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John McCain is no longer with us. We are different country today.

by D.J. McGuire

Yesterday afternoon, Senator John McCain passed away. Personal tributes are pouring in, as one would expect from his record of service and sacrifice for his country. Many Americans admired him. For some of us, however, it was much more than that. I am among those who voted for John McCain; in fact, I voted for him three times (2000 Republican primaries, 2008 Republican primaries, 2008 general election). I am convinced that it would have been a better nation had he won in 2000 or in 2008. As such, I am more focused on the exit of John McCain, the political force.

Many of McCain’s admirers disagreed with him, strongly, on foreign policy. I was not among them. With McCain’s passing, the number of us who believe liberating Iraq was the right thing to do has likely fallen from six to five (I still think we few are right). McCain was always more willing to see America – and the American military – as a potential force for good in the world. For those of us who recognized “neoconservative” as an actual set of beliefs rather than a convenient anti-Semitic dog whistle, John McCain may have been the last, and was certainly one of the most vocal.

As such, his passing will have political consequences. Contrary to what the president and his sycophants would have us believes, there are still millions of Republicans for whom John McCain is far more the model than Donald Trump. I left the Republican Party earlier than most of them – and I think I joined the Democratic Party sooner than any others – but with McCain’s passing, I won’t be the last. The next time Trump undermines NATO, or attacks our allies, or cozies up to dictators, John McCain will no longer be there to remind those voters what their Republican Party was – but is no more.

So, we can expect the Republican Party to get smaller and more devoted to Trump, but the Democrats may experience some growing pains, as their coalition expands to include – well, to include more voters like me.

John McCain never assumed America was perfect. He was an active and avid reformer at home, but he knew that even as America strove to make itself better it could also make the world better. For those of us who agree with him, he will not only be mourned, but deeply missed.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described progressive conservative – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015

Pop Goes The Political Culture Week of August 20, 2018

Taggart Lake, Grand Teton National Park by Rebekah Kuschmider

Welcome back MPU-inverse! I took a couple weeks away from my keyboard to vacation but now I’m back with all the insights into how politics and pop culture intersect.

In the hard news of this week, the head of AMI David Pecker got an immunity deal related to providing evidence around the Cohen investigation and  and so did the Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg. No one has offered me an immunity deal yet and I’m starting to feel left out. Then again, I don’t routinely aid and abet criminal behavior so I guess I don’t really deserve one.  Or need one. Unlike these guys, and the man they once worked for, they’re all in legal jeopardy without these deals.

I’m sure Kevin, D.J. and Greg will talk about all the juciest details on MPU but meanwhile, here’s all the news that’s no fit to ‘cast.

Me Too. Yes, Men Too: The New York Times dropped a shocking revelation that actress and #MeToo leader Asia Argento was involved in a scheme to pay off Jimmy Bennett, a younger actor who accused her of sexual assault. The details of the affair between Ms. Argento and Mr. Bennet are sordid, to say the least, as is the fact that Ms. Argento’s lawyers were drawing up all the necessary documents to ensure Mr. Bennet’s silence while Ms. Argento was first going public about her own assault at the hands of Harvey Weinstein.

I’m going to make two points here and I like to think they’re both important.

First: Yes, men can be assaulted and raped. If you don’t believe this to be true, or think it’s just a plot point from The Shawshank Redemption, you need to hit the nearest Google machine and start doing some research. (It’s not hard: the Catholic Church, the Ohio State Univeristy, and Terry Crewes are all in the headlines regarding victimization of men.)

RAINN estimates that 1 in 33 men will experience and attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. It happens to men and boys from all walks of life, assailants can be men or women.

It is incumbent upon us to be open and non-judgmental and willing to believe men and boys when they speak up about assault. A claim of assault from a male person is just as serious and as a claim of assault from a female person (or a trans person or a non-binary person or ANY PERSON). Step back from the crude jokes and quippy remarks and assume the person speaking is in the same kind of psychic distress as any other assault victim. Then get to work supporting them.

Next, it is important that we look at the dates of the alleged incidents. Ms. Argento claims to have been assault by Mr. Weinstein in 1997. The assault on Mr. Bennet occurred in 2013. If you think I’m going to say we must forgive Ms. Argento because she herself was assaulted first, you are wrong, wrong wrong.

What I’m going to say is that rape culture begets rape culture. The cycle of abuse makes itself manifest in all sorts of ways: abused children grow up to be adults who abuse children, abused spouses become abusers themselves. And a Hollywood star who was raped by a bigger Hollywood star may in turn rape an smaller Hollywood star in the future.

We know this cycle for what it is and we must stop it. Time’s Up for sexual abuse of all kinds.

Everything Old Is New Again: When I was in Jackson, WY recently, I had a chance to browse a bit in the Jackson Historical Society bookstore. Anyone who has ever been in a bookstore with me knows that I kind of lose my mind, especially if there’s a section that could in any way be construed as feminist history. So when I found a shelf of books that were all about the role of women in the Old West, I was in heaven.

I picked up a tome called Upstairs Girls: Prostitution in the American West by Michael Rutter. Rutter, a professor at BYU, has written a fascinating history of sex work in the west. While movies often make prostitutes seem like willing participants in it for a good time, the true story is – naturally – more nuanced. Poverty, shame, addiction, and coercion are part of the history, as they always are in tales of sex work.

One of the most informative and upsetting chapters was one about Chinese women in sex work. Often sold to traffickers by their own families, young women arrived in America and were forced into prostitution against their will. This was easily accomplished, as the general sentiment toward Chinese immigrants was hostile. This passage especially caught my notice:

It’s barely better than calling China a “shithole country”.

We’re never been good at welcoming in new minority groups to our country. It’s time to do better.

Crazy Rich Box Office: I haven’t managed to see Crazy Rich Asians yet but I’m dying to clap eyes on the movie. I read all of the books in Kevin Kwan’s hilarious trilogy about the super rich of Singapore and I’m more than ready for the visuals the books just couldn’t provide; sure words are good for humor and romance, but nothing but pictures will do when we’re talking about the kind of clothes, jewels and houses the characters in these books have!

Moreover, I’m delighted to have an opportunity to see a cast of Asian actors playing nuanced, interesting characters. And I’m not the only one. Minority movie goers are cheering Crazy Rich Asians for the same reason they also cheer Black Panther and for the reason minority theatre-goers lost their damn minds (in a good way) over the casting of Hamilton. This is a good movie with good writing and good production values and also represents non-white people in a way that’s all too unusual in Hollywood.

Just read this Twitter thread to see what I mean:

One interesting note, however. While is is true that movies and tv shows are still woefully behind the times in casting non-white actors (and in hiring them for technical positions behind the scenes), take a look at commercials sometime. I’ve been noticing this for a while but fewer and fewer commercial casts are lily white. Corporate America, with all the market research and focus group power, has noticed that people of all colors have wallets and they want to make sure to advertise to them. If you watch commercials, you’ll see and rainbow of actors making good union wages to sell you laundry detergent or breakfast cereal. It may not be glamorous work, but it’s paying the bill for actors who might not have been considered for those jobs only a few years ago.

This Is America: Finally, listeners of the podcast heard me talk about my visit to Yellowstone. I mentioned that I got to see Castle Geyer erupt at sunrise and just happened to get an amazing video of the experience. I’m sharing the video so you can all see  one of the natural wonders of our nation. This is America. This is what we’re all fighting for.

See you all next time, folks! Meanwhile, if you get an immunity agreement, don’t tell me. I’m still jealous.

Is the Past Prologue for Democratic Presidential Candidates?

by D.J. McGuire

The events of the last 24 hours (for which we did a special episode – you can listen here) have led many to wax nostalgic over Watergate (euphemism, people, euphemism). It’s also led me to ponder the era between then and now, and I’ve found something that could be ominous for nearly all of the potential 2020 Democratic candidates (including my preferred choice, Congressman John Delaney).

The early 1970s gets harder to remember with every year (the past is like that), but we should not forget that the American people’s revulsion with Washington corruption neither began nor ended with Richard Nixon. This was the era of the Church Committee hearings with subsequent intelligence reforms, campaign finance law reform, and a serious rethink of the structure of economic regulation. Right and left had their own answers to the conundrum of corruption – smaller government for the former, cleaner government for the latter.

One other result that has dramatically impacted the nation has been noticed less: the effect on presidential elections. We’ve had 11 of them since Nixon’s resignation. Here are the highlights:

  • Permanent coalitions are not in vogue: Republicans have won 6 elections; the Democrats, 5. Democrats have won the popular vote 7 times; Republicans, 4. Only once has a party won 3 in a row (GOP: 1980-88). Prior to Watergate, it happened five times.
  • More instability markers: Four times the winner did not win a majority of the popular vote. More to the point, the popular vote winner lost the election twice. That had only happened three times in the previous 184 years.
  • In only six of the the elections did the voters also give the winning party control of the House of Representatives – two of them were in elections where the president elected did not win the popular vote.
  • Yet one consistency came through: the candidate with less experience in Washington was elected nine out of eleven times – including three of the four times an incumbent president was re-elected.

The data point to a clear recommendation for the Democrats in 2020: do not nominate someone with more than four years experience in Washington D.C. Of course, that would rule out nearly every Democrat considering a run: Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Corey Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, John Delaney, Sherrod Brown, etc. Even Kemala Harris, whose Washington tenure started 17 days before Trump’s, might have pause.

Granted, Trump himself “broke” more than a few rules in 2016, but he didn’t break this one. Moreover, the Trumpenproletariat’s instinct for whataboutism is likely to make voters even less likely to value experience in the nation’s capital. Democrats might want to look to Governors. One of them, Montana’s Steve Bullock, is already considering a run. Moreover, when incumbent presidents have lost in the post-Watergate era (1976, 1980, and 1992), a Governor has defeated them. Every time.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described progressive conservative – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015

Gazing Into the Political Crystal Ball

Can we predict the future?

by Rebekah Kuschmider, MPU Co-Host

 

As listeners to the last few episodes of the More Perfect Union may have noticed, the gang is getting pretty good at predicting stuff. We’ve always been crack analysts and do a great job of talking about the news after it happens but when it comes to seeing into the future? Eh. We kind of suck. Just ask D.J..

The tide is turning lately, however. Greg is still doing a victory lap over his recent assertion that the Trump’s masturbatory army fantasy military parade would be cancelled. And today you can add yours truly to the list of uncanny prognosticators. In a DM conversation the other night, we engaged in some speculation about the results of the Paul Manafort trial. (I’m the one typing in blue.)

Yes, this is what we talk about between shows. Yes, we are really this nerdy.

Dorkitude aside, you can see that I was pretty spot on with my projections about the jury – as was Kevin in suggesting that only some of the charges would trip jurors up. This came across my Twitter feed this afternoon:

We looked more carefully at the reporting and the jury asked the judge what they should do if they couldn’t reach an agreement on a single charge and how they should fill in the verdict sheet in that case. The judge sent them back to deliberate more. There’s been no news from the court house since then.

But don’t worry. The intrepid team at MPU is making plans for after the trial.

Is Kevin right with his latest prediction? Tune in to the next MPU to find out!

P.S. We may also find out that M is for Manafort and murder, or at least for mayhem. Former Manafort client Victor Yanukovych has been charged with treason in Ukraine. Read here about how Manafort aided him.

I’m Fed Up With Trump’s Ramblings on Monetary Policy

by D.J. McGuire

Amidst the whirl and rush of the now painfully normal nonsense spewed by the president, few outside the financial markets noticed his comments on monetary policy during his interview with Reuters. They were important comments nonetheless – and discouraging on all fronts. For someone who defines his worldview on countering inflation, political chicanery on monetary policy, protectionism, and malinvestment (and for a quarter-century, defined himself as a Republican based on those things), I was saddened and angered – but not surprised – by Trump embracing all four (again).

This is Trump taking aim at the Federal Reserve:

“I’m not thrilled with his raising of interest rates, no. I’m not thrilled,” Trump said, referring to Powell. Trump nominated Powell last year to replace former Fed Chair Janet Yellen.

U.S. stock prices dipped after Trump’s comments to Reuters and the U.S. dollar .DXY edged down against a basket of currencies.

Trump, who criticized the Fed when he was a candidate, said other countries benefited from their central banks’ moves during tough trade talks, but the United States was not getting support from the Fed.

“We’re negotiating very powerfully and strongly with other nations. We’re going to win. But during this period of time I should be given some help by the Fed. The other countries are accommodated,” Trump said.

On one level, this is just typical bull-in-the-china-shop-talk from Trump, concerns about which are usually valid (and they are here) but still go ignored by his supporters (as will these). In this case, there’s more to it, which just makes things worse.

For starters, Trump is making clear that the domestic economy is not important in his thinking. I doubt he is even aware that the Fed actually has a legal mandate to ensure price stability. He is fixated on his trade war, period.

This means that inflation – which eats away at investment returns, creates havoc in labor markets, and increases suffering for fixed income recipients – is likely to be even worse than it is now (and at present, it’s bad enough to wipe out any wage gains – See Bloomberg), especially in policy areas where Trump can avoid the Fed. Last year’s tax cut was a prime example of a Keynesian, inflationary stimulus endorsed and signed by the president. I fear it won’t be the last.

Moreover, Trump’s comments are yet another sign that the Republican Party – which in my youth prided itself on sound monetary policy and a strong dollar – no longer has any interest in both. This makes it that much harder for the nation to learn and internalize the lessons of “quantitative easing” – the last decade’s experiment with radically expansionary monetary policy. Contrary to Keynesian orthodoxy, the mass monetization of any debt the Fed could find led not to roaring increases in aggregate demand, but rather a shift in thinking on paper assets. Bonds were treated as stocks (with a focus on price rather than yield) and a new asset bubble (in bonds) took the place of the last one (housing). Thus, not only did investment in the real economy remain slow to recover, but the asset bubble exacerbated wealth inequality, which further increased income inequality.

Under Janet Yellen, the Fed at least began the process on unwinding this error. Under Jerome Powell, it is now trying to bring interest rates back to at least normal without knocking the economy into recession. This is a tricky task in any time, let alone one where the President of the United States is demanding policies that would make the bubble even bigger (and more likely to pop, badly).

I know that Trump-Nixon parallels are in vogue, but the current president’s complaints remind me of his predecessor’s surrender on economic policy in 1971, when he announced, “We are all Keynesians now.” Trump is – with more verbiage and less intellect – effectively saying the same thing. Whether Democrats will note this and take political advantage by exploiting a new angle to win over never-Trump conservatives remains to be seen.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described progressive conservative – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015

Ending The ‘Trump-Defies-Polls’ Fallacy

by Kevin Kelton

As the 2018 midterms approach, a lot of people seem to be misremembering the facts regarding President Trump’s ability to “defy the polls” and the true history of polling involving him. In my Facebook political group, Open Fire Politics, and in other debate groups, I constantly see posts warning that Trump defies all polling and that midterm election polls cannot be trusted with one Donald J. Trump in the mix. This creates a Svengali-like myth around Trump that only helps him and is far from accurate. So let’s do a reality check.

First off, remember that election polls are not meant to predict a numeric outcome; they are merely meant to project who will ultimately win or lose.* In that regard, the 2016 general election polls were predominantly correct: Hillary Clinton did win the popular vote, and 47 of the 50 states turned out the way the pollsters had projected.

To my knowledge, there were only four times when pre-election polls were wrong about Trump. And one of those was wrong in his favor – the Iowa primary – in which the polls almost unanimously showed Trump far ahead of Ted Cruz. Yet Trump went on to lose by several points.

In the 2016 general election, only PA WI and MI were off in HRC’s favor, and WI and MI were just outside of the margin of error. But in every other election he’s ever been in — 49 state primaries and 47 of the states in the general election – the final pre-election polls were right. That’s a 96% accuracy rate. Yet people still seem to believe he simply defies all polling.

Forbes, The New York Times, Wired and many other media outlets have reported on this fallacy, yet it continues to live and spread in the zeitgeist of America’s voters.

That’s not to say we should blindly accept all polling (clearly we shouldn’t) or that the news media needn’t do a better job of its predictive analysis (clearly they should). But to discount the polls and simply assume Trump will defy the numbers diminishes both the national political dialogue and reality itself.

So please stop spreading this phony-baolney narrative that Trump is somehow impervious to polling, or that otherwise highly respected polls should be ignored when it comes to him. In doing so, you are creating a phony narrative that Trump will continue to beat the odds and is destined to win everything he touches.

That gives him a fake power that he has not earned and does not deserve.

————-

Kevin Kelton is a co-host of the More Perfect Union podcast and founder of the Facebook political debate group, Open Fire. 

Join OPEN FIRE now

* The news media often implies that a wide polling spread means the election outcome will be that wide. It doesn’t. Pre-election polls are designed to be predictive of the winner and loser(s), not necessarily the final margin of victory.

My 40 Year Manifesto (or, How to Break Into Showbiz with Nothing But a Wide Network of Powerful Showbiz Relatives)

by Kevin Kelton

Caution: This post isn’t about Donald Trump, Democratic Socialism, or what I had for dinner last night. It’s about me. You’ve been warned.

This past Thursday marked the 40th anniversary of my arrival in Los Angeles following college, and next week is my birthday. So I’m taking a timeout from all things politics to reflect on that 40 year journey. And to brag a lot.

August 9, 1978. After a seven day drive across country in my ’74 Mustang hatchback, I arrived in LA with a Bachelor’s degree from a state university (not so impressive back then), a couple of spec scripts, about eight minutes worth of standup material, and a 28 inch waist. The waistline was by far my strongest asset.

Like most young newbies to LA, I landed here knowing no one. Except my two brothers, one of whom was a hot young comedian with an NBC deal. And his girlfriend/agent, who years later became mine. (Agent, not girlfriend.) And my uncle, a bigwig at William Morris. And my cousin, a bigwig at ABC. And my brother’s friends from the standup world, including Larry David and other soon-to-be famous comedians. So I truly was on my own.

Okay, I wasn’t on my own. But aside from a few weeks crashing on my brothers’ couches before I got my own place, none of them helped me break into the business, so those connections really didn’t make a difference. Nepotism is highly overrated.

So with nothing but my wits and a broad network of highly-placed but ineffective contacts in the industry, I set out to get into the comedy writing business and let nothing get in my way. Even during my early days in LA at my day job as a bank teller, I was writing jokes in the break room and trying them out on customers. (You’re welcome, Bank of America.) I finally gave up my high paying banking job ($3.80 an hour) and took a job answering phones at The Comedy Store to be closer to “the business.”  That morphed into a doorman/emcee gig there and emceeing at The Improv, where I got noticed by the more established comics, sold some lines, and finally broke into TV writing on a game show called “Face The Music.” (A knockoff of “Name That Tune” hosted by the guy who used to play Tarzan. I kid you not.)

A few months later I was hired to write on an ABC late-night sketch show called “Fridays!” and from there the writing jobs kept coming. I won’t bore you with the credits. Most are forgettable shows. But even forgettable TV shows pay very memorable salaries. Over the next two decades I racked up lots of writing credits and was able to save lots of cash, thanks to my aversion to cocaine and young women’s aversion to me.

Elliot, me, Jessica, Max

But my social awkwardness worked itself out and I am now blessed to have two amazing sons and the most wonderful romantic partner a guy could hope for. (I’d call her my girlfriend but she hates that word. “I’m not a girl and I’m more than your friend.”  The truth is, I see her as a hot young girl and my very best friend.)

And although my ex-wife and I get along about as well as Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Jim Acosta, I am thankful that she is a terrific, loving mother to our two kids. (Plus she’s cooler than Sarah, and I’m nowhere near as cool as Jim.)

I’m also blessed to still have my mom with us (at 97 and going strong) and three older siblings who continue to put up with their snarky baby brother.

Don’t get me wrong, there have also been disappointments along the way, like the times I was too difficult at work (and paid a hefty price for it) and selling my Apple stock in 1998 (which would now be worth $1.2 million). Actually, I’m mostly upset about the Apple stock. ‘Cause if I’d hung on to that, being an asshole at work wouldn’t have mattered as much. (Kevin pauses for a long, good cry.)

So why am I writing this? First, to reflect and be grateful. Second, to thank my wonderful “girlfriend” (deal with it, Jess) for loving me warts-and-all and bringing so much joy to this chapter of my life story…and hopefully through the last chapter and epilogue. Third, to let my family and friends know how much I appreciate them even when I’m grousing and growling. (And to say thanks to my online friends for embracing me into your loving bandwidth.)

And lastly, I write this to encourage you to stop and take stock of all the good things in your last few decades. I know many of you have battled illness (or still are), lost loved ones, hit some major roadblocks, wrestle with financial pressures, or struggle with depression or worse. But in there somewhere there is also a fair amount of times filled joy and good fortune. Write about them. Reflect on them. Cherish them.

Your good memories are the most valuable things you have. Unless you still own Apple stock from 1998.

 

Path to a Dem Senate Runs Thru a Statehouse

by Kevin Kelton

The battle for majority control of the U.S. senate could be tight in November. But the battle may be won in a different election all together. As everyone knows, Sen. John McCain has terminal cancer and will probably not live out his current senate term (which runs to 2023). What many political wonks don’t realize is that the person who could appoint McCain’s replacement will be elected in the Arizona governor’s race this fall.

Current Governor Doug Ducey is a Republican who would likely replace McCain with another Republican if given the chance. But if Arizonans send a Democrat to the statehouse, that equation drastically changes.

Right now Ducey is a favorite to win the state’s August 28th GOP primary, though he is facing a primary challenge from former AZ Secretary of State Ken Bennett.

On the Democratic side, David Garcia, a U.S. Army veteran turned Professor of Education at Arizona State University, is the odds on favorite to win the nomination to challenge the incumbent.

And current polls show that Garcia could give Ducey quite a run for his money. The governor is not all that popular these days, and is even less popular in his own state than President Trump.

And of course the battle for the open seat of retiring senator Jeff Flake will also give Democrats a shot at turning at least one red AZ seat blue next year.

So while resistance-motivated Democrats should do all they can to help elect their local House and Senate candidates, they should consider sending send a small donation to AZDems.org. Their midterm success could go a long way to turning Mitch McConnell from senate majority leader to minority leader very soon.

Kevin Kelton is a co-host of the More Perfect Union podcast and founder of the Facebook political debate group, Open Fire. 

The World America Abandons (Before Coming Back to Rescue It)

by D.J. McGuire

For understandable reasons, most Americans assume that Donald Trump is a one-man wrecking crew, determined either to destroy or to reshape the current global order. In reality, however, the international order that has held in place in the Atlantic for over 70 years (and in the rest of the world for roughly 30) has been fraying for some time, and Trump is himself as much a symptom as a cause. The regions of the world are turning away from each other, and American frustration has now led to its acceleration under Trump. The result will be a world of regional powers – until one of them tries to assert global dominance, forcing the United States out of its coming stupor to lead the democratic world once more.

The Fall of the Global Order

The chief goals of the “western world” from 1945 through 1990 (and the entire world since 1990) have been greater political and economic freedom, via democracy and freer trade. Even those who were most threatened by these tenets paid lip service to them for roughly a quarter century.

Events of the last decade have challenged this. The Great Recession revealed the dark side of international economic connections. The rise of a revanchist Russia has greatly damaged the democratic world’s confidence in itself. The behavior of the European Union towards Greece and Italy shattered the notion of the EU as a force for democracy and progress. The “Global War on Terror” revealed the apparent limits of American patience with extended military engagements. Xi Jinping’s increasing grip on the Chinese mainland has combined with economic instability to create a dangerous vacuum in justification for his dictatorship. Finally, the dramatic increase in continental sources of American energy has begun shifting America’s view of its interests abroad (especially in the Middle East).

As a result, “It’s a small world after all” has become more a dark warning than a cheery sentiment – and the peoples of said world are acting accordingly. Had this just been the United States experiencing this, the rest of the world would have simply reoriented the system with a new hegemon, and there are eager candidates for the role. Yet none of them are in a position to stake the claim, and they all have regional matters to address.

The Coming Regional Order

As a result, when the present global order falls – likely on a glide path, but falls nonetheless – it will likely be replaced by an unstable mix of regional powers: China, Russia, the EU, and the less engaged United States. The first two will be looking to expand their power without to contain potential dissent within. The European Union will attempt to turn its continental reach into real power via internal reform and centralization. The US will be trying to find a balance between reducing its obligations to the rest of the world and protecting its interests, which time will show to be far more global than the electorate currently realizes.

In theory, the Chinese Communist Party need not concern itself with electorates. In practice, legitimacy can arguably be more tricky for tyrannies than for democracies – which in part is why tyrannies resort to wars, mass incarcerations, huge development projects, etc. For the CCP, greater power abroad combines with stoking resentment of outsiders at home to give it enough legitimacy to stay in power (for now). So long as the US was blocking its regional objectives, the CCP had become (accidentally and ironically) the most likely power to challenge the US on a global scale. A retreating America will open up regional opportunities for the regime – especially in Southeast Asia and Taiwan (whose gutsy, independent democracy won’t survive the new order). While some of this will bring alarm to other capitals, the CCP can use their North Korean puppet regime as leverage until its usefulness expires – at which point Beijing can simply make the problem go away by annexing it.

The Vladimir Putin regime, by contrast, has a slew of international allies and interests left over from the former Soviet Union, and Putin hasn’t been shy about using them (especially in Syria). However, his fixation has largely been with his “near abroad” (i.e., the former Soviet republics), and an America willing to withdraw from the global stage would give him the free hand there he has craved. Like the CCP, Putin has relied upon anti-foreign resentment and increasing power (and, in his case, actual territory) for his regime’s legitimacy. That will likely continue, to the detriment of Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and the Baltic states.

For the European Union, the problem is legitimacy – or lack thereof. The transition from trading association to intertwined economy was quite a success, the next step (to full-blown nation-state) has not gone nearly as well. The EU’s challenge will be sorting out what it is, and how it governs itself, so it can be strong enough to reject encroachments from outside. It will arguably be the most inward -looking regional power for some time.

That leaves the United States, which is attempting to become the second global hegemon in history to relinquish the role. The failure of the first (Great Britain in the period between World Wars) had been enough to delay this reckoning through the 1990s and 2000s, but the American people put their foot down in 2016 (whether they were “professionally guided” – to use Sir Arnold’s term – by outside forces will be discussed later). As it will be a Republican Administration beginning the withdrawal, the US is likely to settle in as a regional, hemispheric power. This can be seen from Donald Trump himself, who is loathe to criticize tyrannies in Europe and Asia but eager to criticize them in Latin America. I am also assuming this retreat in part because of the still strong isolationist tendencies within the left wing of the Democratic Party.

Flashpoints

While this regionalist order may seem stable from day-to-day, there will be problems. The Middle East, slowly losing the attention of the rest of the world due to changes in energy markets, will continue to be of interest to the three eastern hemisphere powers (i.e., all but the US), leading to conflict. The same will likely be true of Africa (which already has heavy CCP and EU involvement).

However, the most likely sources of “problems” will be American allies unwilling to accept second-tier status and the end of global democratic aspirations. At present, political power in Great Britain rests with an explosive  coalition of insular and globalist voters united in anti-regionalism. Although it’s likely that the regionalist center will reassert itself, ti’s not guaranteed. Japan has a long history of hostility to China (there is no way that can be written without it being an understatement) and its leaders have used its recent conversion to democracy as a new reason for old geopolitics. Our NATO allies (especially in the Baltics) will be deeply worried about Russia expanding its regional hegemony. Finally, the Republic of India, while friendly with Russia, will hardly be willing to serve as Moscow’s vassal; they also have a long history of problems with the CCP.

Indeed, it will be the concept of self-determination in general that poses the greatest threat to this regionalist semi-dystopia, as nations around the world – many of whom freed themselves from colonialism less than a century ago – will be far less likely to accept what they will see (rightly) as imperialism under new names. So long as America is run by Republicans, the US will likely respond with cold indifference. The Democrats are another matter.

How it will end

At some point, Donald Trump will no longer be president. Indeed, a Democrat is all but certain to enter the White House either on 20 January 2029 or before then (I hope). However, given the aforementioned isolationism in the Democratic left (and the laws of political inertia), it is unlikely that a Democratic president will dramatically take aim at the new order (especially if said Democrat doesn’t get to 1600 PA Ave until 2025 or 2029). Said Democrat will, however, likely attempt to protect an old American ally or an African democracy from imperial encroachment. Moreover, time will show the American people that the stable international order currently under threat was a boon for international trade and American commerce.

That will likely lead to a global confrontation of some kind, forcing America out of its regionalist stupor as it relearns the lessons of the mid-20th century. How many casualties are involved in that confrontation, I cannot say.

How this can be reversed

There is no reason that this future is inevitable. Some might note the mere fact that I’m predicting it would make it less likely. More to the point, it can be avoided if the American people in general (and the Democratic Party in particular) recognize the damage to American interests that come with retreating from the world stage.

Ironically, that could come from the most divisive issue in current American politics: the Mueller investigation. The events that Mueller is probing (the Russian regime’s criminal interventions in America’s last presidential election) will be far more likely in this future as regional powers probe each other for weaknesses. If the Democratic Party is willing and able to make the logical connection between the events of 2016 and the rise of anti-American regional powers (and replace the president with one of their own in 2021), they can halt the erosion of American power before it can become permanent. Alliances and trade relationships could still be rebuilt in time; and Putin could be checked in Europe; and the CCP would realize that the US is not yet ready to give them free reign outside of the area under the regime’s control. Democrats have a further interest in challenging Russian revanchism, given Putin’s inspirational support to white supremacy in America.

However, if the Democrats are unwilling to do that, this future is more likely than any other.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described “progressive conservative” – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015

Pop Goes The Political Culture Week of July 23

Lordy! There are tapes!

by Rebekah Kuschmider, MPU co-host

Welcome back, MPU-iniverse! (I invented that last week and I’ve decided I like it. It’s catchy and goes nicely with all the sci-fi stuff DJ and Greg are so into.)

This week has been nothing short of appalling. We got to hear a tape of a mob boss and his toadying underling future President and his attorney discussing, in relatively plain language, a scheme to pay off Trump’s former mistress in a move that may or may not be a violation of campaign finance law. We also had a federal judge agreed to move go forward with the emoluments suit against the Trump administration, essentially saying “Yeah, there’s a strong case to be made that the president is accepting unconstitutional payments from foreign governments in the form of hotel fees.” And the White House announced a plan to pay $12 billion dollars to farmers adversely affected by the trade war with China. A trade war that the president started. On purpose. And which everyone said would hurt farmers.

We’ll be discussing all of this when we get together to record but for now, here’s the rest of the news that’s not fit to ‘cast!

Men (Still) Behaving Badly: Ronan Farrow, the intrepid journalist who keeps taking down famous men who abuse their female employees, has taken down another famous man who has allegedly abused his employees. This time is CBS chief Les Moonves. Reporting in the New Yorker, Farrow writes, “Six women who had professional dealings with him told me that, between the nineteen-eighties and the late aughts, Moonves sexually harassed them. Four described forcible touching or kissing during business meetings, in what they said appeared to be a practiced routine. Two told me that Moonves physically intimidated them or threatened to derail their careers. All said that he became cold or hostile after they rejected his advances, and that they believed their careers suffered as a result.”

Stories like this are so common and so dreadful that they inspire a kind of emotional exhaustion when I read them. I bury my face in my hands and wonder how to stop this cycle of male power and male abuse. Then a little voice in my head says “Shonda Rhimes.”

Um, what?

“Shonda Rhimes,” Little Voice repeats. “Shonda Rhimes IS network television. She writes all the best stuff. Been a top creator for years, Everyone loves her. And you know who she’s abused in career? FUCKING NOBODY! Why isn’t Shonda Rhimes running a network? Hmmmm? Or Tina Fey. Tina Fey literally wrote a book on how to be a funny, successful, non-abusive boss and she has Tonys and Emmys lining her office. GIVE TINA FEY A NETWORK! Oprah! Ellen! They are TITANS of television with no abuse in their pasts or presents! PUT THESE BADASS BITCHES IN CHARGE AND LET THESE WHITE BOYS TAKE A DAMN SEAT BEFORE SOMEONE ELSE GETS HURT!”

Oh. That’s a good idea, Little Voice. Can someone get on that? Thanks.

Also? Can we find a way to do to Woody Allen what Ronan has done to every other famous abuser in Hollywood? Because Ronan and his sister Dylan deserve justice for themselves as well.

Feminist Walkback: Little Voice and I need to retract the impression we just set that women in media and entertainment are less douchey than men in media and entertainment. We have just been informed that FoxNews personality Kimberly Guilfoyle has been accused of “showing personal photographs of male genitalia to colleagues (and identifying whose genitals they were), regularly discussing sexual matters at work and engaging in emotionally abusive behavior toward hair and makeup artists and support staff.”

The HuffPo reports that Guilfoyle was under an HR investigation about the charges dating back to last year. She has since let the network and is heading up a pro-Trump PAC.

So women can be abusive and gross in the workplace. No gender is perfect.

As of this writing, there has been no official word on whose genitals she was presenting at work but she’s dating Donald Trump Jr.

Draw your own conclusions.

 

I’m on A Boat: Someone in Ohio decided to do their bit for equality in US education by unmooring the DeVos family yacht and setting is adrift in Lake Erie last weekend. The crew was aboard at the time and awoke to find themselves floating free. They eventually regained control of the $40 million dollar vessel and re-docked with no injuries.

This prank would have been funnier if there hadn’t been people on the boat. Just sayin’.

But I did some math and figured out that to afford a $40 million yacht, a minimum wage worker would have to work 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year, for 2,652.5 years. That’s right. If a person started earning $7.25 per hour the day Jesus was crucified, they’d still have about 550 years to go before they could afford a yacht like the Secretary of Education has.

Income inequality is real. It could be combatted through education but instead of working harder to make sure students at all levels get a fair shake, Secretary DeVos is making it harder for students ripped off by shady for-profit “colleges” to get restitution.

This kind of thing is why there are people muttering “Eat the rich” nowadays.

Everyone’s A Critic: And finally, I want to leave you with this little slice of heaven in the form of an except from a Wall Street Journal review of Sean Spicer’s new book.

We’ll be talking about the rest of the week’s news on The More Perfect Union! Look for it on Monday!

The Trump-EU “Deal”: Far Less Than Meets The Eye

by D.J. McGuire

Defenders of Donald Trump are crowing about his “deal” with the EU to hold off future tariff hikes and discuss reducing trade barriers in certain manufacturing goods. Never have so many offered so much praise for so little.

Scott Lincicome of the CATO Institute examined the joint statement on this Twitter thread. To make a long story short, no actual reductions in tariffs were agreed. Instead, the US and the EU have agreed to start talking about future reductions in tariffs. So none of Trump’s tariffs were reversed; nor were any of the EU’s retaliation tariffs. As Lincicome also notes, even the apparent promise to rule out future tariffs against each other is “vague.”

Still, a future trade liberalization agreement would be helpful, yes?

Actually, yes it would. That’s not the problem here.

What is the problem was that talks on US-EU trade liberalization had already been well under way during the Obama Administration. It was known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Negotiations hadn’t been completed, of course, and it was controversial, but it was also an established framework to discuss freer trade between America and Europe that was far beyond merely “non-auto industrial goods.”

What happened to the TTIP? Donald Trump happened to the TTIP. He railed against it as a candidate, and his election killed the negotiations.

Over a year and a half later, we’re starting all over again with a much more cramped potential agreement, with Trump’s harmful tariffs still in place.

We also have to consider how Trump will react to the wheezing, dysfunctional nature of negotiating with the EU (although that’s the EU’s fault, not his).

This is hardly worth celebrating. At best, we should be relieved that, for now, US-EU trade relations won’t get worse. However, the damage to our economy from the tariffs is not only done, but is still happening as the tariff hikes themselves didn’t go away.

It’s a typical Trump “deal” – nothing of substance behind a list of platitudes not worth the bandwith on which they’re virtually printed. That Trump and his supporters are touting it so loudly is a sign of their desperation. In reality, nothing has been accomplished here.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described “progressive conservative” – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015

Pop Goes The Political Culture Week of July 16

Actual photo of wildlife reacting to Trump’s new Endangered Species Act rules.

by Rebekah Kuschmider, MPU co-host

Hello comrades!

(I assume we’re all going to be Russian citizens soon so I’m practicing a new greeting. You like it? Yeah, me neither.)

This week was a little like living in a Bond movie with lots of spying and sex. NRA members were apparently having sex with the Maria Butina, who is totally the villain and probably won’t turn out to have a heart of gold and flip to save us all. And Trump was definitely having sex with Karen MacDougal and he and Michael Cohen discussed buying her story to make sure no one ever knew about the sex. Trump is also a villain, FYI. And something very weird and probably sexual is going on with Roger Stone and one-time New York madam Kristin Davis of “I procured sex for Elliott Spitzer” fame, which is why Bob Mueller has subpoenaed her.

Truthfully, I’d be much happier if all these people spent more time having sex and less time making policy. Remember how great the 90s were when blow jobs were part of the presidential agenda? Exactly.

I’m sure we’ll discuss all the very sexy details on when we record later tonight, but for now, here’s all the news that’s not fit to ‘cast!

Shark Week: It’s Shark Week! Woohoo! This is the 30th Anniversary of Discovery Channel’s tribute to all things aquatic and carnivorous. Who doesn’t love watching hours of footage taken from marine drones and proving to us that sharks can definitely and totally bite the hell out of any object on their path?

Even the Donald Trump loves Shark Week as we all recall from Stormy Daniels’ bizarre recollection of sitting in a hotel with him as he watched hours of shark specials.

But you know what Trump loves more than sharks – or any wildlife for that matter? Money. He proved that by rolling back Interior Department rules that prohibit consideration of economic impact in making determinations about endangered species. It used to be that experts could look at things like animal population and habitat and say “Jeez! There aren’t very many of these critters left and their habitat is shrinking. We should protect them.” Now, special interest groups can step in and say “But protecting the critters will cost us money” and that will be a contributing factor in determining status.

I’ve always thought that something are more valuable than money – things like eagles and wetlands that have been saved through the endangered species act. It’s too bad the Trump administration disagrees.

 

The Kids Really Are Alright: Pop quiz! What’s the difference between same sex parents and opposite sex parents?

Answer: NOTHING!

Kids in the longest-running study of same-sex parenting are doing just fine at 25

The largest longitudinal study of families headed by same sex couples has published new findings. The study known as National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS) has been following a cohort of lesbian families since the late 1980s and early 1990s. The children from these families are around 25 now and they’re literally no different than their peers from opposite sex parents home. The study found that there was no significant differences with respect to “adaptive functioning (family,  friends, spouse or partner relationships, and educational or job performance), behavioral or emotional problems, scores on mental health diagnostic scales, or the percentage of participants with a score in the borderline or clinical range.”

In other words, kids raised by lesbians grow up,  get educated, get jobs, fall in love, and live their lives pretty much like kids raised by straight folks.

I’d be shocked by this but I’m too busy being not at all shocked by this.

The study is imperfect, in that the sample is not random, doesn’t control for socioeconomic differences, and doesn’t include male-only couples. But even so, it should be strong evidence that gay people don’t screw up kids any worse than most straight people do.

This Is What A Feminist Vending Machine Looks Like: In the world of People Who Want To Control Their Bodies, we have a group of students at the University of Florida who want to install a vending machine that will sell emergency contraception.

Known as the “morning after pill” or by brand names like Plan B, this hormonal medication can be taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex. The drug can suppress ovulation, thus preventing pregnancy. If taken after ovulation has already occurred, it is ineffective. Once an egg has been fertilized, this medication cannot stop the progress of a pregnancy – there has been speculation that it COULD prevent implantation but the failure rate is consistent with it only being effective at suppressing ovulation.

Emergency contraception was approved by prescription in 1998 and was made available as an over the counter medication in 2006.

Many campus health centers make it available for purchase but since those health centers are only open select hours, the vending machines would be an insanely practical alternative choice. Other campuses have actually done this, installing Wellness To Go machines that sell emergency contraception, condoms, menstrual supplies and a small selection of OTC meds.

You know. Like bathroom condom vending machines but better!

Anti-choice groups oppose making emergency contraception available that easily saying that women don’t think through the consequences of taking the medication. I actually DID take emergency contraception once and let me tell you, the consequences were EXACTLY what I was thinking about. Spending a couple of days queasy from a big dose of hormones sounded way better to me than getting knocked up as a result of a broken condom. It definitely sounded better than having an abortion or a baby at that moment in my life.

So anti-choicers can take their concern trolling about consequences and take a seat.

Get Out The Celebs: Democrats seems to be focusing on turnout for the 2018 elections. This week saw the launch of two different viral videos pertaining to registering voters and rallying volunteers.

The first featured Michell Obama, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Janelle Monae, and Chris Paul, all of whom are co-chairs of  When We All Vote, a non-partisan organization dedicated to voter registration.

The second effort came from Swing Left, and features Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Rashida Jones encouraging Democrats to volunteer on the last weekend before the midterms.

The videos themselves are not going to win any awards for creativity but they are masterpieces of targeting. The one about getting registered to vote features young, influential people of color –  representatives of the very demographic groups progressives are most hoping to bring to the polls this year. The Swing Left video features women – Boomer and GenX women to be specific. Those two groups have shown a tremendous commitment to putting boots on the ground for the progressive movement since 2017.

They always say, when Democrats show up, Democrats win. With less than 16 weeks before the election, it looks like progressive groups are trying to prove that to be true.

There’s lots more to talk about and the gang is ready to talk at length on The More Perfect Union. Listen when it drop this week!