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A National Boycott for Gun Safety

by Kevin Kelton

Dozens of high school students in Florida went to their state capitol this week demanding action on sensible gun safety legislation. Nothing happened. Dozens more have been camped out at the White House. Nothing happened. Students and parents met with the President of the United States. And nothing will happen.

Just like nothing happened after mass shootings in Columbine, Virginia Tech, Omaha, Geneva County, Binghamton, Fort Hood, Manchester, Tucson, Seal Beach, Oakland, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Herkimer, Navy Yard, Alturas, Marysville, Lafayette, Charleston, San Bernardino, Roseburg, Colorado Springs, Hesston, Orlando, Sutherland Springs, and Las Vegas. (I bet you don’t even recognize several of those!)

Because until we start limiting what types of weapons can be sold and who can get them, the shootings will continue. And like has happened in Europe, they won’t just be confined to our schools and churches.

I hope that high school students stage an ongoing national protest until some sensible gun controls laws are enacted. I encourage them to stay out of school until it happens. Yes, boycott high school… even if it means delaying your graduation for a year.

Let colleges sweat over the lack of incoming freshmen (and their tuitions). Let the school boards debate what to do. Let the nation’s teachers and professors be mobilized. Then watch the churches join in, and businesses and companies. Let the state legislators feel the heat from the nation’s student population and their parents. Let parents feel the pain of their children, who must walk into what now amount to caged human target ranges every morning.

If parents won’t lead, their children must.

Because if we don’t stop this now, soon it won’t just be schools and movie theaters and churches. It will be malls (as in Nairobi and Omaha). It will be restaurants (as in Paris and Killeen). It will be hotels (as in Mumbai and Kabul). It will be theme parks. It will be Little League games. It will be Main Street.

Politicians will not yield until the national pressure is so great that they cannot NOT act.

Just like it took sit-ins and walk-outs at colleges in the 1960s and ’70s to end the seemingly never-ending Vietnam War, we once again need to look to our student population to lead us out of the never-ending gun war on our streets and in our schools.

I urge the students of Parkland to continue to lead on this issue, and other students across the nation to follow their lead. Stay home. Do not walk into another killing field like Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School again until something is done to protect you. You will not be hurting your future if you push back your first year of college. You will be making your college years safer and your future brighter.

Adulthood will still be there for you. But you need to be there for it.

Many will call this column radical and hysterical. They are wrong. Inaction demands action. Change demands sacrifice. Courage demands leadership. Even if it comes from 16 and 17 year-olds.

It’s time to end this madness. If it means a few weeks or months of missed classes, so be it.

I want my high school-age child alive. I’ll worry about college later.

Kevin Kelton is a writer and co-host of The More Perfect Union podcast. He is also the founder of Open Fire Politics.

Black Panther: Marvel’s Latest Movie Shows Why Institutions Matter

by Cliff Dunn

First and foremost, this comes with a heavy spoiler alert: Reviewing the messaging in Black Panther is almost impossible to do without revealing plot elements.  If you haven’t seen the movie, I HIGHLY recommend doing so first.

With that disclaimer out of the way, I saw Black Panther on opening night.  Buried in the solid film-making that is by now expected was some of the most artfully-executed messaging I have seen in a long time.  I will say that the messaging was ‘conservative’, but not the ideological sense. It was in the sense from which the term originated, railing against all forms of extremism in general.  The movie offered one of the rare shots I have seen against upstart revolutionaries (the main antagonist very arguably espouses a Maoist outlook) and in favor of stable governance and civil society, with many of the more level-headed characters opposing radical changes to their country’s policies.

Wakanda is, as the trailers have indicated (and as anyone who is familiar with the comics will know), a highly technologically advanced society in Africa which has survived by maintaining a guise of pre-industrial simplicity, with the help of both isolationist policies bordering on autarky and (this being Marvel) projected images of mountains obscuring their main cities.  Beneath this facade is a kingdom which has managed to ‘go its own way’ in a manner not unlike Tokugawa-era Japan – if it had the ability to run maglev trains at the time.

Unfortunately for Wakanda, while their technology is highly advanced, their civil society and system of checks and balances leaves much to be desired, something which becomes fundamental to the movie’s plot: Under Wakandan law and custom, any member of a royal bloodline of any of the five tribes can challenge for the throne by way of a deathmatch, with the winner being rendered an absolute monarch in the vein of Louis XIV.

This system works well enough, presuming that those who might challenge for the throne are of a stable temperament, but, somewhat unsurprisingly, a legal-but-not-stable claimant for the throne turns up in the form of N’Jdaka/Killmonger, born of the royal bloodline but having been raised (and radicalized) in Oakland in the 1990s.  Ideologically he is arguably Maoist (though that term might be lost on most modern moviegoers): his initiative to arm urban guerilla groups is not out of line with the policies of Red China in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Neither is his disregard for tradition as soon as he takes power.

The fact that Killmonger is able to both take power and, more importantly, wield it recklessly without serious opposition at first is the starkest bit of messaging in the film: The Wakanda in the film is rich in its own traditions and culture, but lacking any sort of social checks and balances the removal of one king by a legal challenger [1] with no mandate beyond his own brute strength and skill in hand-to-hand combat is met with virtually no resistance while the lack of institutional checks and balances allows him to threaten to turn the country’s foreign policy on its head almost literally overnight.  Those who would object are either removed from power, assaulted, forced to flee, overruled, or are simply ignored, while nobody has the power to tell him “no”.

It would be easy to dismiss such a critique as a shot at Trumpism, but the decision of the writers to make the antagonist an entirely different sort of radical redirects the blow in a broader direction.  By the end of the film, hundreds (if not thousands) are dead as a result of a civil war started not because of an insidious fifth column (such as Hydra in Winter Soldier) or institutions clumsily adapting to a series of crises and failing to sufficiently acquire stakeholder buy-in (such as in Civil War) but because of a complete lack of resilient institutions to begin with.  Those who object to the decisions taken by “the throne” have no venues of appeal against his actions and the only grounds on which any of them ultimately can to take a stand is T’Challa’s improbable survival, resulting in the claim that N’Jdaka’s failure to kill him rendered the challenge for the throne “incomplete” – rather than any claim regarding N’Jdaka’s obvious unfitness for the throne. [2]

An article I once read noted that a Hollywood movie never directly shows the effort it takes to actually build a functioning civil society.  Stepping back from just Black Panther, Marvel may not show what it takes to do so, but in three separate movies the dangers of failed state institutions have manifested on screen in three separate ways.

I have to give Marvel credit: In two of the three cases, they have ensured that their antagonists are reasonably well-represented on the screen (the conflict in Civil War is arguably less cut-and-dried…and less well-executed), which is more than you can usually say for Hollywood.  Robert Redford’s Alexander Pierce gave a vision for Hydra that manages to be seductive, alluring, and sincerely presented.  N’Jdaka/Killmonger also shows a sincere desire to help those he sees as oppressed.  In both cases it is clear who the ‘good guys’ are, but efforts are consistently taken to ensure that we aren’t simply being shown cardboard cut-outs to cheer, or to jeer.

Black Panther is a solid action flick, but the subtle parables that Marvel hints at buried within both it and several of the other MCU movies make them stand out from your generic superhero fare and give them a relevance to reality which makes them all the more impressive.

Notes:

[1] The “royal blood” issue is another interesting question: N’Jdaka was the (apparently illegitimate) son of the brother of the previous king (and thus the grandson of a prior monarch), so the question of degrees of connection to the family did not come up.  How long does such qualification for the throne persist?  For example, in theory could a sixth-degree relative of royal descent with only a tangential connection to Wakanda mount such a challenge?  Such matters are presumably dealt with somewhere in law, but the fact that the throne might be subjected to seizure by an individual invoking no more qualification than physical prowess and one drop of royal blood is, from almost any perspective, disturbing.

[2] In this context, one has to wonder how such a claim would have been received had T’Challa returned weeks or months later due to a delayed recovery (rather than after just a day or two).  The prospect of a Wakandan version of sedevacantism playing out presents all sorts of room for parody or farce.

Regulating the Poor is a Bad Idea

by D.J. McGuire

There was a time – dare I say, it might have been as late as two years ago – when I would have applauded the recent wave of states adding work requirements to Medicaid. I’m not sure where I would have exactly landed on the Food-boxes-for-Food-Stamps idea now ensconced in the president’s budget back then. Today, however, I think both are mistaken.

My reasoning stems from the current drive to automation in the economy. That may seem disconnected, but bear with me. Contrary to the assertions of most, I do not see an oncoming automation apocalypse as inevitable. Many have expressed concern about the tremendous drop in demand for labor that could come with automation – in other words, far fewer jobs for actual persons. Not nearly as many have discuss the ramifications on the other side of the coin, prices. Without a central bank insisting on inflation ad nauseam, prices would also fall as a result of automation, in many cases dramatically. The result could be a dramatic drop in the cost-of-living, ameliorating if not drowning out entirely the effect of automation on jobs. Keynesians of all stripes would revert to their last line of argumentative defense: the concept of “sticky prices”. However, the assumption behind this defense – that prices cannot be driven down without tremendous unemployment or wage cuts – is undone by the effects of automation. For automation switches the order of the process. Thus, prices need no longer be sticky – and in fact probably would not be sticky – because the wage effect on stickiness has already been taken out of the equation. In other words, automation would remove the greatest barrier to productivity driven deflation, the one thing that can ensure greater prosperity for all Americans.

However, in order for this to be as successful as it can be, we have to shift our mentality away from working for other people in favor of working for ourselves. The generations that follow us in the automated era are far more likely to be self-employed than employed by someone else – which means creating incentives that drive people to work for someone else instead of themselves are going in the wrong direction. They will need to be less risk-averse – which means the consequences of risk itself need to be reduced.

The work requirement for Medicaid is thus exactly the kind of perverse distortion of incentives we need to avoid. If anything, we need less regulation of the behavior of poor Americans – as they are more likely to engage in the entrepreneurship we need to advance the economy in the automated era if they are not forced to work for someone else for their health insurance. Likewise, the dynamism and flexibility that come with successfully launching a small business can’t mix with a one-size-fits-all food-delivery system (and this doesn’t even consider the vastly different diets required by different human beings.

For much of the 20th century, “welfare” was viewed – when it was perceived as effective – as a temporary system designed to push people back into the industrial workforce. In a post-industrial, automated economy, we need more self-employment, in which case the current welfare system – and the proposed changes by the Republicans – become the exact opposite of what is required.

As a conservative, I would lament the damage over-regulation would do the economic innovation and dynamism. I call myself a progressive conservative now, in part because I understand that over-regulation is just as dangerous when the regulated are poor Americans. The poor need fewer restrictions on the aid they receive (indeed, I would consider a Negative Income Tax or Universal Basic Income a dramatic improvement over the Rube-Goldberg-like welfare system we have now), not more.

Wave Goodbye to the Wave Election

by Kevin Kelton    

Though the makings of a democratic wave election in the midterms seem apparent – enthusiasm, leading indicators, a highly divisive president – one key component is missing… and it could be the fatal flaw.

It’s the “why.”

Every wave election has an overriding theme or movement behind it. Today’s Democratic party lacks either.

In the last half century, there have been six wave elections.* Two were presidential election cycles, the other four were midterms.

The 1980 Reagan wave was powered by a weak economy and the Iran hostage crisis, but mostly by a charismatic presidential candidate who gave a face and voice to the movement. Similarly, the 2008 Obama wave was driven by a war-weary nation and a financial crash, and a charismatic candidate. But let’s put those aside and look at midterms, where there is no presidential candidate to embody the movement.

In every midterm wave, there were clear economic and foreign policy crises that turbo-charged the national mood:

1974 – the Vietnam war and Watergate

1994 – a faltering economy, healthcare, and the GOP’s “Contract with America”

2006 – a war-weary nation, Hurricane Katrina, and GOP scandals (Jack Abramoff; Tom DeLay)

2010 – Obamacare, a stagnant economy, high unemployment, the national debt, illegal immigration

Now let’s look at the prospects for 2018. Other than an historically unpopular first-term president, what issues do the Democrats have to run on? Even with the current stock market correction, it’s unlikely the economy will tank before November. (It takes six months of negative GDP to classify a recession, and right now GDP is strong.) Unemployment is historically low. There is no new military conflict. By November DACA will likely be resolved and the only immigration issues will be the border wall and the lingering Muslim ban court cases. Trump is riding high on the tax cuts and the recent long-term budget deals. Even the #MeToo movement is too fractured to break solidly Democratic. The party can’t own the issue with Bill Clinton, John Conyers, Harvey Weinstein, Al Franken, and Anthony Weiner as its poster boys.

Plus the Democrats are still a splintered party with no national leader to rally the troops. So they will be left to a series of local races with no unifying issue or theme to power them past heavily financed incumbents.

Unless the anti-Trump movement itself is enough to power the wave, what should be a tsunami may turn into a small storm. Democrats are likely to pick up seats in the House, but unless they net 24, the GOP will still own both chambers and the Executive branch.

The party’s leaders better settle on a set of core issues now, issues that will resonate with middle-class voters and power midterm turnout. And they better be bumper sticker stances, not nuanced wonky ones that take two minutes to explain.

So what can you do? Find the issue you are passionate about and post about it tirelessly on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Join Facebook political groups to magnify your voice. Share posts on the issue and send them to your senate and congressional candidates. Be your own campaign manager and campaign spokesperson. Then pick five races with five candidates you are excited about and donate. If every Democrat becomes a one-man SuperPac, we win.

Unless we’re all in the campaign, Trump and company will be campaigning on tax cuts, jobs and prosperity, while Democrats be running on Russia and Robert Mueller.

I respect Robert Mueller. But I don’t think he’s a wave.

Kevin Kelton is a writer and co-host of The More Perfect Union podcast and founder of the Facebook groups Open Fire Politics, Open Fire Food & Spirits, and Open Fire Sex.

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* An argument an be made that 2014 was also a wave election, but since the House was already heavily GOP, movement of congress further right isn’t being counted here as a “wave.”

 

White Supremacy and Vladimir Putin: They’re the same problem

by D.J. McGuire

The two issues regarding the Trump Administration that have frightened more Americans than anything else seem to be polar opposites: his fealty to Vladimir Putin’s regime in Russia and an a blind spot (or even sympathy) to white supremacy in America. However, if one looks beyond the United States (especially to Europe), it becomes clear that the two matters are linked there – and, in all likelihood, here as well. That leads to some disturbing questions that we need to ask.

While most Americans pay little attention to the rest of the world (save the occasional social media meme where a European country appears to support a policy we like), the situation in Europe bears some problematic parallels to recent years in the United States. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been openly evangelizing for “illiberal democracy” (AEI) while taking aim at nearly every Republican’s favorite bedtime scary story – George Soros – with “posters that brought back memories of the anti-Semitism of the 1930s” (same link). Poland is suffering a similar slide toward authoritarianism, complete with an attempt to rewrite Holocaust history (Reuters). Both governments are also getting increasingly cozy with Putin (AEI, The New Republic).

That hasn’t stopped Putin from building ties to outright racist groups like Jobbik in Hungary (Reuters). He has recruited or accepted (depending upon how one sees it) similar far-right allies in France, even as the main center-right opposition also tacks his way (Foreign Policy).

What has enabled Putin – an old KGB bureaucrat – to stretch his regime’s tentacles into democratic Europe? John Henley provides the anodyne answer in a Guardian column from last year.

…variations on a theme of nation-first politics, support for economic protectionism and immigration controls, mistrust of international alliances and institutions such as Nato or the EU, and a rejection of globalism and the liberal consensus

To be fair, the “liberal consensus” has deserved more than a few of the dings its received recently, as any astute observer of the EU will tell you. However, the first three items on the list are part and parcel of a much deeper and sinister common facet among Jobbik, Le Pen, and Putin: white supremacy.

While most of the focus on Russia in the 20th Century centered on its Sovietization, leaders from Stalin on down also emphasize Russian “nationalism.” Terrell Jermaine Starr reveals how Putin inherited – and is using – those supremacist weapons (Washington Post). Others have noticed, including alt-right poster child Richard Spencer and his ideological grandfather David Duke (Newsweek). In fact, the Russian adviser behind Putin’s supremacist policies – Alexander Dugin – is already well-known in alt-right circles (same link), and while nearly everyone remembers the Charlottesville torch-bearers shouting, “You will not replace us,” far fewer also noted their insistence that “Russia is our friend” (same link again).

All of this comes amid mounting evidence that the Putin regime put a thumb on the scales during the campaign, and that the Trump campaign itself – whether or not it actually succeeded in linking up with Moscow’ efforts – certainly tried (Newsweek). Meanwhile, according to the Anti-Defamation League, white supremacists murders “killed more than twice as many people in 2017 as they did the year before” (Huffington Post). Most would consider those two matters a coincidence at best, a sign of Trump’s worst two instincts at worse.

But what if the connection goes deeper than that? Have white supremacist groups become the American equivalent of Jobbik? Has the upswing in white supremacist terrorism been due to more than just the emboldening of these groups from Trump’s election?

In other words, have American white supremacist groups themselves become tools of the Putin regime?

To be clear, this is not a rhetorical question. I ask because I truly do not know. Sadly, I don’t expect this Administration to find out. I would like to see the opposition ask these questions, and if my worst fears are confirmed, present policies accordingly.

Even if my worst fears are disproven, we are facing an increasingly globalized supremacist movement (Franklin Foer has further details in The Atlantic). Russophilia and supremacism are in fact the same problem. Whether Putin is the diabolical leader or fortunate figurehead is an open question that needs answering to determine the best tactical response.

Nuclear Memo War

by Kevin Kelton

By approving the reckless release of the politically-explosive Devin Nunes memo, President Trump has now demonstrated that he cannot be trusted to heed urgent warnings from his senior advisors. He ignored the dire pleas of his FBI Director, Deputy Attorney-General, Assistant Attorney General, intelligence chiefs, Senators John Thune and Lindsey Graham (both loyal Trump confidants), and probably a few White House higher-ups that we don’t know of yet. When the DOJ and FBI warned him it would be an “extraordinarily reckless” act, the president reportedly erupted in anger and still acted on his reckless impulses.

So how can we trust he will listen to his senior advisors’ warnings not to release a nuclear military strike if that day ever comes? Who is to say that Jim Mattis or HR McMaster will have any more sway over him than the FBI Director,  DAG, and AAG that Trump himself handpicked?

With that in mind, Republicans and others now enabling this reckless president should watch carefully how Trump navigates the next few months. Watch how he responds to a counter-strike memo from Democrats. Will he impulsively escalate the battle? Does he feel the need to always one-up his enemy, always taking the fight to the next level regardless of warnings or consequences? Will he try to fire Rod Rosenstein or Mueller himself, indifferent to the warnings of senior staff?

If so, is this the behavior of a man you truly entrust with the security of your country and your family?

If the 45th president can’t be trusted to suppress his worst urges in political warfare, what makes you think he’d be able to do it in real warfare? The pressure Trump is under from the special counsel investigation is beyond intense. It’s pretty clear to any objective observer that he’s having some kind of nervous breakdown (as most guilty parties do when the police are banging at their front door). If a mannered and proper adversary like Robert Mueller is breaking him, how would he hold up psychologically against a wily, no-rules nemesis who can read Trump’s neurotic wiring and manipulate him like a puppet master working a marionette?

Because if you think Kim Jong-un isn’t watching and reading how Trump handles all this, guess again. Every foreign leader is watching how this game plays out, reading Trump’s weaknesses and his “tells.” Trump is trying to bluff his way out of the Russia scandal with a losing hand, and his pupils and brow sweat are obvious for everyone to see.

So Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, John Kelly, and every senator, congress person and cabinet officer, pay close attention now. Do you really trust this man under pressure? Is he someone whose worst instincts you’ll be able to contain when the going gets extremely rough?

It’s not a joke or a wild hypothetical. We just saw him launch a reckless nuclear first strike on his political enemies. The next one may be with missiles, not memos.

Stronger Together: Lessons Learned from 2016

by Kevin Kelton

Scholarly books will be written about the 2016 election. And like everything in history, from the Civil War to the cause of world wars, there will never be *one* singular reason for the way things worked out. But I am more convinced than ever that the major reason Hillary Clinton lost was her choice for a running mate.

Hillary should have chosen Bernie Sanders. I believe that together, they would be in the White House today. And we’d be watching a very different State of the Union tonight.

Don’t get me wrong. I respect Sen. Tim Kaine and acknowledge he did help deliver the critical 13 electoral votes from his home state of Virginia – not a small feat for a vice presidential candidate. In most other years, that would be considered delivering the goods for a running mate.

But 2016 was not most years. So I am writing this now because I don’t want to see another Democratic nominee make the same error ever again.

The fatal mistake Clinton made, and lots of political novices make, is thinking that the vp choice is about governing. It’s been said that Clinton felt she could have a good working relationship and governing partner in Kaine. Maybe she would have.

But running for president is not about governing. It’s about winning. You don’t get to govern after you’ve made a concession speech. I believe not tapping Sanders cost Clinton millions of votes, and tens of thousands in the critical swing states where she fell short by a whisker.

Choosing a presidential running mate is about building coalitions. It always has been, since George Washington chose John Adams, and through Lincoln-Johnson to Kennedy-Johnson to Reagan-Bush. Even Clinton’s husband Bill knew in 1992 he needed to pair his small state Washington “outsider” image with a member of the more entrenched D.C. establishment class that barely knew him (hence picking Sen. Al Gore).

In 2016, the big fissure in the Democratic party was not about geography or generational balance or insider-outsider status. It was about the divide between the wings of the party. The progressive left wing had demonstrated its strength and the power of its movement by bringing dark horse populist Bernie Sanders within striking distance of the nomination. They had earned a seat at the table, just as Sanders himself had. A unity ticket would’ve said more about Hillary and the party than any geographic or class-based balance that Kaine had to offer.

And of course, Sanders’ rockstar power would have ignited the party base. Imagine Hillary and Sanders barnstorming the nation to packed arenas of 20,000 screaming fans. It would have neutralized Trump’s free media advantage and the impact of seeing his giant rallies every day on cable news. A Clinton-Sanders ticket would’ve been worth half a billion dollars in free media. And it would’ve robbed Trump of many of his best talking points.

For those who will counter, but Hillary and Bernie could not have governed effectively together if elected, I say nonsense. A president gets to choose her Cabinet, her Chief of Staff, her National Security Advisor, and pretty much every major executive branch position. She doesn’t need a pal as vp. John Kennedy worked just fine with his political nemesis and polar opposite, Lyndon Johnson. (Yes, they actually did work well together.) Eastern elitist George Bush blended in just fine with the western common man Ronald Reagan and team. And Dwight Eisenhower certainly wasn’t hampered by not having a golfing buddy in Richard Nixon.

To those who say Bernie is more effective as a senator than he could have been as Hillary’s vice president, I say, look around. How “effective” do you think he is today?

I passionately supported HRC. I’m still proud of the campaign she ran and the vote I cast. But I will always believe she made a critical mistake in not choosing Sanders (or liberal darling Sen. Elizabeth Warren) to help close the deep fissures burning in her party. Like the Great Depression for Herbert Hoover and Vietnam for Johnson, history judges people based on their biggest mistake. Not picking Bernie Sanders was Hillary’s Vietnam, worse than the email scandal or not going to Wisconsin. A Hillary-Bernie ticket would’ve garnered enough extra votes to deliver Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania (and probably Iowa too). And the nightmare of the Trump presidency would’ve been just that: a bad dream.

Democrats in 2020 would be wise to remember that our party is always stronger together. So hold your fire in the circular firing squad of the primary season. Keep your mind and your options open. Let’s not devour our own and lose sight of our much more dangerous common enemy. Unseating Donald Trump and Mike Pence from power will take more than their historically low approval numbers. We need a ticket that joins and balances both wings of our party to maximize our voter turnout.

We are liberals. We are compassionate. Our cause is just. And we are only strong when we all stand together.

The Russia Show

by Kevin Kelton

The other day on MSNBC’s “The Beat with Ari Melber,” HuffPost Editorial Director Howard Fineman said that he doesn’t think Special Counsel Robert Mueller will be able to make a case for obstruction of justice against the president, but he does think Mueller has a strong case for collusion. One hour later on the same network, former RNC Chairman Michael Steele told Chris Matthews that he doesn’t think Mueller can make a case for collusion, but does have strong one for obstruction.

Two knowledgeable political experts, two opposite opinions.

The truth is that when it comes to the Trump-Russia investigation, no one but Mueller and his top deputies knows anything. Not you, not me, not the TV experts. Yet Facebookers on both sides of the partisan seesaw keep spouting nonsense about it with absolute certainty.

One of my favorite silly talking points is, “Collusion is not a crime.” This comment is laughable for its utter lack of legal context. It’s true, if you and I collude to get the best price on a used car, that is not a crime. But if we collude to steal the car, it is. Collusion to commit a crime is called “conspiracy,” and yes, it’s very much against the law. Don’t believe me? See here and here.

Another ludicrous argument is, “There isn’t one shred of evidence supporting collusion.” Actually, there’s a whole bunch. First, you have the Don Jr. June 9 Trump Tower meeting, which was shown in texts to be about meeting with Russian nationals to get and use stolen Hillary Clinton emails with the express goal of changing the outcome of a U.S. presidential election. Second, you have the candidate himself asking Russia on national television to hack (i.e., steal) and publish private citizens’ emails with the express intent of affecting the outcome of the election. He even promised a quid pro quo by saying, “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

Think of it this way: a man involved in a contentious divorce goes into a crowded restaurant and says for everyone to hear, “I’m urging someone to break my ex-wife’s legs. I think you’ll be rewarded mightily for it.” A few days later his wife turns up beaten with a broken leg and broken arm. Don’t you think that is evidence of his complicity in the act? It may not be enough to convict him by itself, but along with other evidence it creates a powerful argument for his guilt.

On the liberal side, my favorite gibberish is that Trump’s cabinet may soon invoke the 25th Amendment. Think about it. Let’s just say for a moment that someone, say Rex Tillerson, was secretly considering it. Who would he whisper it to? Ben Carson? Betsy DeVos? Steve Mnuchin? Sonny Perdue? Wilber Ross? Every one of them would run to the Oval Office to report the traitor in a heartbeat. Go find me four Trump Cabinet appointees you think would support this kind of unprecedented American coup d’état, let alone eight. It’s preposterous. Trump is ready to jail Hillary Clinton for her purported crimes against America. What do you think he’d do to a handful of treasonous ex-Cabinet plotters?

But I think my favorite argument is, “Who cares if Russia stole the DNC emails? Isn’t the content of what’s in them more important?” The simple answer is, no.

Because an election campaign should be based on relatively equal transparency, especially where private material is concerned. If I can see and review one candidate’s tax returns, I should be able to see and review the others’. If I can get my hands on one candidate’s medical records, I should get them for both. If I can view one candidate’s criminal conviction record, it’s only fair to make the other’s public as well. Judging one candidate on personal information that the other one doesn’t have to release is fundamentally unfair.

So to have the DNC emails purloined and published without releasing the RNC’s emails as well was an inequitable prejudice against Clinton. Had the RNC emails also been leaked, we most likely would have seen just as much dirt and ugliness in the Republican primary race as we saw in the Democrats’. (Which, frankly, wasn’t really all that bad.)

And by the way, for those who don’t know history, the Watergate break-in was about stealing the DNC’s private files. It doesn’t matter what’s in them; if you steal private campaign information and use it you are breaking the law. In the electronic age, it’s called Data Theft and it’s prohibited by several state and federal statues.

But maybe the most delicious irony of The Russia Show is that everyone who used to detest James Comey now adore him, and everyone who used to adore him now thinks he’s a conniving, lying enemy of the state.

What is true is that the Trump-Russia investigation has become catnip Facebook groups like Open Fire. Like any good TV soap opera, everyone has their favorite villain and plenty of theories as to how it will all end.

What’s your favorite talking point about Trump, Mueller, Comey, and Russia?

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.

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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).

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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.

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