Category Archives: Blog

Here are some essays and opinion pieces from our hosts and listeners.

My Alabama Blunder

by Kevin Kelton

On election night, with 60% of the vote counted and Roy Moore leading Doug Jones by 8 percentage points, I declared in Open Fire that it was all over. “I have never seen a candidate come back from an 8 point deficit this late in the count to win. Never,” I bloviated.

Well, now I have. And I earned plenty of well-deserved razzing from my Facebook peers for that short-sighted forecast.

But I have an even more embarrassingly bad prediction to which I must now confess:

I didn’t think black voters would show up.

In what I now see as my own amazingly misguided reading of the electorate, I simply thought the charges of sexual impropriety by a white man toward young white girls would not carry much weight in the black community. I referenced back to the racial divide over the O.J. Simpson verdict, when many news analysts hypothesized that blacks simply didn’t care about a rich, beautiful white woman being murdered, and to the more recent history of the 2016 election, where black voters in North Carolina, Michigan and other key states simply weren’t motivated to vote against another white man accused of abusing white women, and I assumed the same would hold true in red state Alabama.

I now realize there was more than a tinge of racist presumptions in my thinking, for which I publicly confess and sincerely apologize.

However, that was not the least of my prognosticating blunders regarding this election. I also discounted the influence that high-profile black politicians like President Barack Obama (in robocalls) and Sen. Cory Booker, Gov. Deval Patrick, and Reps. John Lewis and Terri Sewell on the ground in the state would have on voter turnout. That might be the most telling sign that the Alabama results portend for 2018 and beyond.

When Democrats turn local races into national referendums, and get boots on the ground in the name of high-profile party icons, we can goose voter turnout to unprecedented numbers. But it takes work. You have to frame each race for a nationwide audience, and make local voters appreciate the far-reaching significance of their vote.

With effective voter engagement and a well-planned GOTV drive, Democrats can defy historic turnout patterns to bring new voters into the system and push our candidates across the finish line.

So to everyone that I misjudged or underestimated, I apologize and salute you. You showed our electoral process at its finest.

But to Democrats who bask in the after-glow of pulling out a long-shot win, let’s not forget that the unusually high minority turnout on Tuesday masks a massive racial divide that still infects the electorate at large. A full 74% of white men and 65% of white women still voted for the accused pedophile and Trump-endorsed darling of the alt-right. Sobering numbers indeed!

We can’t keep pulling inside straights by relying on only the minority vote. Democrats need to push up turnout among disaffected white voters as well. In every presidential election, if even 58% of registered voters show up, that leaves 42% missing in action. And many more who should be registered but aren’t. Despite the painful loss to Trumpism in 2016 (in which we still got 2.9 million more votes), our ideals and values are still the predominant values of America. We just have to get our potential voters registered and to the polls.

I don’t have a magic elixir for that. Maybe it will unveil itself in the progressive passion of another Bernie Sanders run, the modest decency of a Joe Biden campaign, the feminine power of an Elizabeth Warren or Kirsten Gillibrand nomination, or the big tent appeal of a ticket featuring Booker or Kamala Harris or Julian Castro.

But we need a message and a compelling voice for that message. Democrats cannot continue to compete with a white electorate that has written us off. Demographic trends may be promising, but in the here-and-now we need to start winning more white votes before the Trump Administration and the Republican party completely disembowel the compassionate, fair-minded America we fought so hard to create.

We threaded the needle on Tuesday night, and for that I’m extremely thankful. But we won’t always have god-awful opponents like Roy Moore to help us out.  Let’s be heartened by the outcome, but not blinded by it.

A big win? Yes. A turnaround? Hardly.

A Tale Told By an Idiot: Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing

by D.J. McGuire

I chose to hold my tongue at first, when word got out that Donald Trump had made it official policy to declare Jerusalem the Israeli capital and begin the process of moving our embassy there. Having now seen the actual declaration from the White House, I’m glad I waited – because everyone got played.

Continue reading A Tale Told By an Idiot: Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing

I Guess I’m the Last Supply-Sider

by D.J. McGuire

There was a time when supply-side economics was a serious challenger to the Keynesian failures of the 1970s, and a necessary corrective to the assertion that Aggregate Demand was all that governments could change through policy. One of the supply-siders I admired as a graduate student was Stephen Moore.

Today, Moore revealed that the current GOP tax deform has nothing to do with supply-side economics – or any economic theory, for that matter – but rather for political retribution (Bloomberg).

Continue reading I Guess I’m the Last Supply-Sider

A Full-Court Press Against the GOP Tax Plan

by Kevin Kelton

It’s tax reform time in the U.S. Congress. So let’s talk basketball.

“Excuse me?” you say?

Yes, basketball. The GOP is using a classic swing offense to move their dual tax bills through each chamber, swinging from promoting the benefits of the House bill for one constituency to the benefits of the Senate bill for another constituency. And never getting trapped to have to defend both versions simultaneously. Because they know as well as Democrats do that both bills together represent the greatest shift of wealth away from the middle-class to the rich since the Rockefellers, Carnegies, and Vanderbilts got into the oil, steel and railroad businesses.

To defeat the Republicans from passing this game-changing bill, the Democrats should employ a man-to-man, full-court press defense.

Let me pause right here. No, this isn’t some gimmicky pundit piece designed to dazzle readers with a few sports metaphors. I am dead serious about this man-to-man strategy and how it will work.

Continue reading A Full-Court Press Against the GOP Tax Plan

A Salem Witch Hunt of Modern Times

by Kevin Kelton

I have a feeling this is going to be a very loud week and month in the world of public sexual harassment claims. With the latest allegation against Sen. Al Franken over a photo taken with a stranger at a state fair, the dam has now broken and we are on the other side of the looking glass. Credible reports of sexual misconduct must always be taken seriously and evaluated with fairness to the accuser as well as the accused, and true victims must be believed and the evidence judged fairly.

But if this becomes a runaway train of spurious accusations and half-baked claims (“He pulled me close” for the Franken photo) based on memories of where a hand was momentarily placed while posing for a photo or how aggressive a comedy sketch kiss was, we are in trouble as a society.

Any photo op could be turned into a harassment charge, with only the person’s vague (and often politically motivated) memory as evidence. Continue reading A Salem Witch Hunt of Modern Times

Handicapping 2020 in 2017

by Kevin Kelton

Everyone’s favorite political game is handicapping the 2020 Democratic primary race. So here’s my humble take. While he’s not my first choice, my instincts tell me  that Bernie Sanders will be the nominee. Here’s why.
I think Al Franken got knocked out today, not that I think he was ever a real contender, and I just don’t see anyone from the second tier (Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Andrew Cuomo, Kirsten Gillibrand) generating wide excitement these days. When people start to think about a matchup with Trump, they are going to want to see him spar with someone as bold and colorful and unorthodox as him. A conventional candidate like Martin O’Malley or Andrew Cuomo or even Cory Booker isn’t going to excite the imagination of the media or the masses the way a Trump-Sanders matchup will. Of course it *could* happen that someone strikes lightning in a bottle, like Obama and Sanders did in ’08 and ’16; I just don’t see it this time around — not from anyone in this field or anyone likely to show up.
 
That leaves Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden. Frankly, I am not hearing any groundswell of support for Warren these days. Are you? I’ve been watching the threads in Open Fire when 2020 comes up and I don’t see anyone passionately pushing for her. It seems that, like Chris Christie after 2012, Warren’s window of opportunity may have passed. She’s just not the darling of the left anymore, and center-left Democrats don’t seem to trust her. I think Joe Biden could make a strong run (and I’d probably support him), but I sense that his sheen in the party is fading, too.
 
Now to be honest, Sanders is also a less compelling figure than he was in 2016. Like Ali without Frazier, Bernie just seems smaller without Hillary in the ring. But the difference is, Sanders’ base of support — which was pretty wide and incredibly devoted — is still out there. Everyone who was chomping at the bit to nominate him last time will be just as excited again, and their small donor money will be there, too. So he goes into the primaries with a national organization, tons of enthusiasm from millions of supporters, and money that he can raise regularly without pandering to special interests or corporate donors. All this while Warren, Biden, Cuomo, and Booker are competing against each other for the same finite landscape of big money Democratic donors. Plus the DNC is sensitive to the idea that it was somehow unfair to Bernie last time, so they will bend over backward not to get accused of that again.
 
And finally, in the irony of ironies, Trump’s obvious and deep ties to Putin and the Russians will negate Bernie’s biggest liability: that he’s a socialist. The fear of communism seems to have waned, and what would have been an albatross around Sanders’ neck in 2016 will be a minor issue against the Trump-Putin ticket.
 
Please note: this isn’t me stating a preference; Bernie would not be my first choice. It’s me making a prediction. And I reserve the right to change my prediction as news and circumstances evolve. But my best guess now is that it will be Trump v. Sanders.
 
Of course, my best guess in 2016 was that we’d all be guessing who’ll be running against President Hillary Clinton in her re-election bid. A really bad guess, but at least I was in good company when I made it.

On the Republican Tax Deform

by D.J. McGuire

Taxes: the one issue where – as an economic conservative – I would be more sympathetic to my old party (the Republicans) than my new one (the Democrats). As I awaited the Republican tax reform plan, I even recommended Democrats find a way to work with the GOP to improve it.

Well, the plan was at last revealed today, and about the only link this fiasco has to actual tax reform was Congressman Brady quoted Ronald Reagan from 1986 (CNN).

Continue reading On the Republican Tax Deform

What Trump Has Wrought: Virginia Edition

by D.J. McGuire (who lives and votes in Virginia)

Last year, as my fellow MPU podcasters inquired as to why Donald Trump’s nomination would be enough for me to leave the Republican Party, I cited the Goldwater effect to explain how one campaign can change a party, permanently. The Republican nominee in 1960 (before Goldwater) ran on the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960, and was bitterly disappointed to have won roughly one in three African-American votes. The Republican nominee in 1968 (after Goldwater) ran on a “Southern strategy”, and was largely content with having won barely one in eight African-American votes. The nominee in both years was the same man: Richard Nixon.

As it happens, a similar example has been revealed in Virginia: Ed Gillespie.

Continue reading What Trump Has Wrought: Virginia Edition