often get home exhausted physically, mentally, and emotionally,
sometime with clothes stained with blood and guts, grease and grit,
dirt, grass, mud, sweat and tears”)?

It is those people, and their children, who will likely pay the largest price for the illegitimate creation of a five-person (five-man) corporatist Court.

One can certainly make a case for the Democrats having done a poor job of communicating with these “hard-working people.” One can even make a case that the Democratic Party has represented the interests less well than the Democratic Party used to.

But no honest case can be made that the Republicans have served their “real needs” better than the Democrats.

2017-08-10 00:28:00 Andy Schmookler

“better spent elsewhere than just constantly demonstrating”

:Constantly demonstrating. I call for demonstrations “Every time there is a 5-4 decision, with Gorsuch voting with a right-wing majority…”

If you think of it, that cannot happen until next year, and mostly not until late spring of 2018.

Which does not interfere with the idea of focusing on Virginia’s important elections coming up this November.

Defeating today’s disgraceful right-wing and its political arm, the Republican Party, involves a many-front war. We will not be well served by thinking narrowly about the overall battle. The most effective strategy will have as many dimensions as has the right-wing’s assault on our democracy.

What’s called for now is the dissemination of the idea, the formation of the will, and the gradual laying of the groundwork for future demonstrations.

Or, if not demonstrations, SOME effective way of bringing this theft — and its utter unacceptability — deep into the awareness of the American public.

That is not the case now. And the cost of that lack of attention and lack of continuing outrage is considerable.

2017-08-09 18:32:00 Andy Schmookler

A comment on this piece on Daily Kos read:

“The American people didn’t care about this issue when McConnell
refused to even consider Garland, they didn’t care about the issue when
Trump nominated Gorsuch, and they don’t care about it now.

“I understand it’s frustrating, but none of the predictions (including
on the front page of this site) that GOP Senators were going to “pay at
the ballot box” for blocking Garland came to pass. Much the opposite,
in fact. And there’s zero evidence that McConnell’s manoeuvre cost the
GOP any seats, or even a single vote.

“Protest what you wish, but I’d submit your efforts are better spent elsewhere.”

To which I responded:

The American people don’t just “care” about things so automatically. That’s what leadership is about.

Think of all those Americans who were (mis)led to “care” about
Benghazi. If millions can be led to get all worked up over that
“nothing-burger,” then why should one assume that they cannot be led to
care about such an enormous thing as the theft of one of our three
branches of government?

Too often, Liberal America looked at how President Obama dealt with
the unprecedentedly oppositional-obstructive opposition and just threw
up their hands, thinking there’s nothing anyone could do in the face of
such opponents.

That kind of thinking got us to where we are now, with Trump as President and Gorsuch on the Court.

I am proposing a different kind of thinking. And I am not just proposing it now, with the benefit of hindsight. Let me provide here a link to an open letter I wrote that was published in the Baltimore Sun in December, 2009 — before the end of Obama’s first year in office — trying to call him to the battle he had been elected to fight: http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2009-12-29/news/bal-op.obamapower29dec29_1_memos-moral-crimes

Tell me: how does that advice look now, eight years later?

This piece is written in the same spirit of “Press the Battle.” http://pressthebattle.org/

2017-08-09 16:27:00 Andy Schmookler

Part of a comment this post received on Daily Kos read:

“I will state candidly that I’m an atheist and secular humanist. Without
meaning to insult religion or spirituality, I generally find that
resorting to calls on spirituality, wholeness, and the sacred to support
an argument rapidly de-legitimizes it. No reference to spirituality is
required to demonstrate that Republican policies are morally abhorrent,
environmentally catastrophic and economically ruinous. Demagoguery is
less a spiritual evil than a social/political one. And the constant
exploitation of ‘faith’ and notional spirituality by the Republicans and
the religious right is one of their most grotesque characteristics.
Christ surely would be appalled by the lot of them.”

My response to that comment was this:

Just to be clear, nothing in the intellectual structure I’m trying to
convey here in this series is in the least incompatible with atheism and secular humanism.

I realize that I’m bringing in words that have traditionally been
associated with religious belief systems— words like “spiritual,” and
“wholeness,” and “the sacred.”

I believe that in a purely secular framework, if one looks deeply
into the nature of how the evolutionary process has shaped us and our
ways of experiencing things; if one looks into the complex nexus of
cause and effect operating in the system of human civilization through
time; one can see things that might reasonably be discussed using such

You yourself use the term “evil” above, saying it could be accurately
applied to what we see happening in the realm of the Republicans. That
term, too, triggers many people to assume that it connects with
traditional religious beliefs (Satan, etc.).

In installments two and three of this series, I try to ground some of
the concepts that, for you, “rapidly de-legitimizes” my presentation.
These arguments I present are grounded in the way evolution — with its
selective process — operates in molding our natures.



I invite you to take a look at those to see where I’m coming from.

Then, in subsequent entries, I begin to build toward what I call “A
Secular Understanding of ‘The Battle Between Good and Evil.’”

What I claim to be offering — and I don’t make the claim lightly — is
a way of understanding evil in secular, naturalistic terms. Evil as a
force whose origins can be explained, and whose modus operandi can be

Much of that is yet to come in this series. But it is in #4– Humankind’s Perilous Step into Terra Incognita: The Rise of Civilization and #5– The Parable of the Tribes: The Problem of Power in Social Evolution that I believe I show where the original (major) impetus for “brokenness” in the human world arose.

Words can mean whatever we can agree for them to mean. But I believe
you will find that the words I used that turned you off can be both
compatible with your secular humanist orientation and some of the
essential meanings that have traditionally been attached to them.

2017-08-03 02:46:00 Andy Schmookler

Putin has now retaliated disproportionately, one might say, to the passing of the sanctions bill. He has upped the ante with his expulsion of roughly 2/3 of the American diplomatic corps in Moscow.

So how will Trump respond to this escalation? Will he continue to show a strange reluctance to treat Putin even with the level of enmity he has directed at some leaders in our best democratic friends (like Merkel and the mayor of London)? Or will he uphold his policy of striking back ten times harder than whoever comes at him?

Interesting that Putin has chosen to put Trump in this position. I wonder what he’s counting on Trump’s response to be.

Good chance Trump will aim his fire at Congress for passing the bill, even if he signed it.

2017-07-30 20:40:00 Andy Schmookler

One of the comments this piece has received today on Daily Kos (https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2017/7/29/1685247/-Moral-Exo-Skeletons-and-Endo-Skeletons-A-Key-Divide-in-the-American-Body-Politic?_=2017-07-29T08:17:13.377-07:00#comment_67289649) reads:

“This is a very interesting article, but I think the reality of
“external vs. internal” morality can be boiled down to this simple fact:
People who can’t or won’t act morally without a rigid external code of
laws and rules are, by definition, immoral in their essential being
— i.e. their natural inclination is to do wrong. People who can and do
act morally without a rigid external code are doing so because,
inwardly, they are moral in their essential being — their natural
inclination is to do right.

“Any society that is dominated by people who are inwardly immoral is
doomed, regardless of whatever laws and rules that society may create to
try to enforce morality on the public. People whose natural inclination
is to do wrong will try to bend the rules, find loopholes, cheat, break
them if they can get away with it, lie to themselves (rationalize)
about their conduct, etc. This is exactly what we’re seeing with Trump
and his followers.”

To which I responded:

“The idea that the exo-skeletons are “immoral in their essential
being” while the endo-skeletons are “moral in their essential being”
misreads, I believe, the human reality here.

“Certainly, the major schools of psychology that I am aware of would
say that we ALL have impulses that are in need of being controlled. (The
people who have been abused will doubtless have more rage than those
who have been loved well, but not all the impulses that need to be
controlled are derived from injury and trauma.)

“The Freudian school speaks of the “id,” with its sexual and
aggressive impulses. The Jungian school speaks of the “shadow,” with the
elements of the self that are the “dark side” of the psyche.

“I would say that the human psyche invariably has components both of
the kind that are compatible with harmonious social life, and those that
need to be held in check.

“The endo-skeletons I wrote about above are able to act morally not
because their essential nature contains no parts that need to be kept
in check. Rather, it is because they have been socialized in a way that
leads to the “internalization” of the moral standards which they then
employ to control those impulses that would otherwise lead to immoral or
amoral behavior.

“This idea of internalization is a central psychological concept in all the schools of depth psychology that I’m aware of. (Freud spoke of the “superego” as an “introject,” an authority figure experienced on the outside and brought within the psyche to
monitor the impulses.

“It is from that perspective that I don’t think the issue is to be understood in terms of different qualities of some “essential being,” but different structures that locate the “moral authority” in a different locus— internal in one case, external in another.

“That said, I would certainly agree that people whose structure is built upon a lie to themselves about themselves are dangerous people, and should not wield power in a society.”

2017-07-29 17:52:00 Andy Schmookler

A propos of the idea that the Democrats are habitually too gentle and “nice” to the Republicans, there is an article today on Daily Kos (https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2017/7/28/1684776/-No-Sen-Schumer-don-t-turn-the-page-Now-is-Democrats-chance-to-attack-and-change-minds?detail=emaildkre ) in which an author identified as “Simplify” disagrees vigorously with Senator Schumer’s following up on Mitch McConnell’s “pathetic, lying concession speech” by saying, “I would suggest we turn the page.”

I confess I don’t see this piece of the playing field clearly enough to know if I endorse what Simplify goes on to say. But I can say that this is the KIND of counsel that the Democrats frequently need to hear and follow. Simplify writes:

“No, don’t turn the page. Strike now, while the iron is hot! Cement
Repbulicans’ murderous mendacity regarding health care in the public
mind, now when their failure and cravenness is fresh
and undeniable! Lead the Democrats and spend two weeks speaking with one
voice to cement in the public mind the viciousness of Republican
nihilism and the utterly catastrophic meaning of their morally bankrupt

“Do not let this moment pass, like you and your cohort did after the
2011 Republican-led government shutdown and federal debt default threat.
Back then you had the chance to lay absolute waste to the Republican
Party for directly hurting the country and holding it hostage. That
should’ve been the end of Republican national electoral
viability for a generation. But no, you let it slide. (And then the
hubbub over some stupid slip-ups in the PPACA website roll-out finished
off the moment in feebly sad fashion.)

“I implore you, Democrats, thunder in unison with righteous anger over
the Republicans’ relentless striving to rip people’s medical lifelines
away, over the Republicans’ attempts to let many of us suffer and die in
bankruptcy so that undeservedly rich political contributors could
further stuff their already-overflowing coffers. Flood all media with
fire and brimstone over the Republicans’ deceitfulness and cravenness
amidst the well-deserved collapse of their attempt to foist their vile
policies upon us.”

In view of the Democrats’ “characteristic error,” this point of view is at least quite worthy of consideration.

2017-07-28 17:40:00 Andy Schmookler

I know that McCain has a spotty record, supposed maverick and then Bush assk-kisser, one might add as an additional tension.

But still picking Palin doesn’t go any distance in explaining his flying back to rescue a disreputable process that he then proceeds to eloquently denounce.

I’m left puzzled still.

2017-07-26 19:32:00 Andy Schmookler

I’m puzzled about that McCain performance of yesterday. I.e., the combination of that speech and that vote.

I’ve read what I could find about it, including the pieces linked to here, above. But I remain puzzled. (The VOX piece comes closest to making sense of it, but not close enough to satisfy me: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/7/25/16027528/john-mccain-speech-health-bill-yes-vote.)

If you’re going to make that speech, why would you vote that way? And if you’re going to vote that way, why make that speech?

Either one by itself makes a kind of sense. But the two together?

I don’t get it.

2017-07-26 17:22:00 Andy Schmookler

I believe you are right, Gordon Briggs, about Grant being both an outstanding warrior and a good steward. But I don’t think that the period of his reputational decline is due to any inconvenience of the figure he embodied with that combination.

He remained a most highly respected figure through at least the time of his death– with millions turning out for his funeral procession in 1885. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulysses_S._Grant#Historical_reputation)

That article attributes to the temporary decline of his reputation to the scandals that beset his presidency (but did not involve Grant himself), and to the dominance for a time of Southern “Lost Cause” historians.

Over the past half century, Grant’s reputation has been on the upswing.

BTW, my recollection is less about stewardship than about his having been unusual in his time in his strong desire for the Indians to be treated right.

2017-07-24 02:32:00 Andy Schmookler

Where this piece appears on Daily Kos, one person wrote as a comment:

“Thanks, Andy, I think this is an important insight. I wonder if there’s
any form of messaging that would help shift this perception of manhood.:

And I wrote in reply:

“Long term things require long-term solutions. How we bring up our boys
is more or less the foundation of the matter. But then, this foundation
is built through historical experience — much of it traumatic experience
— as the males are compelled to make themselves into warriors for the
sake of the group’s survival. So over time they become these great
weapons whose humanity has been stunted by the requirements of being
willing to kill and to suffer grievous bodily injury, and to fight with
ferocity— requirements that the broken system of civilization has
imposed, and that requires injury to the human animal. So the whole
network of brokenness really needs to be address, for us to solve this
problem at its root. But in the meanwhile, we — parents, teachers,
counselors, coaches — can help our boys grow up with the sense that
being good stewards (taking care of people and things) is as important a
component of real manhood as fighting enemies. More heroes like Jimmy
Stewart in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, fewer heroes like those who win
shoot-outs at the end of the movie. More football coaches not like my
former Marine sargeant who shamed me for wanting to warm my hurting
hands playing football in the Minnesota cold.:

2017-07-23 19:21:00 Andy Schmookler

Wondering: If Sessions is forced out, and a replacement is nominated, in the confirmation process will (enough) Republicans join the Democrats in insisting that, to be confirmed, the nominee must pledge not to fire Mueller except for proper cause, nor to interfere with Mueller’s investigation in any improper way?

2017-07-22 13:56:00 Andy Schmookler

BTW, I recognize now that I mistaken in thinking that the blatant disregard for the rule of law, and the implicit obstruction of justice, were too little noted in the media accounts. I must just not have seen the right stuff. Happily, the important point here is being widely noted.

I think this may be a teachable moment. Maybe even for some who have not abandoned their support for Trump.(Though it’s less clear-cut than shooting somebody on Fifth Avenue.)

For one thing, no one can listen to Trump’s comments about Sessions and fail to note that it fully confirms what Comey has said Trump was up to with him.

2017-07-21 00:25:00 Andy Schmookler

Leon Neyfakh on slate.com (http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2017/07/it_s_shocking_that_jeff_sessions_recused_himself_from_the_russia_investigation.html) notes what an aberration Sessuins recusing himself was in the context of the Trump administration. In Neymakh’s view, Session really could have refused to recuse. Because hey– who was going to make him in this lawless administration!

He writes:

“But Trump was right to be shocked when Sessions willingly stepped aside.
Though it may have seemed like a no-brainer at the time, the fact that
Sessions did the right thing stands, in retrospect, as the biggest
surprise of the Trump era so far and one of the only instances in which
this administration has lived up to a typical standard of government

“In the before times, when presidential administrations behaved like
presidential administrations, an attorney general’s willingness to
listen to career staff on a matter of black-and-white institutional
ethics wouldn’t have seemed extraordinary. Now it does, because with
Trump as president, the notion that politics is governed by unchangeable
laws of gravity has been exposed as a collective delusion. Under the
new rules, Sessions could have remained in charge of the investigation
even though he clearly shouldn’t have. Granted, it would have been
impossible to justify such a decision in a rational, principled way. So

2017-07-21 00:21:00 Andy Schmookler

I see that Sally Yates went straight to the point, tweeting:

“POTUS attack on Russia recusal reveals yet again his violation of the
essential independence of DOJ, a bedrock principle of our democracy.”

2017-07-20 17:18:00 Andy Schmookler

After a while, I went back and added this to my response to that request that I define power:

“Another way of defining power comes to me. Power is what is required
in order to be able to commit and injustice. (Doesn’t mean that one
would, but only that it is within one’s range of options. The weak
cannot commit injustice, except by creating mini-situations where they
are the strong, like poor highwaymen robing people at gun-point or

“I have previously (in THE PARABLE OF THE TRIBE) defined “justice” as “the antidote to [what can be broken about] power.” But never until now have I thought that one can use “injustice” to define “power.”

The quote from Thucydides, that I have found so apt that I’ve been
quoting it for forty years, the Athenians say to the Melians, prior to
giving them an ultimatum and then conquering them and exterminating the
men and selling the women and children off as slaves: “Right, as the
world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the
strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”

2017-07-16 21:36:00 Andy Schmookler

A commenter on this piece, where it appears on Daily Kos, asked me to explain what I mean by “power.” Certainly, a fair enough request. I posted this as my first answer:

“I define power as being that which enables the will of one actor to prevail
against the will of another. Who calls the shots? Who gets to “talk” and
who is compelled to listen (to use a phrasing from a book called
“Nerves of Government”). Who gets to dominate, and who has to act the
subordinate, yielding role.

“Power in this sense is necessarily a zero-sum game. Unlike with love,
where all can get more or all can get less, the power to determine what
choice is made for the system as a whole always adds up to 100%, and
one party can gain in power only at the expense of another.

“This concept of “power” as the means of domination is not at all idiosyncratic. It’s very close to what is generally meant.

In most human systems over the past 10,000 years, what it has
required of people to achieve power has quite often been quite opposed
to what we consider best in people.”

2017-07-16 21:35:00 Andy Schmookler

I responded to Jack’s email with this:

Yes,I’m aware of that kind of thinking. And I’ve been doing some of it

The direction my thinking has been going has been to
differentiate between two different problems that can pertain to, say,
the creature trashing its environment.

There’s the nature of the creature: not evolved to have the kind of self-restraint not previously required, so that humans now wield powers they do not quickly enough learn to wield wisely. Then there’s the nature of the systems: like a market system that enshrines profit-maximization (short-term at that) as the motivating force, and that drives the planet over the edge with its
institutionalized greed (as well as its propagandistic molding of the
humans within its field of influence).

Neither is obviously insurmountable. But for both, the need to surmount surely
needs to be recognized before that need can be met.

This is all relevant, by the way, to the piece I recently posted: “Where There Is No Vision, The People Perish.” http://bluevirginia.us/2017/06/no-vision-people-perish That piece was about the need for us as a species to envision where we want to get to in the coming centuries, and to steer our course now with that desired destination in mind.

2017-07-15 23:14:00 Andy Schmookler

The following was sent to me by Jack Miles– whom I met originally when he was the acquiring editor for THE PARABLE OF THE TRIBES at the University of California Press. (He is also the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, which I highly recommend, GOD: A BIOGRAPHY.) I share his comment here with his permission.

“Your use of the phrase “on any planet” prompts me to send along the following link to a recent, much-noticed article in New York magazine:


“The mimesis described in the Parable of the Tribes includes the spread of power-maximizing use of the raw material of the planet. It entails the creation of what is now pretty widely called the anthropocene. But if this stage in the evolution of a civilization is the final stage, the suicidal stage, then–Wallace-Wells argues–we have an explanation for why the universe does not offer many simultaneous examples of civilization on different planets. Civilization may be an inherently short-lived natural phenomenon. In geological time, we blink on, then we blink off.”

2017-07-15 23:08:00 Andy Schmookler

Something in a Dionne column this morning that reinforces something I said here in early Jone in a piece titled, “Trump and the America Spirit: Turning This Lemon Into Lemonade” (http://bluevirginia.us/2017/06/trump-american-spirit-turning-lemon-lemonade). It’s about how Trump’s very terribleness can be made into an occasion for reaffirming all those values that he tramples upon.

Dionne writes that Trump’s “dire view, which he expressed in his speech in Poland,

“should remind the democratic left and the democratic right that while they have disagreed on many aspects of American foreign policy over the past two decades, they share some deep allegiances. These include a largely positive assessment of what the modern world has achieved; a hopeful vision of what could lie before us; a commitment to democratic norms as the basis of our thinking about the kind of world we seek; and a belief that ethnic pluralism and religious pluralism are to be celebrated, not feared.”

2017-07-10 17:11:00 Andy Schmookler

Whatever there may be to Nader’s analysis, this just doesn’t hold up as an explanation of the Democrats’ weakness in dealing with the Republicans.

Just consider how Obama dealt with the obstructionists. He never made a huge issue of that, or of any of their other disgraceful behavior.

Before that, the Democrats took impeachment off the table with W.

Maybe this money bit, plus the loss of power by organized labor, explains why the Democrats often were friendlier to Big Money than they used to be back in the time of FDR, and even up into the era of George Meany running the AFL-CIO.

But what do “economic issues” have to do with how one deals with obstructionists?

President Obama had the constitutional right to appoint a justice to the Supreme Court. McConnell and the other Rs stole it from him.

You may recall that I posted here a whole series of pieces about how this should be treated by the Democrats as a casus belli– an provocation justifying a (political) war.

Are we to believe that the reason that this wasn’t made into the biggest stink imaginable by the outraged president, and his outraged Democratic allies, is because they were afraid they would alienate Big Money?

Makes no sense to me.

(And now, for as far as the eye can see, we face a majority corporatist Court instead of the majority liberal Court to which events and the Constitution entitled us.)

2017-07-02 02:52:00 Andy Schmookler

I believe the problem with the Democrats lies elsewhere– namely in blindness and weakness that hamper their waging of the necessary battle.

And I believe the moral contrast between the Ds and the Rs is stark. Sure, money has bought a part of the Ds, as the power of Labor has plummeted. But the Ds regularly pursue worthy goals which, if achieved, would make America more whole.

The problem is not that they fail to be in favor of enough right stuff. The problem is that they too seldom prevail.

2017-07-01 04:03:00 Andy Schmookler

Nice formulation.

2017-06-29 14:43:00 Andy Schmookler

You may be right. But there’s one piece of the picture you’re painting that seems to me inaccurate, or at least distorted.

The Democrats have had some very bad elections, in terms of Congress. 2010 and 2014 especially. (2010 was especially regrettable because of the Republican gerrymandering that resulted, making it necessary for the Democrats to get something like 55% of the vote to get a majority in the House.)

Your description of the leadership’s role focuses on the congressional leadership, like Pelosi. While there’s a little bit of truth about that, we really need to acknowledge where the real responsibility for leadership lay in those elections: the Democratic president.

When a party has the presidency, he (still only men) is the party’s leader, and he is the one with the bully pulpit, and it is he who is in the position to take his party’s case to the public.

Don’t forget, even as the Democrats were losing their majority with Pelosi their leader in the House, the Democrats were also losing governorships and state legislatures. Can’t blame Pelosi for those.

That kind of leadership was sorely lacking from Obama.

A piece I published here after the 2014 elections I adapted into the preface to my book WHAT WE’RE UP AGAINST. That piece concludes with this, about the disgraceful Republican obstructionism::

“Since the election, President Obama has become feisty about
using the power of his office to get something accomplished despite the Republicans’ do-nothing obstructionism. That’s good.But why didn’t he get feisty before the election—when the people were still deciding to whom to give power—and show the electorate how the Republican Party was trampling on the traditions of our democracy and harming America?

“This should have been the central issue of the 2014 campaign.

“What could be more pertinent to a congressional election than how to get a Congress that will do the people’s business?
But from the Democrats on this issue, including the president,
hardly a peep. That left the American electorate hating
Congress for failing them but nonetheless inclined to hand still
more power to the party that deliberately made Congress the
dysfunctional mess they hate.”

Now, if the Republican obstructionism is what that election should have been about, and if the failure to focus the election on that is what caused the Democrats’ disaster, how much of the responsibility for that failure rests with the Minority Leader in the House?

Compared with the President, how much was she in a position to do in framing the central issue of the campaign?

2017-06-28 01:41:00 Andy Schmookler

As you suggest, Perseus1986, the argument that you find persuasive is one that I acknowledged has at least something to it. And I followed your argument comfortably enough up until a certain point where you made an unexpected move that seems in need of explanation.

That point is where the front office would be saying to Pelosi, “we think it is time for a change in direction…”

Is that “change of direction” something that you mean seriously, or was that just words for the front-office kiss-off of a coach whose team hasn’t been winning?

If you mean it seriously, what do you have mind? What direction is Pelosi leading in, and what change would you want to see — direction-wise — from a new leader?

For that matter, while the Republicans have a majority, and remain committed to the abominable “Hastert rule” — in which only things that command the support of a majority of the Republicans (not a majority of the members of the House) is allowed to come to the House floor for a vote — just what kinds of “directions” can the Democrats go?

It seems that all the Democrats can do is hold their caucus together, which Pelosi seems to have been very good at, and to come before the cameras and make a case to the public for what they believe about the matters at hand.

What they cannot do is enact legislation, either centrist, center-left, liberal, progressive, or whatever.

So what direction are you wanting to see?

2017-06-27 23:53:00 Andy Schmookler

I only saw this comment from you just now, Lowell, or I would have responded earlier.

No, I do not regard that reader’s review on Amazon to be a “thoughtful critique.” Nor do I find his “refutation” to have substance. A full response from me would be lengthy. But let me confine myself to this:

I present an idea that once some creature extricates itself from the niche in which it evolved biologically, it is INEVITABLE, regardless of that creature’s nature, that it’s (civilized) societies will evolve in a direction mandated by the selection for the ways of power.

This reader writes dismissively: “the hypothesis that this scenario is inevitable is highly suspicious.”

I maintain that the logic is compelling, inescapable, and that I demonstrate that and substantiate that it has actually played out over the millennia.

The reader is “highly suspicious” but really does not touch the argument.

In the next installment in this series, I will be laying out the argument. (I will not be providing all the documentation, historical evidence, etc, that are found in the book.)

The readers here will be able to judge for themselves whether “compelling” or “suspicious” better describes what I claim to show.

This reader fi

2017-06-20 15:21:00 Andy Schmookler

Looking ahead to tomorrow’s race in Georgia…. It occurs to me that the media and the pundits would treat a 50.1 to 49.9 outcome completely differently depending on whether the D or the R get the 50.1.

That would be foolishness.

It is true that whether Ossoff or Handel got the 50.1 would determine which gets to take the seat in the House for the next year and a half.

But as a bell-weather for the state of our politics in America, the results SHOULD be regarded as virtually equivalent.

For the immediate assignment of power, WINNING matters hugely. Hence we got W instead of Gore. But as a gauge of, in this case, Trump’s impact on the popularity of Republicans, either way it goes a close race for a seat won just months ago by a Republican by 23 points conveys the same message.

It would be good if that point could not be lost, whether Ossoff triumphs or not. I dearly hope he does triumph– he seems like a fine candidate, and one more seat in the House is a good thing.

But the main reason I hope he triumphs is that I have every confidence that the media will irrationally and inappropriately treat the story entirely differently if Ossoff wins by one vote or loses by one vote.

2017-06-19 20:40:00 Andy Schmookler

I note that as of a bit more than a week ago, the odds of Trump’s either being impeached, or forced to resign, are almost 2:1 in favor.

On this, the NEWSWEEK story (http://www.newsweek.com/trump-impeachment-odds-comey-testimony-623358), citing the British betting firm Ladbrokes, says:

“Those who put their money where their mouth is believe that it is
increasingly likely that Trump will either be impeached or resign. The
odds on Trump’s term being cut short moved from 4/5 to 4/7 with British
betting firm Ladbrokes in the wake of Comey’s testimony. The new odds
equate to a 63.6 percent chance of Trump failing to make it to 2020.”

2017-06-19 16:23:00 Andy Schmookler

Kenneth Starr surprises on this score, as you probably know (since you always seem to be current on the WashPost opinion pieces). His piece (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/firing-robert-mueller-would-be-an-insult-to-the-founding-fathers/2017/06/15/84b75bd4-51f4-11e7-be25-3a519335381c_story.html?utm_term=.7b86e199a57a). Under the headline saying that it would be “an insult to the Founding Fathers” for Trump to fire Mueller, Starr says:

“Absent the most extreme circumstances, the president would be
singularly ill-advised to threaten, much less order, Mueller’s firing. The official processes now under way should continue
unimpeded. Let the legislative and executive branches fulfill their
respective roles, ordained at the founding and matured by the wisdom of
sobering experience gained over the course of seven generations.”

Starr, many will recall, was the Inspector Javert (Les Miserables) relentlessly pursuing Bill Clinton until he could finally catch him in a lie about his illicit sexual conduct. If Starr can step up and affirm the appropriateness of Mueller and the task he has taken on, so might there be others from the right.

2017-06-16 22:06:00 Andy Schmookler

“Must”be done means that the price of its not being done may well be very high. Just as the cost of forfeiting those other battles for hearts and minds (Limbaugh, the Republican demonization of Obama) have proven enormous.

The fact that those battles were not fought does not diminish the truth that they needed to be fought. Does it?

I do name some specific people who might conceivably a) speak up in this way and b) have some credibility with the people that Trump and Gingrich are trying to manipulate. Surely you saw those names. So is your point that you cannot imagine that they would be willing to counter the smears of Mueller? Or that you don’t think that they would sway anyone if they did?

My argument would be that — just as some Republicans like Thune and Rubio reject the smears, when asked — there ARE Republicans who might do the same but with greater boldness and intensity.

This is, after all, one part of the overall battle for the rule of law in America. And clearly, not all the Republicans are as amoral as Gingrich and Trump.

At the very least, the effort should be made.

Two things to add:

First, the Republican base has been allowed to become so degraded that they would even think of nominating a grotesque human being like Trump. Part of saving America in this era must involve a long-term project of resurrecting some degree of sanity, decency, contact with reality among those people.

This is one situation that is suitable for making a beginning on that.

Second, the Republican Party of our times has itself become something atrocious by every standard of American history, and every moral standard as well. (Need I elaborate on that?) The saving of America in this era requires not only defeating this party, which it certainly does, but also finding ways to return this party to something more akin to the normal American party many of us are old enough to remember it’s being. Like, for instance, a party that will put nation ahead of partisan advantage when that’s important.

This is one situation suitable for working in that direction as well.

2017-06-16 19:55:00 Andy Schmookler

I just heard Senator Warner’s opening statement, and I was impressed. He managed to present a lot of different pieces of the picture in a pretty effective way.

Senator Warner is a more able man than I reckoned him to be. A good man for the position he’s occupying.

He and Adam Schiff are both well-chosen to play their present roles as leaders and spokesmen.

2017-06-13 18:59:00 Andy Schmookler

Is the word about Trump considering firing Mueller just a bluff, an attempt to intimidate Mueller? Or is it preparing the way for him actually to be fired?

My piece from last week — “Warn Trump Now: Firing Mueller Would Be an Impeachable Offense” http://bluevirginia.us/2017/06/warn-trump-now-firing-mueller-impeachable-offense — didn’t get any such warnings out before this unofficial threat became public.

One wonders: would the Republicans in Congress swallow such a move? Is there SOME limit to what they will tolerate from this atrocious president of theirs?

2017-06-13 16:06:00 Andy Schmookler

About that meeting with each cabinet secretary taking a turn expressing adulation for the Great Leader: What does Trump think that looks like? Does he think this north-korea-esque display of obligatory admiration and gratitude makes him look good?

If he believes that, he is surely in a state of disconnection from reality.

2017-06-13 16:02:00 Andy Schmookler

Starting with the right…. As you know, at the heart of our present crisis, I see a “destructive force,” or a force that spreads a pattern of brokenness to whatever it touches, a force that works to expand its dominion in the world. (The idea of such a force is not, I realize, readily grasped intuitively– which is why I wrote WHAT WE’RE UP AGAINST.)

If one stipulates the existence of such a force, it would reasonably operate so that IT, and not the people, could control what direction the nation would take. One important strategy for doing that is the age-old strategy of “divide and conquer.” If one can manipulate people to be so embattled and antagonistic that they neutralize each other, then the force can step into that 1 + -1 = 0 void and call the shots.

The right is the place to begin that antagonism. Back in the 80s, in my book whose subtitle was HEALING THE WOUNDS THAT DRIVE US TO WAR, I went into why some people have a preference for conflict. A point worth mentioning in this context is that some people — by virtue of their upbringing, in which a harsh set of demands hostile to their needs gets internalized — have an internal war that is relieved by projecting onto “the other” whatever they would otherwise be at war with in themselves.

So the right gathers in the racists and anti-Semites and general xenophobes who show, by those demonizations of others, their own unintegrated, conflict-ridden inner structure. They are most comfortable with a world that is at war. (Which is why a guy like Trump — who goes out of his way to pick fights — can be their hero.)

So some of the prominent agents of this force of brokenness — like Limbaugh and Fox News and Karl Rove go after such people with a brokenness inside — and fan the flames of their hostilities, and direct them against whatever “others” will best suit the purpose of advancing the force with which they are aligned.

As for the liberal side….While leftists of the extreme sort can be conflict-oriented, the liberals want everyone to get along. Their vulnerability is likely to be in the opposite direction: an inability or unwillingness to engage in conflict when it is called for. So liberals largely did not return fire as the right went after them for years, demonizing Democrats (like Clinton, like Obama, etc.), and declaring that no one can be a Christian and a Democrat. And the liberals kept hoping for things to get nice.

But then there came the “enough is enough” provocations, especially embodied by Trump’s completely undisguised dishonesty and thuggishness. And the fire of enmity has been lit in the hearts of liberals now as well. Twenty-some years of abuse and the assault on all we hold sacred– it’s enough to make even a liberal really angry!

2017-06-12 01:18:00 Andy Schmookler

I see that Preet Bharara is back in the news (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/fired-prosecutor-says-he-refused-trumps-call-and-lost-job-the-next-day_us_593d450be4b0c5a35ca04e24?ncid=inblnkushpmg00000009). And the story he is telling is not only like Jim Comey’s, but it also reminds me of one of the classic detective stories told by C.K. Chesterton in his FATHER BROWN series.

(I’d put Father Brown second only to Sherlock Holmes in the detective story pantheon– Chesterton’s purpose being more spiritual, less a matter of pure intellect, than Doyle’s in the Holmes mysteries.)

In this particular Father Brown story, the case is solved by the realization that an entire battle had been created so that there would be many dead bodies among which the one corpse that the murderer had produced through his crime could be hidden.

Now, how that connects with Preet Bharara– the U.S. Attorney that Trump first asked to stay on, and then fired from his position, which included jurisdiction over money laundering and over the part of Manhattan that includes Trump Tower.

Trump apparently had tried to enlist Bharara in a one-to-one relationship, as he did with Comey. And as with Comey, that was entirely inappropriate. Bharara, recognizing this inappropriateness, did not return Trump’s calls. And it was apparently the next day that he was fired.

But of course, it wasn’t Bharara alone who was fired. As in the Father Brown story, the perpetrator made sure that the field was strewn with an abundance of bodies: Trump fired ALL the U.S. attorneys nationwide– presumably hoping to obscure the crime involving the one body — Preet Bharara — whom he really wanted to bump off because he would not sacrifice his prosecutorial integrity to serve the President’s “corrupt intent.”

2017-06-11 18:09:00 Andy Schmookler

I’d like to say a word in commendation of Senator Mark Warner.

A month and a half ago, I posted here a piece (http://bluevirginia.us/2017/04/senator-mark-warner-mia-awol) with the title “Senator Mark Warner: MIA, AWOL, or What?” It was occasioned by an article by Michael Isakoff reporting that after the promising press conference held by Senators Burr and Warner in late March, in which the Senate Intelligence Committee was setting forth on its Trump/Russia inquiries, virtually nothing had been done. I asked Senator Warner to either explain why we should be satisfied with what he was doing about that, or to change his course.

Since then, of course, the Committee has indeed moved forward and it does indeed seem to be doing its job. And Senator Warner in particular has been excellent.

I don’t know what was going on with all that delay during April, nor what Senator Warner was or was not doing to get things moving.

But having criticized Senator Warner then when his silence troubled me, I want to publicly praise him now when his public statements show him discharging extremely well his responsibilities in what he had described by saying, “This may very well be the most important thing I do in my public life.”

2017-06-10 14:52:00 Andy Schmookler

What you said just now does seem to me the best case to make for Northam:

1) He has labored at the level of specifically Virginia politics more than Perriello. (Though Perriello’s career suggests to me that he’s a very quick study.) And
2) He has earned the gratitude of many Democratic political figures, with his travels around the state, during his Lt. Gov. years, supporting them well. (Though their support of Northam’s candidacy was pledged when everyone thought that he would be running unopposed for this nomination, and it’s unknown how many would have done so had they seen the choice we voters now face.)

As I indicate in my piece, above, I expect that if Northam becomes our governor, he’ll be as satisfactory as McAuliffe has been. Which, to me, means: I’m really, really glad he beat Kuccinelli, but I am well short of thrilled.

2017-06-05 18:28:00 Andy Schmookler

About votes, I can’t comment– except to say that there can be more to them than meets the eye: I recall the poison pill the Bushites put into the 2002 homeland security bill to lure Democrats into voting against an extraneous anti-labor provision, so then the Republicans could attack the likes of Senator Max Cleland in George — who had left three of his four limbs in Viet Nam — for being on Osama bin Laden’s side.

So maybe the votes your describe were wrong-headed, or perhaps they were something else.

But in any event, the rubber hits the road in many places. For example:

At the Harrisonburg forum, Northam’s spokesman claimed that Northam was a “progressive.” That was a positive word with that audience. But I’ve read Northam quoted as rejecting being labeled even as a “liberal,” maintaining that he’s more “moderate” than that. And saying that he believes the smaller the government the better.

That, combined with the Bush vote in 2004 (and yes, it is to his credit that he did not hide that fact, but it does not change its troubling implications), and with his reportedly having come close to switching back over to the Republican side in the Senate, after being elected as a Democrat, do not encourage me to join you in your evident conclusion:

To wit, I cannot see that someone who has the concerns you’ve indicated — environment, anti-tobacco, pro-choice, regulation of our corporate system — would be wise to trust Northam more than Perriello.

And we see that some of the national figures most clearly entitled to be considered unwavering champions of such values — like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — have reached the same conclusion as I have.

Somehow, apparently, you think you see these candidates more clearly than do Sanders, Warren, McKibben, and others who, it would seem, share your values.

If those are, indeed, the values you’re trying to serve.

2017-06-05 16:56:00 Andy Schmookler

I am not yet in a position to comment on this particular vote.

But as for being “fooled” about how good Perriello is on environmental issues, I would expect that the last person susceptible to being fooled would be Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org. (Every environmentalist presumably knows him as a superhawk on the environment– not afraid, most recently, to go after Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada and darling of many progressives.)

Bill McKibben has endorsed Tom Perriello (https://www.tomforvirginia.com/2017/05/350-org-founder-environmentalist-bill-mckibben-endorses-tom-perriello-virginia-governor/).

Are you going to claim, Virginia4, that Bill McKibben doesn’t know where an environmentalist’s concerns are best addressed in this Democratic primary?

2017-06-05 15:48:00 Andy Schmookler

A a couple of problematic things in your comment, barbaralee12. (Other than Citizens United not being a “bill” but a Supreme Court case.)

When you say, “No one is going to stop this pipeline,” is that a prediction (quote possibly true), or are you saying that it would be impossible to stop it (not true, as I understand it, from Mike Tidwell of Chesapeake Climate Action Network).

When you bring up George Soros, are you trying to imply some equivalence in terms of corruption between a Soros donation and a Dominion donation? If so, what kind of “favors” do you imagine that Soros would want out of the Virginia government? The question pretty much shows the utter difference here:

Soros has spent the last quarter century trying to encourage democracy and the values of the “open society” around the world. (It’s his money that helped establish the Central European University in Budapest that the fascist regime there is now attacking.)

Right-wingers often mention Soros money, as if it smelled as bad as, say, Koch money. But I am unaware of Soros using his donations, or any of his other philanthropy, to serve his own private interests or enrichment. The same cannot be said of the Koch brothers. And it cannot be said of Dominion.

In my mind, if George Soros donates to help Tom Perriello, that is a very impressive personal endorsement, an indication that this strong champion of democratic values — and a very smart fellow as well — believes in Perriello.

BTW, a great many people from Obama’s circle have endorsed Perriello. I am not at all surprised if the former President himself steers clear of a primary endorsement. Since leaving office, has Obama endorsed any Democrat running against another Democrat in a primary?

2017-06-04 04:14:00 Andy Schmookler

Maybe it’s a matter of not getting it. Surely the diversionary tactic is disrespectful of the intelligence of the listeners.

My own interpretation is that this fellow — who was young, but quite sharp — was just being slippery. Like the best defense is a good offense. Like if you’ve not got the facts or the law on your side, pound the table. If the subject is disadvantageous for your guy, politically, change the subject: treat the question of political uprightness as if it is an unwarranted insistence on “purity.”

2017-06-03 21:47:00 Andy Schmookler

I’d like to mention also the disappointing way that the representative of the Northam campaign at the Indivisible event dealt with the question of why Northam had declined to foreswear taking Dominion money.

He dismissed the issue as a “purity test.” Which, if you think of it, really does not address the question asked.

Evasive in dealing with what the governor COULD do, as both Lowell and I point out here. And evasive in deflecting the question by characterizing the issue as a “purity test.”

Another part of his answer was to indicate that $100,000-plus dollars, over a ten-year period, is not that much money.

But my guess is that it is not just the money that Dominion offers politicians– again, of both parties, not just the Mark Obenshains, who serve the Koch brothers but also the fossil fuel interests, but also some Democrats, including some otherwise good Democrats.

It’s also the alliance. Dominion is an 800-pound gorilla, whose support or opposition I expect can make or break a politician. At least until we get more thorough-going ethics reform than the status quo in the political power system is likely to give us.

2017-06-03 21:02:00 Andy Schmookler

I feel moved to pay public tribute here to Zbigniew Brzezinski who — as the news summary above reports — has just died at the age of 89.

I had interaction with him at various points in the 1980s and 1990s, beginning when the Carter administration left office and Zbig came to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, where I then was employed to probe the minds of the experts there to distill a picture of what international “contingencies” the United States might anticipate and prepare for.

Brzezinski’s input into that process was in a class by itself. Indeed, he would be near the top of the most brilliant people I’ve encountered. And most articulate– and this precision in expressing his thoughts was in a language not his native tongue.

In the 1990s, I also had the experience of disagreeing with him (the substantive issue was whether “nuclear deterrence,” which had worked with the Soviet Kremlin, could be counted on to work similarly with a megalomaniac like Saddam Hussein). In disagreement, Brzezinski remained reliably the gentleman that he was in every other situation.

Over the years, I have seen many on the left respond with hostility to the very mention of his name. He was a tough-minded cold warrior, and some people of a more dovish point of view regarded him as a foe.

But in my view, his contributions to the American conversation — including his clear-eyed critiques of W’s disastrous war in Iraq — were always worth listening to.

Since the first time I talked with him, I have had the utmost respect for Zbigniew Brzezinski.

2017-05-27 15:58:00 Andy Schmookler

So the disagreement seems much reduced, but there still may remain an important point at issue.

You agree with me that Hayes/Maddow/O’Donnell are “generally good.” And I agree with you that most of these other characters are nothing to cheer about, or worse.

But I read your original comment as saying, in effect, “I don’t support your call for us to rescue Lawrence O’Donnell, nor to fight against taking MSNBC in the direction Andrew Luck seems to want to take it. I don’t support it because the network stinks, we’ve got better sources, and ‘cable news’ is an oxymoron.”

If your ultimate point was to say that there’s nothing here worth fighting for, then we still do have a disagreement. If your critique of MSNBC still leaves room to support trying to preserve what’s goo there, then all the differences that first appeared would seem to be ironed out.

For me, personally, losing O’Donnell and the other two shows would be a major loss. I like discussion, if the discussants are smart, honest, and knowledgeable. And those three conduct discussions with many people I want to hear from.

Reporting in the usual journalistic sense is important. But I get a great deal from those discussions that I would not get from a set of reports.

2017-05-21 20:13:00 Andy Schmookler

I respectfully disagree with that judgment. I find the level of discussion to be found on Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow, and Lawrence O’Donnell to be highly worthwhile. Their version of “cable news” makes an important contribution.

All three of those hosts are very bright, and well-informed, and care about the same things that you and I do.

As for the “much, much, much better sources for news,” how many of them are on television? I gave up on the PBS News Hour long ago. Gave up on the main network News shows even longer ago than that. Is there something better on TV, or are the places you have in mind all on a different medium?

If the better sources are all on different media, wouldn’t giving up on MSNBC mean giving up on television altogether? I understand that a lot of people are “pulling the plug,” but we are still talking about audiences that number in the seven digits at least.

I don’t think we can afford to reject as irrelevant the best reporting that we have on what remains an essential medium of communication.

2017-05-21 18:34:00 Andy Schmookler

Just ran into this: “Lawrence O’Donnell Update: MSNBC is Finally Negotiating Due to Intense Fan Pressure”

The story contains these paragraphs:

“So here’s the good news. Friedman just published a new article
that contradicts his prior exclusive. Apparently the outcry from
viewers was so powerful that it pushed MSNBC to the negotiating table.
Indeed, there has been a flood of angry viewers swarming Facebook and
Twitter in defense of O’Donnell. The result appears to be the first
serious talks between the network and its star.

“It’s too soon, however, to declare victory. Until there’s a signed
contract that locks O’Donnell into his current time slot, fans need to
keep the pressure on. But they can do so with the knowledge that such
tactics are working. You can call them at 212-664-4444 and email them at [email protected].”

2017-05-21 17:58:00 Andy Schmookler

I agree that there is a trade-off between 1) protecting the nation from the danger of Trump (having the nuclear football, for starters), which calls for ousting him as soon as possible and 2) wanting the infection from the Trump gangrene to spread as far as possible into the GOP generally to do maximal damage to the atrocity that the Republican Party has become, which would be accomplished more by prolonging the process.

In any event, the choice will be the Republicans’. Trump is there until they decide that protecting him costs more than it benefits them– if indeed that time will ever come.

And that choice will depend in large measure on public opinion. The numbers on the general public will matter. But what will matter most, I would guess, is a serious breakdown of the roughly 88% of Republican voters (at least that was the most recent figure I’ve seen) who still support Trump.

The gap between the general public and the deluded Republican base may be the thing that ultimately swallows up this grotesque political party.

2017-05-18 20:03:00 Andy Schmookler

On Sunday, I wrote here on BV:

“I expect the real coup de grace could come from Comey’s files, where
there may well be proof of Trump’s demand for loyalty. (Comey is said to
be excellent at creating the a record of sticky things that might some
day come up. He has done it once before and could play the right
memorandum when the occasion required it.)”

Now there’s news that bears out the notion that Comey does write immediate memoranda to document any sketchy situations that he gets involved with. Today’s news is about a different act by Trump that is equally damning. He documented a meeting with Trump in which the President pressured Comey to back off Flynn.

Here’s the headline of the present lead story on Huffington Post: “Donald Trump Reportedly Asked James Comey To Stop Michael Flynn Investigation.” The whole story can be found here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/james-comey-memo-trump_us_591b6e8de4b0a7458fa3f31e?ncid=inblnkushpmg00000009

I’m still betting there’s another memo documenting Trump demanding from Comey a pledge of personal loyalty.

And either one of these should be enough to cook Trump’s goose.

Or, if the Republicans want to continue to protect Trump with their embrace, slow-cook the whole Republican flock of geese.

2017-05-16 21:58:00 Andy Schmookler

Similar thinking I just encountered on Slate.com, where Yascha Mounk — an expert on how democracies can be destroyed by autocratic forces — writes:

“[W]hile it would be outrageous if Trump nominates an obvious crony to head the
FBI, I am not sure that the alternative is nearly as reassuring as many commentators seem to believe. Given the circumstances of Comey’s dismissal and the process governing his replacement, no successor picked by Trump can be trusted to oversee an investigation into Trump. That is why the only way to limit the immense damage that Comey’s firing has already done to basic democratic norms is to appoint an independent committee or special prosecutor with robust powers and a wide ambit.”

2017-05-15 19:20:00 Andy Schmookler

A thought.

It has been reported that Trump’s anger at Comey was especially kindled by Comey’s saying, in his recent testimony, that “it makes me mildly nauseous to think that we might have had some impact on the election.”

I believe that Trump likely misunderstood what Comey was saying. According to this interpretation, Comey was saying that the idea of his having an impact on an election — which he recognizes would be improper — disturbed him. But Trump, in his thin-skinned narcissism, hears that statement as meaning something like, “It makes me sick to have helped make Donald Trump president.”

And so his anger was inflamed, and so maybe such a misunderstanding contributed to his firing Comey.

2017-05-12 16:25:00 Andy Schmookler

When you call this a complete “non-issue,” are you saying just that you think it absurd that people would make a fuss over it?

It may be absurd, I don’t disagree. But it is what happened.

The reality is he got bad press. Is that not true?

It was predictable bad press. Do you think it could not have been anticipated?

Bad press is worth avoiding, if possible. Wouldn’t you agree?

It was avoidable without his changing how much money he could pocket and how much money he would donate from his various sources of income.

If there’s a cost-free way to avoid bad press, is it not worth doing?

2017-05-08 19:44:00 Andy Schmookler

I agree with all that, too, Lowell. But the reality is what the reality is, and it is better to make good decisions in view of that reality than not-so-good ones. (Realities like the way Republicans get a pass, or whites get a pass, or whatever.)

What would have been the harm of taking the $400,000 (or $800,000 for two speeches, I gather), and publicly declaring that the Wall Street money will be used for summer jobs for Chicago youth, and then throw in some of the publishers’ advance as well?

Same outcome, with good publicity instead of bad publicity.

When you see a magazine like THE WEEK — which in general has some good journalistic virtues — come up with an unwelcome cover like this week’s, it pays to think about how this might have been avoided.

You can call is a “pseudo-crisis,” and of course that story never should have warranted such cover treatment. But even pseudo things like this can have real effects.

2017-05-08 18:41:00 Andy Schmookler

It’s never a great sign when a piece, when it appears on Daily Kos, proves more effective at eliciting comments than recommendations. But that’s what this one has done. I just posted a reply to a variety of the comments, saying:

1) Whether or not any decisions Obama made about these speeches
SHOULD lead to such criticism, the fact is that they did. And I would
further assert that — given all the grief that Hillary took for her
speaking fees, whether that was warranted or not, either — this result
should have been anticipated.

2) It is suggested above that Obama shouldn’t care about any of that,
but clearly he does still intend to play some politically relevant
role. (And I’m glad he will.) Which means that protecting his image is
an important part of maximizing his ability to influence things in this
country in a direction he believes in.

3) Given the history of this country over the past decade, regarding
Wall Street and politics, and including the criticism Obama faced of
dealing too leniently with the Wall Street types who created the great
crash of 2008-9, it should be clear that big speaking fees from Wall
Street have more problematic “optics” than a big advance from a major
publisher. The $2 million donation the Obama’s have made COULD have been
made using all the Wall Street money.

From all of which it follows: Obama should have dealt with this
differently — and should have known to deal with this differently — for
reasons having to do with maximizing something that he clearly cares
about: his ability to influence our politics in a very worrisome time.

This will not be a huge deal, in determining his image and hence his
influence. Nor do I regard this piece to be a big deal. But it should be
clear that he erred, and it is worth thinking clearly about how and why
that is.

2017-05-08 18:17:00 Andy Schmookler

Just read the piece noted above (“but will it resonate”) where CNN talks about the ad from Perriello that’s making news, the one with the ambulance being crushed. The piece seems to contradict itself in two successive paragraphs. They read, after talking about Northam’s having secured the endorsements of the state’s major Democratic figures before Perriello had entered the race:

“Perriello’s campaign, however, has gotten off to a surprisingly quick start. He has raised more than $2 million, has pulled even or ahead in most public polls, and is drawing big crowds of enthusiastic supporters. Perriello is even pulling support
from popular, national progressive figures like Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and former Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.

“Despite his momentum and support from outside Virginia, Perriello is not making
much progress with Democrats in the state, whose support for Northam remains strong.”

So which is it? Should we believe the first of those paragraphs, which says that Perriello “has pulled even or ahead in most public polls…”? Or the second paragraph, where it says that Perriello “is not making much progress with Democrats in the state”?

(Shouldn’t we assume that those polls are of likely voters in the Democratic primary?)

One wonders just how such a story got composed, for such an apparent contradiction to be laid so blatantly side-by-side.

2017-05-06 15:38:00 Andy Schmookler

I don’t see how your comment, Mr. Holcomb, comports with the Isakoff description of the lack of interviews, the lack of documents, the lack of staff– the lack of the elements necessary to do that “making certain the facts are actually ascertained” that you attribute to Senator Warner.

If you are privy to what Senator Warner has been doing that substantiates that nice picture you’re painting, please fill the rest of us in.

If you know that this investigation is NOT moribund — notwithstanding what Isakoff reports — please supply us with your information.

And if you acknowledge that the investigation IS moribund, but you have information that Senator Warner — notwithstanding the apparent absence of any public protest on his part to the lack of progress — is doing just what needs to be done to assure that the Constitution is protected and defended, tell us what you know.

2017-04-30 15:36:00 Andy Schmookler

Now I’m pushing Senator Warner, in another piece– but with the same goal in mind, which is to fight to protect our democracy from being damaged. Maybe a good PR person would be able to sell me, with enhanced credibility because he fights for the same thing — to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States in view of what we know and what we suspect about Trump and the Russians.

Going after a Republican and a Democrat helps underscore the non-partisan nature of the battle against what Trump is doing to the country.

The partisan issues have become almost secondary, for we are talking here about a whole amoral spirit, that seemed to be open to making common cause with a powerful adversary for help in becoming president.

We are talking about law and treason and greed and utter irresponsibility. We are talking about the one thing that our Founders requited of those elected to public office: to protect and defend the Constitution. If what looks true about Trump and the Russians proves to be true, what would that mean to the state of the Constitution that such a man be President of the United States, having got there with such a wholly unconscionable alliance with the enemy.

This also could provide a means of bringing in his attacks on the press and on the independent judiciary. While they may not be “crimes” in themselves, they are clearly attacks on our constitutional system. They show a “pattern of conduct” that reveals how little respect he has for the Constitution that the founders required he take an oath to protect and defend.

If Trump did collude with the Russians, we see a dangerous pattern of behavior that clearly calls for impeachment. No American president has behaved with such reckless disregard for the constitutional system as Donald Trump. Trump does not have an attitude of obedience toward anything. He is utterly defiant of being limited by any shoulds or norms or laws or even the Constitution.


2017-04-29 20:03:00 Andy Schmookler

Here’s where the Senator Warner piece is: http://bluevirginia.us/2017/04/senator-mark-warner-mia-awol

A movement could form by adopting a two-pronged approach to the two parties.

In the case of the Democrats, to be louder and bolder about this Russia/Trump business.

Let us push the Republicans to stop protecting the president by violating their oath to protect the Constitution. The “Protect and Defend the Constitution” movement, one might say, with a non-partisan deep American message, shown by challenging both parties for the same purpose: challenging the Republicans to be less evil, and challenging the Democrats to be less cowardly and weak.

That is the pair that America has fallen under the sway of. One side evil, the other side cowardly and weak. Inhibited about going on the attack.

How much attack does this Russia/Trump situation call for. A lot, I think.

2017-04-29 18:37:00 Andy Schmookler

Now I’m pushing Senator Warner, in another piece– but with the same goal in mind, which is to fight to protect our democracy from being damaged. Maybe a good PR person would be able to sell me, with enhanced credibility because he fights for the same thing — to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States in view of what we know and what we suspect about Trump and the Russians.

Going after a Republican and a Democrat helps underscore the non-partisan nature of the battle against what Trump is doing to the country.

The partisan issues have become almost secondary, for we are talking here about a whole amoral spirit, that seemed to be open to making common cause with a powerful adversary for help in becoming president.

We are talking about law and treason and greed and utter irresponsibility. We are talking about the one thing that our Founders requited of those elected to public office: to protect and defend the Constitution. If what looks true about Trump and the Russians proves to be true, what would that mean to the state of the Constitution that such a man be President of the United States, having got there with such a wholly unconscionable alliance with the enemy.

2017-04-29 18:29:00 Andy Schmookler

I’d like to share something I just wrote as a comment on this piece where it appears on another site, Opednews.com. Here’s what I wrote:

A point has come up that I would like to address. Someone has privately
communicated with me that he saw this piece as a “teaser” that did not
yet deliver “the meat.”

While it is true that the opening part of
the piece is a scenes-of-coming attractions, which will be shown in the
course of the series.

But most of the piece is a
characterization of the consciousness (the intellectual habits and maps)
of America in our times. I make their two rather non-trivial assertions
about the consciousness of our times.

First, that we as a culture are not interested in seeing things whole, in making sense of the big picture.

second, that the consequence of this failure to see things whole has
had disastrous consequences– the rise of a destructive force that has
inflicted great damage on America, and now with the presidency of Donald
Trump is inflicting even deeper damage (and striving to inflict still

Those are not small points. I feel confident there’s much
truth to both, and I don’t expect that everyone will respond with
agreement right off the bat. If that were to happen, it would mean those points hardly needed to be said.

I regard those two points as meat. And it was meat that I chose to help lay the ground for what was to come.

These points challenge people to examine what they accept about the intellectual habits of our time.

example, one of the commenters above faults me for writing this long of
an article when I should summarize the whole thing, since people have
“the attention span of a bug.”

Well, what if that attention span
is part of the problem? What if the inability or refusal to do the work
necessary to see things more whole, and not just one damned
(entertaining?) thing at a time– what if that was part of what needed
to change in our culture, if we are to be able to turn away from the
current path of destruction and start making America more whole again?

Anyway, this was the meat I chose for openers. Because what I’m doing is inviting people to do a little work of a kind that is not much done in today’s culture. Some sustained, systematic attention as required to be able to see something that’s important.

I make the claim that what’s coming is important. And the first question is, can my claim be dismissed, as too improbable to be taken seriously. But if the claim were plausible, — if the meat in this article WERE true — would that be reason enough for you to check it out?

It is part of the invitation into the unfolding of a Big Picture that I claim could help in important ways.

2017-04-29 17:46:00 Andy Schmookler

What you say, Mr. Larson, seems plausible: “Trump’s supporters didn’t put him in office to actually accomplish stuff.” A couple of questions about that.

First, how confident are you about that judgment– i.e. that what they care about is not results, but merely gesture?

Second, as you imagine these supporters, do you see them as KNOWINGLY not being concerned about Trump accomplishing stuff? Or do you imagine them believing that they were voting for results, when in fact their real desire was just for the gesture?

I have imagined them to be voting very much from an emotional place — anger, resentment, bigotry — but also to be truly concerned about having their own situation improved, and wanting to give power to someone they thought could deliver such improvement.

2017-04-27 03:30:00 Andy Schmookler

I think we’ve reached the end of our interaction, Mr. Withheld. If you find my argument to be ridiculous and disingenuous — an argument that rests on twelve years of intense work on America’s crisis, a mission to which I’ve devoted my life — I see no promise of further interaction bearing any kind of fruit.

2017-04-20 21:29:00 Andy Schmookler

You accuse me of lying and then immediately confess that you “cannot even grasp the merit of [my] argument.

It seems that before you declare that I’m lying about my intent, you ought to make sure you do understand the argument.

What I meant about my intent is that I am pursuing a purpose — based on an understanding of our situation — that has animated me for a dozen years.

A pro-Perriello agenda, as I would mean it, would be one where helping him win was my ultimate purpose, and I concocted my argument to achieve that end.

On the contrary here: I have a clear purpose, one that anyone can see written across the pieces that I’ve published here on Blue Virginia for years, and that is the guiding vision of my 2015 book WHAT WE’RE UP AGAINST: The Destructive Force at Work in Our World– and How We Can Defeat It https://www.amazon.com/What-Were-Against-Destructive-World/dp/0996301305 ).

That understanding comes first, and it generates my “concern” about Northam (and his apparent limitations), and my consequent endorsement of Perriello.

Would I be wrong in believing, Mr. Anonymous, that your relationship to this contest goes in the opposite direction: that you support Northam, and that your arguments are the fruit of your pro-Northam agenda?.

2017-04-20 21:03:00 Andy Schmookler

OK. Let’s forget about a referendum on Trump. How about just what the GOP does at the Virginia level– like refusing to extend Medicaid just to try to keep Obama from accomplishing his goals, even though it hurts some 400,000 Virginians?

Will your “quiet man” see that for the disgrace that it is, see it in the larger context of a Party that continually puts partisan advantage ahead of the general good, and be able to wield his semi-bully pulpit to shame and defeat the practitioners of such politics?

2017-04-20 20:23:00 Andy Schmookler

You talk about Northam’s vote in 2000. I talk about his vote in 2004.

You may have good reasons for supporting Northam. But you really ignore my one big reason for preferring his opponent: Northam does not seem to understand what I regard as the main thing that needs to be understood about the state of our politics in this era.

From your comment, it’s not clear whether you do either.

2017-04-20 18:04:00 Andy Schmookler

Suppositions? I adduce two pieces of evidence about Northam. One — the vote for Bush in 2004 — is from Northam’s own statement. Supposition?

The other — his lack of major response to what many of us believe to be a most dangerous political development, i.e. the election to the presidency of a man like Donald Trump — would be easy to refute if there were evidence to the contrary. But it is not in any event a supposition: it is an assertion based on a reasonably good command of the evidence of Northam’s conduct prior to Perriello’s striking a chord with his strong messages about Trump’s dangerous conduct.

I say nothing about Northam to take away from any of the virtues you cite.

What I say is that he has shown evidence of not being tuned in to what I declare — and have been declaring now for many years — the level at which the real battle in American politics is being waged.

A man might be very good in a great many ways, without having that level of understanding. But I am arguing that such a lack of understanding is not what we most need in our political leaders at this particular moment in our nation’s history.

2017-04-20 18:02:00 Andy Schmookler

I hear/read people (experts who should know something) talking about the China angle as if they think the Chinese have the necessary leverage to solve the problem. But I’ve never heard anyone spell out just how that works– i.e. what they see the Chinese doing that would induce the North Koreans to give up on their long-standing goal of being able to plausibly threaten anyone — especially the United States — with a nuclear attack.

I can’t make a case for how that would work. And I don’t know if I’m missing something, or if these people are engaging in wishful thinking, or what.

2017-04-17 22:19:00 Andy Schmookler

What a deft reply. My arguments crumble before your powerful logic.

2017-04-17 15:13:00 Andy Schmookler

Thank you, Scott.

One thing I wish to add: I don’t regard the policies of the previous three administrations as “failures.” If failure means they did not result in the hoped-for outcome, then I guess they’re failures. But if failure means that a different effort would have led to the hoped-for outcome, then I doubt that the previous administrations fell short. I do not see any policy that could have been adopted earlier that would have prevented our facing the unpleasant options that we seem to have now with respect to North Korea and its nuclear threat.

2017-04-17 02:59:00 Andy Schmookler

I have no reason to doubt, Jerel C. Wilmore, that you are right about the extent of experience the two men bring to VIrginia’s government. And all things being equal, that is probably a plus for Northam.

But I have no particular reason to believe that Perriello could not hire himself people all Northam knows and more, to guide him through Virginia’s governmental process.

And not all things are equal, as I lay out in my essay in an argument that you do absolutely nothing to deal with, or even acknowledge that I made. Substituting insult and sarcasm for any engagement with the argument is something I’d have expected from a right wing troll?

Are you perchance some right-winger, coming in to attack and deride your likely opponent in the fall? Or has that right-wing tendency to substitute attitude for any honest search for the truth jumped across our partisan divide?

I have long been making the case for the importance of the idea that our real political battle is at a different level from that which liberals have engaged in. And I suggest that Northam’s apparent obtuseness about that battle does not ode well for his being able to lead against today’s Republican Party.

We need a strong voice, I believe, to go at the Republicans in terms of their real defects. Like hammering them on the failure to extend Medicaid in Virginia — the billions it has cost us, the lives made harder — and the dark and indenfensible reason they refused to make the most of Obamacare,

The GOP should be drained of its power, its legitimacy, and its credibility. Then the pathway will open up to using the government of Virginia to best effect.

2017-04-15 18:39:00 Andy Schmookler

Alternatively, does the idea of “Blue Virginia” making “an endorsement” mean simply announcing the results of the above poll, expressing the preferences of the readership?

2017-04-01 16:08:00 Andy Schmookler

Maybe I’m missing something, but why wouldn’t the answer to the question be something like this: If “Blue Virginia” (whether that is an individual or a “board” of some sort) has a clear preference, it should express that preference, and the reasons for it, as it has in previous Democratic primaries. But if it regards the competitors as roughly equal in merit, there’s no reason to publicly declare a favorite.”

2017-04-01 16:05:00 Andy Schmookler

The idea that “they could withdraw their endorsement of Northam and switch to Perriello” is literally correct but politically way off base. In politics, such a switch happens very rarely– and for good reason. It is not just that it looks bad to the public, though it does. More important, it debases the currency of a politician’s word. Essential to the political life is the formation of alliances, and essential to that is for the other politicians one works with to trust that when you tell them they can count on you, you deliver on your commitment.

So yes, the people who were already committed to supporting Northam would not violate any law if they switched. But the costs of such a switch would be so high that no sensible person would do it, even if they prefer Perriello.

As Lowell says, both are good men. So it’s not as though some huge negative — like a Hollywood Access tape — has made it necessary to jump ship. And I would not expect any of them to do so.

Where any softening of the commitment would become visible — and subtly enough that it would be visible only to one studying the scene — is that one of those endorsers might not work so hard to advance Northam’s cause.

2017-03-23 18:25:00 Andy Schmookler

Let me add one more thought to this idea of focusing on the issue of legitimacy, and how the Republicans have stolen this seat on the Court, and how the Republican arguments against confirming Garland apply far more against confirming Trump’s nominee. (An idea that is presented very well by Lithwick and West at http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2017/03/neil_gorsuch_s_supreme_court_confirmation_hearings_must_be_postponed.html.)

I would propose that in the hearings, the Democrats ask Gorsuch directly something like this: “As you know, this seat became vacant more than a year ago. And as you know, then-President Obama nominated a welll-qualified judge — Merrick Garland — to fill that seat. But the Republicans here in the Senate argued that President Obama ought not be allowed to place ANY nominee on the Court because he only had a year left in his presidential term. Would you tell us, Mr. Gorsuch: What is your opinion of the constitutional soundness of the Republican refusal to allow President Obama to name anyone to fill the vacancy on the Court?”

2017-03-20 14:41:00 Andy Schmookler

A question: If Trump and his people colluded with the Russians in their meddling in our presidential election, that would surely be a scandal.

WOULD IT ALSO BE A CRIME? If so, what is the law that would make such collusion criminal?

(More than the Logan Act, I hope.)

2017-03-08 14:51:00 Andy Schmookler

Believing that it is good strategy to provoke Trump — because this prompts him to display his most repellant pathologies, and keeping those pathologies before the public’s eyes is useful — I propose the following:

Wherever Trump goes, there should be crowds that chant at Trump a provocative message, such as:

“Loser! Loser!”
“You’re Fired!”
“Lock Him Up!”

2017-02-16 12:31:00 Andy Schmookler


To: Lowell Feld (February 15 2017 11:05 AM)

With all our travels, I am not as thoroughly informed as I generally am at home. I recognize, therefore, that what I have to say may or may not be pertinent, or have been overtaken by events, or especially have been said. before. (Lately, I have found that when I formulate my thoughts they are original, but that by 24 hours later they seem imitative.)

Anyway, all that is to introduce the following brief comment, for you to post if they are not already obsolete for some reason, or not if they are . (And thanks for posting my comment yesterday.)

Lately, I find myself optimistic about getting rid of Trump. And it seems to me clear that a President Pence, as undesirable as that is by any normal standard, would be far less dangerous than continuing to have this catastrophic President Trump.

But I am wondering also: is it reasonable to hope for an escape also from having Mike Pence become our president.

Or, to put the question more specifically: is there a scenario by which the unfolding of this Trump/Russia connection might lead to a complete invalidation of last November’s presidential election?

After all, Pence is Vice President only because of that election. If wholly intolerable and perhaps criminal behavior on the part of the winner of that election, and his crowd, were indispensable to that election victory, is there some means by which it is politically plausible and constitutionally permissible to invalidate that election altogether?

2017-02-15 16:22:00 Andy Schmookler

Thank you, Forest Jones, for the affirming response. I agree that such things as slogans and hashtags could be of real help.

Also, I think of one of the “12 Ways to Disrupt Trump’s First 100 Days.” (http://www.newsweek.com/robert-reich-twelve-ways-resist-trump-presidency-539411)

The eighth of those was:

8. Make the resistance visible with bumper stickers, lapel pins and wristbands

I think that it would be useful for this making the resistance visible to converge on a single agree way. (And I don’t think the safety pin is the ideal visible symbol.)

But my point here is that even as Trump resistance warrants a visible symbol, so also would the more global movement I am talking about above.

Visibility can foster solidarity. And solidarity can be part of the process of INSPIRATION that I think is vital now.

2017-01-10 20:35:00 Andy Schmookler

A propos of the Salon article presented above with the quotation, ““Trump’s oblivious denials on the Russia hack are delegitimizing his presidency before he even takes office”:

Trump’s handling of this strikes me as akin to his self-destructive handling of the Khan, Gold Star critique of him after the Democratic convention. Then, as now, his refusal — or inability — to leave alone something that constituted a threat to his own narcissistic needs ONLY SERVED TO PROLONG THE STORY’S REMAINING FRONT AND CENTER in the national awareness.

Back in August, his continuing attacks on the Khans evidently precipitated a major drop in his poll numbers. It seems likely that his continued resistance to the truth of the Russian hacking will keep the pot-of-controversy boiling. And eventually even low-information voters — so many of whom have been Trump’s voters — will be exposed to the perpetuated story, and some of them will draw appropriate conclusions.

One more note: Trump, never one to show any intellectual integrity whatever, baldly asserts that the Russian hacking had no effect on the outcome of the election. The question of what its effects were — how many voters were swayed — by all the material from Wikileaks, obtained from the Russians, is virtually unanswerable. We never can be certain of how an alternate history would have played out. So it should be clear that Trump has no way whatever to know whether the outcome would have been different or not. But he makes the assertion because that idea serves his needs.

That much should be clear to any thinking American.

But unfortunately, as Adlai Stevenson said when told by a supporter, “Governor Stevenson, all thinking people are for you!”: “That’s not enough. I need a majority.”

2017-01-09 16:48:00 Andy Schmookler

BTW, my guess is that he was working for Ryan et al the whole way. Obedient foot soldier. Why would Goodlatte stick his neck out over this issue, when the only big ethical problems he has are the generic Republican sins such as putting party ahead of nation, and putting big fossil fuel interests ahead of the future of the planet?

2017-01-04 23:08:00 Andy Schmookler

One piece of this (lack of) ethics story stands out for me. The news reports have said that the Republican leadership in the House (Ryan and McCarthy) opposed this measure of Goodlatte’s. That notion stands in tension with my own assessment of Goodlatte — based on watching him closely especially during my two years of running against him in 2012, and publicly declared most recently in my piece here last July (http://bluevirginia.us/2016/07/time-put-nation-ahead-party-mr-goodlatte) — namely, that Goodlatte is a party hack who has been rewarded for his hackery with his elevation to a position of leadership (as Chair of the House Judiciary Committee).

So either 1) it is not true that Ryan and McCarthy opposed it (but it certainly could be true that they wanted to be able to claim that opposition in case this sleazy move blew up, which it did; or 2) Goodlatte took a bold initiative on his own, contrary to the desires of those whom I have imagined to be, at some level, his bosses.

So, should I disbelieve Ryan et al, or should I revise my characterization of Goodlatte?

2017-01-04 21:59:00 Andy Schmookler

I agree. Climate change by itself is a big enough consideration to justify doing whatever can be done to keep Trump and his gang of fossil-fuel-industry allies from being in charge of the nation.

2016-12-13 02:01:00 Andy Schmookler

Yes, I’ve seen all that. I’ve also been a serious student of American history for the past half century, and especially the last 15 years– teaching it, writing about it, and looking specifically at how the crisis of our times compares to past crisis.

Having looked at all that, I believe you greatly underestimate the seriousness of the present crisis. You think that “this country has weathered worse storms.” I think that time will tell just how bad this storm is, but there’s a very real chance that this will be the worst storm, the most damaging — perhaps fatally damaging — development in American history. (Could even be worse that the “storm” of 1850-1865.)

Even perhaps the worst in world history.

The 60s had their serious difficulties, but I would choose in a heartbeat to have an America in that condition than the America that’s now entering the Trump era, after all the darkness also that has led up to this moment.

We are in considerable danger of losing the soul of this nation for as far as the eye can see.

So there we come to the nub of our differences: you see the present situation in far more benign terms than I do, and this leads you to see as wrong-headed ideas what I argue here and in my previous pieces about Trump voters and about Democratic strategy.

We;re not dealing with a cold here. We’re dealing with the Plague.

I am not resigned to such

2016-12-13 01:45:00 Andy Schmookler

This, to me, gives you away, Logic. I do not begin to know how to respond to someone who thinks that the analogy with the present of how Republicans felt in 2008 is any kind of argument.

To argue for that kind of symmetry tells me that the fundamental and absolutely asymmetries of the situation have escaped a person’s notice.

Or that a person is so wedded to “even-handedness” and giving every position equal respect that it impairs the will to defend what must be defended when something dark and broken and riddled with lies starts to dismantle all that’s of greatest value in our world.

2016-12-13 01:04:00 Andy Schmookler

A question for you, Logic. Allow me to pose a hypothetical, if you’re able to absorb the following conditions into your outlook.

Let’s hypothetically say that your assessment was that allowing Donald Trump become president had a 50% chance of resulting in the destruction of American constitutional democracy. And let’s stipulate further that your assessment was that there was a 20% chance that Trump’s being president would result in a needless — not minor, and potentially catastrophic — war.

If those were your assessments, would you regard the considerations you have presented to outweigh the importance of doing everything possible to avoid such a disastrous outcome for the nation?

2016-12-13 00:38:00 Andy Schmookler

Today’s collection of headlines/stories in the news summary must be the most harrowing ever to be seen here on BV. When even mild-mannered E.J. Dionne is talking about nightmares, and describing Trump as a thug, and worrying about the danger of our constitutional order being blown up, we have indeed crossed a major threshold.

I only hope that we have not been too late to arrive at this level of alarm about what has arisen on the right.

BTW, tomorrow I will be posting my latest message to the conservatives of this region– an attempt to explain to them why it is that many of us have felt devastated by this election. The piece is called “A Crisis of the Spirit?” and it explains why this election does not seem like just another usual election, but to threaten to change the very nature of our nation.

2016-12-12 15:45:00 Andy Schmookler

Three things to Logic round 2:

1) The stock market bit was part of the quote re the Pew poll, and is there simply to illustrate belief in propositions that are factually false.

2) I never say these voters are stupid. In my piece published here yesterday I do say that a big chunk of the GOP voters are socialized into a culture that teaches them to turn off their critical intelligence in some domains vital to the interest of the ruling powers over their communities.

3) Are you claiming that these voters have good economic reasons to vote Republican, and would you argue against the notion that the Republican Party has been consistently — and clearly — more antagonistic to the economic interests of these voters than the Democratic Party?

2016-12-12 03:59:00 Andy Schmookler

I’m sorry, Logic, but argument # 1 has been demonstrated to be substantially valid again and again. Quite recently in this piece — — which Lowell also linked to on Blue Virginia a few days back — with thetitle “Poll reveals Trump voters live in alternate state of reality.

That poll shows that Trump voters believe that Trump voters believe a whole lot of things that are simply not true:

“The stock market under President Obama soared. The Dow Jones
Industrial average went from 7,949.09 to 19,614.91, again, up 11,665.72.
In other words, it more than doubled. 39% of Trump voters think the
stock market went down under Obama.

“Unemployment dropped from 7.8% to 4.6% during the Obama
administration. Clinton, Johnson, Stein and other voters are well aware
of that fact.

“But not Donald Trump voters; 67% of them believe unemployment rose under President Obama.

“40% of Trump voters believe that Donald Trump won the popular vote.

“60% of Trump voters believe that millions voted illegally for Clinton.

“73% of Trump voters believe that George Soros paid Trump protesters.

This is just the tip of an iceberg that’s been charted for years. (Studies have shown that viewers of Fox News know less about what’s going on than people who follow NO news sourtce.)

Whether or not one cringes at the thought of depriving people of “agency” ought not determine our willingness to look clearly at what’s happened to much of the country over the past quarter century. There has been an expertly conducted propaganda campaign waged by the right, and the result is that a whole lot of people have a pervasively false picture of reality.

Not all Trump voters, as the Vox piece that Lowell quotes below points out, are the same. Not all of them have bought into identical packages of false beliefs. But the role of false beliefs on the right is huge and has been huge for years.

BTW, did you know that Hillary has been deeply involved in a big global sex-trafficking operation involving children? Did you know that immigrants have been pouring over our borders during these Obama years? Did you know that crime has been at all-time highs in recent years? Did you know that Obama was born in Kenya? Did you know that Obama has been on an out-of-control spending spree? Did you know that most white people who are murdered are killed by blacks?

That list could go on for pages?

2016-12-12 00:52:00 Andy Schmookler

Yes, indeed: we have a historically dangerous crisis on our hands. Then the question arises on how can this crisis be most effectively be addressed.

Coming up with the best strategy for addressing this crisis is the main challenge we now face. (My likely next piece will address some of that.)

The question dealt with here — which I do not believe is any more “unresolveable” than others that deal with the psychology of mass behavior — is one of those that bears rather directly on judging how the challenge of our times can most effectively be met.

I believe that public opinion has been, remains, and will continue to be the chief battlefield on which the current political war will be fought. Even in the short run, anything that can be done to erode public support for Trump and the GOP will influence the course of the battle.

For that reason, it can matter greatly how we understand — and how well we understand — what it is we’re up against, and what we potentially have working for us, in any effort to peel away that support.

If the reality is complex, we need a complex and not a simplistic image of what we’re dealing with if we are to be able to work effectively to drain that support away from Trump, the GOP, and the underlying destructive force that is endangering the future of our nation.

2016-12-10 19:41:00 Andy Schmookler

There are many reasons to fear that you are right, that even if/as Trump makes a mess of everything, his supporters will stay with him.

But assuming the worst is often a self-fulfilling proposition. We should beware of giving up on the basis of mere assumption. As it happens, there are already instances of “buyer’s remorse” among Trump voters (e.g. one well-publicized case of a woman whose home had been foreclosed upon by a bank run by Mnuchin who now renounces Trump for nominating him for Treasury).

One factor to consider, when it comes to whether we regard this issue as a “Known” or a “Known Unknown,” is that with the coming era of Donald Trump as president, we are entering into something quite different from the usual. Also quite different from having some nihilistic charlatan like Trump as a candidate. And so for ALL OF US, this will likely be — and in many ways, with him as President-Elect, already is– an experience unlike any we’ve had before. That will be true not only for us, but for the Trump voters.

So much, then, is unpredictable. Just how will events unfold? And just how will Americans of various stripes respond to them? We just don’t know.

And bear in mind also that Trump’s power — including, for example, how the GOP deals with him — will be significantly determined by his approval numbers. (Recall how W became diminished by the decline in his numbers from the time of “Mission Accomplished” through the growing disaster of his Iraq War and his bungling of the Katrina devastation.)

How we Democrats conduct our war on Trump can be either well or poorly designed to pry away his public support. So whether we just throw in the towel on his voters because we KNOW they won’t budge, or make an effort to undermine his standing with them, can have real political consequences.

2016-12-08 19:36:00 Andy Schmookler

One thought on the “multiplicity of ways” vs. “integrated way” question. Of course, you’re right that we hardly understand enough about how to accomplish this to be able to design something that hums along like a well-engineered engine with its various parts working together.

What I would preserve of the “integrated” idea, however, is the idea that we should at least understand that what some people do might be potentiated by different things that other people do.

To illustrate: I recall back in the 60s somebody saying that the presence on the scene of Stokely Carmichael (considered at the time a hard-liner in the Black Power movement) gave Martin Luther King, Jr. a better hearing from white America.

It’s not as if there was an integration of strategy designed by anyone, but the parts had a way of (in some undesigned, presumably unintended fashion) working together.

2016-12-05 00:35:00 Andy Schmookler

I agree in large measure that the best messengers would come from their own “team.” I do recall, however, back in the Bushite era, how any such messenger who deviated from the orthodoxy automatically was seen as “off the team” and therefore suspect like the rest of us. That’s part of how the right-wing media and the GOP worked to make the right-wing bubble impervious.

So yes, we’re automatically suspect, tuned out. But so also are the others.

So I have no illusions about the difficulty of the task. I am arguing first for its necessity. And as it is necessary, it must be attempted.

And for those who feel no call to do it, because of your estimate of the probability of success or for whatever other reason, put your shoulder to some other wheel.

But we really cannot afford to have so much delusion, so much poisoning of the minds, in our body politic. So I hope that some effort will be made from our side to find ways of changing that.

And for myself, I hope that people here will look at my efforts in that direction, which I post regularly here, not in terms of “Why does this guy waste his time banging his head futilely against this wall?” and more in terms of “Is there anything here in this guy’s effort that models anything that I can do that might be of any use?”

2016-12-04 21:37:00 Andy Schmookler

Thank you, Jeanne. Yours is the first voice to appear here that takes seriously the challenge that, in the first installment, I asserted to be “the central political challenge of our time.”

I agree that it requires “action on many fronts.” And I also agree that at least part of the effort needs to deal with the emotional side of things.

What I try to do is build arguments based on what I know to be the (stated) values of the conservatives. Arguments may not be the most effective way to move my target audience, but I always hope that the importance they attach to their values will give the arguments some force.

I’ve been on this beat since 1992, since I started doing a lot of talk radio conversations. I was inspired (if that’s the word) by Rush Limbaugh. I figured his kind of conversation was so toxic it needed to be countered. And that’s what I tried to do on a local level– not as a liberal version of Rush, but rather creating honest inquiry in contrast with his dishonest manipulation.

For many years, I felt that liberals were not taking seriously what was happening on the right. For years, the right was being taught to hate liberals and to regard them as the enemy, not as fellow citizens to work with to achieve common purposes. And in the meanwhile, liberals were still looking at the conservatives in a much more friendly way.

But now we’ve achieved what seems to me an unfortunate kind of symmetry. Just as the conservatives are still completely writing off the liberals, now the liberals are returning the favor.

Reminds me of how the South became inflamed in the early 1850s, and then by the time of John Brown’s raid on Harpers’ Ferry, the North was ready to return the hate.

I’m hoping this Second American Civil War will be channeled into something more constructive. Somehow.

2016-12-04 20:06:00 Andy Schmookler

I agree with all that, Elaine. That corresponds to my own experience. Two things:

First, my concern is not just about what we do, or don’t do, in our own region. My main concern is about the geographical level at which it is determined who has their hand on the American helm, and in what spirit they steer it.

Second, regarding our 6th District, I am not expecting these people to become liberal Democrats. What would truly suffice is if they could see whether their own party was upholding, or trampling upon, the values they say they hold dear.

If they stayed Republicans, but started insisting that their party show genuine respect for the Constitution, and reflected something of the spirit of the red letters in their Bibles, that would be a truly important change.

When they support Republicans who violate the spirit of the Constitution with across-the-board obstructionism and delegitimization of a legitimately elected president; when they regard as Christian an institution such as Liberty University and its leader Jerry Falwell, Jr., who operates in the very opposite spirit from Christianity, then we have a problem.

There’s a disconnect there. No doubt, there have ALWAYS been some disconnects of that sort. But now the disconnect is so extreme, and the consequences of it so dark, that it has become a major threat to the integrity and even the survival of the United States.

2016-12-04 19:55:00 Andy Schmookler

“What we failed to understand was that appeals to their economic self
interest would not overcome their devotion to white male supremacy as an
integral part of their self-image and self-worth.”

Having been engaged with conservatives in my area for almost a quarter century, John, I believe that you’re missing the larger part of the picture of what’s happened on the right.

Yes, the Breitbart crowd, and the rest of the white supremacy crowd, are out there. But that’s a minor part of what’s going on.

If you believed to be true all the factually wrong things that the people on the right have been indoctrinated to believe to be true — by Limbaugh, Gingrich, Fox News, Rove, the GOP leadership in Congress, and now Trump — that would take you a long way toward having the political impulses that they have.

I would wager that if someone fact-checked the 50 main factual and politically- relevant beliefs that the “conservatives” of today hold to be true, their rate of falsehood would more than rival the 70% falsehood rate that Factcheck.com found with Trump’s campaign statements.

This is not to deny the existence of racist, sexist, etc. feelings in that part of the body politic. And it is not to deny that the merchants of the lie have used those feelings in selling their falsehoods.

But it is way too easy to reduce the “Others” to their worst elements, and to not notice the ways in which they have been deliberately led astray.

Here’s one relevant article (by George Monbiot) about how the right-wing force has created a false picture to plant into the minds of those under their influence: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/30/donald-trump-george-monbiot-misinformation

2016-12-04 18:58:00 Andy Schmookler

I will wait until tomorrow, when the second installment has been posted, to engage this assertion that one should stop this “complete waste of time” of trying with these people, because it is “completely hopeless.”

2016-12-03 19:24:00 Andy Schmookler

“You cannot confront a power until you know what it is. Our first
task in this struggle is to understand what we face.”

Which is why I called my book WHAT WE’RE UP AGAINST. And what Monbiot describes is an important part of it. But, as I perceive it, the destructive force we’re up against is bigger and goes deeper than that.

2016-11-30 15:40:00 Andy Schmookler

This piece was not written to evangelize conservatives. I would expect people who have bought as many lies as today’s conservatives have would regard my analysis as drivel.

2016-11-29 21:05:00 Andy Schmookler

First, I’d like to say to Lowell that I think your replies to Purple have been right on target. (And thanks– I was away for the past six hours — for saying what needed to be said.)

Second, I’d like to respond to you, Purple, a bit further.

There are two questions, which are properly considered separately. One question is “What is true (about the politics of our era)?” And the second question is, “What is the best way to communicate with people about what is true?”

On the first question, I feel very, very confident that I am basically right in my assessment. After spending the past 55 years working to be able to see what’s going in in civilized systems, with access to the best training America has to offer (which began, incidentally, at home, where my father, Jacob Schmookler, was a very fine thinker about the dynamics at work in the world), and a pretty single-minded pursuit of all the helpful tools that I could find or develop, I’ve spent the past 12 years full time on seeing what I called, in 2004, “America’s moral crisis.” I have written thousands of article developing the picture as best I could, and I’ve written a book laying out an integrated picture of the dynamics I perceive. (That book is linked to in the piece above.)

As for what’s true, I feel confident that i know what I am talking about.

When it comes to how to communicate what I know to other people — either to liberals or to conservatives — all I can say for myself is that I work hard at it and I do my best.

With respect to the conservatives of the 6th District, I am particularly unsure what, if anything, I could do better than what I’ve been doing. For 12 years I’ve been looking to see what anyone else has been doing that works. Nothing that I’ve seen has been clearly any more successful than my efforts, and for that matter I do not know what success I may have had.

But I can say to you that my relationship with the conservatives of the 6th District has been important to me for 24 years, and it is something I’ve thought about more consistently, and harder, over that whole time than you might guess.

(Again, you might get a more accurate view, Purple, of how I regard the conservatives of this area — how I see them, and how I feel about them — if you read that piece to which I gave you the link in my previous comment here. I see many of the conservatives as basically good people, who have aligned with a force that is not what they think it is, and that appeals to their least good parts.)

My engagement with the people we’re talking about has included 24 years of doing talk radio conversations, two years of running full-time for Congress, and the past four years of publishing op/ed pieces in the region’s newspapers, from Lynchburg to the northern reaches of the Shenandoah Valley.

I long ago made a pledge that all of my communications would be my best effort to be honest and constructive. I know well how to do honest. I use my best judgment on what will be constructive.

In any event, I believe that the most important political task facing this nation is to find a way to get the decent people who are supporting the indecent force that has taken over the right to see things better and to re-align themselves in order to encourage the emergence of a decent conservative political party (presumably the Republican Party, having reformed itself into something that serves the nation’s good).

No one knows how this Trump era will unfold. But it seems probable that Trump’s election — at least in the short-to-intermediate run — will further degrade the Republican Party, rather than bring about the reformation of the Party that the nation needs, and that would much better serve the manipulated and exploited “typical voter of Virginia’s 6th District.”

2016-11-27 22:04:00 Andy Schmookler

What the typical voter in the 6th district likely WILL think is that I’m a terrible person who is maligning them.

What the typical voter in the 6th district should think is that I’m a truth-seeker, who has loved them (as described just a few days ago here in this piece: http://bluevirginia.us/2016/11/duty-hate-hillary-clinton-another-message-conservatives ), who sees that they’ve been lied to by a force that exploits them, and appeals to the least whole parts of themselves. And who is doing his best to help them align their politics with the goodness that so many of them demonstrate in the rest of their lives.

The piece “Cry the Benighted Country” was indeed published in newspapers in the 6th District, where the typical 6th District voter could see it. I believe I have spoken an important truth here. I do not claim that I have conveyed it to that typical 6th district voter.

For that matter, I am not sure that the typical liberal who read it understands just how much the blindness and weakness of Liberal America — which is also a big part of the picture painted in the piece — have contributed to this dangerous state of affairs in the United States.

2016-11-27 15:42:00 Andy Schmookler

Where this piece is running on Daily Kos, a supportive comment came in that inquired about my experience with the conservatives over politics as it has become over the years (since Karl Rove poisoned the well altogether). Here’s a piece of what I wrote in response, talking about how the right has proved impermeable to correction of the lies they’re told.

“What we seem to have on the right, in these times, is a culture of
political orthodoxy that operates at a wholly different level from
argument (using evidence and logic).

Maybe they don’t see an opening at the level of argument, and stay away for that reason. But I don’t think so. I think they find a way to ignore argument altogether because their beliefs don’t really rest much on logic or evidence.

In any event, being a missionary does not necessarily mean getting
converts. When I was in college, I had a work-study job reading through
missionaries journals and letters from the early 19th century, living
among islanders in the South Pacific, and writing back to their
missionary societies in Great Britain and the United States.

I can report that the islanders were not always eager to abandon the
religion of their culture— what the missionaries regarded with horror as
pagan, and the work of the devil. But they surely did make inroads. And
I dare say that on a lot of those islands, the belief system is a good
deal more like the missionaries’ and a good deal less an expression of
their traditional culture.

I myself don’t want to be a missionary of that kind. I do not argue
for any orthodoxy— unless the idea that one come to one’s beliefs on the
basis of good evidence and good logic is an orthodoxy. (I guess for the
fundamentalists — religious or political — that idea (relying on
evidence and logic) is a belief system fundamentally opposed to their
own, in which one comes to beliefs on the basis of authority, and on the
basis of a kind of pledge of allegiance to a community of belief which
they call “faith.”

That kind of faith is not a problem in the realm of religion. But when it happens in the political realm it can be dangerous. It depends on the nature of the authority.

The dangerous moment is when the people are sold a false picture of the world in order to use their political power against them.

I would assert this: If one were to check to see what proportion of the American people are better off rather than worse off because of how the Republicans have used their power, it would be very few Americans who are better off today than they would have been if the Republicans had never had an influence.

But they buy so many lies that they do not recognize who is hurting them — imagining that the undocumented immigrants are a big reason for the way you feel your position declining, and not recognizing that the same political force that’s whipping you up against immigrants is really the force that’s undermining your effectiveness in the democracy and undermining also your material circumstances and the prospects for your children.

There is a vulnerability to authority. That’s always the problem with the rise of fascism in a society. Those who accept authority can be awfully valuable when authority is good. Loyal citizens. But they are vulnerable to following an authority that will bring out their worst and make them part of a force that damages everything it touches.

I am hoping that either Trump will restrain his fascist impulses, and I am hoping that the people on the right will hold Trump accountable to discharge his office responsibly.

But there is every danger that Trump will trample on the American system so thoroughly that it constitutes a real threat to the integrity of the system. Devolving into perhaps a much more authoritarian order, where the president attempts tointimidate the press into being a mouthpiece for the Trump regime, or at least not subject the regime to any real criticism. And where a great many people on the right think that’s just swell.

It seems to me that part of the job now is to try to find ways of draining his support from the good people who voted for him. I say that there is enough human goodness over there in Trumpistan to offer an opportunity to move things, over time.

But we’ve got to be looking for ways that might work.

It would be a shame to have to fight a second American civil war. We still haven;t healed from the first.

How to bring people back from the dark side?

2016-11-23 22:14:00 Andy Schmookler

For 12 years, I have been simultaneously trying to find constructive ways of engaging people who are in the right-wing fold (and not only the trolls, who are determined to fight, and not interested in any kind of dialogue; also just regular conservatives who have a degree of goodwill) AND watching to see if anyone else is succeeding with what they are trying.

So far, I’ve not seen any clear success. The right-wing has created a culture of discourse that is pretty much impervious: “don’t trust the journalists, don’t trust the scientists, don’t trust the foreigners, and certainly don’t believe anything a liberal says.”

There is an ingrained propensity to perceive anyone who differs from the orthodoxy as an enemy, and then to defend the orthodoxy by fighting the enemy.

Yet the effort must be made. And we never know what the LONG-TERM effects of our efforts may be. (Some people think my way has had an impact, over time. I’d like to think so, and I think it’s possible. But I don’t assume.)

BTW, this is all very relevant to the piece I just posted this morning: “Missionary to the Conservatives.” I wrote that piece as someone who has been engaged in dialogue with people on the right for 24 years. And as someone who watched as the culture of the right went into breaking-bad mode during the era of KarlRovian propaganda.

2016-11-23 16:20:00 Andy Schmookler

Thanks for the suggestion, Sam.

Perhaps you could state here what, if anything, Conversational Intelligence has to say about how one should talk to persons # 1 if you think that persons # 2 are continually lying to them and manipulating them in order to exploit them.

If that is in fact the case, is it not important that the people being lied to and manipulated and exploited come to recognize that truth?

And if it is the case, and if it is important, does Conversational Intelligence have anything to say about how that need is best met?

2016-11-23 15:38:00 Andy Schmookler

Nothing I said in any way contradicted the notion that it is important to have “a solid (and, most important, consistent) core belief, and
testing that belief against the people, all of the people, in this
country, by LISTENING TO THEM, and then engaging them in our core

And I would say that the notion that a candidate for office in these times “should never say anything about anyone unless they would agree with it if they were in the room” is about being “nice.”

2016-11-23 15:35:00 Andy Schmookler

Human affairs are generally so complex that a great many things can be said about any one socio-political phenomenon that are all true, simultaneously. And in Sam Rasoul’s statement above, he says many true things.

But his account also leaves out something quite essential: over the past generation — from the rise of Gingrich and Limbaugh up through the election of Donald Trump as president — a force has taken over the American right, and its political arm the Republican Party, that is more thoroughly and systematically destructive than anything we’ve seen before at center stage of American politics.

The characterization of today’s Republican Party, by Ornstein and Mann a few years ago, as an “outlier” hardly captures the enormity of the dark turn that Party has taken. The only remotely comparable phenomenon in the history of the United States was the takeover of the politics of the American South during the period from the early 1830s up to the outreak of the Civil War in 1861 by an increasingly rabid force. That, too, led to great destruction of the nation and of its core values.

To get an idea of how important the absence of this element from Sam Rasoul’s analysis, consider 1) this: would we not have to say that President Obama has scored rather high on all six of those builders of trust that Sam lists, was he not an exemplar of many of them? But also 2) Is it not also the case that during the eight years that he has been the leader and main spokesperson of the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party has lost a considerable amount of ground, in competition with the Republicans, in both Houses of Congress, in the various states’ governor’s mansions, in the state legislatures?

Those two points fit together because, despite President Obama’s considerable virtues, like Sam Rasoul he dealt with the rising darkness on the right as if he hardly saw it (until Trump was the GOP nominee), and when he saw it he dealt with it in the mild kind of way that Sam advocates when he says, “We should never say anything about anyone unless they would agree with it if they were in the room.”

I am probably as hungry as anyone for a world in which being consistently “nice” and walking the path of peace are viable options for everyone all the time. Unfortunately, we live in a world where sometimes that path leads to disaster, and we have needs for other tools in our toolbox.

If we do not understand WHAT WE’RE UP AGAINST, we will continue to fail to block it from not only rolling over the Democratic Party but — far more important! — laying waste to all that is best about our nation.

2016-11-23 14:37:00 Andy Schmookler

I just want to point out how Dave Webster here illustrates one of the unappealing customs of the right-wing culture. Winning is treated as a sign of indisputable merit, while someone who loses is altogether discredited. (I wasn’t elected– a sure sign of my being defective.)

This of course requires hypocrisy and inconsistency– two things the right-wingers are quite adept at — because they themselves often lose. But whereas THEIR victories are affirmations by the cosmos, the victories of their opponents are no such thing. Obama’s victory doesn’t make him a winner– instead, they focus on lies about his being illegitimate (born in Kenya) and intolerably extreme (floating Republican ideas like the framework for Obamacare and cap and trade).

Their defeats in 2008 and 2012 mean nothing. Their victories in 2010 and 2014 and now– they mean everything.

What this shows is that their cosmic vision has little to do with what is right or true, but everything to do with winning and losing. It is a vision in which power is THE value, and victory is all that is required to affirm one’s rightness.

So we get put-downs like this one from Webster– who does not make even the slightest effort to make an argument. In the right-wing mentality– the fact that I lost to Goodlatte (in a 2:1 Republican district, by the way — is sufficient.

And this remark would be sufficient for ANY piece I might post. Because it has not substance whatever, except for the exultation of a victor whose superiority to the “loser” is self-evident in this amoral universe.

I’ve seen it so many times: when they win, they treat their victory

2016-11-20 18:11:00 Andy Schmookler

Not just Trump. Let’s take Bob Goodlatte.

Sam Rasoul ran against Goodlatte (2008) before I did. I would assert that the two main things that voters should know about Goodlatte (though of course the majority do not) is that 1) he consistently misleads the people of the 6th District, and 2) he reliably sells out his constituents to serve purely partisan interests (and his own ambition).

Of course, Goodlatte would never agree to those statements– at least not in front of the voters. But I would wager that he is fully aware that this is precisely his modus operandi.

Sam’s injunction– never to say “anything about my adversary that they wouldn’t agree with if they were in the room” — would forbid telling the main truths about what it means to the people of the 6th District to be “represented” by Bob Goodlatte.

Somehow, that does not strike me as a way to improve our democracy. (But it does capture a lot of how Democrats have conducted themselves while this darkness has been gaining in power through lies and the violations of the vital norms of American democracy.)

2016-11-19 17:53:00 Andy Schmookler

I’m a fan of Sam Rasoul’s, but I think he’s mistaken when he says (in that piece linked to above at https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/virginia-democrat-urges-party-to-move-away-from-politics-of-fear/2016/11/18/0a166492-addf-11e6-8b45-f8e493f06fcd_story.html ), that “Democrats could pledge that ‘I’m never going to say anything about my
adversary that they wouldn’t agree with if they were in the room.’”

That idea represents more of the kind of weakness on the liberal side that has enabled the destructive force that’s taken over the right to become as powerful as it has.

That idea amounts to this: Democrats should pledge not to speak the most important truths about the political crisis of our times.

2016-11-19 16:32:00 Andy Schmookler

I just got an email from Democracy for America that asks me to support this proposition: “Democracy for America — and our friends at MoveOn, CREDO, and across the progressive movement — agree: Chuck
Schumer and Democratic leaders need to stop playing footsie with Trump
and pretending we can find common ground on some issues without also
legitimizing Trump’s bigoted and hate-fueled agenda.”

I believe this is a mistaken idea. Why should it be impossible to
achieve some good where possible, while strongly condemning — not
legitimizing — “Trump’s bigoted and hate-fueled agenda.

unfortunate fact is that Trump has been elected president. Unless one
can prove that he stole it, and if one believes we are obliged to honor
the constitutional process for selecting our president, Trump
regrettably does have this inescapable piece of “legitimacy.”

sense does it make to deny that piece of legitimacy, and simply fight.
That sets one on the path the South took when Lincoln was elected, and
the path the Republicans took when Obama was elected.

In both cases, the consequences were terrible for our nation.

2016-11-19 16:24:00 Andy Schmookler

I agree with all you say, Elaine. In general, I have believed that presidents are entitled to have the people around them that they want, and have generally leaned in the direction of giving presidents a lot of latitude in filling cabinet posts. But people like Sessions and (perhaps will be) Guiliani or Bolton are being nominated for such important executive positions, and are so far from being within the acceptable range of American political values, that I believe their nominations should be fought.

2016-11-18 19:55:00 Andy Schmookler

It is indeed strange. The idea that smart people can be wrong is taken to be an answer to my asking on what basis he feels able to say he is more right than an entire scientific field.

“The hysteria is seen as a power grab.” I do not know of a single instance in all the history of science where thousands of scientists decided to stir up hysteria in order to abet some power grab.

But there are many, many instances where a powerful, extremely rich industry has worked to mislead people about the dangers of its products in order to protect their profits.

Tobacco and asbestos are two instances. Fossil fuel companies are of course — as has been quite well documented — is another.

Given my own upbringing, in which a respect for the truth was one of the greatest values I was taught, and have lived by, it is difficult to know how to deal — constructively, and not in a way that creates alienation — with people who cannot be convinced by evidence or logic, but who adopt their beliefs on some very different basis. .

We can of course give up on such people, rather than being persevering. But, as I’ve been saying for a very long time, it is hard to see how America can be healthy if a great many of our people are detached from reality.

And now the election of Donald Trump shows just how dangerous it would be to just accept that this is the way it is in America henceforth.

2016-11-15 19:04:00 Andy Schmookler

I find your response to be highly problematic, Mr. Dickinson, for what it says, though not explicitly, is that you reject that premise I proposed: namely, that for answers to scientific questions, we should turn to the scientists.

Presumably you know that the science has by this point created near unanimity on certain points. Among those points would be a strong refutation of the position that you assert: that a warmer earth might not be a bad thing.

There are two main problems, then, with what you have written here:

1) You seem to have decided that you’re in a position to endorse — on a scientific question — that over 99% of the experts in the relevant scientific field reject. I cannot imagine on what basis you feel able to put your position ahead of theirs. Do you do the same with respect to what astronomers, particle physicists, and investigators of DNA have to say?

2) You imply that the climate scientists who are giving us these warnings are not being “neutral arbiters of data.” Is it your belief that these thousands of scientists, working in nations across the world, over the course now of several decades, have come to their conclusions in some other way than in being impartial interpreters of the evidence?

Or is it your position that if some branch of science happens to discover that humankind is heading toward a great calamity, their “neutrality” in reaching that conclusion should also enforce upon them the neutrality of failing to issue a warning to the rest of us of the great danger that lies ahead of us if we don’t take corrective action?

Would you also want astronomers who discovered a large asteroid heading out way to keep their mouths shut?

2016-11-15 18:13:00 Andy Schmookler

Well, you do raise one good point, Mr. Dickinson: the goal is certainly not to alienate people, but to move them in a constructive way. (BTW, do you think your message here will have a beneficial, non-alienating effect. Or is alienating people OK by you?)

So a question for you on that score. First, let us take it as a given that when it comes to a scientific question — such as “What is happening to the earth’s climate, and how might that impact human civilization?” — we should seek the best available answers from the scientists?

Do you accept that premise?

If so, then the next question would be: since there are a whole lot of people who, for whatever reasons, refuse to believe what the scientists are telling us, and who have proceeded to elect a president who also rejects the science, what is the most effective way of moving those people toward acknowledging the reality the scientists are announcing, and of avoiding alienating them in the process?

2016-11-15 16:21:00 Andy Schmookler

I registered myself here pretty far down into pessimism. But I also believe that we are called — if we can summon the strength — to work toward realizing such better possibilities as may conceivably be possible.

2016-11-14 03:42:00 Andy Schmookler

Maybe Zogby is right in faulting the Democrats with ” Within the Democratic Party, I am arguing, as I have for decades, that
we have slighted the white working class. Despite having been the
backbone of the Democratic Party, we ignored the hardships they endured
as they became victims of economic and social dislocation.” A number of people have said similar things.

But I think that’s putting the emphasis on the wrong place, when it comes to seeing the problem. Sure, the Democratic Party has not been nearly the ally of the working class that it was when George Meany was the head of the AFL-CIO, and when organized labor was indeed the backbone of the Democratic Party.

The fact is that the union movement has lost most of its power since then, and Democrats had to move more toward the corporate world to be able to compete with the much more corporate Republican Party.

So even if the Democrats have not been as strongly committed to looking out for the working class– ALL THAT GETS DONE FOR THE WORKING CLASS IN WASHINGTON IS DONE BY THE DEMOCRATS, AND GENERALLY OVER THE OPPOSITION OF THE REPUBLICANS. When it comes to the National Labor Relations Board, when it comes to raising the minumum wage, when it comes to countless other issues to balance things more in favor of working people, it has been the Democrats who have invariably been their champions.

So the real issue here is not how the Democrats abandoned the working class. It is how so much of the working class got persuaded to lend its political support to the very political force that continually stacks the deck against working people.

And now a lot of them have voted for Trump NOT because they made any rational judgment based on evidence that the Democrats were not championing their cause, but because of a wholly unwarranted judgment that somehow this plutocratic Republican Party, and now this billionaire con man, is going to serve them better than the Democrats and Hillary Clinton would.

That judgment reveals a lack of perception of reality, a buying into a whole host of falsehoods, and being distracted by a whole lot of issues — like abortion — that will not improve their lives even if they win — and guns — on which their liberties and safety depend a whole lot less than they’ve been led to believe.

It is really hard to make a case that, for almost any working class person, that voting for Trump and for the Republicans is a reasonable way to make their lives, and their children’s lives, better.

The heart of the problem is that these people have been manipulated not to see things as they are, and thus to be unable to judge how to address their legitimate concerns and feelings.

2016-11-13 03:20:00 Andy Schmookler

The cross-over from hated candidate to accepted winner of the election, and thus president-elect, had just taken place when Clinton spoke, and then Obama met with Donald.

So his record as president was a clean slate. Part of the deal is that we give him a chance to prove us wrong in our beliefs of how terrible he is going to be. Hence they both called upon images of a presidency that is different from the one that we expect.

Since then Trump has undertaken actions — making statements, having surrogates and supporters of his make statements, naming atrocious people as involved in the staffing process — that warrant opposition, including firing a shot across his bow.

Nonetheless, we have an obligation to see whether there is any way to come to a scenario that’s better than the political war that is almost certainly otherwise brewing.

We owe it to ourselves, and our children and grandchildren, to do everything we can to come to a scenario that is not hugely damaging to the nation.

2016-11-13 00:06:00 Andy Schmookler

I believe you misread them completely, Jim. B. I doubt there are many Americans more bitterly disappointed than Obama and Clinton. Because Trump won, there’s a good bet his whole legacy will be erased. Because Trump won, Hillary’s dreams of being president, and accomplishing things close to her heart — which had seemed right within her grasp — are now forever lost. Plus the weight of having protected the nation by defeating Donald Trump.

I expect their suffering goes very deep.

But they had a job to do that is part of the set of traditions and norms that have been built up around the Constitution to safeguard the spirit of democracy. The concession speech that Hillary delivered, contrasted with the readiness Trump had to assault that spirit by simply threatening to reject the outcome of the election if it wasn’t to his liking, with no substantiation whatever for his declaring that the election was “rigged.”

By honoring our norms, Obama and Clinton affirm the importance of American norms. That will be one of the battles coming up, most likely– and it is good to remind the American people that there are norms, and that our nation works better when they are honored. And therefore they should require Trump to honor those norms and, since he is most unlikely to do so, he should be denounced in front the American people when he violates them.

These two events were the enactment of valuable American rituals. The loser must accept the outcome of the constitutionally-mandated process, and the old president is called upon to hand power over to the successor — even the most despised opponent — with dignity and respect for the system.

Obama and Clinton would likely have given up an arm, or at least several fingers, not to have to enact that ritual with Donald Trump as the president elect.

I hope they won’t be silent when it becomes time to speak out against Trump, but I’m not certain that it will work for them to do so. There is a tradition, for example, that the former president does not comment publicly on the new president.

Is that a tradition that should be preserved. Or are there circumstances forseeable ahead, under which Obama should?

In any event, Clinton and Obama have earned a marker than makes the Democrats’ future attempts to preserve the system that much more credible.

2016-11-13 00:01:00 Andy Schmookler

The situation with the press will be different now, which could go better or could go worse. Trump, armed with presidential powers, could be a visible threat to a free press. Will the press cower before his threats? Will it strike back?

In other words, with Trump now a threat, the press will see its choices differently. It may seek to counter, or it may fold. But it will not just be complacent.

2016-11-12 15:05:00 Andy Schmookler

I like the spirit of “time to redouble our efforts.” Indeed, I went through that after another terrible, sleepless post-election night in 2004. It was just two months before that I’d seen that Dark Force and devoted myself to fighting it. By the time I got out of bed the next morning, I’d resolved to go all out, and have done so ever since, with blogging, op/ed writing, radio shows, running for Congress, and writing a book to explain WHAT WE’RE UP AGAINST.

Not sure that’s where I’ll be this time around. (But I do note that here I am, still sharing my thoughts about the political situation. So I haven’t withdrawn from the field yet.)

2016-11-09 18:01:00 Andy Schmookler

I voted shortly after 9 at our polling place between Basye and Orkney Springs in Shenandoah County. I’ve never seen so many people there at any given time, and this is the 6th presidential election we’ve voted in hereabouts. (There was hardly any wait, however– just a minute or two.) Unfortunately, ours is a heavily Republican precinct. But, possibly fortunately, it is not representative of rural Virginia. The precinct is largely populated by people who live on Bryce Resort, and these are mostly conservative retirees from the DC area– retired miliary and CIA, for example. So their apparently heavy turnout may or may not be indicative of how many of the local conservatives of the Shenandoah Valley will get out to vote today.

2016-11-08 15:47:00 Andy Schmookler

” I don’t believe the President can actually fire the FBI director”

I don’t know how it works in terms of the FBI director, and how he can or can’t be relieved of his job before his 10-year term is up.

It has been a long time since Watergate, when L. Patrick Gray was left “twisting slowly in the wind” by the Nixon gang. I don’t recall how his departure worked, except that some misconduct was exposed and he submitted his resignation.

I would imagine that whatever the official immunities may be, this would not be any Saturday Night Massacre with Comey being fired. More like some acceptable way for him to take the step of resigning, albeit everyone would know that he took that step under some pressure.

It might also be that Comey doesn’t need to be pushed. It’s no secret that the FBI has been greatly damaged and compromised, and this has happened under his watch. Whatever the level of individual fault, the buck for the FBI stops at the Director’s desk.

(It is lucky for Comey’s intestines that he is not a traditional Japanese. In that ethic, screwing up as badly as Comey has might well lead to something more drastic than mere resignation from office.)

2016-11-07 04:08:00 Andy Schmookler

I have long suspected what you assert here, Elaine, that it was all politically motivated on Comey’s part. But I also feel uncertain, for two reasons: people who know Comey, and whom I respect — including top Democrats — interpret his motives differently; and there’s the story, which I don’t really understand, that he was trying to head-off the FBI leakers of “Trumpland” inside the FBI.

So bottom line: I don’t know. But regardless of his motives, his judgment was so poor and his control over the agency seems so inadequate (though this might not be fair– would some other Director have been able to head off these pro-Trump, Guiliani-connected FBI people?) that he has to go.

It cannot be OK to botch things that badly in that way at that time in such an important position as head of the FBI.

2016-11-06 22:33:00 Andy Schmookler

I agree about the house-cleaning at the FBI. Maybe Obama should make sure that some sort of Inspector General or Special Prosecutor or something with presumed integrity ferret out any FBI people who violated FBI rules or American laws and deal with them appropriately. Again, easier for him to get that started than for the new president to have to antagonize an agency that is of great importance, and that has already shown itself to be — in some potentially impactful rogue part — able and eager to hurt her.

2016-11-06 22:12:00 Andy Schmookler

A word about how Clinton’s probabilities have moved upward on the futures market predictit.org in just the past few days.

Not at all long ago, partly as a result of the FBI misdeeds — maybe it was Thursday — Clinton’s probability
had sunk down as low as 65 percent on the futures market. Now they are
at 80 percent.

Much of that move happened as a result of poll numbers, I
think, and the sense that the Trump rise had stopped with her still in
good shape, and maybe even begun to reverse. And there was all this encouraging talk
about the tidal wave of Hispanic voters.

Now with this second
communication from Comey, there has been another jump, with the gap
between Clinton’s chances and Trump’s increasing by another 8 percent.

2016-11-06 22:01:00 Andy Schmookler

A thought re the question, “Why is he still FBI Director?”

What I expect will happen is that he will no longer be FBI Director by Inauguration Day (assuming Hillary wins). Obama would want to spare Hillary the task of compelling him to resign, when she has a kind of personal stake that may make it look like an act of political revenge. Obama has better standing to do this, and he has been very gentle in his criticisms of Comey and has spoken words of praise of him, even if he ought not to have operated “in terms of innuendo.”

Bottom line: it would have been a mistake to have taken any kind of official action against Comey (by the president or the attorney general), injurious to the campaign.

But once the election is over, Obama can asked Comey to submit his resignation, perhaps saying something like the need for new leadership to restore a greater degree of professional order into the FBI, while Obama accepts his resignation and recites Comey’s many fine qualities and long-time public service, including his standing up to Bush’s bullies by the bedside of the ill John Ashcroft).

Hillary comes in a nominates her own person to head the FBI, with none of Comey’s blood on her hands.

2016-11-06 21:51:00 Andy Schmookler

I agree that the damage that Comey did has not been undone. For whatever reason — and people entitled to an opinion on the matter disagree about what that reason was — Comey unncessarily and inappropriately breathed life into the Trump campaign, as you say. But given that the whole episode is unfortunate and should never have happened, nonetheless it is worth noting that this dispelling of the shadow matters. What was already promising has been fortified further, and the feeling of the moment is a tad less burdened.

2016-11-06 21:15:00 Andy Schmookler

That new Washington Post/ABC tracking poll has mostly very good news. But there is also this: “Trump maintains a 44 percent to 40 percent edge over Clinton on which candidate is more honest and trustworthy…”

Absolutely jaw-dropping. Not only have I never seen a candidate so unrestrained in his continuous lying as Donald Trump but, more than that, I have never seen ANYONE so completely dishonest and untrustworthy as Trump.

So extreme is he that I consulted with four clinical psychologists among my friends and family for insight into how such bountiful, absolutely uninhibited lying can be explained. (The explanations involved two character disorders, both of which seem to fit Trump: narcissistic personality disorder and anti-social personality disorder.)

Yet here, the Americans polled picked Trump as the more honest and trustworthy person, over Hillary Clinton. (And as Lowell has pointed out, Politifact found Trump to have lied the most of all candidates, while Hillary lied either least or second least.)

Doubtless, these figures represent the delusions of Trump’s supporters and are not evenly spread across the American electorate.

But still…..

2016-11-06 14:46:00 Andy Schmookler

I have my reservations about this operation noted above from Slate.com — http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2016/11/follow_slate_and_votecastr_for_real_time_election_day_turnout_tracking.html — to try to give a picture of the likely results while voting is still going on. I’m not sure just how much they’re going to be able to tell us, but caution lights go on when they acknowledge that this will “break a decadeslong journalistic tradition whereby media outlets obey a
self-imposed embargo on voting information under the unproven theory
that it might depress turnout on Election Day.” This is justified, by quoting their Editor-in-Chief Julia Turner as saying, “The role of journalists is to bring information to people, not to protect them from it.”

I believe it is well-established that Jimmy Carter’s premature concession speech in 1980 resulted in a great many people in the West deciding not to bother voting, and this in turn affected the outcome in down-ballot (congressional) races.

So is that “theory” about depressing turnout really “unproven”?

It may not affect the outcome of the presidential race for news about that race to get out, but there are a lot of other things to be decided on Election Day. And there were good reasons why the networks decided some years ago to be restrained in what they disclose while the polls remain open in the West.

So: is this a good idea that slate.com is pursuing?

2016-11-05 15:03:00 Andy Schmookler

About the FBI. Is it safe to say that some agents in the FBI have leaked information in contravention of FBI rules and perhaps of laws?

If so, would it be possible for an investigation to establish who in the FBI broke agency rules and/or the law?

And if so to both, I would hope that after the election, those agents who sought improperly to use their trusted position to influence the presidential election would be identified and fired.

2016-11-04 18:01:00 Andy Schmookler

Or is this whole criminalization-of-Hillary/FBI bit no big deal, something better ignored?

2016-11-04 03:02:00 Andy Schmookler

For example… It is clear that wrong things have come out from the FBI, playing an inappropriate political role in this election. First there was the Comey letter, and subsequently there have been leaks about other supposed investigations involving Hillary Clinton.

Given that the FBI has stepped out of bounds — both officially with Comey, and unofficially with leakage (to Fox News, it seems, and perhaps directly to the Trump campaign (a recent article has said that the FBI is “Trumpland” — it seems to me it would not be inappropriate to have the Director (Comey) take a step to right that wrong.

Perhaps the President (or the Attorney General) could compel (?) Comey to come forward and correct the mis-impressions that are being played for electoral gain. It would involve saying only those things that he can say truthfully.

It was said, for example, that there has been no “re-opening of the investigation” of Hillary’s email server issue. But the Republicans immediately characterized the Comey letter as signifying just such a re-opening. If that is so, it would seem to be incumbent upon Comey to state clearly the truth, and to indicate clear that his letter should not have been utilized by politicians to indicate otherwise.

As for the other matters concerning the FBI leaks, I am not sure what Comey would be in a position to say. But if he could truthfully say, for example, something like, “The FBI is in possession of no information that would justify some of the statements that have been made suggesting that Hillary Clinton….” and here there would be language to counter assertions of the kind that Trump has been making to criminalize Hillary.

Of course, the criminalization of Hillary has been going on for a good while –“Lock her up! — but the statement from Comey would deal only with the use of politically motivated leaks from the FBI.

Whoever makes a mess as a responsibility to clean it up. In this case, Comey has made a big mess all on his own, and he is responsible for the conduct of his agency, including the politically motivated leakers. So for both those reasons, it is his job to clean it up however much he can prior to the election.

I’m not sure about whether anyone has the authority to compel such a statement, whether Comey would be willing to do so (without compulsion), whether there’s any reason it would not be good for American democracy to seek such a pre-election public correction, or whether it would in fact undo the damage done for such a statement to be made.

But it sure would not be good for American democracy if misconduct by the FBI determines the outcome of a presidential election. (Let alone if, as in this case, it would mean making a monstrous man like Donald Trump president.)

2016-11-04 02:24:00 Andy Schmookler

Chris Hayes just now on with a long segment about the Trump/Guiliani/FBI-leak/congressional-Republican coordination of an effort to suggest that Hillary is guilty of such crimes that even if elected she’ll end up in prison. An FBI “fifth column” leaking dubious stuff (founded on a hack anti-Clinton book) and then distorted into something dire-sounding without any real substance behind it. All in an attempt to tilt the election.

What was not broached in the several “All In” conversations was any inquiry into what can be done to keep these efforts from succeeding. The whole thing is disgraceful on the part of Trump and his various allies. But where is the determination to find a way to make sure they are PUNISHED and NOT REWARDED for that disgraceful behavior?

Can something be done to make sure that Trump does not profit on Election Day from his ongoing lies to criminalize his opponent, with help from elements in the FBI?

And if something CAN be done, will it?

There are two parts to my article above. One is that there is ugliness ahead, even after victory. That’s the part, Lowell, about which you said, “So true.”

But the other part is a call to find the most powerful available strategy for using the disgraceful and ugly conduct of the Republicans to demolish them and drain their power. That’s really the MAIN point of the article.

Watching Chris Hayes delineate so well the ugliness, but not even broach the question of how it might be punished, underscores my fear about the Democrats’ tendency to be too passive in relation to an enemy — not just an opponent, I regret to say — that will stop at nothing to grab power, even if that means dismantling American democracy.

2016-11-04 00:42:00 Andy Schmookler

I’ve been pondering the question of what, if anything, Hillary should say about Trump’s dangerous “rigged election” incitements in tonight’s debate.

On the one hand, I understand that her main job is to do nothing to change the trajectory of things. Protecting a lead is a useful strategy in the 4th quarter, when it’s more than a one-possession game.

On the other hand, her lead is big enough, and Trump’s egregious incendiary rhetoric is serious enough, and Trump is getting so little support for it even from Republicans, that I believe it is safe for Hillary to unload on Trump.

So if I were advising Hillary, I would have her NOT bring up the subject, but to be ready to pounce with a powerful statement (of perhaps a half dozen well-crafted sentences) that call Trump out and put Trump down and then pivot to a statement of great praise for our constitutional democracy and how it should be honored and protected, and not recklessly trashed.

My guess is that Hillary’s team — which has done such a great job of preparing pre-designed statements for use in these debates, which Hillary has learned and delivered so well — has crafted something excellent along some such lines.

I hope so, and I hope that the debate offers her an opportunity to deliver those lines to maximal good effect.

2016-10-19 17:54:00 Andy Schmookler

I would say that — considering how disgraceful across-the-board obstructionism is on the face of it — the anger of the citizenry these past seven and a half years has been far from widespread, and very short of intense.

2016-10-11 17:56:00 Andy Schmookler

I’m imagining that these calls from Republican office-holders (like McCain and Comstock) are to be understood less as attempts to get anything to actually happen than as political theater to maximize the perceived distance between themselves and their horrible standard bearer. “I rejected him, so don’t attach his stench to me.”

2016-10-09 16:29:00 Andy Schmookler

When I said, “There is as much ugliness, however, in Trump’s wielding of the birther lie,” I intended that to stand in for a whole raft of major assaults by Donald Trump on the integrity of our political world that should repel any one who cares about good prevailing over evil in America.

Like this in a tweet yesterday from Krugman:

Paul Krugman ‏@paulkrugman
Worth pointing out that Trump’s “let’s execute the Central Park Five even
though DNA exonerates” is objectively even worse than sex stuff

2016-10-09 16:13:00 Andy Schmookler

Been wondering, if Trump delivers his much threatened attack on Hillary at tonight’s event, hitting her with Bill’s infidelities, how should she respond.

I propose this as a possibility, and would be interested in hearing what others think:

“Donald/Mr. Trump, you have already done the American people an enormous disservice, dragging this campaign into the gutter. I refuse to join you there.”

And then just go on with other things, without responding further.

2016-10-09 16:08:00 Andy Schmookler

Tweet I just sent:

Debate Q for Trump: “If being a star lets you grab women by the p***y, what would being president enable you to do?”

2016-10-08 14:26:00 Andy Schmookler

I am proud to say that my wife, April Moore (former candidate for Virginia State Senate against Mark Obenshain), was also among those arrested in this civil disobedience action to get Governor McAuliffe to protect our environment.

2016-10-05 21:56:00 Andy Schmookler

If you are saying that it didn’t really matter whether the Iraq war launched in 2002 took place, or didn’t take place — and that seems a reasonable though not certain inference to draw — then, to my mind, that means that either you have little grasp of how the human world moves, or a morality that is little concerned with the condition of the world, no moral concerns at all.

I gather it is not the last of those three. But I’d have to hear more about how you rationalize your indifference between importantly different options to know just where you’re coming from.

In any event, anyone who can contemplate W’s presidency — and not see an important contrast with the spirit that Al Gore has brought to his work — and who can contemplate the abysmal character of Donald Trump — and not see an important contrast with Hillary Clinton’s lifelong clearly sincere concern about children and familities — is living in a different moral universe from the one I inhabit.

2016-10-03 18:30:00 Andy Schmookler

Well, that would explain a lot– if one takes it as a given, the rest follows.

But not taking it as a given, a few questions arise:

1) Do you agree with what Ralph Nader said, in 2000, that there wasn’t “a dime’s worth of difference between Al Gore and George W. Bush? (Which might also be framed: Do you think that W in the White House was no worse than having Al Gore in the White House would have been? Which could also be framed: do you think there would have been an Iraq war if Al Gore had been president? And do you think that things like the Iraq war are no big deal?)

2) Does your not having a preference between Hillary and the Donald mean that you don’t think there are really big differences in the likely presidencies of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump?

2016-10-03 17:04:00 Andy Schmookler

These things I would hope that everyone would concede are true:

1) Only two people are possibly the next president of the U.S.: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

2) The difference between Hillary and Trump on the environment (including climate change), and on virtually every other major issue, is vast and important.

3) Every person who votes for a third party candidate means that whoever that person would prefer between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will get one fewer vote than if that person had voted for one of the actually possible winner.

4) That means that the victory of the worse of the two possible winners become more likely.

5) The experts are saying that the problem of climate change is urgent, meaning that what is done now and in the coming few years matters. Thus is is imprudent, if one regards climate change as a major issue, to play a long game– like the generations it took for the women’s suffrage movement to win for women the right to vote.

Is there any point here that any of you Jill Stein voters would contest?

If not, can you please present a plausible scenario by which people voting for Jill Stein, and Donald Trump being elected president, leads to a better outcome for planet earth than those same people voting for Hillary Clinton and thereby helping her, not Trump, become president?

And if you can’t, is there something you care about more than the “better outcome,” i.e. more than the actual consequences for our world?

2016-10-03 15:51:00 Andy Schmookler

I think your comment about his respecting HIMSELF points to the heart of the matter. I’d put it in terms of his consuming narcissism. For the narcissist, there is not room for a win-win in terms of real worth. So a narcissist like Trump requires that he have a monopoly on what is to be admired, and what is to be given deference.

2016-09-29 19:39:00 Andy Schmookler

One hope I have, in posting here among Democrats the messages I craft to challenge Republicans, is that if anyone sees a message as at least potentially effective, he/she will bring it to the attention of any Republicans on whom the message might have a beneficial effect.

This particular message — about how the very people to whom Republicans would naturally look for assessments of the national security implications of a potential leader are saying that, in the case of Donald Trump, party loyalty should yield to the more urgent demands of American patriotism — seems to me would be hard for any Republican who can be moved by evidence and reason to refute.

Admittedly, things on the right have come to the point where Republicans who can be persuaded by evidence and reason are likely hard to find.

2016-09-21 19:15:00 Andy Schmookler

“There’s no escaping the conclusion that he regards violence as a legitimate political tool.”

It is worse than that. It is not just that Trump “regards violence as a legitimate political tool,” but worse, Trump is wholly indifferent to whether something is legitimate or not. If it serves his purposes, he has no scruples about using it.

That said, Dana Milbank in this piece does a fine job of compiling a diverse set of examples of Trump’s ongoing encouragement of and flirtation with political violence. I would think that the Clinton people who have done such outstanding work in crafting ads that consist almost entirely of Trump’s own words spoken in Trump’s own voice — to expose the man’s darkness and unsuitability for the presidency — could use this piece by Milbank to craft yet another.

The American people can use help in putting such pieces together so that they can envision the danger and degradation that a Trump president might inflict on the nation.

2016-09-20 14:43:00 Andy Schmookler

I certainly did NOT mean to give Goodlatte any credit by calling him “Goodlatte-the-representative.” My intent was quite the contrary: my point was that Goodlatte is not supposed to be in this for himself, but to be responsible for the role with which he has been entrusted by the people of this district to REPRESENT THEM.

And, Elaine, let me just close by thanking you for your appreciation of my running against Goodlatte. As you’ll recall, my campaign slogan was “Truth. For a change.” and I did my best to use truth as a kind of kryptonite against our local party hack. In a rational and healthy political system, no one like Goodlatte, and no party like the Republicans, could prosper with such a cavalcade of lies such as they wield.

And now the GOP has come to the extreme climax of their culture of falsehoods with a candidate for whom the distinction between the truth and the lie does not even register.

2016-09-19 22:14:00 Andy Schmookler

My agreement with Lowell on this I would put in these terms: it is clearly in the interest of Goodlatte-the-representative to just coast to re-election, but elections are not supposed to be about the interests of the politicians but about the interests of the people from whose consent the government draws its just powers. It is a betrayal of the voters to deprive them of an opportunity to compare their choices, side by side.

2016-09-19 19:15:00 Andy Schmookler

Oh, and likewise on the :
Slate ~100 Percent Accurate Electoral Forecast Averagifier”
http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2016/09/trump_vs_clinton_who_s_winning_today_s_forecasts_of_who_will_win_the_election.html. A one-point uptick there since the weekend, from 68% to 69%.

BTW, I’m tired of getting emails from Democratic campaign organizations utilizing panic-inducing subject lines. Is that really the best way to mobilize support, and get people to send in their dollars? I’d think that people would respond better from a place of concern, or even worry, than from being terrified.

2016-09-19 16:44:00 Andy Schmookler

Anyone interested in a little encouraging news? (In these worrisome weeks, I’ll take any little tidbit I can get.)

I had a conversation over the weekend with a long-time friend who’s one of the most politically knowledgeable people I know. We discovered that we both had the same intuition about that moment. Though neither of us felt all that confident, we both believed that we had reached the moment of Hillary’s prospects bottoming out, that they would rise from here.

This morning, I discovered on the New York Times website –http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/upshot/presidential-polls-forecast.html — that the probability of a Hillary victory had up-ticked from 73% to 74%.

Not much. Just a tidbit. But maybe it’s a start.

2016-09-19 16:37:00 Andy Schmookler

If we want to flesh out the various factors that feed into all this, prominent among them also would be “the need for enemies.” For some people, a world rent by conflict is where they feel most at home (or least ill at ease).

So in addition to what this piece is about — concerning the solidarity with the “Us” achieved by hating who we’re told to hate — there is also the pay-off of having SOMEONE to hate.

From “love thine enemies” to “love having enemies.”

2016-09-16 18:54:00 Andy Schmookler

Especially for people who have a need to see things in black and white terms. (“We don’t do nuance.”) Intolerant of ambiguity.

2016-09-16 18:20:00 Andy Schmookler

If you believe that enlisting Elizabeth Warren to get into the ring to play this role is a good idea, and if you have access to our Senator and former Governor and present VP candidate, Tim Kaine, I hope you will consider using that access to get this idea to where it might be acted upon.

2016-09-14 22:01:00 Andy Schmookler

I agree about the media, and had thought to include some of that — e.g. the coverage of the Clinton Global Initiative (especially what the AP did) — in the piece. But I thought that in this medium, making the piece more complex would be counter-productive. But you’re right.

2016-09-05 16:13:00 Andy Schmookler

About this passage — “Although hindsight and the outcome bias generally foster risk aversion,
they also bring undeserved rewards to irresponsible risk seekers, such
as a general or an entrepreneur who took a crazy gamble and won. Leaders
who have been lucky are never punished for having taken too much risk.” –a question immediately arose in my mind, and I wonder if any reader here has an answer.

What came to my mind was this question: Is General Douglas MacArthur a case in point, in particular with respect to his landing at Inchon during the Korean War. I gather that it was a big success, but also that it was extremely risky, and could very well have been a disaster. Was it a risk he should not have taken? And thus did he gain more heroic status for the kind of misguided reasons Kahneman mentions, that he took a crazy gamble and won?

(He took another big risk later in that war — crossing the Yalu River, if I recall — and disasterously brought the Chinese into the conflict.)

2016-09-03 18:02:00 Andy Schmookler

And here’s a statement about the TPP appearing in In These Times (http://inthesetimes.com/article/18695/TPP_Free-Trade_Globalization_Obama):

“Like most recent international economic agreements, the TPP only
glancingly resembles a classic trade deal, concerned mainly with tariffs
and quotas. Rather, like the WTO agreements or NAFTA, it is an attempt
to set the rules of the global economy to favor multinational
corporations over everything else, trampling on democracy, national
sovereignty and the public good. The more than 600 corporate lobbyists
who had access to the draft texts used their insider status to shape the
deal, while labor unions, environmentalists and others offered
testimony from outside, with little impact.”

2016-08-31 19:21:00 Andy Schmookler

If one Googles the TPP along with such things as “national sovereignty” and “corporate power grab,” one discovers that there is alarm about these matters being expressed on both the left and the right. The right has raised so many false alarms about the loss of national sovereignty that — even though they do not generally worry about excessive corporate power — they are a bit in the “Little Body Who Cried Wolf” category, lacking full credibility.

But I also know some people in the Bernie world who have focused on this issue, and they too are alarmed by the implications for our control of our destiny that I’ve delineated above.

Also among the voices on the left is Chris Hedges, who has written this passage:

“These three agreements [one of which is the TPP] solidify the creeping corporate coup d’état along with the final evisceration of national sovereignty. Citizens will
be forced to give up control of their destiny and will be stripped of the ability to protect themselves from corporate predators, safeguard the ecosystem and find redress and justice in our now anemic and often dysfunctional democratic institutions. The agreements—filled with jargon, convoluted technical, trade and financial terms, legalese, fine print and obtuse phrasing—can be summed up in two words: corporate

“The TPP removes legislative authority from Congress and the White
House on a range of issues. Judicial power is often surrendered to three-person trade tribunals in which only corporations are permitted to sue. Workers, environmental and advocacy groups and labor unions are blocked from seeking redress in the proposed tribunals. The rights of corporations become sacrosanct. The rights of citizens are abolished.

“The Sierra Club issued a statement after the release of the TPP text
saying that the “deal is rife with polluter giveaways that would
undermine decades of environmental progress, threaten our climate, and
fail to adequately protect wildlife because big polluters helped write
the deal.”

2016-08-31 19:07:00 Andy Schmookler

There has been some discussion, behind the scenes, about how what I say here about the TPP can be true, when President Obama is pushing this agreement and when he is considered by so many of us — including me — to be generally a very good guy.

I have no explanation, but I feel confident about the validity of what I say here. Assuming that to be true, some possibilities:

Does the president somehow not know all of the implications of the agreement he’s pushing? A friend of mine has said that the President found out only after some years that his administration was implementing a deportation policy much harsher than what he’d asked for. I don’t know if that’s true– it seems hard to imagine that no one would have informed the president of such a thing when the alleged discrepancy between the president’s intent and what was being done under his authority became visible. But if it is true, it would be a relevant precedent.

Does the president consider the TPP worth it for some other reason– e.g. as a way of containing China’s power (as it is said)? If so, then the question arises: would the parts of the agreement important to the president been impossible to achieve without also abetting this corporate power-grab? That seems somewhat hard to imagine.

Or does the president — contrary to our image of him — endorse this loss of sovereignty to the global corporate system? Hard to believe. But then, I’ve found quite puzzling some other things that Obama has supported– such as an extremely harsh treatment of whistle-blowers, and a much more robust assertion of the right of the government to spy on us than I would have hoped for from our constitutional-lawyer president.

Whatever the answer, i did not make this piece about Obama. I made it about an aspect of the TPP about which many other people have raised the alarm. I will provide one such voice in a second comment.

2016-08-31 19:02:00 Andy Schmookler

Excellent, Kai. This seems to me the just right way for you to go after our man, Bob Goodlatte. Particularly using those issues on which majorities of the public want something done.

Goodlatte is a particularly apt target for this line of attack– for the reason you give, i.e. that at the helm of the House Judiciary Committee, old Bob has played an outsized role in bottling up good legislation. But every Republican incumbent in the House has participated in this purely partisan obstructionism, no matter the harm to the nation. I hope that other Democrats will look at what you’ve composed here and that his basic message can get out in other areas besides our 6th District.

And speaking of dissemination, I hope you’ve got ways of getting this message out with this clarity and power to the wider electorate (beyond the circle of Democratic activists you’re reaching here). The first 500 words of this thing are well on the way to being something that might get published. If you could boil the message down to 150 words, while maintaining the impact, you’ve got a script for a one-minute radio ad.

It’s good to see you coming strong heading into the home stretch.

2016-08-24 13:38:00 Andy Schmookler

I agree most emphatically with this, which you write, kindler:

“If we do not push the media, academics and others to tell the real story
of the GOP, you can guarantee they will once again be allowed to play
their double game two or four years from now. Rather than letting them
blame whatever happens in the 2016 election solely on Trump, we need to
do our part to make everyone understand how the Republican party
purposely built the politics of hate, fear and ignorance – before it
rightly blew up in their faces.”

Trump is indeed a manifestation of what the Republican Party has become in our times, and in this campaign, it is not enough just to go after Trump, the GOP needs to be defeated and damaged as well. Even a landslide against Trump, if it leaves this Republican Party able to reconstitute itself (as you say, kindler) and we’re right back into the dysfunctional political world they’ve succeeded on imposing upon us:

Not just the hate and fear and ignorance, which you rightly mention, but also the fundamental dishonesty, the utter lack of integrity intellectual and otherwise, the hypocrisy, the willingness to sacrifice the greater good because of complete investment in the quest for power. Obstructionism and climate denial being two dramatic illustrations of its fundamental lack of morality.

And it is important point that “we need to do our part to make everyone understand” how the Republican Party is as deserving of repudiation as Trump himself.

2016-08-15 21:38:00 Andy Schmookler

From the end of a Paul Waldman piece (https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2016/08/09/hillary-clinton-may-be-headed-for-a-blowout-but-can-she-bring-other-democrats-with-her/?wpisrc=nl_popns&wpmm=1 ) in the Washington Post today:

“The success of a potential Clinton presidency could turn in large part on
whether Democrats get past those 50 votes in the Senate and 218 votes in
the House. If Republicans control even one chamber, they’ll be able to
stop any legislation they want to. And there are two big factors
suggesting they’ll be as obstructionist as they can, particularly in the
House. The first is that whatever seats they lose will be in swing
districts, meaning that the losers will probably be the more moderate
members. With them gone, that will leave a Republican caucus even more
conservative than it is now (if you can imagine such a thing).

“The second is that they’ll look back at the experience of the Obama years
and see that obstructionism can produce huge gains in midterm elections,
as the public gets frustrated with inaction and blames the president
and her party.”

To which I say, it would be the job of President Hillary Clinton to make sure that this time the public knows who to blame for inaction.

2016-08-09 22:26:00 Andy Schmookler

All that you say here, Elaine, is true. But I do not believe that they touch the level from which Republican obstructionism came.

We know that around the time of Obama’s first inauguration, the Republicans made a decision to obstruct across the board in order to get the public to see his presidency as a failure. I very much doubt that this decision had anything whatever to do with how well Barack Obama had established personal or collaborative relationships with any of the Republicans.

It was a deeper, purely partisan strategy to destroy a presidency they — the Republicans — did not own and control.

And the question hanging over that decision was whether the response from the president would enable that strategy to succeed, or whether he would be able to use his bully pulpit to punish it.

If one reviews the course of events in the first months of President Obama’s first term, one can see that the president’s response imposed no political cost on the Republicans for their non-cooperation.

An important unknown now is in what condition the Trump candidacy will leave the GOP. But if we were to imagine that the GOP comes out of this fall’s election more or less like it has been — which I very much hope is not the case — with control of at least the House, and with the same spirit governing it, I know of no reason why such a Republican Party would be more willing to allow Hillary to succeed than they have been with Obama.

Which would make the crucial question: will Hillary be able and willing to make them pay for the obstructionist course in a way that President Obama has not?

2016-08-08 16:14:00 Andy Schmookler

A good line from a column by Michael Gerson that Lowell called attention to in yesterday’s news summary: “Trump’s political judgments seem mostly based on how others view him, making Vladimir Putin a friend and Paul Ryan an enemy.”

2016-08-06 19:27:00 Andy Schmookler

Where this piece appears on Daily Kos, a handful of comments came in that were dismissive of conservatives saying things like, “Conservatives care about greed. Beyond that they care about protecting their greed.” Of course I was “wrong about conservatives caring about character,” was the jist.

In response, I wrote the following comment:

“I get the impression that many of those commenting above know the
conservatives only from what they’ve seen of the conduct of Republicans
in the political world. Confining one’s view to that realm, those
comments are largely valid.

“But I’m in the position of living among rural Virginia conservatives for most of the past quarter century. And in that realm, one sees something really rather different. I’m not
the only Democrat hereabouts who has observed what good people most of
them are as neighbors, as people to do business with, etc.

“With that larger view in mind, the dismissive comments above do not look so adequate.

“This disjunction between decent people supporting an indecent political
party is one of the most dramatic and dangerous developments of our
time. And much of my own political effort in my region is to try to make
that disjunction visible to those same people.

“I can’t claim that I’ve succeeded, the right-wing world having become so closed since the rise of Limbaugh and Fox News, etc.

“But, as I find it difficult to see how the nation will become healthy again
while so many of our “good” people are aligned with a destructive
political force (of which Trump is but the more blatant and grotesque
expression), I keep trying.

“Hence this piece for the newspapers that my conservative neighbors read.”

2016-08-03 18:21:00 Andy Schmookler

The question might arise: Who should be challenging these Republican office-holders in this way? To which I’d say:

First and foremost, it should be the Democratic candidates running against them. There are eight Republican members of Congress running for re-election here in Virginia, and if I were running against any of them I would do all I could to compel them to tell the voters where they stand on Trump, and the question of his fitness for the presidency.

And then there are the citizens, the voters who can attend public events where people in the audience are able to ask questions of a candidate.

Finally, there’s the press (though the press has to frame its questions in a less editorializing way that candidates or citizens may do).

2016-08-02 22:19:00 Andy Schmookler

I think Tim Kaine was the right choice. And I thought his speech in FLA last Saturday — more so than his speech at the convention last night — was fabulous!

2016-07-28 21:50:00 Andy Schmookler

I must confess, my prediction above (in the NOTE) looks perhaps unduly optimistic, if not foolhardy, today. If Trump can get a bump out of THAT convention, it is hard to see just what basis there is to imagine that between now and November 8 there will be an expansion of the proportion of the American people who see what an ugly choice Trump represents.

(Plus, we now see that he’s got Vladimir Putin as his Dirty Tricks Meister as well.)

2016-07-25 19:01:00 Andy Schmookler

Your judgment, Anonymous, implies that this very smart guy made a really stupid move. That could be right, and it would be reassuring if you it is. That would mean that he is not as dangerous as I sometimes think he is– having watched how he finished number 2 in the Republican race when he seemed to be starting out far back in the pack. But I’m not yet ready to assume that this present reaction — combined in the coming months with the Trump candidacy turning out to be a disaster for the Republican Party — could be transmuted into people forgetting how they loved Trump and remembering only that Trump brought them disaster, and Cruz had the good judgment to remind us of what we stand for and then conspicuously refuse to endorse Trump.

After Disaster, the mindset of the base may have shifted so that Trump is now the one who led to disaster,– no real winner, he — and tarnished our image as well as lost some of our power. He who refused to embrace the one who brought disaster looks like an improvement on the leadership of that moment when Cruz spoke at the convention.

2016-07-21 19:50:00 Andy Schmookler

The question I find interesting is just what Cruz’s strategy here is. Here are the elements with which I’d begin in the search for an answer:

1) Cruz is a very smart guy, easily the smartest (it would seem) among the Republican face-cards;

2) Cruz is one for bold, unlikely strategies– e.g. the way he stomped all over the Speaker of the House to engineer a government shutdown over Obamacare though he must have known it was a losing battle, but much of the GOP base imagined they could kill Obamacare and he became their hero by not “caving” to reality;

3) Cruz must have known that he would arouse anger from the convention, and that his failure to endorse Trump would become an enduring image in his relationship with the Republican Party;

4) So the question becomes: what is the scenario that this clever man — and out-and-out sociopath — envisions whereby his having taken this dramatic non-endorsing stance toward the GOP’s official nominee for president, will help him in 2020 become president?

2016-07-21 15:31:00 Andy Schmookler

I’m delighted that this Cruz speech has further damaged the Trump convention. But I don’t entirely understand how his non-endorsement has become this huge shock and thus such a huge deal.

Did most people really think Cruz WOULD endorse Trump? I didn’t. It seemed to me that the story from the beginning was that Cruz had been given a speaking slot even though he had not endorsed and there was no assurance that he would.

So why the big surprise?

2016-07-21 14:01:00 Andy Schmookler

My guess, Quizzical, is that the Republicans supporting Trump do not depend on any such benign assumptions. We have seen for some years now how widespread in the GOP is the willingness to sacrifice the good of the nation for the sake of political advantage.

In most situations, that has meant the political advantage of the Party to which they have hitched their star. The nomination of Trump is an outcome that people like Paul Ryan very much wished to avoid, fearing that it could be a disaster for the Party. But since that is a fait accompli, the congruence of partisan opportunism and personal opportunism becomes strained.

So the question simply becomes: how to navigate an unfortunate situation with minimal damage to one’s own prospects, and minimal damage to the long-run fortunes of the Party.

I doubt that any illusions about Trump, or beliefs about how the nation would be OK under Trump, are necessary to explain the approach of these pols — to simultaneously support and take distance from the toxic candidate.

And again, the idea that “President Hillary would be unspeakably bad, so I am being both a great patriot and a good conservative to support Trump” offers a way to paper over the moral bankruptcy of a GOP rallying around this wholly unsuitable proto-fascist the base has foisted upon it.

2016-07-15 19:03:00 Andy Schmookler

Excellent call, Lowell. “Gives way”? That headline itself helps the better angels of our national nature give way to the worse.

2016-07-11 15:36:00 Andy Schmookler

As I said, I’ve been pondering this for months. I may be on the trail of something, but not yet ready to articulate it publicly.

For now, let me just report this much: 1) I think she should leave this issue altogether alone between now and Election Day– unless the polls show her to be in trouble, which I’m not thinking is likely; then 2) In the interval between her (presumed) victory over Trump and her inauguration as president, there could be a speech she gives in which this issue is addressed.

I hope to be able to write such a speech, but I don’t have a good enough handle on it now. But I think that the theme might be some kind of heartfelt statement about what it is about her that Americans CAN TRULY TRUST, that matters in a president.

BTW, I assuming that — at the most fundamental level, for a president — she is someone that we Americans SHOULD trust.

2016-07-06 15:50:00 Andy Schmookler

When something like 60% of the public — even, apparently, a goodly share of people who are planning to vote for her — do not regard her as “trustworthy,” this is not about worrying “about people who love tearing her down.” This is about the value, for a president, of being trusted by a majority of the people. It’s not about her enemies who, I agree, one should not seek to win over. It’s about gaining a more widespread public trust.

As I said, the credibility of a president matters in terms of being able to rally people behind an agenda, and put pressure on those who stand in the way.

2016-07-06 15:39:00 Andy Schmookler

I have a friend who liked the first part of this piece, but was unhappy about the second part, where I describe President Obama as a kind of “enabler.” She is an extremely enthusiastic support of President Obama’s, and my criticism of him rankled her.

In the belief that others here may have the same response — in kind, if not in intensity — I’d like to say a couple of things here pre-emptively.

First, I consider myself strongly supportive of Mr. Obama. As his poll numbers have climbed, I have rejoiced. Moreover, it seems to me that in recent times — perhaps since early 2015 — I believe that he has found his stride and has been playing the role he is left with exceedingly well. (I do think that he should be more confrontational about the GOP’s Supreme Court blockage, but otherwise I think he’s doing great.)

Second, it remains true, nonetheless, that in one crucial area of his presidency — from nearly the beginning in 2009, up through the disastrous 2014 elections — President Obama has failed miserably: how to deal with the Republicans, who, from the outset, have been out to destroy him and nullify his presidency.

I do not see how else to score a period when, with Mr. Obama as the leader of the Democratic Party, the GOP — despite behaving disgracefully almost without exception — has taken over both houses of Congress, and swept to an unprecedented domination of state-houses and governor’s mansions across the United States. And part of this picture also is that the president lost the ability, half-way through his first term, to accomplish virtually anything through the legislative process. Being reduced to executive actions is not a sign of success for a president.

(It may be true that the GOP — thus enabled — has begun to self-destruct. But it seems really far-fetched to imagine that this redeems President Obama’s record in relation to the Republicans, of being thwarted and defeated at every turn (with the important exception of winning his own re-election).

So this is a big failure, and it needs to be looked at. But it needs to be looked at because of one last important point:

Third, the issue for us now is NOT that President Obama, for whatever reason, was ill-equipped to deal with an opposition party of this unprecedented nature. No, the issue for us now is that so many of us on the liberal side of the divide DO NOT SEE THAT FAILURE.

The inability to see that failure — which, it is my impression, characterizes something of a majority of liberals — reflects that the same disability that limited President Obama’s ability to counter this force that has taken over the right: not perceiving well just what it is we’re up against, and not being prepared to press the battle against that force which insists incessantly on making a fight over everything.

So, in less than a year, President Obama will be a respected former president. And maybe, in less than a year, the Republican Party will have shredded itself so thoroughly that the nation needs no help from strong liberal voices to drain the GOP’s power away. But more likely, we will still have to do battle with this same spirit that has run the GOP for nearly a generation– that gave us the GWBush presidency, that has given us wall-to-wall obstructionism, and that now gives us the grotesque Trump presidential candidacy.

And for that battle, we need a different kind of awareness than President Obama showed for the first six years of his presidency, and a higher readiness to call out the Republicans than the Democrats have shown for years, up until now, when the blatant nature of the Trump ugliness has finally brought out the strong force of outrage and moral denunciation from the Democratic side.

2016-07-06 15:27:00 Andy Schmookler

Yes. I read those before I wrote my comment. And I’d be delighted for all that to be true.

There is a reality out there that is well-established and ought not to be ignored: that polls show Hillary to have high unfavorables, and that central to that appears to be that a lot of Americans (approximately 60%) do not see her as honest and trustworthy.

Regardless of how well- or ill-founded those perceptions are, and regardless of what role right-wing propaganda vs. her own actions caused this distrust, these perceptions exist. And they are potentially important EVEN IF SHE WINS THE ELECTION HANDILY, which at present seems highly likely. They will remain important because they can affect her ability to lead the nation, which is an important part of the job of the president.

So I would like to raise a question that I myself have been pondering for a couple of months now: if you were advising Hillary, and you believed that it was important to move people toward trusting her, WHAT WOULD YOU ADVISE HER TO DO?

Or would you regard this widespread perception as either unimportant or irremediable?

2016-07-06 14:52:00 Andy Schmookler

About the Hillary/email matter. I would really like to believe that the bottom line is that Hillary has been exonerated, and the whole brouhaha over this has been proved to be as groundless and dishonest and politically motivated on the right as the whole Benghazi matter.

But there are too many people who are not just right-wing hacks and propagandists who are calling it differently.

True, the elements that would make her conduct a crime are missing: no intent to leak classified material, no deliberately working to damage the United States.

But Comey’s non-criminal indictments are not nothing. And I have been struck by other fairly strong statements from people like Ryan Grim, whom I have perceived as a liberal-oriented journalist (last night on Chris Hayes’ show). And as just one other example, this from the McClatchy newspapers: ” “Clinton’s handling of email went beyond carelessness, experts say.”

Plenty more.

So I hope that it’s true that voters won’t care about this. And it surely is true that Hillary’s shortcomings, however they are assessed, are a molehill compared to those of Donald Trump.

But is it really correct to imply that Hillary’s come out of this with an essentially clean bill of health? Has this business really now been shown to be a non-scandal?

I am firmly and fiercely now in Hillary’s camp. But I don’t want my support of her to distort my perception here.

So I ask: how would what has now been shown and said about this email biz affect the views of a wise and impartial citizen about Hillary?

What does all this reveal about her that should matter to us as we as a nation decide to make her the next president?

2016-07-06 14:16:00 Andy Schmookler

I’m wondering how much weight should be given to the issue raised in “Kaine accepted clothes, vacation as gifts” (above at http://www.politico.com/story/2016/06/tim-kaine-virginia-veep-mcdonnell-clinton-224888) in evaluating whether Kaine would be good for Hillary to choose as her running mate.

Does anyone hear have an opinion on the matter?

2016-06-30 19:35:00 Andy Schmookler

If I had this to do over, I would likely have come up with a different title. The title would ideally be a clearer signal that, while this case dealt directly with the issue of abortion, there was another level to the case which concerned what is and is not a legitimate way for a legislature to deal with its disagreement with the Supreme Court on a matter of fundamental rights.

That’s why I stress the point in the piece that any justice who cares about the integrity of our constitutional system, and about the role of the Supreme Court in that system, should be offended by the Texas law regardless of his or her position on the abortion issue per se.

It might be noted that the majority decisions — Breyer’s and Ginsburg’s — do not directly deal with the issue of the Court’s authority, and the Texas legislature’s assault upon it. Rather, they assume that authority, and utilize the “undue burden” phrase from the 1992 Casey decision. For them, it is sufficient to argue 1) that the burden is great and 2) that the justifications for it are not credible. Ergo, “undue.”

I don’t know if it would have been inappropriate for them to have gone further and dealt directly with the illegitimacy of a legislature intentionally doing what that “undue burden” argument shows clearly the legislators were up to. That illegitimacy is implied — doesn’t pass “constitutional muster” — and I understand that there is an ethic that judicial opinions should not go further than they need to to get the job done.

But I still wonder if it might bear saying, in effect: “End runs around the decisions of this Court are not an acceptable way of trying to change this Court’s opinions.”

2016-06-28 16:29:00 Andy Schmookler

Something in that McDonnell decision by the Supremes puzzles me. Maybe someone here can provide some illumination.

The crux of the puzzle is this: the decision looks like a bad one, but it was unanimous.

As for its being bad, I’m with (for example) Dahlia Lithwick’s piece cited in the news summary above: SCOTUS Sure Picked an Appalling Decision to End the Term With. The major point being that at a time like this — when the problem of money buying our government is in a crisis stage, and when the rage and alienation of average people sensing that their voice doesn’t matter are ascendant — the Court’s requiring a blatant quid pro quo before officials’ taking bribes can be considered a crime is hardly what this nation needs.

But if the decision is that bad, how is it that all those liberal justices are on board with it. These are people who dissented from Citizens United, with that terrible decision’s incredible (and one would guess intentional) blind spot about corruption and the appearance of corruption. Why would those four justices — Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan and Sotomayor — go along with this decision?

Does this unanimity mean that the decision was really the right one? And if that’s the case, what would be the remedy that would enable the legal system to punish politicians who collect Rolex watches and other goodies from the rich in exchange for special access and special treatment?

Can anyone here clarify any of this?

2016-06-28 14:37:00 Andy Schmookler

Not long ago I wrote here on VB to advocate Elizabeth Warren as the VP pick. I continue to think she would be excellent– but part of my reason for preferring Warren has diminished.

My reason had to do with how Warren had shown herself to be extremely effective at taking Trump on and coming out on top in their exchanges. That is still an asset, but part of why I thought that Hillary might NEED someone with that capability was that I had doubts about whether Hillary herself could attack Trump effectively.

Then, last week, Hillary gave that great speech critiquing Trump in the realm of foreign policy. She was devastating, and she looked presidential and dignified while tearing Trump to shreds.

That speech leads me to believe that she has less need for Elizabeth Warren for the coming general election campaign. Kaine has some niceness/likeability/humaneness that could be an asset on the ticket.

I would be happy with either of these possibilities.

The other important consideration is whether eight years from now, either of them would be a suitable presidential candidate. I think both are presidential material, but eight years from now, Elizabeth Warren will be 74. Which is a bit on the old side to begin a first term. Kaine will be 66 eight years from now. Not a spring chicken, but younger than either Hillary or Trump is now.

2016-06-09 23:08:00 Andy Schmookler

Don’t I and others who want the party to represent certain values and policies have a right to make decisions about what our party does in the world, what it represents? How do I have freedom of association, if the “we” that forms the association does not have control over its own decisions?

If they want a voice, let the join the association. What are the benefits of being an “independent,” that we should care about having them make some kind of commitment of membership and lose that precious independence. What is it, other than a statement that “neither party sufficiently represents me, or I perhaps don’t care enough about politics to decide which side I should support”? And for this, you should be able to barge in to our political party and have a say even though you have not joined us in any other way?

Is there any evidence whatever about whether the open primary helps bring people toward the party, with more commitment afterwards to follow. If that were established? then I might reconsider. If we’re seeing them as “potential members” and not as “non-members,” then I’m willing to look at the idea of “primary voting” as a marketing device.

2016-06-06 19:22:00 Andy Schmookler

The following quotation is from
which indicates that there is empirical evidence that shows that Hillary has been the target of more negative media attention than anyone else running. (The article explains how the study was done.)

“The biggest news outlets published more negative stories about Hillary Clinton than any other presidential candidate — including Donald Trump — from January 2015 to April 2016, according to an analysis of hundreds of thousands of online stories.

“Clinton has not only been hammered by the most negative coverage but the media also wrote the smallest proportion of positive stories about her, reports Crimson Hexagon, a social media software analytics company based out of Boston.”

If that is so, it might be appropriate to contemplate the saying from Mark Twain” ““The problem isn’t the things that we don’t know; it’s the things we ‘know’ that ain’t so.”

2016-06-06 02:30:00 Andy Schmookler

Well, Buddysystem, your belief that Hillary will not be the next President, if it’s valid, gives you a chance to make some money. (The future’s market would return of about $1.60 for every dollar you put down– if you prove right.)

After the way Trump has been acting the last couple of weeks, however, with his seeming to have no idea of what he needs to do, and after the devastating speech that Hillary gave that showed Trump’s unsuitability for the office and at the same time made her look pretty good, I would not advise your putting any money into that bet that you can’t do without.

2016-06-05 21:45:00 Andy Schmookler

“are not going to let this rest”
I hope events prove you wrong on this, but I’m not betting on it.

2016-06-03 20:09:00 Andy Schmookler

Your mention of “cable news” reminds me that I should definitely have included the rise of FOX News — albeit that was maybe seven or eight years into the Age of Limbaugh — as among the major instruments of creating this pathology.

Am I right, Lowell, in assuming that you don’t mean to imply some false equivalence between FOX and MSNBC? I, for one, think that a program like Chris Hayes’ does an excellent job of exploring and illuminating the things we citizens should know and understand.

2016-06-01 15:09:00 Andy Schmookler

With respect specifically to the role of the media, it seems to me that right-wing radio has contributed more profoundly to the kinds of political dysfunction described above — the anger and transformation of opponents into enemies and politics into all-out-war — than television.

2016-06-01 03:18:00 Andy Schmookler

Lowell is quite right that this “hounding of Reagan” thing should have any place in our history. Democrats did indeed cooperate with Reagan in various ways. And the friendship between Reagan and Tip O’Neil gets cited all the time. The years of Reagan were not acrimonious by any historical standard. Probably more benign that the Republicans’ treatment of FDR. And even George W. Bush got things done with the help of Democrats, with a third of them helping pass some of his key legislation, like the infamous Bush tax cuts.

There is no symmetry here in terms of what Party has insisted on war. The Democrats had huge reasons to try to impeach W, but did nothing. Whereas the Republicans sought to impeach the Democratic president before him for misdeeds that had absolutely nothing with the performance of his constitutional responsibilities. A stain on a blue dress: high crimes and misdemeanors indeed.

The Republicans have long had some deep-seated sense of grievance, and though that when Democrats refused to conduct hearings for judicial nominees because they were manifestly rather far to the right of the mainstream, that is somehow a grievance. But then they block a Democratic president’s nominees for the courts for no other reason than that they want to block the other party from exercising what are supposed to be the powers of the presidency.

Which ever way the power balance goes, they take the position that asserts their right to more power.

2016-05-31 19:08:00 Andy Schmookler

People are not of one piece. Especially people who are the product of cultures that build in a certain amount of brokenness.

That actually describes pretty much everybody (for reasons given in THE PARABLE OF THE TRIBES.)

One question regarding people and their political conduct is: which part gets fed by the leaders that people follow? And the answer for people on the right for the past generation is that there has been a lot of feeding of their worst parts — their fears, their resentments, their hatreds.

Then another question is: what part of them can one reach?

Trump’s transgressive conduct has opened up an opportunity to reach at least SOME additional people with a message of decency.

Which is one of the reasons it is such a shame that the moment when Trump was becoming the nominee, despite the fact that a large percentage of Republican voters did not want him, got squandered on the Democratic side by Bernie indulging himself in making himself into a distraction when there was so little left that he could still accomplish to advance his cause.

But anyway, I believe if you had to deal with these people in your daily life — those whom you say cannot qualify as decent — I expect you would see decency.

People are not all of a piece.

Let me say that, when I was a candidate, and would speak to Democratic groups about our neighbors, there was widespread agreement about that decency.

Doesn’t mean I was able to penetrate their right-wing trance state and move them away from their party loyalty.

It still remains to be seen whether anything can penetrate that “uncracked nut.”

2016-05-29 23:32:00 Andy Schmookler

On a more serious note.

One difference between you and me, I expect, is that you live in Arlington and your knowledge of Republican voters is based on what you see from a distance– mostly that they support a terrible party.

I live in the Shenandoah Valley, did hundreds of radio shows during during the 1990s, talking to conservative callers (before Karl Rove got hold of them), live among them and do business with them. And I see a more whole picture of who they are and what their values are and how much they do and don’t live them.

When I lived in New Mexico — 2002-2008 — and they fell under the spell of all that Bushite darkness, I felt about them more as you do. I was afraid to come back and live again in their midst. As we contemplated our coming back, I often said it felt like moving to Bavaria in 1935.

But there is a lot of decency, and even a lot of principle, to be found. And it has not felt as I feared.

This is part of why I spend a lot of time in WHAT WE’RE UP AGAINST exploring how basically decent people can be enlisted behind an indecent force.

One more thing to add: with Trump, unlike say with Dick Cheney, there is the conduct that is transgressive on the face of it. He behaves badly, behaves in ways that people around here would never find accceptable in their families or communities.

There is no need to have any understanding of anything that requires any sophisticated analysis, or knowledge of the world, for them to understand that this is not in accordance with their own values.

So I think the case can be made. Elizabeth Warren has shown it can be done.

2016-05-29 22:56:00 Andy Schmookler

Are you saying you don’t know many pink unicorns?

2016-05-29 22:41:00 Andy Schmookler

I can think of two things here regarding whether Johnson might hurt Hillary as he hurt McAuliffe or might hurt Trump instead. (The hurting Trump part is a reason why he MIGHT win “a significant enough # of votes” to matter.)

He could draw fewer Republican votes because Trump is more like Johnson than Cuccinelli was like Sarvis in that Trump is –or has been — more socially liberal, while I would have thought that a guy like Cuccinelli, who would have been a natural in the Inquisition, would have driven anyone with libertarian leanings into Sarvis’s arms.

On the other hand, Trump has been so repulsive to so many decent and principled conservatives that would hate to vote for Trump but would never vote for Hillary either, that Johnson could well get a lot of votes simply as a refuge for such people. (The Never Trump people don’t seem likely to field that third-party candidate for such purposes themselves.)

I’m guessing that if the Democrats get a good anti-Trump campaign together — one good at exposing what people have found repugnant about Trump — that the Johnson campaign could indeed get a lot of voters that usually vote Republican. People could vote for Johnson who are not particularly libertarian, but just to have someone to vote for that does not repel them.

However, the one poll I saw that had both a two-way and a three-way race — don’t remember where, or the exact numbers — did not show the libertarians having any clear tendency to take more from Trump than from Hillary.

So maybe I’m wrong about the idea of Johnson providing refuge for principled Republicans.

2016-05-29 21:31:00 Andy Schmookler

I see the Libertarians have now officially nominated Gary Johnson for president. Which raises the question: if Hillary and Trump are the two major-party nominees, will Johnson siphon off voters from either of them more than from the other?

2016-05-29 18:49:00 Andy Schmookler

” somehow think they can win” That raises one major question: do they really think that they can win, when pretty much all the objective observers regard it as close to impossible?

If they do, what does that say about their contact with reality?

And if they don’t, what does Bernie’s encouraging of that belief in his followers say about where he’s coming from?

I ran for Congress, and I know there’s an expectation that the candidate will always talk about how he’s going to win until the ball game is over. I resisted that expectation, but it’s there. And some supporters actually do believe it despite the lack of evidence and logic to support it.

But Bernie’s is not a process where there are no polls numbers, and no results until Election Day. Enough of the precincts are already reporting that the :networks” can declare a winner. It is not “too close to call.”

Moreover, this is a primary where the expectation is that there will be competition up to a point, and then there will be a coming together to cooperate in defeating the adversary.

It pains me to denounce the decisions that Bernie has lately been making, because in many ways he is my kind of guy: a culturally Jewish, somewhat intellectual guy in his 70s speaking truth to power, standing up for justice for the little guy and all those whom the mighty are seeking to exploit and roll over.

(He’s got four years on me, but I began my own kindred path 11 years ago publishing on Common Dreams a piece titled, “What America Needs Now: A Prophetic Social Movement that Speaks Moral Truth to Immoral Power.” http://www.nonesoblind.org/blog/?page_id=27 So, earlier I found in Bernie a spirit more kindred than I’ve usually seen on the public stage.)

But I see no good coming out of what he’s been doing lately. To my eye, he is displaying fewer of his virtues, which I believe are considerable, and more of the weak spots in his character.

2016-05-27 21:29:00 Andy Schmookler

Some troubling things, Joe, I agree.

2016-05-27 17:27:00 Andy Schmookler

Let me throw into this mix an exchange I had on this “Win-Win” piece on Huffington Post:

Replying to a couple of guys on Huffington Post whose response to that piece was to grouse about how unfair the Democratic Party’s process has been, and what a terrible person/candidate Hillary Clinton is.

I wrote: “It’s as clear as it should need to be: either Trump
or Hillary will become president next January. If you recognize that it
must not be Trump — as Bernie himself has declared numerous times —
then it is clear what is required. What is required is to do those
things that will minimize the chances that Trump will become president,
and minimize the chances that the GOP will be able to hold onto the
power to prevent anything constructive from being accomplished by a
Democratic president.”

2016-05-27 03:41:00 Andy Schmookler

An interesting difference of opinion.

Tonight, in discussing this Bernie/Trump debate idea, expressed a viewpoint like Illing’s (see my previous comment): she thinks it would inevitably be good for Trump, that even if Bernie “trounced” Trump in the debate it wouldn’t matter because it is not Bernie that Trump will be facing in the fall. I don’t know why she thinks that. It seems to me that Trump would be greatly diminished by being “trounced” by anyone, since his whole shitck is that he’s a winner, a strong man. But that’s what Rachel thinks.

Meanwhile, Howard Dean — who is a committed Hillary backer — loves the idea. He thinks that Bernie would “clean Wacko Donald’s clock,” and he thinks that would be great for the Democratic side, which will be nominating Hillary.

It’s still not really clear that any such debate will happen. I would bet that it won’t– that Trump will find some phony way of getting out of it. But Bernie is definitely up for it, and I found it encouraging that the remarks he’s made about such a debate indicate that what excites him is going after Trump.

One comment he made was about calling out Trump on his bigotry. Another comment indicated that he would challenge him in his role in promulgating the “birther nonsense” to “delegitamize” America’s first African-American president..

2016-05-27 03:38:00 Andy Schmookler

I can’t say I follow you there, Jim Butler, as it seems that debating the Donald and showing what he’s got for the general election are different ways of saying the same thing.

Not knowing whether the idea of such a debate has already been shot down or is still alive, I would like to make a few points.

First, months ago I wrote encouraging Bernie to debate with Trump one way or another– an actual debate if possible, or one through the media (as one might say Elizabeth Warren with her tweets has done).

Second, I do not agree with the writer on Salon.com — Sean Illing — who lamented the idea of such a debate because, as he saw it: a) Bernie would inevitably be compelled to pile on to Hillary, as Trump would go after her with indictments that align with Bernie’s critiques, and b) the only beneficiary of the debate could be Trump.

Those assumptions reflect a terrible lack of imagination. If I were in Bernie’s place, and Trump went after Hillary and tried to enlist me to do the same, I’d respond along the lines of: “Whatever my disagreements with Secretary Clinton, I am certain that she would make a way, way better than you would, Mr. Trump. and here’s why….” And by that means, such a debate could actually strengthen Hillary vis a vis Trump, and could lead to the outcome — not imagined by Illing — that the only loser of the debate would be Trump.

Having said that, I confess that I have diminished confidence that Bernie would conduct his side of the debate in that constructive fashion. So my point is simply that it could be done, and it might be a good thing.

To illustrate my case against the assumptions and conclusions in the salon.com article, let me propose this: if you heard that Elizabeth Warren were going to go toe-to-toe with Trump in some kind of debate format, would you not regard that prospect with pleasurable anticipation?

I know I would. And I think that if Bernie is able to get back to his center, and to see himself and his efforts in the larger context, and realize that it is not all about him at this point, I believe he has the smarts and the moral passion to get the best of Trump.

Such a debate could indeed be win-win in the way I described above. And in the absence of any such debate, it is still in Bernie’s power to play a very important constructive role in defeating Trump. Not as the nominee, but as an important voice in support of the overall democratic effort.

2016-05-26 22:25:00 Andy Schmookler

I think it is a very positive sign that Hillary appears to understand fully what battle needs to be fought now, and has turned from paying attention to her primary opponent to a strong — and it seems effective — focus on her opponent in the general election.

2016-05-25 02:35:00 Andy Schmookler

I applaud your calling Comstock out on this nonsense. That people on the right have fallen for something so preposterous ever since 2009 is surely a datum of some sort of aberrant psychological process. (Is it a case of fear turning off the higher centers of the brain?)

If one thinks about it, one of those Guantanamo guys on the loose would be a whole lot less dangerous — given that they’d be fish completely out of water — than most of the other prisoners already in these maximum security prisons. That, as you note, is even if escape were a real possibility.

Perhaps Comstock’s next mailing should alarm people of the terrible possibility of the Muslims among us imposing Sharia law? After all, wouldn’t it be easy for a tiny minority, already subject to serious suspicion and occasional persecution, to force its will onto the nation?

2016-05-24 14:48:00 Andy Schmookler

” Bernie offers dreams, things that are not achievable. He offers no path to making these happen…” You’re right, but the problem there is more general than what you’re pointing to.

When it comes to a “path to make things happen,” neither of the Democrats has been talking to the voters about the obvious huge boulder in the way of progress on any of their plans: namely, the Republican obstructionism. Both Hillary and Bernie have been pointing toward where they would like the country to go, but neither has acknowledged publicly — at least to my knowledge — that the prerequisite to anything that involves legislation is either to knock the GOP out of power in the Congress OR to make their obstructionism such an untenable political strategy that they are compelled to abandon it.

Their not talking about such things is probably a reflection of what they think can work politically with the American public (whom you describe as “dumb”).They must be aware of the problem, but judge that the voters they are trying to inspire won’t respond well to word about all that needs to be accomplished in order for anything to be accomplished. (Except through things like executive actions, like President Obama has been reduced to.)

So they use their policy statements as means of expressing values and goals. Which is worth something. And which probably also tells voters what they will work toward to the extent that the opportunity might arise.

But neither Democrat is talking about the elephant in the room. And as for the Party that is the Elephant, none of those candidates even began to engage with the real problems that need to be addressed to “make America great again.” Not least because so much of what needs to be addressed is the pathological nature of the Party they belong to.

2016-05-23 02:00:00 Andy Schmookler

I believe it is fundamentally erroneous to regard the ideas of universal health coverage as a right and of tuition-free higher education at public institutions as basically fraudulent.

There are, it is true, important questions about how we get from where we are to those destinations. But that does not mean that the destinations are inherently unrealistic or undesirable.

After all, there are a number of advanced societies that provide precisely those things to their citizens. And those societies are quite clearly the better for it. Having one’s population healthy, and having one’s people also educated, are both advantageous ways for a nation to invest in its future.

Part of the success — in economic terms — of America from the 19th century onward derived from the fact that even the children of the poor could go to public schools and develop themselves.

Is there some obvious reason why it is right to make education available to all the young through high school (and even mandatory up to age 16!), but is undesirable to provide the same availability to education through to a college degree for those of our young for whom a college education could be put to good use.

The United States is penny wise and pound foolish in how it has arranged for the health and education of its people.

So to the extent that Sanders’ message is that these are goals toward which we should be working, he is saying what should be said.

I don’t think the same can be said about putting up a high wall across our 1000-mile border with Mexico — and saying this at a time when, in fact, the net flow of the undocumented has been out of the U.S. and back to Mexico — and about getting the Mexican government to pay for it.

2016-05-22 22:13:00 Andy Schmookler

Do you really think that Bernie and Trump are comparable, and that their appeal to their followers is on the same basis?

As for being “full of it,” I will say only this much about Bernie. He has identified three issues as the ones most vital to the future well-being of the nation: 1) the role of big money in stealing our democracy, 2) the rigging of the economy so that the top fraction of one percent can double or triple its share of national wealth and income while the majority are treading water or even losing ground, and 3) the challenge of climate change.

These are indeed the most vital issues facing the nation.

And what does Trump give us: deporting undocumented immigrants, banning all Muslims from entry, denying climate change, etc.etc.

Those two profiles don’t look the same to me.

2016-05-22 19:00:00 Andy Schmookler

Another exchange from elsewhere, this one from the Daily Kos. This time, the commenter and I were on the same page.

He wrote about Bernie: “What’s unknown is if he’s capable of accepting the inevitable. A well
balanced intelligent person would’ve known this was over after NY voted
and begun to adjust.”

And I replied:

“Yes, I have been surprised by Bernie in this. I had seen him as more fully grounded than he is now proving himself to be.

“I have a bit of a theory on this. My theory — or perhaps fantasy — is
that Bernie has always dreamed of leading a righteous army, but never
until now has he really had the chance to do so. Now he has become
addicted to the role, and he has difficulty putting the fulfillment of
his dream in the proper perspective of the larger drama that he is part

I will be writing soon about the kind of leadership we need from Bernie from here on out. He definitely has an important role he can play, if he’s willing to take it on.

Even if he is not on the ticket — and I don’t think he should be VP or will be — he can be an important speaker in the campaign. It’s a matter of saying the right things to mobilize his forces to defeat Trump.

2016-05-20 23:15:00 Andy Schmookler

Here’s an example of how a segment of the Bernie supporters are simply failing to see just what this is all about. It’s about something bigger than Bernie and Hillary.

Consider what one commenter wrote about this on my Facebook page::

“What has Clinton done for Bernie to “cease and desist”? Perhaps if she takes an unequivocal stand on the progressive issues Sanders has made the cornerstone of his campaign, he would. Personally, I need more of a reason than “compared to Trump, I’m the lesser evil” to vote for someone who voted for the Iraq War and the bailout of Wall Street, along with her ties to Wall Street (speeches, ect).”

And here’s my reply:

“This isn’t about Hillary Clinton EARNING Bernie’s working to make sure that Trump doesn’t become president. Bernie himself has indicated that Trump in the White House is absolutely unacceptable.

“Bernie needs to unify the party not for Hillary Clinton’s sake but for the good of the nation, and for the good of all those things that would be damaged if Donald Trump becomes president. Trump being elected president means that Trump appoints the ninth justice to the Supreme Court, and gets this atrocious GOP control over all branches of government, and refuses to do anything about the urgent challenge of Climate Change, or even to acknowledge the reality of the climate crisis,, and becomes commander-in-chief of our armed forces and our nuclear arsenal.

“Those are plenty reason enough.”

2016-05-20 21:34:00 Andy Schmookler

Thank you for your response, Mike. An interesting analysis. The point in your scenario that may not work, it seems to me, is in your presuming that the House Republicans most likely to be hurt by Trump will be the crazies. It seems to me that the crazies of whom you speak are likely to come from districts that are quite safely red, whereas the more moderate Republicans are likely the ones that can swing either red or blue. If that is the case, then if Trump is an overall drag on the down-ticket Republicans, it will more likely be the moderates who lose their seats.

2016-05-14 17:21:00 Andy Schmookler

First there are the (football) bowl games whose names get turned into corporate advertising. Then we get a Supreme Court putting our elections on the auction block with Citizens United. Now we have a state-run university selling the name of its law school to honor one of the Justices that pretended that money does not corrupt our politics..

Just what is there in America nowadays that is not for sale?

2016-05-14 16:28:00 Andy Schmookler

Interesting idea, Mike Roberts. I would appreciate your elaborating on it. In particular, could you give a fuller idea of how this “Trump as fly paper” gambit might work? I assume that by “Extreme Right WingNuts” you mean the people in the Republican House Caucus who drove Boehner into retirement, and are preventing Ryan from getting even the rudiments accomplished. Yes? So if that’s the case, what would the scenario look like by which those House members get stuck to Trump and get cut loose by Ryan?

2016-05-14 02:38:00 Andy Schmookler

I once thought that a Hillary Clinton/Elizabeth Warren ticket would be pushing too far in breaking the barrier to females on the national ticket. We have never had a woman president, and the two women who ran as VP candidates were on losing tickets. So could we afford to put forward an all-woman ticket in a year where victory is really essential?

But Elizabeth Warren has been so good at standing toe-to-toe with Trump and coming out not only the winner, but completely unblemished, that I think her excellence on that outweighs that other risk.

She is not stooping to Trump’s level, like Rubio did with his remarks about the size of Trump’s hands. She is finding effective, important, valid ways of scoring off of Trump in ways that matter. (She also did the same with Cruz, when Cruz put out that letter posing as one who is making big sacrifices to run for president.)

Moreover, I can just imagine how ugly Trump would get if he gets continually bested and legitimately exposed by a woman.

This is appropriately the traditional role for the VP candidate. The VP is the attack dog, and meanwhile the (presumptive) presidential candidate (Hillary) can be above that fray and put forward a vision for America (with policies, of course, but the emphasis should be on goals and values, on vision– like with FDR’s “I see an America” speech, indicating the destination toward which she wants to lead the nation).

Until Elizabeth Warren (with the
exception of one brief episode with Carly Fiorina), Trump — with his
insults and provocations — has one every battle that he has provoked. That record has worried me: would the Democrats come up with a David to go out and answer the challenge from the giant Philistine, the gross GOP Goliath?

Elizabeth Warren has shown herself to be that David.

For months, I’ve thought that Kaine would be an excellent choice for Hillary, and I still do. But Elizabeth Warren seems to me the one that can deliver what’s most needed to assure victory.

BTW, however, I note that on predictit.com, the futures markets do not include Warren as one of the two most likely VP choices. Kaine has lately moved up to the number one spot, at 21%.

2016-05-13 02:52:00 Andy Schmookler

Re not underestimating Paul Ryan… Regular readers of Paul Krugman (of which I am emphatically one) will remember Paul Ryan as the guy Krugman is continually holding up as one who has conned the Beltway media into perceiving Ryan as a very serious and responsible policy guy, when he is nothing of the sort.

Ryan’s budgets, Krugman has repeatedly said, are a bunch of smoke and mirrors and asterisks, which masks an irresponsible giveaway to the rich as an exercise in bugetary responsibility.

One might rightly take this as an indictment of the gullibility and worse of the Beltway media. But it also should be seen as indicative of Ryan’s skill in adopting poses that successfully con people into seeing him as something more respectable than he really is.

With that success behind him, Ryan may have some confidence he can find a pose that will work well for him with all the audiences he wants now to please during the Republican Party’s Age of Trump, which will last at least until Election Day.

2016-05-12 21:43:00 Andy Schmookler

On Op/ednews, a commenter on this piece wrote, “On this particular issue, the current Supreme court nominee , I believe
you would see much more support for Obama and more fighting against the
Republicans if Obama had not chosen a Republican as his nominee. I
personally see little point in fighting to get someone appointed who
could just as easily have been nominated by Bush or Trump or whatever
face the Republicans might present.”

In reply, I wrote:

I believe that your are placing emphasis on a distinction that is of
little practical importance, and missing the distinction that is
essential for the advancement of more progressive values..

Whether the Justice is Merrick Garland, or the most
progressive judge you could come up with, really matters little when 5-4
decisions get handed down. The two would vote the same nearly all the time.

Garland is probably at least as progressive
as Bryer, and Bryer’s votes have only very rarely been disappointing
from a progressive point of view.

But whether the justice is a
centrist liberal like Garland (of whom everyone speaks extraordinarily
favorably, by the way, as both a man and a judge, which should be reassuring about the reasonableness and humaneness of his judicial temperament) or the radical justice of your
dreams, what matters is whether we get more decisions like Citizens
United and the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, –which the conservative
5-4 majority foisted on us and made America a less just society — or whether a Liberal majority can dominate the court as it has not been in a position to do since the early 1970s..

you think that you don’t have much at stake in whether it’s Garland or
someone Trump appoints, you are missing the nature of this game, in
which control over the court for the next generation is at stake.

here we are, with the Republicans apparently getting away with cheating, failing to perform their clear
constitutional duties, and grabbing for power in the most naked way that
exposes them for the hypocrites that they are.

This should be a
major fight, for not only is much at stake, but the Republicans do not
have any justification for their behavior and can be called out.This is something the public can be taught to understand, and thus properly besmirch the Republican brand in time for the election.

2016-05-06 21:58:00 Andy Schmookler

Again, I’m not saying he should stop being a candidate. He should continue being a candidate, campaigning in the remaining states, and saying things that advance his cause– and also advance what he says he’s committed to: namely making sure that we do not end up with a President Trump.

2016-05-06 12:28:00 Andy Schmookler

He doesn’t have to step aside. He can continue to talk about the very important issues that led him into the race: 1) the plutocratic erosion of our democracy, 2) the economy that enriches the richest and leaves the rest behind, and 3) climate change. And he can also do some good by going after what the Republicans have been doing on all these issues. And he can also do good by expanding upon what he’s been saying about Donald Trump– since he’s the guy that he wants to take on in the fall, and since he’s the guy who must be defeated by whoever the nominee is.

He can do all that, and get attention by playing a constructive role in the limelight.

I don’t see anything constructive about spinning out scenarios regarding how the Democratic establishment is going to pass over Hillary and make him the nominee.

2016-05-05 21:49:00 Andy Schmookler

There’s a better way of asking the question about a potential president than “Is he/she a hawk or a dove?”

Our recent history gives us reason to be wary of people for whom the military option comes to mind quickly. We’ve seen big costs and few benefits from the wars we’ve fought recently. So one question I would ask Hillary if I could would be, “What have you learned from our experiences is Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya?” And I would be wary of some — like John McCain and Lindsey Graham — who, if they’ve learned anything, haven’t given any sign of it as they’ve seemed to call for aggressive responses to every situation even after the military disasters they’ve supported.

But I also would not want an isolationist, as I think American leadership in the world remains necessary, if things are to move forward toward a decent planetary order.

Nor would I want someone with a record of opposing every American use of force over the decades, as some on the left seem to have done.

Perhaps above all, I would want a president with the diplomatic skill and understanding necessary to check the imperial advance of Putin’s Russia (e.g. against Ukraine) and of the rising power of China (e.g. in the South China sea, without the need for war to do it. Any such war could be catastrophic, but at the same time we don’t want American weakness to create a vacuum that can destabilize the international order.

In a great president, we need a virtual aviary: the virtues of the hawk, the virtues of the dove, and perhaps above all, the virtues of the owl (to use Joseph Nye’s taxonomy). I don’t know how well Hillary embodies all those virtues, but I feel pretty certain that Donald Trump is severely deficient in at least most of them.

2016-05-03 20:06:00 Andy Schmookler

Just a preview of coming attractions: In the next couple of weeks, I’m going to be publishing another op/ed along these lines, with the emphasis being on the discrepancy between walk and talk regarding “Christianity” and “Christian values” and the Republican Party. The party of hypocrisy. Watch this space.

2016-05-01 14:52:00 Andy Schmookler

I’d be interested to hear what anyone took away from the David Frum piece (second in the list above). I found it interesting, but ultimately it left me confused. Perhaps it’s because it was written by a guy who thought the pre-Tea-Party GOP was a good thing, whereas I thought the GOP had become a dangerous aberration long before the Tea Party. But in any event, his framework of understanding did not come clear to me. So I’d be glad to hear what sense others may have made of the picture he paints.

2016-04-29 13:31:00 Andy Schmookler

Responding to a guy from Spain who, as Bernie fades, and in view of his very negative picture of Hillary Clinton, thinks a third party is the way to go. He wrote: “Why castrate this huge movement, when they can build a new party…?”

To which I responded with the following little bit of history:

The movement is worth building upon, I agree. But, Mr. Ferro, the American system is not one that is constructed to make a “new party” a politically productive option.

The last time a “new party” rose to the possibility of actually gaining power in this country was in the 1850s under extraordinary circumstances, not likely to be repeated now. The Whig Party self-destructed over the issue of slavery, which was tearing the nation apart, and tore first the Whig Party apart in the early 1850s when Northern and Southern factions of the party could not work together. The Republican Party was born in time for the 1856 election, but lost. But by 1860, the other major party — the Democratic Party of that time — could not hold its Northern and Southern parts together, and nominated two candidates out of two different conventions expressing the preferences of the two antagonized regions.

It was only that set of circumstances that enabled the second Republican candidate — Abraham Lincoln– to win the presidency. And then the war came.

Otherwise, third party candidates benefit the major party that is most unlike the new party. In 1912, Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose Party challenge to his own hand-picked Republican successor — William Howard Taft — opened the way for the first Democratic president (Woodrow Wilson) to win in a generation. And then in 2000, the third party candidacy of Ralph Nader siphoned off enough votes from Al Gore in Florida to open the way for the disastrous presidency of George W. Bush.

The conclusion: it is better, in the American system (we don’t have coalition parliamentary governments) to fight to move one of the two major political parties to be what it should be than to try to effect desirable change through a third party.

2016-04-27 23:02:00 Andy Schmookler

I could ask people if this issue of “A Time Without Vision” interests you. It would be good to know if people are interested in knowing about forces that operate on a society at that level.

2016-04-23 19:42:00 Andy Schmookler

Is there some group you know that manifests consistently greater understanding — less nutty viewpoints — than there?
(Seems to me that even the prominent pundit world — in general those whose profession it is to understand our politics — routinely misses what’s essential in the political picture.)

2016-04-16 21:42:00 Andy Schmookler

Could you elaborate on your blech and double-blech comments, Lowell?

(Hoping my argument is not what inspires the blechs.)

2016-04-16 19:50:00 Andy Schmookler

Action on Daily Kos # 2:

Commenter wrote: “You’re trying to say, Don’t pat attention to the puppet masters behind the curtains just their paid for puppets?”

To which I responded:

“The question is how to get power away from the puppet masters. The
answer is that you defeat their army. To do that, you get the electorate
to take power from those who fight their battles. (Take a look at that
passage about the rage of the Tea Partiers against the bankers: that
rage does nothing to get at the puppet masters, unless it is informed by
who it is that needs to be defeated in the actual arena of power, which
is electoral politics.”

2016-04-16 19:44:00 Andy Schmookler

Some interaction on Daily Kos # 1:

I got the expected “what about the Dems” objection, as someone wrote in:

“Um, no. It’s all the minions, of both parties…”

To which I responded:

“OK. Let’s say that we cleanse the D party of all those D minions. What
then? Do you think that so long as the WHOLLY-OWNED party of the
billionaires maintains its power, anything will be accomplished by a
cleansed D party?”

2016-04-16 19:42:00 Andy Schmookler

About the unfortunate “Brawl in Brooklyn,” this quote from a Washington Post election news summary:

““’Early on, I thought Sanders was making Clinton a better candidate,’ writes New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. ‘But as this feud becomes more poisonous, I fear it tarnishes both.’”

A terrible missed opportunity, as I see it:

Bernie and Hillary, Give Us the Campaign We Need

2016-04-15 14:52:00 Andy Schmookler


2016-04-14 13:14:00 Andy Schmookler

Zero chance because of his lackluster re-election results in 2014? Or is there some other reason you have in mind?

2016-04-14 12:47:00 Andy Schmookler

Assuming that Hillary does indeed emerge as the nominee — which, on the futures market, is currently about a 7:1 bet — I would hope that Bernie takes care of bringing his followers along, by spreading very strongly about the need to pull together to win this.

I would expect that the Hispanic vote doesn’t need any special courting, if the Rs nominate Trump or Cruz (which is about a 5:1 probability). Besides, Kaine is fluent in Spanish, if I recall.

I’m a big fan of Elizaeth Warren, but I am worried about whether the
U.S. would elect two women on the ticket, when we have not yet elected
one woman. (Geraldine Ferraro from 1984 is the only one who has been on a
national ticket so far.) If that weren’t a concern, I’d love to have EW in the # 2 spot, getting the background experience to prepare her for the presidency in 2024 if Hillary wins.

But I also wouldn’t want for her choice to turn out to cost the Ds control of the Senate. Which argues for Kaine, and against Brown and Warren.

What I think is very important is putting someone on the ticket who is young enough to give the Democrats some much-needed bench for future presidential runs. Which would rule out Bernie. (I don’t think the bitterness of the campaign is such as to rule him out, though: JFK and LBJ were not buddies in 1960.)

2016-04-13 22:41:00 Andy Schmookler

I appreciate that support, Pragmatic Progressive.

But meanwhile I got this response on Huffington Post, from a guy who used the hashtag Bernieorbuist:

AKA as soon as you told us to “fall in line” we knew that’s what you would do come November”

To which I responded with this:

“You do not engage my argument at all, here, Mr. Toussant.

“I say nothing about falling in line. What I say is that the difference between a Republican victory and a Democratic victory is so huge — under the present circumstances I describe — that it greatly outways the difference for America between having Bernie as the nominee and Hillary as the nominee.

“Besides which — and I say this is a supporter of Bernie — this may be a better way for Bernie to make the case for himself over Hillary. After all, neither one of them will be able to accomplish much without draining power away from the ostructionist Republicans. So if we actually want to be able to start moving the country forwar, we’re going to need Democratic leadership that knows how to take on and take down this Republican Party.

“That’s not falling in line. But we all should pledge to come together to win when the convention has made its decision. Bernie has said as much, has he not.

“So it seems incumbent on you to respond to the argument that we have two very powerful reasons to want to make sure that the Democrat — whoever he or she turns out to be — wins. Do you question whether those circumstances exist, or whether they matter hugely?

“Bernie or bust seems to me an approach which ignores some vital realities.”

2016-04-12 22:29:00 Andy Schmookler

I fear that the Democrats have been, as usual, too muted in their protests. I’ve read that the Republican base is more impassioned about having their Senators stonewall than the Democratic base is about protesting this unprecedented refusal to allow the man the American people hired to play the role of president (until inauguration day, 2017) perform the functions for which he was elected.

2016-04-10 17:41:00 Andy Schmookler

No, what Diskant is proposing is something different from a “recess appointment.” He’s saying that a case can be made that the Senate has “waived” its rights to advise and consent by having failed to exercise that right. The above-quoted passage makes that case, and the article as a whole might give a more complete picture. But in any event, nothing in what he is proposing has anything to do with the Senate being in recess.

2016-04-09 22:58:00 Andy Schmookler

I believe that, overall, Bernie’s conduct has been exemplary. He has been serious, he’s been honest, and I see him as caring about fairness. But there is something a whole lot better for him to be doing than going after Hillary in ways that could hurt her in the fall. Or even going after Hillary at all, if you ask me. I think they both should be campaigning against the Republicans, and building party unity. We simply must win this election, and we need to have the best campaign possible.

I’ll be writing more about that in the near future– i.e. the idea that Bernie and Hillary are not giving us the campaign that we need from them, because their differences right now are not at the heart of the battle that needs to be fought now. They will accomplish nothing, even if they win, through the legislative process unless they take on and take down this Republican Party.

2016-04-07 20:27:00 Andy Schmookler

I agree with you, quizzical, on two main points. First, I agree that Hillary has shown a lot of resilience and strength in being able and willing to stay in the arena despite all the ill treatment she has received. She is indeed tough. Second, I agree you that she should “be herself.” I would say, actually, that “be yourself” is another way of putting my main message to her, which I put in terms of “show your humanity.”

2016-04-02 21:31:00 Andy Schmookler

From some comments here, one gets the impression that Hillary has no need for any important improvements in her “performance” as a politician. I don’t think that captures the reality, and I hope that the people in her campaign who are advising her understand otherwise.

Hillary herself said that she is not “a natural politician.” Why do you suppose she would say that, other than that she understands that it does not come easy to her to connect with the public as she would like to?

In a private email, it has been suggested to me that the mistrust of Hillary is due largely to the right-wing smear job that’s been done on her for so long. Surely that is an important piece of it. But there’s evidence that something more is involved.

That evidence is that a rather large proportion of Democrats — even those supporting her, if I recall the data — report having mistrust of Hillary. Democrats, in my experience, are not much influenced by the lies that come streaming from the right, on Hillary or anything else. So the right-wing smears, I would surmise, are not the cause of the Democratic mistrust.

My own experience of Hillary is that I have been basically favorable to her since I first became aware of her. I continually hope for her to do well– except for a while in 2008, when I wanted Obama to be the nominee. I have wanted to like her a lot, but have not found it easy to do so. I don’t think I’m the only one. Yet I think there’s evidence that people who know her privately find her much more appealing than those of us who see her only in public.

Remember Al Gore: people who knew him privately said that he was a very funny, very engaging guy in private. But in public he came across stiff, and one might say that had HE been a more “natural politician,” we could have been spared the nightmare of the George W. Bush presidency.

Yes, Elaine, I agree — as, indeed, I said in the piece — that Bernie Sanders comes across to monochromatically in the angry mode. But I am less put off by Bernie than by Hillary — NOT because he’s a man and she’s a woman, but because I feel I can read Bernie, and I know that he means what he says, that his outrage is a genuine moral passion. But with Hillary, I’ve tried for years to read her, have come to some beliefs that she DOES care. But the point is that I don’t feel sure that I really know where she’s coming from.

I’m not the least perceptive observer around, and I know that there are plenty of other people who also have trouble seeing through to what they feel sure is the real Hillary, to read what she really cares about.

And another reason it is not about her being a woman — though I do readily concede that double-bind I describe in the piece above — is that I don’t have any such problems reading Elizabeth Warren. With her, I never wonder where she’s coming from.

For all those reasons, I believe it is a mistake to wave away the issue of how Hillary can do better. I would rather give my thoughts on the matter to her, or her inner circle, directly, but that is not available to me. So I do what I can.

And I do it because it is so important that Hillary, if she’s the nominee, win in the fall, and so important that if she wins in the fall, she gain the standing with a substantial majority of the American people to be able to move the nation forward, even against the resistance of the obstructionist GOP.

2016-04-02 17:18:00 Andy Schmookler

The superdelegates are probably inclined to back Hillary because, unlike Bernie, she and her husband have long been densely interwoven with the Democratic Party structure. But as for whether she would be better for your numbers 1 and 2, that is not so certain.

How good was Bill Clinton at taking care of the down-ticket Democrats? My impression was that his triangulations were not always useful for building the power of the Party at all levels.

2016-03-29 14:44:00 Andy Schmookler

Quizzical, you say, ” Bernie is saying is directly contrary to everything the Republicans have been saying for the last 40 years… What else would he have to do to draw fire from Republicans? I can’t see what, other than making personal attacks.”

Saying things contrary to the Republicans is surely insufficient. But it depends what you mean by “personal attacks.” Personal attacks usually mean attacking people in personal ways: “Little Marco,” :”low energy,” “sniveling coward.”

But how about personally targeted attacks? Where Bernie speaks directly to specific Republicans, preferably by name. To illustrate:

Consider the difference between “the Republicans have been suppressing the vote, and that is contrary to our American ideals.” And then this, which is a quote from what Bernie said Saturday evening in Madison: “I say to Governor Walker and all of the other cowardly Republican
governors, if you cannot participate in a free and fair election where
everybody votes, get out of politics–get another job!”

Walker isn’t likely to respond, because he’s not in the contest. But a targeted attack could be, for example:

“Mr. Trump. You claim that you’re trying to help the little guy get a fair deal. But then you propose a tax plan that will give billionaires like you a yuge tax break, and on the back of working families. I dare you to explain that to the people who are looking to you to improve their lives.”

“Senator Cruz, you say such and such about climate change. How can you justify that in view of …. What kind of justification can there be for sacrificing our children and grandchildren for the sake of your rich oil-company backers?”

Challenge, Dare. Critique. Prod. Provoke. And always speak the truth about what they are up to, exposing their lies.

2016-03-29 14:40:00 Andy Schmookler

Why would they start now, you ask? If Bernie’s attacks on them were such that they felt compelled to respond. Do you think it would be impossible for Bernie to deliver such attacks?

I believe it would not be impossible. (And Trump, in particular, seems especially unable to refuse a challenge, if it gets under his skin.)

And what if you’re right, and it did prove impossible? then Bernie would have an opportunity to pound them powerfully (yet also honestly and appropriately) — and presumably in terms that could command media attention — and have those attacks sit there in the public sphere unanswered.

That would be of value in itself– of value for Bernie’s standing, but of value for the Democrats regardless of who is the nominee.

2016-03-28 21:31:00 Andy Schmookler

I have been thinking about Kaine for VP also. One important advantage picking Kaine has over picking Sherrod Brown or Elizabeth Warren or Michael Murphy — all of whom are also plausible choices — is that of this group of Senators, only Kaine represents a state with a Democratic governor. So if he were elected VP, McAulliffe would appoint another Democrat to that Senate seat– a seat that the Democrats may well need for various important purposes, including getting a Supreme Court nominee through confirmation.

2016-03-27 23:19:00 Andy Schmookler

This piece has elicited some rather good comments on Daily Kos. Not one of those more than a dozen comments expressed any concern about Trump’s ability to perform an effective pivot to the general and gain strength by being perceived more favorably. (See comments at http://www.dailykos.com/stories/2016/3/26/1506506/-Will-Trump-Be-Able-to-Reverse-His-Unfavorables?_=2016-03-26T11:00:55-07:00#comment_60565234.)

My response to this set of intelligent comments was this:

“Many good points in the comments above. I am reasonably persuaded
that the “he can’t stop,” “he has nothing else to offer,” and “the video
clips can keep it all fresh” arguments outweigh whatever versatility
and cleverness he might bring to the pivot.

“Two thoughts that stay between me and complacency on this matter.

“First, people so often believe what they want to believe that I will
hold onto a bit of skepticism regarding such unanimous agreement that
Trump can’t become a bigger threat than we want him to be.

“Second, if I were involved in preparing for the fall campaign, I
would still make some contingency plans for how to foil a well-executed
Trump pivot if he should prove more adept than one would expect from the
comments above.”

2016-03-27 02:51:00 Andy Schmookler

I am a big fan of Barney Frank’s, but I was less than impressed by this particular interview.

First, Frank made a big thing about someone saying that there is a problem with a few banks being so dominant WITHOUT also specifying exactly how big is too big. I don’t see the sense of that: once it is conceded that having four banking institutions controlling a majority of banking assets in the nation is a problem, then the question can turn to the question of how big is too big.

I know that one can have a financial crisis even if there are only a great many small banks (see, for example, the runs on the banks around the time that FDR took office in 1932-33). But are we to believe that the present domination by a handful of giant banks is NO PROBLEM?

Second, Frank makes a big deal of the fact that Sanders mentioned the idea of “too big to fail” in the same breath as the idea of re-instituting an updated version of Glass-Steagall. Frank’s point is that Glass-Steagall is NOT about breaking up giant banks. (As Frank said, it is about restricting commercial banks from engaging in the riskier side of investing: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glass%E2%80%93Steagall_Legislation).

Does he really think that Bernie Sanders doesn’t know that? Does he really not understand that this was an effort to say, in short-hand, that there remain some kinds of desirable — and perhaps necessary — financial reform that Dodd-Frank did not accomplish?

Frank’s best contribution in this interview is his explication of some of the ways that Dodd Frank does work to prevent a repeat of the financial collapse of 2008-9. But from this interview, you would think that Barney Frank regards Dodd-Frank as having accomplished EVERYTHING that the U.S. needed for financial reform.

That is not the way people in the know, and people who supported Dodd-Frank, have customarily talked about that bill– not at the time it was passed, and not since. The generally accepted view has been that Dodd-Frank was an important step in the right direction, that it was all that could be accomplished with the Congress we then had, but that ideally it would have gone further.

Does anyone now dispute that?

And if ideally financial reform would go further, are the two issues on which Frank spoke so dismissively — the dominance of finance by four huge banks, plus the issue of re-instituting the Glass-Steagall prohibitions — not areas on which progress should be made?

2016-03-25 19:53:00 Andy Schmookler

This piece got a comment on Daily Kos in which the commenter said: “Bernie has been using “pathological liar” in interviews and in speeches
when describing The Donald. I am not sure what else he should do….
Nothing anyone has tried so far has slowed the support that Trump has
gathered around him.”

I’d like to share here my reply:

Trump has gathered a fairly steady level of support from the
Republican base. Nothing Bernie can say will peel those people away.
But Trump’s 40% of the Republican electorate is only about 10% of the American people. There are many more people — even among those who tend to vote Republican — that can be influenced.

The “pathological liar” quote was a good one (although Trump is actually a different kind of liar than that described in the clinical definition of “pathological liar,” who is someone who lies for no particular purpose). Bernie also said today that Trump is “an embarassment, even to the Republican Party.” Also good.

The question is how much of a sustained critique is Bernie willing to launch. I would like to see him go after Trump in such ways that he gets under Trump’s
skin, and provokes Trump to respond. Once such an interaction were to
begin, then Bernie would have a chance to show how adept he is at the
kind of sparring the general election would consist of.

We have watched a variety of Republican rivals take on Trump and, for the
most part, come out the worse for it. Jeb mishandled it. Rubio
mishandled it. Fiorina did it perhaps best, but she was playing defense.

My father once advised me, “Never get into a pissing contest with a skunk.” But the Democrats are going to need a candidate who can do just that, and have the skunk be the one who comes out smelling bad.

My sense is that Bernie would be able to do that— using his integrity and his truth-telling and his moral passion to contrast with Donald Trump, who is the opposite on all three counts.

2016-03-22 03:01:00 Andy Schmookler

Thank you, Forest. I see, btw, that the NYTimes has an article about President Obama having spoken recently such that those who heard him “took his comments as a signal to Mr. Sanders that perpetuating his
campaign, which is now an uphill climb, could only help the Republicans
recapture the White House.”

What I am proposing both allows Mr. Sanders to continue his important campaign AND do the very opposite of “help the Republicans recapture the White House.”

(Article is here: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/03/18/us/politics/obama-hillary-clinton-bernie-sanders.html?_r=0&referer=https://t.co/HiJAinMS1d?cn=ZmxleGlibGVfcmVjc18y .)

2016-03-17 23:58:00 Andy Schmookler

I, for one, appreciate your posting this, Shame. .

People can disagree. People can even be caught up in beliefs that others find false or repugnant. But dehumanizing whole groups of people, because of their different beliefs, is not only contrary to the reality (that many basically good people are to be found across the political spectrum), not only contrary to the moral imperative to regard others with compassion, but also a threat to the basic democratic political culture that has enabled this nation to govern itself comparatively constructively and peacefully for more than two centuries.

Lincoln referred to “the better angels of our nature.” What we’re witnessing today, and regrettably have been witnessing more and more in recent years leading up to today, is an approach to politics that appeals instead, to the worst elements in the human psyche.

2016-03-13 22:58:00 Andy Schmookler

Ross Douthat (conservative columnist for the NYTimes) takes the step that Lowell recommends here:

“So in Cleveland this summer, the men and women of the Republican Party may
face a straightforward choice: Betray the large minority of Republicans
who cast their votes for Trump, or betray their obligations to their

“For a party proud of its patriotism, the choice should not be hard.”

The problems with Douthat as a political observer, however, is that he does not seem to have noticed that it is a long time since the Republican Party has been governed by patriotism, or has hesitated to “betray their obligations to their country.”

2016-03-13 17:46:00 Andy Schmookler

Senator Kaine’s talk shows his fine, humane spirit. I’m glad to have such a man as my senator, and would be glad to have him get the Veep slot on the presidential ticket.

But this talk also shows, I believe, a too-narrow understanding of the political drama being enacted before our eyes.

Here’s the quote that reveals the issue: “the violent reaction that you see in some of this rhetoric and some of the appeal is not the sign of an increasing sentiment of
division or hatred but it’s the loud death spasm…”

What I believe Sen. Kaine is saying is that what we’re seeing doesn’t mean that there is more racism than there used to be (e.g. in the Virginia of 1958 into which he was born). Rather, it’s the consequence of our changing demographics, and the “death spasm” of white privilege as people who have long been in the majority are protesting their loss of power and status.

That’s part of the picture. But I believe that what he is regarding as “the problem” should rather be understood as a kind of fuel that what is really the problem exploits to increase its power.

The problem does not originate in the Republican base (which is responding to the “rhetoric” of a Trump), but originates in the force that has been stoking hatred and fear in that base for a generation.

(Consider how big a deal the Republicans have made about immigration even during those post-Great-Repression years when there was a net outflux of illegals as the jobs on our side of the border dried up. There does not have to be a real problem for the right-wing media and its political allies to whip people up into a frenxy of “hatred and division.”)

One other tip-off to the excessive narrowness of Senator Kaine’s perspective: where he says: “There’s something about this president that is causing them to threaten…”

Yes, there is something about him: he’s not their guy! Sure, the fact that he’s African-American figures into how they conduct themselves. (The well of American racism is something that they can exploit.) But there was also “something” about President Bill Clinton back in the 90s that caused them to do everything they could to delegitimize and eventually impeach him: he, also, was not their guy.

Indeed, it has been forty years since the Republicans have treated any non-Republican president as legitimate, since they have done other than everything they could to destroy or at least disable that president from the other party.

Since Jimmy Carter’s day, we have an all-new Republican Party. It is a Party that insists on division and conflict, and that deliberately and persistently foments hatred in order to manipulate a large chunk of the American people into backing them in their chosen form of politics as war.

The problem is not just Trump and his rhetoric. It is not just the base with its insecurities and prejudices that gives Trump his current prominence. No, the real problem is the force beneath all this that creates a base that would respond to hateful, divisive messages, and has brought the nation within striking distance of putting a man whose rhetoric is fascistic into the Oval Office.

2016-03-11 20:06:00 Andy Schmookler

You make a good point, Kindler. I do recall how positive her poll numbers were around the time she stepped down as Secretary of State. And it is true that the American public has a short memory. (I still do worry that she’d face a stubborn residue from all the alleged “scandals” surrounding her on Benghazi and on the email business. Even without any substance being made to stick, people might well have a sense of a lingering odor from all the claims they’ve heard. But I hope you’re right.)

The short memory idea also is something that worries me with respect to Trump. My concern is that between sewing up the nomination and the general election, Trump will be able to pivot in style and tone and somewhat also in substance, and people will forget how objectionable his conduct has been in wooing the Republican base. For example, in his meandering victory speech last night, Trump showed an ability, here and there, to pose as a kinder and gentler Trump.

It may prove important for the Dems to use footage of his current obnoxious campaign to counter any such re-invention that Trump may attempt– he being, above all, an actor unrestrained (so far as I can see) by anything smacking of integrity.

2016-03-10 03:48:00 Andy Schmookler

Pretty certain, but not yet a done deal. The two futures markets I follow rate Hillary’s chances of being the Dem nominee at 84% and 92%. So if we imagine the markets to have some of that collective wisdom they’re said to have, that means that Bernie has somewhere in the range of 1 chance out of 12 to 1 chance out of 6 to in.

If we also consider how the story of this year has included more than the usual quota of surprises, then I’d say that we are called upon to acknowledge more than the usual degree of uncertainty about whether the apparently improbable might happen.

2016-03-09 21:56:00 Andy Schmookler

BTW, that same NYTimes article reports that it was, indeed, Bloomberg’s “fear that a three-way race could lead to the election of a candidate he thinks would endanger the country: Donald J. Trump.”

2016-03-07 23:37:00 Andy Schmookler

Lowell kindly says that I was right. I appreciate that, but I think only partly right.

I seem to have been right about Bloomberg not wanting to contribute to the unacceptable outcome of a Trump presidency.

But I think that the new evidence — from the article here http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/08/us/politics/michael-bloomberg-not-running-for-president.html?_r=0

may suggest that I was wrong about the Bloomberg-may-run idea being a bluff.

That article reports Bloomberg having taken steps toward having a running mate:

“Mr. Bloomberg held extensive talks with Michael G. Mullen, the retired
admiral and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, about forming
an independent ticket. Lawyers for Mr. Bloomberg had completed the
process of vetting Mr. Mullen, and all that remained was for Mr.
Bloomberg to ask formally that Mr. Mullen serve as his running mate.”

I don’t imagine that if Bloomberg was in fact bluffing he would have wasted either his or Admiral Mullen’s time with such a vetting process.

So, part right, part wrong– it seems now.

2016-03-07 23:31:00 Andy Schmookler

You’re raising the right questions here, Lowell, and you provide a good start in the search for answers. I’ve been wondering about all this, too, and I’ve not yet come to any conclusion. So what I feel ready to add to the conversation at this point is just a few points that seem to me warrant being included in the discussion that you haven’t already made.

1) I have worries about Trump as the nominee, though that’s the outcome I’ve been rooting for for several months now, but I also have some worries about Ted Cruz. In particular, I think it should be noted that he is, by all reports, extremely intelligent in an IQ sort of way, as well as an unprincipled strategist. When he announced, everybody “in the know” (like Lawrence O’Donnell, for whom I have some respect) felt certain that his candidacy was going nowhere. Yet here he is, one of two candidates to which the original field of umpteen has been whittled down. Trump has surprised a lot of people, but so has Cruz.

2) Cruz, I gather, was a champion debater at the college level (out of Princeton). The question of how a Democrat should prepare to debate Donald Trump would be a challenging one. But how to debate Ted Cruz has challenges of his own. His positions may be vulnerable, but Michael Jordan could get around any one of us to the basket even if you handcuffed him. So, just saying: he’s got some skills that could be dangerous and would need to be respected.

3) I look at this election season with two main goals in mind. The first is to have a good election outcome, in terms of the Democratic nominee becoming president and in terms of the Republican power in the Congress being eroded (starting with a change of control in the Senate). But there’s another goal that I regard as really, really important: I’ve been looking for over a decade at the “destructive force” that has truly taken over the Republican Party in our times, and I would like for this election season to do MAXIMAL LASTING DAMAGE TO THE REPUBLICAN PARTY. Destroying that party utterly is not entirely beyond possibility (various people in the commentariat have spoken in such terms). And that would be a great blessing to the country. So part of the question to be asked is: what scenario would best serve to demolish this ugly, degraded thing that the Republican Party has become over the past generation?

4) In that context, I think that Trump may have the best potential for doing the most damage. Cruz may be an unappealing person, but he’s house-trained. He can give an imitation of a person with decent manners. For sheer ugliness, he hardly measures up to Trump. So while Trump threatens to bring authoritarianism to the Oval Office, he also seems like a more promising wrecking ball for the GOP.

5) I am not sure how much we can count of Cruz’s sheer obnoxiousness as a person to help us out. The reason he is so hated by his colleagues is, I believe, less about things that we can count on voters to be able to perceive and more on the complete opportunism that he has practiced in his role as Senator, to advance himself without regard to the damage he was doing to the Party. Just think about the ways he helped to drive the GOP extremist lemmings in the House to go off of various cliffs– like shutting down the government in a maneuver completely sure to accomplish nothing. Nothing, that is, but plant in the minds of the crazy right-wing base that Cruz is the guy they can count on to fight the necessary fight (never recognizing that the fight was completely hopeless from the outset). The Senators witnessing this knew full well what an opportunistic schmuck he was showing himself to be, but the average voters cannot be counted on to see through his postures and machinations.

6) One last thought: what I fear is a convention that ends up nominating Paul Ryan. Ryan is a fraud, as Paul Krugman has said and shown repeatedly, but even the reporter-class (much less the voters) will likely see him as the serious, sane policy guys he is good at posing to be. And after the clown-show of this Republican race, Ryan will definitely look like “Here at last we have a good and sensible Republican.” I am not sure that the turmoil of the convention would do much lasting damage, if the outcome were someone like Ryan. Lincoln was a darkhorse going into the convention, but the Party united behind him when none of the major contenders could get over the top.

Anyway, just some thoughts to add to the mix.

2016-03-06 22:48:00 Andy Schmookler

“But, how do the democrats change the situation when the other side is crazy or at best paranoid?”

See what’s there. Call it out. Press the battle.

Trump may be preparing the way, because he is so blatant a version of what the Republicans have been doing for so long. (Plus he’s offensive in terms of plain old good manners and decency that matters to decent people on both sides.)

Call out Trump in ways that also call out the Republican Party whose impulses he’s expressing.

The other side matters only if the American people give it enough power to matter. (2010, 2014) This election cycle MIGHT be a time when we can get enough of the American people turned off with the GOP that it will soon not matter what the other side is or does.

That, at least, must be the goal. And eventually to get a conservative party — the GOP reconstituted, or a new party — that is not possessed by the destructive spirit that gives us the terrible things we’ve been seeing in these times.

2016-03-05 21:18:00 Andy Schmookler

It’s a shame what’s happened to CNN. I wonder if Ted Turner has any regrets. I wonder, too, if he could have extricated himself from his worthy creation in any better way, so that the better qualities of his network would have been better protected from becoming what it now is.

2016-03-02 22:26:00 Andy Schmookler

Con artists? Has Marco Rubio ever heard of Karl Rove? Where was he when GW Bush ran as a “compassionate conservative”? And how about the con about weapons of mass destruction — and a smoking gun shaped like a mushroom cloud — that got us into the Iraq war?

2016-03-02 20:52:00 Andy Schmookler

KKK leftist!?!?! How does someone like that get a seat at the table at CNN? Or, to put it another way, what does his getting such a seat show about CNN?

2016-03-02 20:51:00 Andy Schmookler

I see what you mean about Nixon. But he fought dirty.

How about what FDR would have done, talking to the American people about the forces arrayed against him, as he did in 1936:

“We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace—business and financial
monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism,
war profiteering.

“They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs….

“I should like to have it said of my first Administration that in it
the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I
should like to have it said of my second Administration that in it these
forces met their master.”

2016-03-02 20:40:00 Andy Schmookler

I would like to think you’re right, Quizzical. But it seems to me that the Republican statements thus far have been so categorical that they’ve pretty much painted themselves into that corner (or gone all the way out on that limb) such that it would seem to be a surrender if they relented.

I believe it is conceivable that this surrender could be compelled, if the Dems wage an effective enough campaign on it. But I’m not sure about that and, moreover, we haven’t seen many examples of the Democrats being that tough and that effective in imposing heavy costs on Republicans for their misdeeds.

More likely, as I would guess at this point, is that the Republicans will not relent, and that the Democrats will be able to make reasonably effective use of this issue to help gain control of the Senate.

I don’t know what the futures markets are saying right now, but between the likelihood of having Trump at the top of the ticket, and the power play of the GOP in refusing to do their constitutional job in the hope of keeping control of the Court, the Democratic chances of taking over the Senate have been greatly fortified.

2016-03-02 19:48:00 Andy Schmookler

I’m about to go out and vote for Bernie, for reasons I’ve expressed here before and that I still believe are valid. But it does indeed look like the general election will be Hillary vs. Trump, and I’m completely ready to shift my support Hillary.

Her victory over Trump is of YUGE importance. Even if there were no other
reasons but these
*gaining control over the Supreme Court ·
*preventing the terrible things the Republicans would do if they controlled the whole government, all three branches
*avoiding whatever embarrassments and nightmares the nation might be subjected to if Donald Trump became president

it would be of vital importance to support Hillary
against Trump.

But of course there are plenty of other reasons as well. I don’t think of her shortcomings as weighing nearly as much as some I know on the left do. And she obviously has some considerable strengths—her intelligence, her determination, her considerable capabilities. It is possible that she would make a great president, though I am not expecting that. But electing her over Trump – or any still possible Republican nominee – would indeed be great for the nation.

If Hillary wraps this up in the coming weeks, as looks likely, I will focus my efforts on doing what I can to help her win.

2016-03-01 15:01:00 Andy Schmookler

Your inclusion of #3 here essentially reveals your comment as reflexive and mindless.

When the issue is that the Republican-controlled Senate has issued a categorical refusal to consider any nominee the president puts forward– a stance that is unprecedented in more than two centuries of history of the Senate, acting in its “advise and consent” role — your bringing in the “Racist” issue suggests to me that you are operating in some kind of generic right-wing troll role.

The main characteristic of that role is that it deals in attitude and posturing, but either does not both or is not capable of dealing in substance. Your comment does not engage in any aspect of the substance of the piece on which it claims to be a comment.

I expect that the likes of Jefferson and Madison, who believed they were giving us a system by which reasoned exchange of views could lead to well-considered conclusions, would say, “Shame on you.”

2016-02-27 22:55:00 Andy Schmookler

Your point is very well taken, Lowell.

First, a question: you write here about why someone like Terry McAullife might not be afraid to make this bad gun real, but what was in it for him to make this agreement, undercutting Herring and outraging so many who helped him win the governorship.

Second, a point: we should indeed flex muscle when we can to get “our” people to do the right thing. But we should not get crazy about it, like so many on the right have, by failing to take into account realities that we might not like. (E.g. the anger of the R base that they couldn’t get rid of Obamacare, when their guys simply lacked the power to do so.)

And third, another point. Your point about the need to be able and willing to inflict pain to punish leaders like McAullife for failure to work for the right goals goes together with the more general failure of the liberal side to compel its leaders to inflict political pain on the Republicans for the terrible things they do.

And of course right now we liberals should be doing everything we can to punish the Republicans — and compel our leaders to do so — for their unprecedented stonewalling on any nominee the President might make to the Supreme Court.

(I received a mass email from Sen. Warren today that included this about the Republican Senators’ power play on the Supreme Court vacancy: “This is extreme, irresponsible, and an insult to the U.S. Constitution that all of us senators took an oath to uphold. But none of that will make Senate Republicans change their minds and do the right thing. The only way they’ll come around is if there’s a big
enough outcry from their constituents. That’s why MoveOn is so crucial in this moment—to supercharge a grassroots uprising and make extreme obstructionism a political disaster for the GOP.)

2016-02-27 22:46:00 Andy Schmookler

President Obama seems to be pursuing a different strategy, judging by words he spoke on Wednesday. He apparently will put forward a nominee in an unconfrontational way, hoping that the concrete reality of an actual and praiseworthy nominee will elicit public support and put pressure on the Republicans to relent.

That strategy could be effective, but only if the president (presumably backed up by the other Democratic leaders, and by progressive activism at the grassroots level), presses the issue more confrontationally after the Republicans stick to their obstructionist intention (which they surely will).

It would be foolish to count on the American public at large being offended by the unprecedented Republican stone-walling on their own. The public gets involved, almost invariably, only when their attention has been focused on something by their political leaders and/or by the media.

The President could nominate Moses or Solon to the Court, and the Republicans would pay no great price for doing nothing unless a spotlight illuminates the crisis, and effective rhetoric frames it for the public in effective ways.

I deeply hope that this President’s aversion to confrontation will not lead him to conduct this battle in so pussy-footing a way that the Republicans neither confirm his nominee nor pay any price for their conduct come November.

2016-02-25 23:27:00 Andy Schmookler

I have worried about the electability issue– especially re Sanders (“socialist”) but also re Clinton (“untrustworthy”).

I have come to suspect that the question of which candidate is the SAFER choice — in terms of being able to defeat a Republican opponent — may depend on who that opponent is.

In particular, I think it is possible that if Trump is the Republican nominee, Bernie Sanders might be the stronger Democratic candidate.

Electability, in other words, may be a more complex issue than is generally thought. Rather than one candidate necessarily being best against ALL, there may be some rock-paper-scissors involved.

When I was a kid, I was a Detroit Tigers fan. This was in the 1950s, when the Yankees dominated the American League almost every year. The Tigers were generally in the second division.

But the Tigers had one pitcher — Frank Lary was his name — who had the nickname “the Yankee-killer,” because he defeated them more than any other pitcher in the league.

I think Bernie Sanders might not do as well against Rubio as Hillary Clinton. But I think he’s got the scissors to cut through Trump’s paper tiger.

2016-02-21 03:54:00 Andy Schmookler

I don’t see this the way you do, Lowell.

Yes, with the status quo, none of this will happen. But is it impossible to change the status quo so that these things do become possible? And if so, what is the path that gets us there– including how should a leader speak to us to begin getting us down that path?

I think the answer is that all that is possible, in a scenario that truly and effectively challenges the status quo. And that Bernie’s approach — laying out this vision, AND saying that he cannot do it alone, but will need the backing of a political revolution (which goes beyond his getting elected, and presumably is not completed overnight) — is as good a way to get us moving toward that scenario as any.

FDR was a transformational president. He did not run as such in 1932, however. (The president who utilized what would later be called “Keynesian” stimulus ran calling for a balanced budget.) But imagine that he had run in 1932, saying that y the time he completed his second term (in early 1941):
** the United States would have a Social Security system;
** the U.S. would have banking regulations to prevent the banks where citizens deposited their money from reckless speculation (Glass Steagall);
** the people’s deposits in commercial banks would be insured by the federal government
** the rights of workers to organize and negotiate and strike would be protected by federal law (the Wagner Act)

don’t you imagine that people would have condemned him for making “wildly unrealistic” proposals?

2016-02-19 20:13:00 Andy Schmookler

Just what is Sanders proposing that is a fairy tale? And I mean, with respect to where we might move this country in a finite future. Do you think that it is impossible that we’d ever treat a college education the way we have treated high school education for generations, as something that those who have the ability and do the work can get at public expense? Do you think that it is impossible that we’d ever get to single-payer health care as a right? Do you think it is impossible that we could ever get to publicly financed elections? All these things have been accomplished in other advanced democracies. Is the United States a nation where, for some reason, it could never happen, and that it is “completely unrealistic” for a presidential candidate to run on the basis that this is what he’s going to fight for?

BTW, how much of what FDR stood for should be condemned as “completely unrealistic”? Would you condemn FDR for calling — in his State of the Union in 1941 — for a world in which people had the Four Freedoms (of speech, of worship, from fear, from want). We still do not have such a world– but FDR did a whole lot to move the world in those directions. Should we dismiss that speech as the spinning out of a fairy tale?

2016-02-19 16:54:00 Andy Schmookler

Not being realistic. Is it so clear what that means?

I think it is arguably “realistic” to say that unless there is a powerful pushback from the liberal side, we are going to lose our democracy.

So that brings us to the “political revolution.” And if something like that is indeed necessary, would not a legitimate way of launching it be to do what Bernie is doing?

Namely, to hold out a vision of what this country should look like — presented in the form of a variety of policy goals — that inspire people to get behind him, like: 1) single-payer Medicare for all (isn’t that what the “public option” was going to be a precursor of?), 2) tuition-free college education at public institutions, 3) a livable minimum wage, 4) overturning Citizens United and getting democracy back into, and Big Money out of, America’s political system.

Is it “realistic” to imagine all that getting accomplished in the first couple of years of a Sanders’ presidency. No. But I think it is entirely appropriate to articulate the vision and say that this is what you’re going to fight for, inspiring people to rise up and take back their power so that these things DO become possible..

And if we do NOT seek that political revolution, and if we manage to elect Hillary Clinton as president, then what? I argued here in a piece about a “Much Better Way for Hillary and Bernie to Compete” that unless the Republicans are swept out of power, neither potential Democratic president will be able to get ANYTHING accomplished through Congress. (There’s no reason why the Republicans wouldn’t continue to do to the next Democratic president what they’ve done so successfully against President Obama.)

And if that’s the case, then it would seem to me that all the more “realistic” things that Hillary is talking about are even more UNREALISTIC than Bernie’s proposals– because she is not putting forward any notion of how to break through Republican obstructionism.

So it is not nearly so obvious as it might seem on the surface just what kind of politics is “realistic” in the context of the current American political environment.

2016-02-19 15:48:00 Andy Schmookler

The news wrap-up above has several articles attacking the Sanders campaign for making irresponsible claims about how much economic growth would result from the U.S. adopting Sanders’ proposals. There is a truth and also a distortion in all that– at least so I gather from one article on the subject I’ve read. (It’s at http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2016/02/18/the_sanders_campaign_is_living_in_an_economic_fantasy_world.html.)

I’m inclined to credit the critics who say that the projected 5.3% growth rate is quite unrealistic. But it should be noted that this projection was generated by a University of Massachusetts economist who a) did his analysis on his own, not in cahoots with the Sanders’ campaign, b) did so, according to the critic on Slate, in “good faith,” and c) is himself a supporter of and contributor to Hillary Clinton.

So what is the culpability of the Sanders campaign?

They have to some degree embraced the study. Perhaps one would argue that a candidate/campaign should repudiate a good-faith analysis that other experts show is flawed, even though that analysis helps bolster one’s position in an intense political campaign.

But the critics like Krugman seem to be imputing to the Sanders people a whole lot more grievous sins than that.

2016-02-19 15:00:00 Andy Schmookler

Evidently, her secretarial days were summer jobs while on break from Stanford. Her father was something like Dean of the Duke Law School. She went from Stanford into other good, business-tracks one would expect of an ambitious, privileged child from an elite family.

2015-09-18 18:38:37 Andy Schmookler

“these issues are very appealing to the base…”

Yes, indeed. But the fact that the base rewards these gestures of futile defiance — when they accomplish nothing, and even if they are actually harmful to their cause (like the government shutdown)– is an important manifestation of the political culture.

In a healthy political culture, the base would recognize and accept reality, and move on to battles that might still be won. They would not reward politicians who give them false hopes and lead them into the pit.

In a healthy political culture, a Jefferson Davis (or a Ted Cruz) would be regarded as the very opposite of a hero.

Wisdom is knowing how to “pick your battles.” Thinking it is a virtue always to fight is utter folly.

2015-09-17 05:33:18 Andy Schmookler

Thank you, svagirl, for your appreciative comment.

In terms of how Democrats should respond to Trump, I have two things to say:

1) My first piece about Trump, published here in late July, expressed my belief that the rise of Trump represents a good opportunity for Democrats to go on the offensive. That piece has the title, “Strike While the Donald is Hot,” and it appears here: http://www.bluevirginia.us/dia

2) I’m considering writing a second piece, though those I’ve approached for an opinion about it have been split about the wisdom of my idea: that Bernie Sanders should challenge Donald Trump to debate him one-on-one– to goad him into it if necessary, as Trump would, I think, have a hard time walking away from a fight.

The premise of that second idea is that Bernie Sanders would be able to make visible the difference between a demagogue who is taking people’s legitimate frustrations and mis-directing them toward phony issues and phony solutions, and a true leader who is identifying the real reasons for those frustrations and real ways of making the needed changes.

2015-09-06 19:25:44 Andy Schmookler

Have these good things he’s done changed your perception of who he is and what he’s trying to accomplish? Or are these the result of the same kind of calculations that have led him to do the things you have not liked? An inquiring mind would like to know.

2015-09-04 20:37:01 Andy Schmookler

Reich writes:

American society today is filled with bullies. Some are economic bullies – CEOs and Wall Street moguls who use their power to pad their wallets and ride roughshod over shareholders, employees, and communities. Some are billionaires like the Koch brothers who use their money to undermine our democracy. Some are wealthy blowhards like Donald Trump who use their megaphones to belittle immigrants and women. Some are politicians who take bribes (campaign contributions) to favor the rich and hurt the poor. Some are police who use their authority and weapons to intimidate or even kill poor blacks. Some are bosses at the workplace who use their rank to spread fear among employees.

What I learned as a small boy is bullies intensify their bullying if no one stands up to them. And the best way of standing up to them is to join with others who are also bullied, and demand a stop to it. That’s what’s needed now. That’s what the movements we’re witnessing (#blacklivesmatter, #feelthebern #fightfor15 and so on) are seeking to do.

2015-08-31 04:51:54 Andy Schmookler

“Go back to Univision.”

Spoken like a true bully.

That whole scene with Jorge Ramos at the press conference had a bullying flavor.

2015-08-31 04:45:00 Andy Schmookler

Imagine how long we’d all last if “the right to bear arms” were to be extended all the way to “the right to bear nuclear arms.” (They are “arms” after all– the “A” in the SALT talks.)

If every crazy or enraged person had the power to destroy a city….

Absolutism — such as the NRA propounds — is absolutely disastrous for a society.

2015-08-30 19:01:17 Andy Schmookler

Actually, that 97% understates the scientific consensus on evolution– as well it might when biological evolution is THE organizing idea of the biological sciences.

The article cited says:

One 1987 estimate found that “700 scientists … (out of a total of 480,000 U.S. earth and life scientists) … give credence to creation-science”.

Which works out, as I calculate it, to 99.85 percent.

I used to think that there were no terrible consequences to people choosing to reject science in order to maintain some cherished religious beliefs. But our times have shown me otherwise.

The ability to disregard mountains of evidence in order to believe what one WANTS to believe, or to believe what trusted authority TELLS you to believe, has proved terribly dangerous in the face of the crisis of climate change.

2015-08-05 22:57:45 Andy Schmookler

I am looking at this on the basis of the assumption that this attack on Planned Parenthood is scurrilous, that it is — like so many attacks on aspects of Liberal America — based on lies and distortions and essentially without merit. That is what I believe to be the case, but I confess that I do not know enough to say for sure that Planned Parenthood is blameless hear.

On that basis, it seems to me an important development that other progressive groups involved in completely different issues are rallying to Planned Parenthood’s defense.

The right wing should not be given the opportunity to go after the parts of our body politic associated with Liberal America one piece at a time, picking them off like the way the Romans built their empire at the expense of neighboring peoples. Like the public workers’ unions in Madison on one battlefield and now Planned Parenthood on another.

There is indeed a common enemy here, and it is a good sign that, by this rallying behind Planned Parenthood, these other organizations show they understand that we need to look at the whole battlefield and organize accordingly.

They show that they understand that an attack on Planned Parenthood is part of a larger attack on them as well.

2015-08-03 21:49:22 Andy Schmookler

Lowell’s immediately previous piece on Cuccinelli and on those he’s attracting to his FB page, and my piece here on Donald Trump holding a mirror to today’s Republican Party, both expose the darkness lurking among the minions of the right.

The question arises: to what extent are the Republicans attracting the people inflamed with a dark spirit of this sort. And to what extent has the darkness of spirit, over the years, been cultivated by the Republicans?

Any student of American history knows that there have always been pockets of this kind of viciousness in our politics, and that they have generally gravitated to the right. I think of groups that were labeled “radical right” in the 50s and 60s. And there were the followers of Father Coughlin in the 1930s.

So some of this has been there all along. It was generally kept on the fringe (e.g. the very conservative William F. Buckley, founding the National Review, would have no truck with the John Birch Society in his conservative movement.

So at least one change is that what used to be excluded is now a major driver in one of our major parties.

But I think the Republican Party is more deeply culpable than that. They have spent the past quarter of a century fostering fear and hatred and an incapacity for rational thought in millions of people.

My bet is that if one could go back in time and interview the parents and grandparents of most of those now telling pollsters that Trump is their man, few of them would have attitudes like those of their inflamed descendants of today.

Twenty-some years of propaganda from Limbaugh and Gingrich and Rove and their ilk have transformed the consciousness of a large chunk of America.

And one need not contrast the attitudes of today’s Trump supporters with those of their parents and grandparents. I’ve heard people tell stories of how their own relatives are politically transformed from what they were before. One woman told me about how her mother became more paranoid and angry simply from the effects of watching Fox news, when that became available to her.

So cultivation and attraction seem both to be factors. What the proportions are of the two, I don’t know. But if I had to guess, I’d venture that the cultivation process has quadrupled the amount of this ugliness of spirit and consciousness that now inhabits the American body politic.

2015-07-29 00:38:10 Andy Schmookler

This piece on Cuccinelli and those he’s attracting to his FB page, and my piece on Donald Trump holding a mirror to today’s Republican Party, both expose the darkness lurking among the minions of the right.

The question arises: to what extent are the Republicans attracting the people inflamed with a dark spirit of this sort. And to what extent has the darkness of spirit, over the years, been cultivated by the Republicans?

Any student of American history knows that there have always been pockets of this kind of viciousness in our politics, and that they have generally gravitated to the right. I think of groups that were labeled “radical right” in the 50s and 60s. And there were the followers of Father Coughlin in the 1930s.

So some of this has been there all along. It was generally kept on the fringe (e.g. the very conservative William F. Buckley, founding the National Review, would have no truck with the John Birch Society in his conservative movement.

So at least one change is that what used to be excluded is now a major driver in one of our major parties.

But I think the Republican Party is more deeply culpable than that. They have spent the past quarter of a century fostering fear and hatred and an incapacity for rational thought in millions of people.

My bet is that if one could go back in time and interview the parents and grandparents of most of those now telling pollsters that Trump is their man, few of them would have attitudes like those of their inflamed descendants of today.

Twenty-some years of propaganda from Limbaugh and Gingrich and Rove and their ilk have transformed the consciousness of a large chunk of America.

And one need not contrast the attitudes of today’s Trump supporters with those of their parents and grandparents. I’ve heard people tell stories of how their own relatives are politically transformed from what they were before. One woman told me about how her mother became more paranoid and angry simply from the effects of watching Fox news, when that became available to her.

So cultivation and attraction seem both to be factors. What the proportions are of the two, I don’t know. But if I had to guess, I’d venture that the cultivation process has quadrupled the amount of this ugliness of spirit and consciousness that now inhabits the American body politic.

2015-07-28 23:52:31 Andy Schmookler

This, from a piece this morning by E.J. Dionne, may show how ready America is to be tipped into seeing and rejecting what this atrocity of a political party has become:

Meanwhile, the Pew Research Center released findings that should alarm Republicans. Its survey found that only 32 percent of Americans had a favorable view of the Republican Party – down nine points since January – while 60 percent had an unfavorable view. For Democrats, the numbers were 48 percent favorable (up two points) and 47 percent unfavorable.

That is, if we seize the moment and press the battle.

In 2009, there was also an opportunity. The GOP was on the ropes, but we Democrats allowed them to recover, regroup, and go once again on the attack.

Have we learned the lesson? Are we ready to close in and finish the fight?

We ought not forget how high the stakes are in this fight. In what kind of America, on what kind of planet, will our children and grandchildren live?

2015-07-27 15:48:19 Andy Schmookler

Many thanks to Lowell for his thoughtful review.

My thanks also to ir (may I call you “ir” for short?) for your plan to use the book to fortify your “wimpy Democratic friends.”

That kind of spreading of the word is exactly what is needed if WHAT WE’RE UP AGAINST is going to have a chance to fulfill the scenario that drove me to write the book.

The reason you didn’t find it on Amazon is that the official publication of the book is not until September. (There are reasons for that.) But I am trying to use this pre-publication time, armed with “advance copies”, to build as much momentum as possible behind the book.

My goal — improbable for sure, but plausible — – is to get the message of this book into the national conversation in time to influence the 2016 election process. (It was the need for speed that induced me, after more than thirty years of publishing with reputable commercial houses and university presses, to self-publish this book.)

What’s driven me to write this is the sense that the America may be ready for an “Emperor’s New Clothes” moment. By that I mean that maybe the nation can be awakened to see more deeply what an ugly thing it is that’s taken over the Republican Party, and be moved to repudiate it.

So I’ve tried to provide the catalyst for that realization — the equivalent of what the little boy says that makes the nakedness of the Emperor the topic of conversation in the gathered crowd — by drawing a clear picture of this extraordinarily dark force that has arisen on the right, and by providing a set of ideas that explains how such a phenomenon can arise in (and do great damage to) civilized societies like ours.

But of course, whatever the “potential” impact of WHAT WE’RE UP AGAINST, the fulfillment of that potential will require that a lot of people help make it happen, spreading the word to help make “the Emperor has no clothes” the focus of political discourse.

So thank you, ir, for helping that process along.

2015-07-27 15:30:36 Andy Schmookler

That’s what Tejada is doing in this session. And that is what you’re doing too, Lowell, in putting your spotlight on this exchange. My hat is off to you both.

In this target-rich environment, we need more like you, unafraid to fire away.

2015-07-22 21:34:00 Andy Schmookler

Is there a direct causal connection, like the release of carcinogens, identified to explain the rise in all these cancers? Or is it indirect, caused by conditions of life connected with poverty, unemployment, etc.? Or is the reason for the correlation unknown? Or what?

2015-07-21 22:59:21 Andy Schmookler
2015-07-12 23:45:01 Andy Schmookler

This piece appears today also on Daily Kos. A comment from a reader there — to the effect that the South was able to take over the American narrative about the meaning of the Civil War to a corrupting extent — prompted me to write this in reply:

What made the cult of the Confederacy possible Included the unwillingness of the North to challenge the South’s myth-making about its supposed noble Lost Cause.

In our times, similarly, it is Liberal America — whose stronghold is where the Union was — that has not adequately challenged the lies the Republicans tell about who they are, and what they are serving, and the kind of America they are trying to make.

2015-06-30 22:53:34 Andy Schmookler

Yes, that would be splendid. One might have thought that the massacre of the kids at the Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Connecticut, might have precipitated the nation into a tipping point away from the unhinged dominance of the NRA on the nation’s approach to guns and the laws regulating them.

But of course, it didn’t.

Can you envision that a day might come, in some foreseeable future, when the gun issue hits a tipping point and, as has happened with for example gay marriage, things just quickly move toward greater enlightenment in national policy?

2015-06-25 19:33:06 Andy Schmookler

I am not a constitutional scholar, though I’ve played one in the classroom, and love the field of constitutional history. But I think I know enough about this case to agree with your remark, Lowell, about Scalia, Thomas, and Alito and their votes here to find for the plaintiffs.

Nothing I’ve read about this case since it first appeared on the horizon has indicated that it had any legal merit. That’s why there was so much shock and alarm that the Court even chose to take the case on. The intent of Congress was as clear as could be, and in a statutory case like this — where constitutionality was not even at issue — that should have settled the matter.

The Abominable Three here show themselves for the partisan hacks they ultimately are. (Not that long ago, I saw Roberts as cut from the same hypocritical cloth, but it now seems that he has concerns besides partisan advantage.)

I don’t know how those three perceive themselves and what they are doing with their privileged position on the bench: do they consciously pretend to be doing the job of a Supreme Court Justice, or do they persuade themselves that what their partisan leanings dictate somehow always accords with what the law requires?

But whatever is the level at which the hypocrisy resides, it is hard to see evidence that these three are playing the role our founders had in mind for those who serve as Supreme Court justices.

2015-06-25 17:14:06 Andy Schmookler

When I was the Democratic nominee for Congress for the 6th District, I spent a lot of time in Roanoke. An obvious reason: Roanoke is clearly the biggest concentration of population (hence of voters) in the District, with Lynchburg second and Harrisonburg third, with half the people of Roanoke.

My time in Roanoke gave me a lot of contact with John Edwards, and not a whole lot but enough to come away with impressions of Don Caldwell. I think rather highly of John Edwards, and while my impressions are not set in stone, I came away not feeling that way about Don Caldwell.

So from my point of view, the importance of Edwards winning because it’s up for grabs what party will get to control the Senate is joined by my sense of the value of having a man like John Edwards in the Senate, and not like this man who is willing to betray the party he once served by acting as a spoiler in a race that is important for the balance of power in Virginia politics.  

2015-06-19 03:49:34 Andy Schmookler

I believe that the Republican Party is the only major party among all the democracies that has made it a matter of party dogma to deny the science warning us about climate change.

Recall the 2012 presidential campaign for the Republican nomination: only one candidate — Huntsman from Utah — spoke truthfully and sanely about the issue. And then he felt compelled to recant. (Like Galileo — under pressure from the Vatican — saying, under his breath, “But they are there.”)

2015-03-31 02:53:59 Andy Schmookler

Are you suggesting, pontoon, as it appears in the context of this discussion of your “I disagree” statement, that there are no important differences between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party when it comes to meeting the challenge of climate change?

2015-03-31 01:25:22 Andy Schmookler

I understand what you are saying about the pipeline, pontoon. And if the Dems are any less culpable about that issue, I don’t know the evidence.

But the pipeline is not the only thing going on in Virginia. When it comes to expanding Medicaid for 400,000 Virginians, the two parties are hardly equivalent.

Nor is Virginia the whole picture of what is happening to American democracy. The national picture shows a clear difference between the parties regarding the extent to which they represent the plutocracy rather than the people.

2015-03-30 17:50:31 Andy Schmookler

I agree, pontoon, that the problem includes Democrats. And I agree that the hold that Dominion has over the Virginia government involves both parties. (Lowell often refers here to Saslaw as D-Dominion.)

At the national level, I see it this way: the GOP is pretty much a wholly-owned instrument of the plutocracy; the Democrats are maybe 1/3-owned. (No claim to precision in that fraction.)

It should be noted, however, that whenever there is a battle in our politics in which one side is more for the interests of average citizens where it conflicts with those of the plutocracy, it is always the Democrats who are on the side of the people generally.

Really, I can’t think of a single exception. Can you?

So, in a country whose constitutional logic creates a two-party system, and that has not seen a new major party arise in more than a century and a half, the strategy for winning this battle would seem necessarily to have to focus on taking power from the Republicans and strengthening the non-corrupted part of the Democratic Party.

2015-03-30 04:50:42 Andy Schmookler

Yes, the GOP — the principle political arm of the plutocracy — has gained considerable ground applying a brilliant strategy and pursuing it was a determination to prevail.

It is high time that it be countered with a strategy equally intelligent and deployed with a similar will to win.

2015-03-29 23:39:35 Andy Schmookler

You’re right, amber waves: that’s essential.

Two points in reply:

1) The point of this piece was limited. It was a way of saying, “Watch how Hillary deals with this, and we’ll learn something important about her.” Since she’s reasonably likely to be the next president, learning something important about her could matter.

2) There is one point where I venture into evaluation of policy: it is where I say that President Obama’s post-election path has been RIGHT. He is opening the door to taking a different path policy-wise in response to some rather major offenses committed by Netanyahu.

There is an article by William Saletan on Slate that captured my own gut feeling about this. Like Saletan, I am Jewish. Like Saletan, I care about Israel. Like Saletan, I think it is time for the U.S. to show there are limits to the support that Israel will get if it — in its leadership — behaves in unsupportable ways.

I am not in accord with the frequent American left position of “it’s all Israel’s fault.” That position ignores the very serious defects in the conduct of the other side, and the limits that has placed on what is possible.

But Saletan is right: we should not enable Israel in becoming what Netanyahu is making it, with his rejection of the two-state solution (and the dismissal of Palestinian rights that implies), and with its relentless seizure of lands in its settlement policy.

2015-03-23 13:23:39 Andy Schmookler

I am assuming that the false picture you’re exposing serves the interests of the likes of Dominion Power. But could someone lay out exactly HOW it serves Dominion to mischaracterize the implications of the CPP?

The one piece of the answer I believe I know: in the “Dominion bill,” the freezing of the rates was pitched fraudulently as protecting consumers from the supposed rate increases that — it was said — would come from complying with the EPA.

Is that part of it? And is there more?

2015-03-15 22:02:00 Andy Schmookler

It occurs to me that what I had in mind when I wrote about “the police serving as instruments of white oppression of black men” might need some clarification.

What I did NOT mean to assert is that there are orders from above that explicitly state that purpose, or that the police whose actions I’m talking about are acting from such an intention.

Historically, there doubtless have been such explicit and conscious and deliberate connections between the actions and the purposes served.

More and more, I am seeing the workings of “forces” in society as operating in more subtle ways, working through people without their necessarily knowing just what it is that stands behind their perceptions, feelings, and actions.

So a person who, in some tense split-second decision, acts in one way rather than another can be reflecting a whole field of forces of which they’ve had little clear awareness. When a policeman pulls a trigger, how much of what he has heard throughout his life about another group/race of people is coming into play in that decision? How much of the overall culture of the police as an institution in the society, transmitting its patterns of thought and attitude over the generations, influence what he does or does not do. Etc.

In these ways, an overall set of forces, with intrinsic connections to power systems that have shaped attitudes toward things in the environment (e.g. black men), and are in turn shaped by them, can create a tendency or proclivity to act in certain ways that sometimes get triggered and sometimes not.

But in the context of a whole nation, or cultural system, such tendencies can over time show a pattern. And that pattern can be an expression of how some components of the cultural/social/political system seek to establish their preferred over (such as white domination of blacks).

So it is in that way, and not in the sense of any conscious conspiracy, that I see this “rash” of shootings by police of unarmed black men as a “chapter” in that age-old story of white oppression of blacks.

2014-12-12 22:00:11 Andy Schmookler

“allowing the grand jury… to decide whether to indict”

That passage by itself would seem to demonstrate, Mr. MonopolyGuy, that you don’t know much about the grand jury system, and what is or is not customary procedure.

It is always up to the grand jury to decide. The prosecutor does not give away some power he might have exercised when he “allows” the grand jury to do its job.

What he did decide to do, which is quite unconventional and was helpful to the potential defendant, was to expose the grand jury to exonerating testimony.

Recent articles have cited how Justice Scalia, some years back, wrote in an opinion about the grand jury system:

It is the grand jury’s function not ‘to enquire … upon what foundation [the charge may be] denied,’ or otherwise to try the suspect’s defenses, but only to examine ‘upon what foundation [the charge] is made’ by the prosecutor. Respublica v. Shaffer, 1 Dall. 236 (O. T. Phila. 1788); see also F. Wharton, Criminal Pleading and Practice § 360, pp. 248-249 (8th ed. 1880). As a consequence, neither in this country nor in England has the suspect under investigation by the grand jury ever been thought to have a right to testify or to have exculpatory evidence presented.

Needless to say, this Ferguson prosecutor brought in the “suspect” to testify on his own behalf at considerable length.

But even if we did not have all this evidence — which we do — that Prosecutor Bob McCulloch was inappropriately stacking the deck against an indictment, the argument I make is based on a different foundation: McCulloch was not trusted by a whole community of people — in Ferguson itself and, as we have seen, throughout the nation — whose trust in the process was a) important for the nation, and b) impossible with McCulloch (unless he surprised everyone by bringing in an indictment).

That’s reason enough that McCulloch and Governor Nixon should have arranged for a special prosecutor whose impartiality and integrity would have assured the confidence of all.

2014-12-02 00:07:21 Andy Schmookler

I agree that this kind of ugly and irrational stuff has always been there. But I believe, though I would not know how to prove it, that there is another element in the picture.

The issue is not whether the phenomenon is new, but whether it has become a larger part of the national picture. For a variety of reasons — the dark force that’s taken over the right, including the rise of things like Fox News and Limbaugh, and as you say the Internet — we have an interconnected subculture that has been fostering and fomenting some of the darker aspects of the American mind.

Through the workings of collective processes, pushed along by dark forces, what was once a fringe craziness of the John Birch sort has become a powerful part of one of our two major parties.

Likewise, at the grassroots level, people whose parents might have been, say, 5% caught up in political craziness have developed together a set of crazy doctrines and destructive habits of thought and feeling that occupy a controlling portion of their political consciousness.

Two lessons here that seem salient to me, if I’m right about this:

1) The power of collective cultural processes to mold people’s consciousness (thought and feeling) is enormous, and should be kept in mind as we consider what’s happening in our country. (I find myself amazed at how fragile rationality turns out to be.)

2) It is of vital importance that we be alert not only to new things that arise, but also to dramatic shifts in the proportions of things, which can usher in major changes in a society using only old ingredients.  

2014-11-27 22:08:41 Andy Schmookler

I posted a version of this piece on my FB page first, and them it was picked up by a Tea Partier of my acquaintance. He posted it under a caption suggesting that I was working to “dumb down” the left.

A discussion ensued that I find discouraging and downright disturbing on more levels than I care to enumerate.

Maybe I’m mistaken in my impression of the America I grew up in and, indeed, up until the past decade plus. But I think there are aspects of brokenness of thought and feeling on display here — and in the subculture of the right generally in these times — that were hard to find, confined more to the fringe, in the earlier eras.

If you’ve got the appetite, or at least the stomach, for it, the exchange can be found here:


2014-11-27 00:38:56 Andy Schmookler

I can imagine that the situation for a policeman might appropriately be different from that of a usual civilian suspect. But I got the impression that the prosecutor’s approach in this case was unusual even for a policeman.

So my question is: did the prosecutor here do what is usually/sometimes/rarely/never done when the question is whether a policeman should be indicted for his fatally shooting an unarmed civilian?

2014-11-26 17:30:51 Andy Schmookler

The prosecutors are continually working with the police, so loudoun is right about that built-in link.

Which is another reason why, since Jim B. is also right that what happens to Wilson is not key to anything essential either to that relationship or to the power structure, it smart thing to do is the same as the right thing to do: put the whole thing in the hands of someone above reproach, coming from the outside.

Then there are two possible outcomes:

1) Either Wilson is not indicted, and the impeccability of the process protects the peace of the overall society; or

2) Wilson is indicted, and the power system and the prosecutor-police bond let him be removed like a small tumor, leaving both of the larger pieces intact.

2014-11-26 00:34:33 Andy Schmookler

If they weren’t interested in protecting the peace of their society and ours, just what was driving their actions.

I believe you’re right that the prosecutors announcement speech did not appear well-calculated to achieve any worthwhile effect, which only compounds the overall sense that something other than solid, rational goals have been at stake here throughout.

Are seeing here that the power of white racism is so great that leaders like the prosecutor, and Governor Nixon are driven to become participants in a race war, rather than public servants seeking to maintain harmony?

I am not proposing that explanation, but if this were an exam, and I had to venture an answer, this is the only one that I’d be able to venture that begins to make sense.

But whatever the answer, something deep here is wrong.  

2014-11-25 23:47:21 Andy Schmookler

If you want to understand what’s happening in the world, but you declare that people’s motives are forbidden territory, you’ve already lost not the argument but any chance of finding what you were seeking.

But in terms of “argument,” I find it difficult to comprehend how in one sentence you declare motives out of bounds, and then soon thereafter you advocate going into people’s “reasons” for their preferred policies.

Or is it something about “ignorantly assuming” things that you are ignorantly assuming I’m doing?

2014-11-22 21:13:45 Andy Schmookler

Lots of good points here, above. Two especially, with regard to what kind of president he would be: 1) the primacy of the climate crisis, and 2) the lack of the kind of inclination to connect with people that the great politicians (FDR, Clinton) have in abundance.

Maybe Webb doesn’t have the makings of a president. But that leaves the question, what would his inclusion in the race for the nomination — e.g. the nationally televised debates — do to the race and for the country?

There’s mention here of pushing Hillary to the left on issues of economic justice. If that were true, would that make Hillary more likely to push for economic justice as president, if she were elected? Would it make her more likely to get elected? If Bernie Sanders is in the race, would Jim Webb add appreciably to that pressure on her? Would Webb and Sanders make a good combination on the debate platform, to help the American people re-establish the image of the Democrats as the champions of the average citizen?

Would Webb coming into the race have any impact on the possibility of Elizabeth Warren coming in? (I gather she’s less Shermanesque on that question.)

I’m really asking, because I don’t know.

The one thing I do think is that it is better for the Democrats and better for the nation if Hillary does not just walk unopposed to the nomination. 1) She really has not lately shown any sign that she’s more sure-footed, or adept, or inspiring than she was in 2008. 2) The more drama there is in the race the more attention the Democratic message(s) will get from the American people.

And one more point: When I look at the Democratic “bench” for presidential possibilities, it seems more than usually impoverished. I think of 1960 (the first convention that I watched with rapt attention), and the wealth of strong candidates the Democrats then had: LBJ, JFK, Stevenson, Symington, Humphrey.

And what do we have now: Joe Biden is getting old, and as likeable as he is has never been the strongest candidate. John Edwards is disgraced and gone. Who else has been a national figure?

I think this race should be used to develop the bench.

Bernie Sanders is too old for any race this year to serve that purpose. Jim Webb could raise his standing. If I had my druthers, Elizabeth Warren would join the crowd. (And maybe Al Franken, though he seems disinclined to grab the spotlight.) In any event, we need to grow some national figures with an eye for the future.

2014-11-20 17:24:50 Andy Schmookler

How do we get from here (where we have media that warrant those criticisms) to a media that does the job you describe?

Are there people in positions to do something about it who care about those important journalistic standards?

What can regular citizens do get the media to live up to those standards?

2014-11-17 05:42:21 Andy Schmookler

Krugman says, after describing how the Republicans in Congress, throughout the Obama presidency, “have done everything they could to undermine effective policy,” goes on to explain in this way how they nonetheless profited from their obstructionism.

Most voters don’t know much about policy details, nor do they understand the legislative process. So all they saw was that the man in the White House wasn’t delivering prosperity – and they punished his party.

He leaves out the key point: the Democrats, and in particular the man in the White House, failed to call out the deliberate Republican sabotage powerfully, so that those voters Krugman is talking about got the picture of who was responsible for the slowness of our economic recovery.

2014-11-08 03:40:28 Andy Schmookler

I just came across a piece by Paul Krugman, excellent as usual, in which he says, “[N]ow is a good time to remember just how wrong the new rulers of Congress have been about, well, everything.”

The piece as a whole is worth reading: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11

2014-11-08 02:53:20 Andy Schmookler
2014-11-08 01:19:14 Andy Schmookler

Over the past generation, in the American political system, changes both profound and many have occurred.

So we know that change, though hard, does happen.

The question is whether we can find ways, and have what it takes, to create the necessary changes to undo the damage the recent changes have wrought.

2014-11-05 18:09:11 Andy Schmookler

Look at how the abortion issue got brought back into the national spotlight. Look around the country at all the anti-abortion legislation that’s been introduced, and often passed — most of it contrary to Roe v. Wade — in the various states the Republicans took over in 2010.

There was, after the Hyde amendment, a degree of truce over the issue.

It is crystal clear which party chose to break that truce and make it a primary focus of our politics.

Personhood amendments.

Transvaginal ultrasounds.

Medically unnecessary requirements for clinics.

And on and on.

You’re like a parent walking into the room and seeking one brother with a bloody nose hitting back at the one who bloodied it, and then the parent imagines he’s seen the first blow.

2014-11-03 03:02:44 Andy Schmookler

The oath of office should be a sacred commitment. An oath is supposed to take a sacred commitment and take it out of the realm of one’s calculations, decisions, cost-benefit analysis, etc.

The oath of office — to protect and defend the Constitution, etc. — that all in Congress take requires them to do just that in a situation where the Constitution is under attack.

There are good books out there by responsible jurists that make the case that the Constitution was under attack by the GW Bush regime like never before in our history. In my interview of the very conservative, Reagan-appointed jurist, Bruce Fein, he affirmed that judgment.

The Democrats shrank from the task their oath committed them to perform.

The Republicans, too, of course: just compare how the Republicans perpetually supported every law-breaking of Bush et al. with how the Republicans conducted themselves so much more honorably at the time of Watergate. No Howard Baker this time around.

(I wrote about the “Oath” issue numerous times back in the oughts: see for example “You Swore on the Bible: What an Oath Means,” at http://www.nonesoblind.org/blo

Combining all this with Obama’s “look forward, not backward” non-prosecution of clear felonies, after he himself had taken an oath to see that the laws are faithfully enforced, and we have a profound injury done to that fundamental notion that we are “a nation of laws and not of men.”

2014-10-30 17:10:40 Andy Schmookler

I very much agree, Quizzical, on the importance of “real leadership.”

But then the question arises: is there something about Liberal America that has been reflected in the lack of that “fighting spirit” in our leadership in recent years?

Leaving aside how Gore, in some ways, got bullied out of the presidency by the Bushites, and how Democrats got bullied by W in 2002 over the authorization of force right before the elections, we have:

John Kerry standing flatfooted while he got swift-boated in 2004.

Democrats in Congress hardly rousing themselves to censure, let alone impeach, the most lawless president in our history.

And then there’s President Obama, who after years of being assaulted, abused, blocked, thwarted, insulted in ways unprecedented in American history, could still be heard talking in neutral terms about problems with “Washington” and “Congress,” rather than directly calling out the disgraceful Republican Party that has so terribly damaged the country.

Then there’s looking ahead…

So yes, we do need real leadership, and the question is why we haven’t had leadership with that fighting spirit when it has by now long been clear that we need it.

We know it isn’t “liberalism” per se that prevents a fighting spirit. Liberalism had its fighting champions in the likes of FDR and Truman, to name a couple.

And it is not as though the liberal grassroots have risen up in a fury to demand it.

Something has happened, in the consciousness of Liberal America, I believe, that has drained away the spirit that would rise up to do battle.

In this piece, and others, I’m seeking to identify — within the consciousness of Liberal America — some of the sources of that weakness.

We might also ask: can we on the lower echelons of Liberal America do anything about this?

Can we push our most promising leaders like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren to be even bolder?

And/or in the absence of the leadership from the top that we need, can we find ways of raising the banner from below?

2014-10-30 15:20:13 Andy Schmookler

First, I am not talking about people who vote Republican, most of whom — I have good reason to believe, from considerable experience — have no idea what they are really supporting. I’m talking about the Republican Party as a top-down organization, which is acting in a coherent way that is profoundly damaging to our politics and our nation generally. The decision to block everything is manifestly WILLFULLY AND DELIBERATELY contrary to a decision to work to get the best possible outcomes out of our system– and that’s a betrayal of the nation.

Second, what a person does right now is what it is, whether that person was in the military in the past or not. Benedict Arnold was in the American military in the Revolutionary War, prior to his betraying his cause to the British. Yet in the American lexicon, his name is synonymous with traitor.

2014-10-25 14:50:50 Andy Schmookler

“1) There’s no way you can hope to accurately describe the behavior and priorities of 100 million voters and thousands of elected officials who all happen to have an (R) after their name”

Of course, I am not talking about 100 million Republican supporters, which you would know if you read my material with any care.  I’m talking about the behavior of the party as an organization.

And your argument would hold a bit more water if there were not such an exceptionally monolithic quality to today’s Republican Party: 1) 2009-2011, the Republicans in the House vote virtually without exception “no” on every major piece of legislation (vs. the Dems, some of whom always gave some support to W’s legislation); 2) the many state houses won by the GOP in 2010, which proceeded to embark on the same set of policies (voter suppression, abortion restriction, etc.).

When things move in unison, one can indeed talk meaningfully about an “it,” and make generalizations about the behavior and priorities of that “it.”

2014-10-25 02:57:39 Andy Schmookler

Blame game, eh. Not something you like.

Would you go so far as to say that one should never condemn the conduct of a political party regardless of how it behaves? Or are you just saying that you think my accusations are false?

If the former, I’d like to hear what you think should be said when a party’s behavior is consistently destructive and dishonest.

If the latter, perhaps you could point out what I’ve said about the Republicans in my cringe-inducing series that is inaccurate.

But anyone who thinks that the history of our times shows the “Democrats running on a one-issue platform (abortion)” is probably living in an alternate reality, in which the facts as they are have little place.

2014-10-25 01:03:55 Andy Schmookler

Quoting from your piece, Lowell:

“[T]hey couldn’t figure out a way to turn whatever anger’s out there against Republicans, whose obstructionism, sequestration, shutting down the government, austerity policies, refusal to invest in our nation’s infrastructure, refusal to kickstart a more rapid transition to a clean energy economy, etc., etc. have contributed so much to the problems we have.”

“Contributed so much” is an understated way of putting it.

The Republicans have intentionally made the government dysfunctional. They have blatantly and wantonly decided to thwart the will of the people. The Republicans’ across-the-board obstructionism has been an unprecedented assault on our nation’s democratic traditions. They willfully decided to betray the nation– which is the dictionary (not the legal) definition of treason.

How loudly have the Democrats called out this disgraceful conduct? How well have the Democrats used the opportunity of this campaign to help the American people see what an atrocity this Republican Party has become.

So the American people are about to hand over still more power to a political party of traitors (dictionary definition), whose actions have not been covert like some KGB mole in the CIA, but right in front of our eyes, acted out with no subtlety whatsoever.

Surely this says something disturbing about the American people.

But it says something distressing about our Democratic leaders that they’ve barely even made an effort “to turn whatever anger’s out there against Republicans…”

2014-10-24 21:16:11 Andy Schmookler

Congrats then to Scott Peterson.

2014-10-18 02:30:57 Andy Schmookler

Thank you, Lowell, for burrowing in to shine a light on this.

How great would you assess the likelihood that there’s serious stacking of the deck going on here?

2014-10-17 19:09:33 Andy Schmookler

(You know how big I am on calling out this off-the-wall, appeal-to-the-worst, anything-for-power, distract-from-the-real issues ugly stuff the Republicans seem to spew out almost reflexively.)

2014-10-12 23:51:30 Andy Schmookler

I do believe the background of the two leaders, including the implications of race, tells us something relevant to how the two men were able to use their office.

The confidence of FDR, and also of that British aristocrat, Winston Churchill, may be traceable to their privileged backgrounds. (On the other hand, while FDR was cherished and doted upon by his parents, Churchill was neglected by his.) Such confidence made them great war-time leaders, through the dark days and on to victory.

And you’ve mentioned twice now, Elaine, if I’ve counted correctly, that we need to take Obama’s personality into account. Which actually is part of my point:  “Unfortunately, Barack Obama seems ill-equipped by temperament and character to fight that battle,” reads a sentence in the third entry in my Press the Battle series.

But the issue isn’t, are we going to blame Obama for being who he is. It is are we going to understand what we need to do, and more specifically also, what we need for our leaders to do?

We need leaders who have the ability to fight the Republicans effectively. And, as some have said, we need to back them up. When necessary, we need to press them to stand and fight.

In the past four years, I’ve read perhaps 10 biographies of FDR. So I have a reasonably clear picture of that story. And one thing I would venture to say that Obama had going for him, more than FDR, that was pertinent to turning back this destructive force: more than FDR, and indeed probably more than any other president upon taking office (maybe ever), Barack Obama came into office clad in the mantle of moral authority.

In our lifetimes, the politician I’ve thought the most naturally gifted for the craft was Bill Clinton. And with his gifts, he was indeed able to best the Republicans, e.g. he beat Newt Gingrich over the government shut-down prior to the 1996 election. Unfortunately, though, he did not command moral authority. In the wake of the Gennifer Flowers scandal, he already was somewhat tainted at the outset, and his manner and being were not suited to exposing evil and calling the nation to high ideals. He was just a great politician who did a good job and left the country in better shape than he found it.

But Barack Obama was something else. I don’t necessarily mean who he was— I’m still a little uncertain about that. But who he was seen to be, which in a politician is what counts. (Recall JFK and Camelot.) There is a reason — though in retrospect it doesn’t look like a good enough one — that he won the Nobel Peace Prize when he’d only just begun his presidency. The whole world saw him as a shining light.

So just in terms of the situation, leaving his personality aside, Obama had a very strong hand to play. I don’t mean in the sense of the situation of the country being good at that time. On the contrary, the Bushites had inflicted terrible damage, and the economy was still close to falling over a cliff. I mean that he had the moral authority, had he played his cards, to exert powerful force against the people who had made a mess of so many things, if they failed to act like a responsible party that the people had just rejected.

He played those cards badly. Sorry to keep saying it. But it’s just blatantly true. And if people don’t want to admit it, that does not bode well for us.

FDR grew into his presidential power by how he conducted himself in office. He was active, where Hoover had been passive. He used the radio in his Fireside chats to convey to the people that he was on their side, and that he had the optimism and courage to lead them out of the darkness.

It wasn’t because he was an aristocrat. It was because he had a spirit of hope, of activism, of caring for the vulnerable, and he conveyed these things effectively from the White House.

Lots of people hated FDR, too. But the man who pulled himself out of the hole of his devastating paralysis from polio, infused so much of the country with the power of his spirit, and his readiness to fight for what he believed in — within the bounds of the achievable — that he was able to transform the country.

I would wager — and clearly, there are people here who’d want to take the bet 🙂 — that Obama, had he played his cards differently from Inauguration Day onward, could have been just as much the giant that FDR was.

Again, the point is not to beat up on Obama. Let’s just say he did the best he could. (Looking at his face, six years in, we can certainly see that the task has taken a toll on him.)

The point is that we need to envision what is possible. Yes we can! Hope. He was elected on those. They are still relevant as we look to his successor, or as we look to what we can do ourselves in the absence of the leadership from the top that we need.

2014-10-12 23:14:00 Andy Schmookler

The president is always going to be his party’s leader. He does not have to do the “main fighting,” but it’s his job to make sure that the necessary fighting gets done by the appropriate people.

2014-10-12 22:47:35 Andy Schmookler

you suggest when you say, “There is also the wisdom and experience obtained by Democrats who went through Whitewater, the “Freak Show” maltreatment of Al Gore, the “swiftboating” of John Kerry, and the town meetings on deathpanels in 2010.”

This list also shows how long this has been going on, and how often the Rs have benefited from it.

Arguably, the Rs efforts to take Clinton down backfired in some ways– the public did not like the impeachment, and Clinton left with high approval ratings, which I interpreted at the time as a slap in the face of the Inquisitors who knew they wanted to destroy the president from the other party, and spent years trying to find a way to do it.

But the dishonest treatment of Gore and Kerry arguably was rewarded for the Republicans with eight years of the presidency.

And the success of the Republican disinformation campaign about health care reform not only helped give the Rs the power to gerrymander much of the country — so that many say it will be impossible for the Dems to win control of the House until after the next census and redistricting — but still has many Americans convinced that they don’t like Obamacare, though far more are benefiting from it than not.

So part of the implication of my “See the evil, etc.” slogan is that I hope that these dishonest and dishonorable tactics — making the Vietnam war hero seem the slacker, and the slacker seem the hero — will never succeed again.

2014-10-12 22:46:15 Andy Schmookler

Let me see more about your hopeful scenario, Lowell.

So let’s say that the election of 2016 repeats the Democratic victories of 2008, and that the Democrats in Congress, working with the new Democratic president, and in spite of a completely unconstructive Republican minority, pass legislation as well as did the Congress of 2009-2011.

Would it be asking for too much if, in the election of 2018, the American people rewarded the Democrats for taking care of the nation’s business, and punished the Republicans for being so indifferent to the public good, rather than, as in the 2010 elections, the other way around?

And if so, what would lead to that different electoral apportionment of rewards and punishments?

2014-10-12 22:08:52 Andy Schmookler

That wasn’t the Congress of either 1933 or 2009.

2014-10-12 22:03:54 Andy Schmookler

You close with, “I’ll be happy if they simply have little power to do damage.”

When was the last time the Rs did not have the power to do damage?

They can’t lie us into wars any more, true.

They can’t call off the financial regulators any more, true.

They can’t rig the process to conduct torture in our name, and shield everyone from any legal consequences, true.

But they continue to be able to prevent our legislating to deal with climate change.

They continue to be able to prevent our having sensible gun laws.

They continue to be able to prevent our reforming our immigration laws.

They continue to strangle our economy with their deficit b.s. and their refusal to use this time of inadequate demand and zero-bound interest rates to rebuild our infrastructure.

They continue to block raising the federal minimum wage.

So the Power of Obstruction — by preventing good things from being done, by preventing our nation from meeting important challenges — is still the power to do damage, is it not.

What’s the scenario by which this continuing damage can be stopped?

2014-10-12 20:42:27 Andy Schmookler

Are you thinking that the Dems will be able reliably to muster 60 votes in the Senate? (Which they couldn’t even in 2009)

Are you thinking that the Rs will decide on their own that they should stop being the party of “No”?

True, the filibuster has at least for now been removed from certain nominations. But nothing can become law unless it gets through the Senate.

From 2009-2011, the Dems were able to pass over 400 bills (good ones, for the most part, as far as I could tell)), which then went and died in the Senate and never became law.

So what’s the scenario fir a more “normal” situation? Obama’s first two years wasn’t normal, was it?

2014-10-12 20:36:24 Andy Schmookler

I am NOT saying we can’t have a year of victory in 2016.

And I am NOT saying that we cannot turn this battle around and win it, driving this ugly right-wing force back into the oblivion from which it has re-emerged (and which it so richly deserves).

What I AM saying is that we on our side need to do something different from what our side has been doing since the election of 2008.

We need to perceive this force more clearly for what it is.


We need to speak with a loud and clarion voice to all who will listen about the nature of this ugly thing.


And we need to go beyond the occasional counter-punching in response to relentless attack, and carry the attack to the other side.


If enough of us do that, and if we can compel our leaders and spokespeople to do that, then I think that the basic goodness of the American people, wedded to the power of the truth and the fact that we still have enough of our democracy for the truth to be spoken, might well rally to defeat this force and restore a healthy polity.

2014-10-12 20:19:07 Andy Schmookler

The Dems had a fine year in 2006, and then swept into power in 2008. Yet, I would say at least, that this destructive force has not been turned back.

It is no longer able to do so many bad things as it did under the Bushites. But it can pretty completely block anything good from being done.

In some ways, things have grown better, but in many ways, they have grown worse, as the minds of more than a third of our citizens have been poisoned still further.

What would it take for the hoped-for 2016 victory to turn the tide of battle more effectively than the victory that gave us the Obama presidency, and good-sized majorities in both houses, in 2008?

2014-10-12 18:40:54 Andy Schmookler

Some of you seem to be saying that the president is really not in a position to call out this Republican Party successfully.

To you believe that even the president is impotent to 1) fire up Liberal America into an intense force for this battle, and 2) to turn a good share of the rest of the American people against this ugly thing that the Republican Party has become, that would seem to imply that nobody can.

So does that mean that you don’t think that this is a necessary part of winning this battle?

Or does it mean you think that the battle is hopeless?

2014-10-12 17:57:54 Andy Schmookler

So was 1933, when FDR was inaugurated.

People were scared. The banks were closing all over the country, with panics leading to runs on the bank. A quarter of the work force was unemployed.

Historians say that crises are what allow a president to become great. Lincoln # 1. FDR # 2. Civil War. Depression.

Crisis properly handled by a leader is an opportunity to lead.

2014-10-12 17:44:15 Andy Schmookler

Obama’s failure in that battle is, at this point, simply a way to bring into clear focus how — in one of the most important conflicts in American history — the good guys (not just he) have virtually forfeited.

As I said it many times during my congressional campaign:

“One side is making a fight over everything, even when what the nation needs is for us to cooperate, while the other side seems reluctant to stand and fight over anything, even when the nation needs for it to fight and win the battle.”

2014-10-12 16:29:17 Andy Schmookler

It certainly is possible that I misjudge what could be accomplished by someone in the White House with the guts, the clarity, and the political skills of, say, an FDR. You could be right.

But here is why I think you’re mistaken in your sense of the impossibility — the futility — of any president doing what I am saying Obama should have done.

First, just as a thought experiment, put yourself back into how you saw things on Inauguration Day 2009. Obama had been welcomed at Grant Park, as he was, by that throng on Election night. Before that, there was the exuberant crowd in Berlin. And on Inauguration Day, there was that Mall-full of hopeful, excited people. If I had asked you on that day, “Imagine that the Republicans start saying he was born in Kenya, and do everything they can to block everything he attempts to accomplish, and turn majority rule into minority rule by using the filibuster on everything, do you think it would be impossible for our new President to make them pay a price for that kind of disgraceful conduct?”

Would you really have said, “He could do nothing. Obama will have no bully pulpit. The media will undercut him at every turn and he’ll be helpless in the face of all that.”

Second, in terms of the loss of the bully pulpit that you postulate, consider what W was able to do with the national conversation. Guided by Rove, he was able to dominate and manipulate the country– at least until everything he had touched started turning to crap. Remember that “war on terror” they used for years just to sow fear they could harvest by exploiting the irrational fear-based state they created? Seems to me the bully pulpit was working very well just a few years back.

Third, as for the media, the failure of the media can be explained in various ways. Maybe it’s in cahoots with this evil force. That seems to be your assumption. I myself believe that the bigger factor is that it is governed by fear and the respect for power. When W and Rove intimidated the press, the press started self-censoring what would have been good Edward-R-Murrow kind of journalism. Whereas the Bushites punished good journalism, I think Obama could have found ways to go after bad journalism.

I wrote a couple of things about how I thought he could take on Fox News early in his presidency. That outfit is really vulnerable on various fronts, and that vulnerability could have been exploited.

You think that Obama was hamstrung with respect to both the Republicans and the press. I think he came in “like a Colossus,” and could have shaped both of them to enhance his own ability to shape the country.

W (with Rove and CHeney) certainly were able to do that.

2014-10-12 16:25:33 Andy Schmookler

You misunderstand me if you think I believe Obama is the problem. Yes, he’s been the leader, and he has epitomized the problem. But the Dems failed to confront the lawless W presidency. And the Dems have failed during Obama’s presidency to make the case that he was neglecting to. And I fear, as you do, that Liberal America and the Dems will continue to treat as normal and acceptable what is unprecedented and abominable.

2014-10-12 16:11:48 Andy Schmookler

1) The Republicans, as an opposition party during the Obama presidency, have behaved disgracefully, unprecedentedly, in profound violation of American political norms.

2) This kind of behavior should be punished, not rewarded.

3) It has not been punished, and indeed in 2010, it was rewarded by voters, many of whom had been successfully conned by an avalanche of lies from the Republicans throughout the preceding two years.

4) That behavior COULD have been punished if it had been called out effectively for what it was, showing the American people how fundamentally unAmerican, how contrary to our political norms, how the opposite of how our Founders intended, how contrary to the public good, how injurious to the nation, how dishonest and destructive, the Republicans’ behavior was.

5) The president of the United States — with his bully pulpit — is in a position to call out the disgraceful behavior, get the public’s attention, expose the Republicans and make them pay a political price for their behavior, and either continue to pay that price or change their ways.

6) President Obama did almost none of that calling out, particularly in the first two years, but still hardly none of it. The Republicans got away with their delegitimization (the birther lie) and demonization, got away with their abuse of the filibuster, got away with their utterly unpatriotic strategy of obstructionism, etc. etc.

(Quote from my 2009 open letter to Obama in the Baltimore Sun:

Yes, you’ve denied some of their lies, but you’ve not called out the lying. When Sarah Palin and her ilk accuse you of supporting death panels, and you respond by saying, “That’s not true, there are no death panels,” the national conversation centers on the question: “Are there death panels?” But if you say, “It’s unpatriotic for Republicans to degrade our national discourse with fear-mongering lies,” then the media will focus on the question: “Are the Republican peddling lies?” The first question undermines you; the second discredits your opposition.)

It seems to me that only 4 and 5 should be considered anything like “matters of opinion,” the rest being essentially empirical. But if you don’t believe in 4 and 5, it seems that you don’t believe that democracy can work. Because that would pretty much mean that we as a democratic polity are completely at the mercy of liars and cheats.

2014-10-12 14:52:46 Andy Schmookler

is it your contention that there was no possible counterattack to the “brutal, vicious, obscene attacks…”?

Do you remember, or if you’re younger than to remember 1954, have you heard about how a Mr. Welch punctured the brutal and vicious Senator Joe McCarthy on the nationally televised Army-McCarthy hearings?  

Senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?

This demagogue, this source of the word “McCarthyism,” was never the same thereafter. He soon drank himself to death.

We injure ourselves badly by this unseemly sense of resignation. It is unworthy of us as defenders of our democracy to fail to imagine that those who behave disgracefully can be disgraced. That those whose behavior is scandalous can be brought low by scandal.

It was Obama’s job to make his enemies pay a price for the damage they were doing not just to him, but to the country, and to the fundamental values of our democracy.

And he had the tools. He had the gift of oratory that we’d seen during the 2008 campaign. And he had the one position in the whole U.S. government that can always command attention and dominate the news.

Look at the terrible conduct you refer to. Look at the record of what Obama has said about it.

What a tragedy that the latter falls so far short of doing anything like justice to the former.

2014-10-10 05:47:14 Andy Schmookler

Elaine in Roanoke, I assume that you are not really saying that you think I’m blaming him for “a political system that has been totally corrupted by corporate power and monied interests,” because nothing in my piece blamed him for anything of the sort.

If you’re saying that I am mistaken to blame him for rewarding rather than punishing the terrible behavior of the Republicans during his presidency, then I would like to invite you to read this piece, in which the contrast between what Obama did during his first term and the course of action I think would have strengthened him and weakened his enemies.

This is that “play-by-play in real time” critique I mention in the posting above:  


2014-10-10 01:24:15 Andy Schmookler

And I still wonder.

I don’t think it’s because he’s in cahoots with the Republicans. That’s one I’ve heard and I don’t buy it.

I don’t think it’s because of the fear of appearing the “angry black man.” Outright anger is not required, and if it were a president can get others to do the heavy fighting.

It seems to me a combination of being intimidated, being blind, and being averse to confrontation. In all those ways, Barack Obama is perhaps the epitome of the weaknesses Liberal America in general has shown since at least the Bush II presidency.

2014-10-09 20:51:46 Andy Schmookler

A friend just sent me this morning this quotation from an op/ed by Thomas Edsall in today’s New York Times, reinforcing the point of my piece above, that Liberal America (and its political arm, the Democratic Party) does not see what we’re up against:

Democrats today convey only minimal awareness of what they are up against: an adversary that views politics as a struggle to the death. The Republican Party has demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice principle, including its historical commitments to civil rights and conservation; to bend campaign finance law to the breaking point; to abandon the interests of workers on the factory floor; and to undermine progressive tax policy – in a scorched-earth strategy to postpone the day of demographic reckoning.

Edsall may not see what I am seeing — a coherent and consistently “destructive (evil) force” that’s taken over the Republican Party — but he sees the destructiveness, and he sees the crippling lack of awareness of the people who should be our champions on this “struggle to the death” into which today’s Republican Party has transformed the once-constructive political process of the United States.

2014-10-08 21:19:41 Andy Schmookler

Thanks for your story about how the politics of race worked in the region of your youth, ir003436. Much the same, it seems, goes on today, just with some of the components in the system altered slightly.

Wouldn’t it be nice if America could summon up the kind of leadership that can reach and inspire people — at the visceral level of which you speak — as powerfully in appealing to the best in people as this force (of slavery, of Jim Crow, and now of today’s GOP) can grab people by appealing to the worst in them.

2014-09-29 23:25:43 Andy Schmookler

I’ve got no problem with pointing out the failings of the Democrats of our era. But let us not lose sight of the inescapable reality: the United States has a two-party system; these two parties are the only contenders in the power arena; so the best outcome is the wielding of power by the better of the two.

How much better? Enough to matter. Look at every political battle that’s been fought in this country in recent years: over health care reform, over financial regulation, over extending unemployment compensation, over raising the minimum wage, over protecting voters’ rights, over climate change, and on and on.

Can you name a single issue in which the Republicans were fighting to move things in a good direction?

I cannot.

Which means that the Democrats were on the right side of all those battles.

It is regrettable that the battles are fought out with good values on the defensive — the whole game seems inside the Red Zone of liberal and progressive causes — but still, that’s where the line of scrimmage is and that’s where the battle gets fought.

The task at hand is not only to make the Democrats (our only available fighting force) better, but to make them stronger.

The biggest problem with today’s Democratic Party is not these things mentioned here, but its weakness.

It is the weakness of Liberal America, and its political instrument the Democratic Party, that has allowed this destructive force to push the action further and further toward our endzone.

Will we gut Social Security, strip Medicare, abolish the EPA, let racists undo the Voting Rights Act, ignore climate change? Victory these days consists of not being pushed backwards.

The subtitle of my “Press the Battle” series is “A Campaign to Light a Fire in Liberal America.”

Until we can work to get a stronger force into the battle, the other shortcomings will not much matter.

2014-09-29 00:04:44 Andy Schmookler

What you say may well be true, wolfrunner, but I would still say that the main truth here is found in the huge discrepancy between the values that many of these people believe in, and even the spirit that animates them in their own lives, and the values that the party they support is serving, and the dark spirit that’s taken over the Republican Party.

So many of the things that these people have been led to believe are simply false — cf.this piece I published here last December http://www.bluevirginia.us/dia… — that this various disconnections seem to me a far more salient aspect of the situation than the shortcomings of the Democratic brand.

Indeed, a great deal of what they believe about the Democrats, I’ve learned over the years, doing radio in the Shenandoah Valley, is simply untrue. And the polls frequently point out that while the Democratic “brand” is a loser with many people, at the same time they hold positions on the issues that are much like the Democrats’.

It’s a larger version of the phenomenon with Obamacare. Lots of people say they hate Obamacare, because they’ve been successfully indoctrinated to hate it as an abstract idea. But then when asked if they like this or that component of the actual law, they have no idea it is part of the law and they are in favor of it.

2014-09-28 04:51:19 Andy Schmookler

(May I call you irO for short?)

“When I say this, I’m told to be quiet…”

I am hoping that there are many people who feel as you do, that this is what needs saying.

Something extraordinary has been happening in America — and you’re right, this right-wing force is doing such damage to our nation that if it were a foreign power, this assault would be considered an act of war — and it needs to be called out.

If enough people can join together, work together, to get this truth out prominently into the national conversation, perhaps some kind of “Emperor’s New Clothes” moment can be precipitated. Perhaps, when it comes to that denial you have encountered of “be quiet,” there is a tipping point to be reached.

So to help make this happen, I hope that you, irO, and anyone who feels likewise, will spread this word around, and join the “Press the Battle” campaign.

A new website for the campaign will be opening in the next few days. For now, anyone who is interested can email me directly at [email protected]

2014-09-09 20:11:22 Andy Schmookler

Reasonably convinced, that is, the politics of the situation right now made Obama’s decision to wait until after the elections the wise move, unlike (what I believe to be) the case with the tax-cut issue in 2010.

Also helping to convince me, besides these two good comments from campaignman and truthteller, is a fine column by Greg Sargent in the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/

2014-09-08 22:38:58 Andy Schmookler

In a comment above, the sentence appears: “criticizing Israel, the political state, is not criticizing judaism, the religion/ethnicity.”

Of course, that is true. Criticism of Israel does not constitute anti-Semitism.

And doubtless there are defenders of Israel who over-deploy the accusation of anti-Semitism as a way of denying the valid critiques/challenges being directed at Israeli policy.

I’m not one of them, as I do not deny that there are problems with Israel’s policy.

But there’s another denial evident even in this discussion, in my view, and that’s the denial that in much of the critique coming from the left in recent decades, there are fairly clear signs that something else is going on besides the legitimate critique.

The evidence that there is something else is not hard to find. It seems that some here have not noticed it, but I’m not eager to spend the time to write the brief to make that case.

(I also think about how the right-wing these days can look at Ferguson, MO, and not see that there’s any problem with white racism. Instead, they go with what Jon Stewart so well skewered as a “he who smelt it dealt it” kind of racism, in response to the Fox News types suggesting that the racists are the one’s who raise the question of racism when another white cop shoots and kills another unarmed black young man.)

Then there’s the question of how to interpret it.

I believe there are good reasons to suspect that the “something else” is an expression of a force that’s been moving through Western civilization for more than a millennium, and that has shown itself to be both powerful and resilient and able to change shapes and forms depending on time, place, and circumstance.

I myself have been slow to come to that interpretation. In the forty-five or so years I’ve been looking at this anti-Israel animus on the left, it is probably only in the past decade that I’ve begun to perceive that the ancient current of anti-Semitism is a not-so-trivial part of the mix.

Not denying the problems with Israel, and not denying that a part of the left has become a channel of an ancient toxin in our civilization, one can come to what I believe to be a more accurate and balanced view of how brokenness is playing itself out both in the Middle East and in Liberal America.

2014-09-06 20:59:37 Andy Schmookler

As I indicated in an earlier comment, my first exposure to left-wing anti-Israel stuff was in the late 1960s.

The main thrust there was that lefties who aligned themselves with Third Worlders combating Western imperialism perceived Israel as a manifestation of that imperialism, and thus sided with the Arabs being victimized again by the colonial powers.

It’s been a pretty continuous evolution of that leftish anti-Israel position ever since, as far as I can see.

2014-09-06 18:47:01 Andy Schmookler

You seem, amber waves, to be able to take the left’s critique of Israel entirely at face value. As if there were no imbalances and double-standards, no special antagonism toward the one nation on the planet, among so many that do so many terrible things, that happens to be the Jewish state.

It does not seem to me, and it has not seemed to me since I first encountered this on the left when I lived in Berkeley in the late 60s, that the left cares about what China does in Tibet anything like it cares about what the Israelis do on the West bank.

It does not seem to me as if the left was living up to all its values of fairness and compassion in judging what the Israelis do, and what they’ve had to deal with.

The harshness of the judgment, in a world full of great sins, toward this particular set of sins of Israel, seems somehow askew from the larger picture of the left’s attitudes toward other nations than our own.

Strong judgment is in many ways called for, but why this specially strong judgment in this specific case?

Do you hear this kind of judgment, from those same quarters, about the fear of the people of Moldova that the Russians might do to them what they’ve done to the Georgians and now the Ukranians?

You don’t seem to smell what I smell.

2014-09-06 05:19:20 Andy Schmookler

It has been on the political right where anti-Semitism has been to be found in much of modern European history (and probably pre-modern as well). The Dreyfus case. The fascists across Europe before Hitler gained dominion over Europe.

But now the right (in America, anyway) is blindly in love with Israel– at least a whole lot of right-wing evangelical Christians who have a tender feeling for Israel because of the role it will play in the fulfillment of the prophecies in Revelations.

While the cultural stream that’s been flowing through Western civilization as an animus against the Jews just flows away from the right and into the left.

Much like the way the spirit of Jim Crow oppression jumped parties after LBJ signed the civil rights bill, and the Party of Lincoln got made over into the party of secession, segregation, and bullying domination.

It is said, follow the money. But in the interpretation of historical forces, the rule is: follow the pattern. Or to stick with an earlier metaphor for the detection of anti-Semitism, follow the smell.

2014-09-05 23:15:24 Andy Schmookler

My awareness of American politics goes back to the last couple of years of the McCarthyite ugliness. (My Mom recorded radio ads for an anti-McCarthy candidate in Michigan in, I believe, 1952, and I watched some of the Army-McCarthy hearings.)

So I’ve seen ugliness.

But something major has changed from the America I came of age in. Geez, even into the Reagan era, things were different.

One can talk about the Internet, and how the uglies now have a platform to spew their toxins. That’s true.

But how about the Republicans in Congress? That’s a constant arena, to which entry is still what it has always been: winning an election.

Everyone I know who worked on Capitol Hill back in the 60s, 70s, 80s, and to a lesser extent the 90s, says that something has changed toward the ugly.

And the attitudes of average citizens on the conservative side to the “librels” has been fed by decades of mind-poisoning from the likes of Rush Limbaugh.

I’ve thought of an approach one might take with some of these terribly angry, resentful, hate-filled people. I’ve wondered what would happen if one asked them:

“Did your parents, and your grandparents, speak about politics, and about people on the other side, in the tones you’re using? Did you grow up listening to your family talk about politics with such anger and bitter hatred?”

My guess is that, if they can remember, they will see a difference.

I expect that they’ll assert that it’s because the “librels” have become so terrible. But I think it will be very difficult for them to make the case that liberalism has changed.

Liberalism has been pretty continuous from FDR onward, i.e. from before they were born. And if they think there’s something EXTREME about the positions the liberals advocate, there’s always pointing out that on most of the issues, the United States is less liberal than the other advanced democracies, i.e. the other most decent societies on the planet.

So what’s extreme is trying to take the United States still further at odds with the “opinion of mankind” for which the Declaration of Independence said we should have a “decent respect.”

2014-09-03 23:26:35 Andy Schmookler

You might be interested, Lowell, in two of the points that these folks take delight in.

The first is that they think they’ve really GOT me by pointing out that it was the Democratic Party (they’re likely, of course, to call it the “Democrat Party”) that was the party of the slaveholders. As if the name was what matters. It doesn’t seem to occur to them that what matters, and what justifies my putting the Slave Power together with today’s GOP, is the SPIRIT that animates a group. They don’t seem to pay much attention to how the Republican Party changed from being the Party of Lincoln to being the Party of the heirs of the Jim Crow regime of the white South. Bizarre.

Second, they delight in labeling me a failure because I ran for Congress, in a District with a 2:1 Republican advantage, and against a 20=year incumbent. (Needless to say, “failure” is not at all how I regard that effort of mine in 2011-12.) I am not sure if this repeated put-down can be adequately explained just as a manifestation of the right-wing culture of insult and hate-talk — quite fitting for the heirs of the political force by which masters sought to extend their dominion over slaves — or if there’s also an expression here of that value system focused solely on power, in which winning isn’t the most important thing, it is the ONLY thing.

So much ugliness and folly to look at. Such a dismal thing to see so much more of it in our America than there used to be. So much re-building of the integrity of consciousness that will be required if this nation will ever be fully repaired.

2014-09-03 21:45:40 Andy Schmookler

Your comment, InkedProfessor, that “all this to-the-barricades “war” talk has a dated 1960s boomer ring to it,” leads me to think I should make clearer what I mean by “Press the Battle.”

I mean that this destructive force that’s taken over the right must be called out for what it is.

Too much scandalous political conduct has failed to become a scandal. Too much disgraceful behavior has left its perpetrators undisgraced. Too many terrible, nation-degrading political strategies have benefited those who have employed them.

I appreciate what Rachel Maddow brings to people’s attention. But, aside from the bemused way she talks about outrages — see my piece “Where’s the Moral Outrage? A Sign of the Weakness of Liberal America” — the need remains unmet to put the pieces together and to show the coherent, systemic, destructive — evil — nature of the force of which all these particulars are manifestations.

Pressing the battle means calling out this force for what it is.

I would guess, from how you’ve written about it here, that you do not perceive this in terms of a coherent force of a destructive nature.

Making visible that this is the nature of what we’re up against is part of my purpose in the upcoming series.

The motto of my campaign is: “See the evil. Call it out. Press the battle.”

Tell me later if you come to see it. And if you do, tell me if seeing it for what it is, you feel moved to call it out. If so, we are allies.

If not, rally to whatever cause has impressed you as having promise of rescuing our America from the degradation that is going on right before our eyes.

2014-09-02 00:58:44 Andy Schmookler

You write: “I don’t want to “Other” my compatriots in that way, nor adopt their theologically extremist framing of the debate, nor liken this debate to a war. (Eventually, ideally, I’d like to persuade some of them–or enough of the voting public–to a more inclusive, progressive way of thinking, rather than having “defeated” them.”

I empathize with all that. It is a core part of who I have long been to want things to be as you want them to be. I was associated in the 1980s and early 1990s with Search for Common Ground in Washington. I went around the country in the 1990s giving a talk called “Beyond Dispute” to get liberals to seek with conservatives the higher wisdom that would integrate the half-truths of both sides. I did a decade of radio talking about having conversation “as if we could really learn from one another.”

But something has changed on the right. And one needs to have different tools in one’s tool box to deal with different situations.

The force on the right does not want compromise or cooperation. It insists on conflict. It does not deal or speak in good faith.

There are times that are right for the building of bridges, a times that call for the waging of battle.

We are now up against a opponent — and I’m not perceiving this in terms of individual-by-individual, but in terms of a cohesive force — that needs to be fought and defeated.

Your dislike of what I’m saying — with the image, with my language — is part and parcel of what has made Liberal America weak.

It is a kind of unilateral disarmament. And that’s how we end up with a battle that is so mismatched, with the destructive force marching ahead under full steam and weakly opposed by a side that really doesn’t like the idea of waging battle and defeating an evil force.

In the series to come, I will make the case for all these things. You are welcome to continue to engage me — to oppose me — as it achieves what I am seeking to achieve: to shift the conversation so that we are talking about the central realities of our national crisis:

1) that the Republican Party has become an instrument of a destructive force; and

2) that the response from Liberal America to this threat has been woefully weak.

I do not know if anything I will say in the articles and conversations to come will shift your thinking. But I do feel pretty sure that if nothing shifts, and that dangerous dynamic of destructiveness on one side and weakness on the other, continues as is, the outcome of this battle will be an America far degraded from the one we grew up in, and even from the one we live in now.

2014-09-01 19:39:20 Andy Schmookler

You’ll find strong arguments aplenty in the articles of the Press the Battle series.

Meanwhile, we’re talking about an icon, not an article.

For our battle, there is no need for violence. We must fight, but it is within the framework of a democracy. We are fighting against a force that employs the lie. And for that fight, our weapon of choice is the truth.

But it is still a battle. And we do have to fight. And for that fight, there is a spirit that is required.

(Tell me when you read tomorrow’s posting if you also object to the “violent” nature of the language Churchill used in rallying his nation to survive the German onslaught.)

Liberalism is not inherently weak. Consider FDR– the president who did most to advance liberalism, and one who relished the political battle. (“I welcome their hatred.”)

But it is not a charicature in our times. It is the regrettable truth. A president (W) who probably committed more than half the impeachable offenses in American history went without even a motion to censure, let alone articles of impeachment. And our current president has played rope-a-dope with an opposition party that has treated him more disgracefully than any president in our history.

Can anyone say for a moment that the leaders of the Democratic Party (including President Obama) have come anywhere near matching the intensity of their foes, who have come after them relentlessly from Day One of the Obama presidency?

2014-09-01 04:58:18 Andy Schmookler

Your objection is akin to one from a friend of mine. It is with that point that I begin Part II, which I will submit here tomorrow.

This statue, just for the record, is no Soviet realist-style. It is from the 18th century, in Berlin, atop one side of a gate in the Charlottenburg Palace.

But still, the point is not much affected, whether it is 20th century Soviet realism or 18th century Prussia.

A preview of those coming attractions: in this image, I myself see a spirit of what has been most severely lacking in Liberal America in our times.

(Just as a side comment on that theme, I note that in her posting here this morning, va_lady2008, made a kindred point when she wrote: “Some progressives, of the live and let live variety, of which I truly wish to be a part, bear at least a small share of the blame, because we refused to return unfriendly fire with even more unfriendly fire…”)

2014-09-01 01:33:17 Andy Schmookler

No, Lowell, I don’t “think this trial will lead to serious ethical reform in the hopelessly corrupt Virginia General Assembly” — if by “lead to” you mean that we’d see a cause-and-effect response to the trial with these legislators spurred to act in response to what’s revealed in the trial. They already did their meaningless gestures in response to all that was in the newspapers.

But the changes that come historically — votes for women, labor laws to protect children, the breaking up of the trusts of the Robber Barons, etc. — come as the views and passions of the public change over the course of years.

In Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book THE BULLY PULPIT, one of the themes is how the work of various journalists (the muckrakers, as they came to be called) had an impact on the understanding and perceptions of the public which led, over the course of years, to important reforms.

That era  — the Progressive Era — was a more auspicious time for the United States, politically, than where we are now in this country. But it was the work of the journalists who helped make that era possible.

Likewise, every increment helps with respect both to rousing the public ire against the corrupting influence of money in our politics and to exposing the pattern of hypocrisy that goes really right to the heart of this force that’s arisen on the right.

People don’t very readily see things that are as big as “forces.” But they can see the hypocrisy of individuals, like McDonnell, and Newt Gingrich, and Craig (wide-stance) from Idaho, and Vicker: the people who make a big show of being defenders of traditional morality and who are far from walking their talk.

Every such portrait drawn in the public square helps. The hope is with this, as with all the other efforts we make that have incremental impact,that the sum of all the little impacts will turn the tide in a good direction.

2014-08-02 01:51:41 Andy Schmookler

First, I agree with totallynext and Elaine in Roanoke that this case brings into focus the money/corruption/ethics issue for Virginia politics. And of course, it is an issue — a Godzilla of an issue — in American politics generally.

So the case is potentially important as a means of putting a spotlight on that problem, and on the need for reforms/laws that address it. The fact that Virginia legislators have thus far failed to rise to the occasion does not diminish that potential importance.

But second, I believe that there’s another important part of the dark political reality of our times that this trial brings to the fore. It’s one that you, Lowell, conjure up briefly with your mention of McDonnell being shown to be a “massive hypocrite” by this tawdry saga.

If this were just an isolated instance of hypocrisy, then it might be fitting to regard it as mere “gossip” of the People Magazine sort. But we’re living in an era of American history in which a force has arisen on the right that specializes in the pious pretenses of being defenders of values that are the very opposite of what are being lived and promoted.

Just over a week ago, a piece of mine ran here on Blue Virginia under the title, “The Fraudulence of the Republican Party, and the Adverse Shift in the Balance Between Good and Evil.” It’s thesis is that today’s Republican Party sells itself to its supporters as being conservative, patriotic, and the defenders of Christian values, but that — as I attempt to show — it is really the opposite of all those.

Is Bob McDonnell’s family life, when seen in the context of how he sold himself to Virginia, and in the context of his connection with Pat Robertson’s form of “Christianity,” not part of that larger picture?

In a democracy, the way that an evil force gains power is through the lie. The way that power can be drained away from it is for more people to be able to see through the lie.

Every time that the hypocrisy of these con men gets exposed by the glare of the public spotlight, it is an opportunity for more people to see this pattern of deception.

Bob McDonnell’s trial represents one of those opportunities to expose that pattern. And for that reason, I think the trial and good coverage of it are important.

2014-08-02 00:06:07 Andy Schmookler

An interesting piece in today’s Washington Post, a propos of the state of the world. Fareed Zakaria’s “The Rise of Putinism” (at http://www.washingtonpost.com/… it scarily suggests that we may be returning to a kind of clash of values, and forms of polity, that students of 20th century history may find unsettlingly familiar.

2014-08-01 16:44:50 Andy Schmookler

Thanks, Lowell, for presenting this polling data, with all these instances of the Republicans thwarting the will of the American people.

Months ago, Rachel Maddow did a segment that showed this same phenomenon with regard to five or six issues. Even majorities of Republicans favored measures on these issues that the Republicans in Congress were nonetheless preventing from being enacted.

Later, I decided that I wanted to do something with that information– but my googling efforts to find that segment were unsuccessful.

Now here it all is, and more. Thanks.

2014-07-31 17:16:20 Andy Schmookler

You raise a good question, Aznew. And I don’t pretend to know the answer.

If I were to seek an answer, the first question that I would want to ask would be what goals the Israeli decision-makers believe they can achieve with this campaign.

The focus has been on the rockets that have been continually assaulting Israel since even before this most recent crisis. But I don’t really think that’s the heart of the matter. The Israelis have a right to counter-attack those who attack them, but I’m guessing there are much bigger and more complex things at play here.

The picture is so complex: it includes the recent semi-alliance between Hamas and their rivals in the Palestinian Authority, the refusal of Hamas to recognize Israel’s right to exist, the change back to an anti-Brotherhood government in Egypt, the chaos of civil war in Syria, and the rise of this horrendous ISIS force in both Syria and Iraq. Doubtless there are other factors.

I am imagining that the Israeli decision-makers are attempting to change some of the major strategic circumstances concerning the role of Hamas in the Palestinian world. But I don’t pretend to know how that complex board looks to the Israeli strategists.

Nor how well they are thinking as they attempt to change the nexus of forces operating in that dangerous, destabilized part of the world.

The strategic thinking of human beings is not always of high order. Just consider the universal disaster of World War I. And people are not always rational, with passions sometimes covertly driving what purports to be a rational strategy.

That said, it is nonetheless true that large strategic objectives often have large human costs. The bombing of Germany and Japan during World War II — even excluding the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — killed huge numbers of civilians. I,for one, do not condemn that bombing, except some specific occasions (Dresden, for example, in 1945).

In the kind of cost/benefit analysis that must be made by leaders of nation-states in a dangerous world, are these all-too-many civilian casualties in Gaza justified even from the Israeli point of view? First, just to remind: that question is separable from the point of my piece. And second, one would have to have a sense of the what is being purchased at this agonizing cost to make a judgment — and in this highly complex situation, that’s an important but, for me, impenetrable matter.

2014-07-25 19:54:45 Andy Schmookler

I’d be interested in knowing, Lowell, how you interpret the motives/reasons behind this move. In particular, I’m wondering how much is this a reflection of some calculation on his part, of the kind that politicians usually make, regarding how this effort to punish the “Shameful Seven” will play out in a way that serves his own political ambitions, or even has the effect of advancing political values he believes in? And how much it is outside of the realm of rational calculation of results, and is instead some sort of reckless pursuit of purity and damn the consequences.

Your “thank you” seems like an apt reading of what the likely effect will be on the immediate contests. Is Cooch looking at the board in some different way, or is he not even paying attention to how things will play out?

2014-07-22 01:45:35 Andy Schmookler

I have come to learn from experience that one salient characteristic of the part of the right wing that plays roles of this sort on predominantly liberal blogs is their fundamental ineducability. Their ability to learn gets turned off by a program that’s about inter-tribal warfare.

The right wing culture works assiduously to teach people of normal human intelligence to be impervious to evidence and logic. It is not about inquiry after the truth. It is about using words as weapons. Ideas are just things to make like clay in your hand to serve the immediate purpose in the making of the war against the enemy.

This is, I believe, a disease of the intellect that infects the minds of a much greater proportion of Americans than it used to.

2014-07-16 23:58:11 Andy Schmookler

You raise a good question, Lowell, about what to do with trolls. You’ve doubtless had a lot of experience with this, as for that matter have I on my own site. (And I love the picture of the trolls you presented!)

But if you were the troll, would you feel fed by a response like mine? Me, I’d feel embarrassed. But then I’m not a troll.

Of course, it is not only the troll one is concerned with, but the presumably many other people who are reading the thread of comments. My feeling is that it is not a favor to the reader to leave comments like this trolls sitting out there unanswered. And further, if one can compose an appropriate response in an appropriate tone — and one that clears the air of the trollish odor — then I think a potentially useful demonstration has been made by modeling. That at least is what I attempted to do.)

See the evil. Call it out. Press the battle.

At a certain point, the desire not to feed a given troll might mean, simply, not allowing someone to continue to degrade and distract the discussion. But until a pattern of unacceptable and repetitious conduct is shown — or until the person shows a complete imperviousness to reason or evidence that would challenge his position, or until the troll is simply taking up way too much time — I incline to answer trollish attacks that the others on the site have seen.

2014-07-16 16:18:27 Andy Schmookler

Gee, Mr. Webster, you say that I possess “insufficient knowledge” about pre-Civil War animosities. Well, it’s not for lack of trying.

Back in May, I published on my own website –after having discussed that era — a list of “Some of the Books I’ve Studied Regarding the Lead-up to the American Civil War.”

Here it is.

America Aflame, by David Goldfield.

America in 1857, by Kenneth M. Stampp.

Battle Cry of Freedom, James M. Mcpherson.

Fatal Self-Deception, Eugene Genovese.

Abraham Lincoln: A Life, by Michael Burlingame.

Politics and Ideology in the Age of the Civil War, by Eric Foner.

Road to Disunion; Volume II: Secessionists Triumphant 1854-1861, by William H. Freehling.

Shattering of the Union: America in the 1850s, by Eric H. Walther.

The Impending Crisis, by David M. Potter.

The Slave Power: The Free North and Southern Domination, 1780-1860, by Leonard L. Richards.

If you think I’ve missed the best ones, I’m open to suggestions.

You also tell me that because there’s no Bleeding Kansas, and no Butler is caning a Sumner on the Senate floor, the animosities are “Not even close” to the same level as then.

Actually, Mr. Webster, I didn’t say they were the same: “Not since the era of the Civil War has one big part of America expressed such hostility toward another big part of America.” That’s what I said, and it means that this is the highest level of hostility since then.

But regardless of what I said, your evidence seems to me to confuse or equate violence with hostility. I am aware of no basis for supposing that, for example, the physically abusive husband is expressing more hostility than the emotionally abusive husband. No, we don’t have the same kind of violence now as in Bleeding Kansas. But that doesn’t prove anything about the comparative level of hostility.

Finally, you accuse me of hypocrisy, and of calling people who disagree with me as being evil. I never call anyone evil. My definition of evil can be found here. And it is about the nature of destructive forces, not about people being evil.

But beyond your misrepresenting what I say, there is also the evidence of how I talk about the people who vote Republican. As a candidate, I spoke frequently about “the good, decent conservatives” in the District whom I sought to reach with my message. I continue to write about such people as being, in the non-political parts of their lives, people I appreciate and am happy to live among.

I feel that I am quite well positioned to note, without being hypocritical, that someone like Rush Limbaugh does not express anything like that respect or appreciation or caring when he talks about “librels.”

2014-07-16 12:01:42 Andy Schmookler

TheGreenMiles is basically right on target when he contrasts national policy during this severe downturn — the biggest since the Great Depression — with the far more expansionary policies adopted during previous recessions.

However, the even-handed description –“Democrats & Republicans united to slash budgets & lay off public workers”– does not correspond to what I have seen over the past five years.

First, though Obama should have called for a much bigger stimulus package (whether he would have gotten it or not), the R’s compelled him to reduce it still further and to target much of it in ways that are far less stimulative than the ways that Obama had proposed.

Since then, the Republicans have killed every jobs program the president has proposed. Obama erred in buying into the austerity nonsense to a degree. But the Republicans pushed for much deeper austerity, and are responsible for our having adopted contractionary fiscal policy when the opposite was called for.

There is one other component in the picture that should be mentioned in explaining why this recovery has not been robust: this crisis was not only a business-cycle recession, but was also a financial meltdown.

I recall what Paul Krugman — whom I regard as absolutely the clearest voice out there on these matters — wrote in February of 2009. (That was when the stimulus was being debated, and Krugman was saying that the stimulus was far less than it needed to be to fill a big hole in the aggregate demand in the economy– $2 trillion I believe.) Krugman said that the combination of recession/financial crisis led to much slower recoveries than just the usual recessions. He presented some charts, and on the basis of them, if I recall, he predicted that if the stimulus were only of the magnitude that was being discussed, the recovery would likely take five or six years.

As Krugman continually notes, there’s a whole lot of bad economics on the right these days– bad, and made worse by not re-appraising their models when their predictions (runaway inflation from the stimulus, interest rates going through the roof) prove such miserable failures.

If it weren’t for the fact that the Europeans have followed the same misguided austerity policies as the Republicans have imposed on this country, I would be inclined to interpret the Republican wrong-headed focus on deficits at a time of massive unemployment and of Fed rates near zero as a deliberate attempt to sabotage the economy. Just to make Obama look bad.

Come to think of it, given lots of other evidence that’s around, I still think that’s a good bit of why the Republicans have worked to block every effort to get the economy off the mat– with the 2009 stimulus being the one time that their success in sabotage was only partial.

2014-07-14 17:33:00 Andy Schmookler

Reminds me of a joke I’ve always enjoyed.

After World War I, with the “stab in the back” paranoia running strong, a burly soldier sees an elderly Jew walking along the road. Accosting him and pushing him up against the wall by his lapels, the soldier demands: “Who made Germany lose the war?” The old man replies obligatorily, “The Jews.” And then he adds, “And the bicycle riders.” Puzzled, the soldier asks, “Why the bicycle riders?” To which the old man replies, “Why the Jews?”

2014-07-10 18:10:04 Andy Schmookler

So why do you think that is? Democrats are not less intelligent than Republicans. Why is it that the Dems lost in 2010 because voters went to the polls believing the Republican lies even though the Democrats had going for them the truth plus the bully pulpit from which to deliver it?

I believe that at least a good part of the answer lies in what I’m describing in my series, “Dispirited Liberal America.”

The next installment will go into how this “dispirited” condition — a loss of contact with the spiritual dimension — generates weakness. And one aspect of this weakness is a way of talking to the American people that does not have impact.

FDR talked to the American people, and they were moved. His cousin Teddy Roosevelt moved the nation similarly. These were leaders of great spirit.

I was among those who thought that Barack Obama would be able to use his rhetorical skills to light a fire in the people and to lead the nation forward. But except on rare occasions, he seemed to abandon the spirit that got him to the White House, and failed to harness the spirit that was so thrilling to see, on Election Night of 2009, in Grant Park.

FDR would have used the bully pulpit to make these Republicans either act constructively or pay a big political price.

2014-07-09 18:36:40 Andy Schmookler

It is certainly true that Obama’s hand was stronger in 2009 than it has been since. But I never though the idea of a “filibuster-proof majority” was valid.

Yes, the Democrats had 58 seats, plus two independents who caucused with them. But one of those independents was Joe Lieberman, and Joe Lieberman’s allegiance to the Democrats was far from reliable. Indeed, it seemed that his personal pique at the way Democrats had defeated him for the nomination in Connecticut was a strong motivating force in his political conduct at that time.

Already, the Republicans were voting almost monolithically to advance their highest priority– i.e. to make Obama fail.  (Whereas 1/3 of Democrats helped Bush get his misguided and misrepresented tax cuts through in 2001, only three Republicans out of 40 voted for a stimulus package that was urgently needed to boost our collapsing economy.)

That meant that a single defection was sufficient to give the Republicans their “minority rule.”

With this supposed filibuster-proof majority, in that session of Congress from 2009-1010, over 400 bills passed by the House died in the Senate.

In some ways, the appearance of a filibuster-proof majority did great harm to Obama and the Democrats. Because people were saying that they had the ability to work their will, and thus blamed the Democrats for what should have been understood as overwhelmingly the result of deliberate Republican sabotage.

2014-07-08 20:08:40 Andy Schmookler

Maybe the press notices? And the American people see what’s happening?

Early in Obama’s first term — in the spring of 2009 — the president was all over the place visibly reaching out. The Republicans slammed the door in his face.

The press did not help the American people see what was going on.

The process continued — with the Republicans doing everything they could to make the health care reform process fail, and be ugly besides — and the American people went to the polls in 2010 and rewarded the Republicans with a massive victory.

The reaching out you propose, K in VA, can be part of the more aggressive “call it out” strategy. Put something reasonable on the table, inviting cooperative action. WHen the Rs spit on it, then slam them for it.

Decent peace proposals are not incompatible with the waging of war. Particularly where the battlefield is public opinion, showing that the enemy is the reason for the war is an excellent battle strategy.

But the reaching out in the sense of “courting” — by which I mean in this case in the absence of a clear willingness to attack those who insist on war — has been tried and shown to be worse than worthless.

2014-07-08 18:31:40 Andy Schmookler

I apparently need to make clearer the nature of the problem with Liberty that I alluded to when I spoke of the “deep dread and elemental revulsion” that Liberty seemed to evoke in some of its “neighbors” with whom I had contact when I campaigned in the Lynchburg area.

It was not about its being a religious school, not about the nature of the instruction, not about the belief system that not everybody shared.

It was specifically about the way Liberty University conducts itself in the arena of power. It’s about what and whom they work to strengthen.

But especially, it is about the methods it employs to get its way in politics. People described ruthless, hardball tactics, occasionally viciousness.
People had been hurt and scarred by their experiences– not physically but in other ways.

I myself did not experience those, but I did experience, as a candidate, a lack of respect for fairness, and a disregard of some basic American values of democracy. I saw them pretend to care about citizenship, but then prevent their students from exercising autonomous, informed choice in the exercise of their franchise.

It is noteworthy that, on the right, the force of brokenness almost invariably expresses itself around issues of power.

2014-06-22 21:52:37 Andy Schmookler

… even Virginians who don’t recognize who their real enemies (and friends) are, there is also here a battleground on which to fight the larger war.

Each issue is connected to the larger pattern: the Republicans are consistent in taking whatever problems America faces and doing their utmost to prevent anything being done to solve them.

That’s what they’re doing on immigration, on guns, on climate change, etc.

And that’s what, at the Virginia level, the Republicans are doing about the problem of 400,000 Virginia citizens who lack reliable access to the health care they need. Why should our fellow Americans be the only citizens of an advanced democracy who has that kind of exposure, vulnerability, and dangerous insecurity about basic health care?

So whether or not McAuliffe’s heart is with the people, he’s got a place here to make a stand and fight it out before the court of public opinion. I’ve seen McAuliffe in operation as a speaker on three different occasions, the most stunning of which was as the major speaker at the 2012 Virginia Democratic convention, where he showed that the man has it in him to be a powerful force.

He has what too few Democrats have– a relish for the confrontation. It may come to pass that the Republicans chose the wrong Democrat to pick this kind of fight with.

I certainly hope McAuliffe can make that so.

2014-06-21 00:37:06 Andy Schmookler

That’s the motto of my campaign. That’s what I believe is the winning strategy for Liberal America to defeat this destructive — evil — force that’s taken over the political right.

And, I’m asking: is what Governor McAuliffe is doing what that motto looks like, played out in the budget battles of Virginia?

I hope that he can pick up the mirror and use this episode to press the battle by exposing the ugliness of what the Republicans have been doing on this expansion of Medicaid issue. Including the perhaps criminal deal for Puckett’s seat.

See the evil– and show it to the people of Virginia. These Republicans have behaved in an ugly fashion, from beginning to end. They are a microcosm of the persistently destructive force that’s taken over the Republican Party.

Governor McAuliffe has the opportunity to expose this part of that ugly picture. It is his best way to fight the battle that’s already at hand, as he has rightly chosen not to surrender. (This is like Obama and the debt ceiling crisis this last time, and we all remember how the Republicans got creamed on that one.)

Governor McAuliffe has stood his ground, and now we must encourage him to press the battle.

I’d say to him: Offense, not defense. Don’t expend great energy on defending yourself against their charges. Brush those quickly aside as nonsense and hypocrisy and pour your energy into an attack on what it is that they have shown themselves to be.

That truth is their greatest vulnerability.

It is only by fraud that these “conservative” and “Christian” Republicans get the credibility they need to wreak their damage on our society.

See the evil. Call it out. Press the battle. Take their power from them.

2014-06-20 18:52:17 Andy Schmookler

Mostly, that satisfies me. But something still lingers.

It seemed to me that Beyer was in such a strong position that everybody else might have dropped out long before Election Day. Maybe I’m wrong about that, but that was my impression.

Would it have been better for the Party, or even for the winner, if Beyer was the only one still standing well before the election?

I imagine that there’s some gain from having a series of robust debates, thereby gaining good public attention, even if the result is not much in doubt.

For example, I am among those who pretty much accepts the conventional wisdom that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee if she runs (and that indeed she will run). I don’t think anyone is in a position to beat her.

Yet I would very much like to see Bernie Sanders and/or Elizabeth Warren announce their candidacy, so that we can have the drama of a series of debates (e.g. in New Hampshire), so that the issues and ideas they raise will get national attention, and also so that the Democratic nominee will have the chance to show some strength against opponents and not just in shadow-boxing.

I realize that part of your point might be simply about the sheer numbers. Perhaps you would say that it would have been good for maybe Ebbin and Hope to keep running, even if they had no real chance, but that the stage remained too cluttered up until the end.

2014-06-13 18:25:28 Andy Schmookler

Your premise seems to be, “If you can see you’re not going to win, you should drop out.”

I can see how that would be sensible if the costs — financial and otherwise — meant that dropping out would in some important ways “cut one’s losses.”

But — and I say this, of course, as one who ran his heart out in the 6th District last time around despite the Republicans having a 2:1 advantage in the electorate — running can serve worthwhile purposes aside from winning the election. For example, if one has something important to say that should be heard, and the campaign process provides a platform.

So, with respect to the various candidates who kept running after it should have been clear they weren’t going to win, what do you see as the costs they could have avoided by dropping out, and what might have been the worthwhile purposes served by continuing to run?

2014-06-13 16:06:04 Andy Schmookler

is that the patterns renew themselves through the generations.

When I see the unprecedented disrespect, even contempt, that the Republicans in Congress show to a duly elected President of the United States, the echoes of racism I sense are not from 93 year-olds still walking the earth with attitudes they imbibed when “strange fruit” was still hanging in the trees. But rather, what this unprecedented conduct is made possible — made politically viable — by patterns that have gone from great-great grandparent to great grandparent to grandparent to parent to presently middle-aged and young adults for whom that scornful conduct toward the president is expressing something imprinted on their hearts.

2014-06-13 02:34:30 Andy Schmookler

were the odds of Brat beating Cantor?

(I was not SO surprised as the “earthquake” folks. But I’m not sure if that’s because I knew more, or because I didn’t know enough to realize what a “shocker” it would be.)

2014-06-12 16:46:42 Andy Schmookler

So with this shady maneuver, it would appear the legislature can pass a budget. Right?

But to become law, the governor has to sign it. No?

Is there any reason he should sign it, and reward this kind of dirty politicking?

Could he not veto the measure and say something like,

“This kind of political chicanery should not be rewarded. Something so important to the well-being of Virginia as extending health care coverage to 400,000 Virginians should not be decided by an ugly deal like this. A GOP that puts partisanship ahead of the good of the state — and turns down %5.8 million a day that could be coming to our state to help our people — should not prevail because of maneuvers that may indeed even be crimes. So I will veto this bill, and put the issue of the expansion of Medicaid — which most Virginians favor — back on the table where it was before this disreputable deal was struck.”

Could he do that? And if so, is there any good reason he shouldn’t?

2014-06-10 05:28:51 Andy Schmookler

Robinson writes:

What’s happening in the Republican primaries is less a defeat for the tea party than a surrender by the GOP establishment, which is winning key races by accepting the tea party’s radical anti-government philosophy.

Anyone who hopes the party has finally come to its senses will be disappointed. Republicans have pragmatically decided not to concede Senate elections by nominating eccentrics and crackpots. But in persuading the party’s activist base to come along, establishment leaders have pledged fealty to eccentric, crackpot ideas.

2014-05-23 18:18:02 Andy Schmookler

You’re quite right to point to the failure of the media. Here we are in the midst –for more than a decade — of one of the biggest stories in American history (the takeover of one of our major political parties by what I believe warrants being called an “evil force”) and the media are not telling the story.

For years I’ve wondered how much is it because they are blind to it, and how much because their intimidated, and how much because they are complicit.

I first wrote about “The Dog that Didn’t Bark” — the title is from a significant clue in a Sherlock Holmes story– in January of 2006. In that piece, after naming those three possible explanations, I also wondered whether this might be a factor in the failure of the American media:

perhaps the degradation of America’s moral culture has proceeded so far that the people in the media do not care so deeply about the kinds of American values — like truthfulness, lawfulness, and fairness — that the Bushites have been trampling that they felt any particular sorrow to see the structures of goodness being dismantled before their eyes. Where there’s no moral passion, there’s no “Good Night, and Good Luck.”

2014-05-23 18:11:21 Andy Schmookler

Exactly right, Lowell. And we need the president in particular to keep hammering at this.

On occasion during the past five years, President Obama has landed some good blow, and then retreated to his corner of the ring. We need him to do what any good fighter does when he staggers his opponent, which is follow up to get the job done.

Too many times, Obama himself has phrased the problem in terms of “Washington” does this or “Congress” has failed to do that, when the problem is more specifically the pathology on the Republican side.

We can only hope that he’s turning a corner with this speech and will neither revert to his non-combative ways nor let up on throwing the punches whenever there’s an opening.

Even in this speech, I regret to say, he pulls his punches as when he says:

We have a group of folks in the Republican Party who have taken over who are so ideologically rigid, who are so committed to an economic theory that says if folks at the top do very well then everybody else is somehow going to do well; who deny the science of climate change;…”

Hey, it’s not “a group of folks in the Republican Party,” it’s the whole Party. Name one Republican leader who does not deny climate change. Point to one Republican in the House or Senate that’s not voting the party line to keep more in the hands of the rich and to advance the plutocracy.

This speech is a turn toward what we need our leaders to be doing — “See the evil. Call it out. Press the battle.” — but let’s press them to do it with all the pugnacity that this crisis calls for, the way FDR, or Harry Truman, or Teddy Roosevelt, or Winston Churchill would do it if faced with this kind of political foe.

2014-05-23 17:23:05 Andy Schmookler

That long sentence of yours, Lowell, in the last paragraph — the one that begins “That would be the fact that Republicans have done everything they possibly can…” — is a stand-alone classic.


2014-05-08 03:31:01 Andy Schmookler

Yes, Jim B, the Spirit of the Lie has taken almost complete possession of the right, and of the Republican Party.

I recently addressed this problem in an op/ed published in the Northern Virginia Daily and other newspapers in my rather red district. In that piece, I challenged those folks with the question: “If it were true that your picture of the political world was seriously misaligned with reality, would you want to know?” (I listed nine important representative falsehoods — including the right-wing climate change lies — that the Republicans have been feeding their base.)

Of course, I didn’t get replies to that question. But I’m not optimistic about what the real answer is.  

2014-05-08 01:42:41 Andy Schmookler

What does Dr. Mann say about Mark Levine that could not have been said about the other candidates of whom you said they were “strong … on energy and environmental issues”?

2014-05-06 01:05:48 Andy Schmookler

Given what you say, Lowell, about other candidates being strong on the issues of concern to Dr. Mann, and given that the statement above does not seem to highlight some important difference between candidate Levine and those other candidates, it would seem that there remains a bit of a mystery.

Is there any prospect of ever having an explanation of this endorsement from the guy who’s at the front lines of the issue that, as you say, “is by far the #1 issue facing humanity”?  

2014-05-05 22:38:49 Andy Schmookler

In just a few lines, Jim B., you mention several fights worth fighting. It seems that too many on our side have believed that peace can be had by giving the wrong-doers a pass.

If one era that illuminates our time is the lead-up to the war over slavery in the U.S., another era is how England dealt with the approaching menace from Germany in the 1930s.

Peace in our times, indeed!

2014-05-04 23:07:12 Andy Schmookler

I agree with the Russian sense of having been wronged by the West, and by the United States in particular, with the expansion of NATO. My recollection is that at the time that German reunification was proposed, and Gorbachev was still in power, with the first Bush as president, a promise was given by the United States that NATO would not expand toward the Russians. Their fear of invasion from the West, as you say, is grounded in traumatic history– as recently as 1941. That promise made, the Russians agreed to go along with the absorption of East Germany into a single German state dominated by what had been West Germany, and included in NATO. Then, in the 1990s, the United States broke that promise.

That’s my recollection, anyway. And I think it helps to demonstrate how important it is to maintain the structures by which good international order is created, which includes keeping promises. Karma works that way, that what goes around comes around, and when the nation that more than any other helped to create the beginnings of international order in the post WW II world starts to act in bad faith, that brokenness is likely to re-appear in other ways that are contrary to our interests.

2014-05-04 00:18:42 Andy Schmookler

One-party government is always a recipe for corruption, eventually. But I agree: today’s Republican Party has not done anything constructive in years, and the nation would only be better off without it.

(BTW, an interesting article I came across recently that indicates that in California, the dominance of the Democratic Party is leading to its infiltration by the plutocratic element. They are something of a threat to take over the party. Eventually, I would expect, either the Republican Party will revive there in some form, or the Democratic Party will become the scene of schismatic warfare between real Democrats and the people who are jumping onto the only boat that floats.)

2014-05-02 19:16:47 Andy Schmookler

Pardon my ignorance, both of the particulars of the District and of the candidates, but why is it unsurprising that a seat previously held by a Democrat would be lost by the new Democratic candidate 40-60?

2014-02-26 05:13:01 Andy Schmookler

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who had an IQ that was probably at least 125, and showed good analytic ability when talking about something like their business strategy, who says really stupid things about climate change? I have.

How does that come to pass?

I’m suggesting that people can learn to apply different programs in different realms.

It is not just stupidity that seems to be programmed into the right-wing political module. The same might be said of the mean-spiritedness.

I’ve heard people talk politics in ways that are filled with the mean-spiritedness of the right wing. But in their churches and their neighborhoods, they act like good Christians.

Some of the Republican base does consist of people who are stupid and mean-spirited across the board. But for some people, it seems, there’s how they are in their politics on the one hand, and how they are in the rest of their lives on the other.

I’m offering a way of understanding that kind of compartmentalization of cognitive and emotional “selves.”

2014-02-23 21:48:15 Andy Schmookler

I’ve had to deal with trolls from both right and left. My strong impression, however, is that the spirit of the troll is far more aligned with the force that’s taken over the right than with the left/liberal side. I’d be interested to know if anyone has investigated to see what proportion of trolls come from each side of our political divide.

2014-02-17 16:04:06 Andy Schmookler

Getting onto the mass media is very much at the heart of the plan.

As you may recall, Lowell, from that six-minute campaign speech of mine that you posted under the title “Video: A Real Democrat Gives One of the Best, Most Kick-A** Political Speeches I’ve Ever Seen!” ( http://www.dailykos.com/story/… ), which was a form of the same message.

That encourages me to hope that a fire could also be lit by another form of that message, delivered to another form of community in Liberal America– such as the audiences of Rachel Maddow and/or Bill Moyers.

I intend to do fund-raising. And that’s certainly an area in which people who are inspired to make this a vehicle for achieving their political purposes can step up and help.

For that, and for any “Coffee Party” (or “Move-On”) kinds of movement building, I hope people with skills in such areas will come on board and ply their talents to make things happen.  

We’ve got some people on the team. And we need a lot more.

We’ve got some good things developing. And I hope that we can invent and build more as things unfold.

It really has to be a team effort if it’s going to succeed. I’ve got some things to offer, but the possibilities in this are way beyond my ability to realize without a lot of help.

I for one do not see anything else happening that seems to promise a greater chance of striking the blow that needs to be struck.

And for all the Democratic election victories, I still do not feel that the battle is moving in the right direction.

Not only are the Republicans still strong enough to prevent almost anything from being accomplished. But there is also this disgraceful fact: After all the terrible things they have done, they still have enough public support that they appear to have a real chance of taking over the Senate this year.

If that isn’t a sign of a massive failure of awareness in the American public, I don’t know what would be.

2014-02-10 20:16:35 Andy Schmookler

Would love to have an opportunity to talk to such a gathering.  My talk a week and a half ago in Berkeley was sponsored by the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club.

Can you be of any help in creating such an opportunity?

2014-02-10 19:52:13 Andy Schmookler

The remedy is for Americans to see the truth about the nature of what’s taken over the American right (and today’s Republican Party) and for those who see it to mobilize to defeat it and those who can be led to see it to withdraw their support.

That is how power is drained away from evil in a democracy. That’s what Mr. Joseph Welch did that day in 1954, on national TV with the Army-McCarthy hearings, when he said to Joe McCarthy (the original McCarthyite): “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

Moral truth, aptly spoken, can have an impact.

As for “preaching to the choir,” that’s not how I see it at all. I’m not preaching to the choir, I’m trying to raise an army. Some singing is fine. But we need a fighting force.

2014-02-10 19:49:04 Andy Schmookler

The audience I seek to address is, broadly stated, Liberal America. Especially those who see — or can be helped to see — what an appalling thing it is that has taken over the political right. Especially those who feel frustrated that our Democratic leaders have not been stronger in standing up to such an extraordinary — in American history, unprecedented — destructive force. And especially those who also care deeply about the future of this nation, and have passion to bring to the task of getting the country back on the right track with a healthy political system with two basically constructive political parties.

I am not campaigning for political office, needing 51% of the electorate to declare me their man. I’m campaigning to get a good team and a dedicated following that can work effectively to spread a powerful message and get it into the national conversation.

I doubt that my intended audience would include people who perceive the current political situation such that they feel proud to plant their flag in the middle. That bespeaks a perception of our reality so distant from what I believe to be the core truth of our times that I wouldn’t expect that gap to be readily bridgeable in a way that would advance the remedy for America’s national crisis that I am advocating.

2014-02-10 17:51:10 Andy Schmookler

I hope that the event will be videoed, and then presumably made available to see on line.

And on March 24, I will give another such talk in Washington. I’ll post about that when all the details are set and we’re closer to the event.

Thanks for your interest, ir003436. (Do you mind if I call you ir for short? 🙂 )

2014-02-10 05:41:24 Andy Schmookler

I’ve been privy to some personal testimony that persuaded me that Lee Atwater’s repetance was genuine.  When someone who has done bad things, repents, I believe that we are called upon to support them in becoming more whole.  Hate the sin and love the sinner.  They cannot change what they have been and done in the past.

With Luntz, I can’t tell if there is repentance or not.  Is there any sign that, like Atwater, he recognizes his role in creating the damage — the polarization — that he now bemoans?  If not, he’s got a ways to go. But I would bet the farm that Karl Rove will never get to the place even if regretting the damaged condition in the American political realm he has done so much tom bring about.  So even if Luntz lacks awareness of his culpability, there are souls more lost than that.

2014-01-07 05:26:11 Andy Schmookler

If we knew nothing more about this Republican Party than that it makes alliance with ignorance and bigotry and shows no signs of intellectual integrity, that would be enough to tell us that the spirit that drives this party is dark and destructive.

But of course we know so much more about that Party, and pretty much all the other facets are dark as well– the greed, the lust for power, the willingness to  torture, the divisiveness, the lack of willingness to put the greater good ahead of the quest for advantage, the insistence that our politics be a kind of war.