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Pop Goes The Political Culture Week of May 21

By Rebekah Kuschmider, MPU co-host

It’s been a revealing week in American politics. The Justice Department has revealed information to the White House. The Wall Street Journal revealed emails from Roger Stone to Julian Assange. And Harvey Weinstein probably revealed a lot of bodily cavities when he turned himself in to law enforcement and they booked him on sexual assault charges.

The MPU crew is studying all these revelations (except the Weinstein cavity search stuff. Ew.) and we’ll bring you our take on it in a few days. For now, here’s all the news thats not fit to ‘cast!

The Star Spangled Blunder: Today the NFL decided that the issue of players kneeling during the national anthem required final and decisive action. They declared that all players on the sidelines must stand for the anthem but players are not required to be on the sidelines during the anthem.

I have questions.

Can there be cameras in the locker room filming the players there during the anthem? Can the players livestream themselves on social media at that time? Can players take a knee at other moments, like during the coin flip?

And is anyone else  troubled by the notion of really, really wealthy white people dictating what men of color are or aren’t allowed to do with their bodies? Particularly when the bodies of men of color are so political just by the fact of their very existence?

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Not to mention the way the owners are fine with players committing assault off the field but are folding like a house of cards over outrage over a peaceful gesture.

I love watching the sport of football but the business of football is making more uncomfortable with each passing year. The dangers to the players on the field, the behavior of certain players off the field, the racist name of the Washington team going unchallenged, and this kerfuffle over a silent gesture one man initiated is all souring me on the league as a whole.

Learn Her Name, See Her Face: If you visit the National Portrait Gallery in DC this summer, take a moment to visit one of the pioneers of modern medicine. She never went to medical school, she never studied science, but she has saved countless lives for over a century and is only now being recognized.

Henrietta Lacks is a woman from Baltimore who died in 1951 of cervical cancer. Unbeknownst to her or her family, cells from a biopsy taken of her cancer became immortal. The line of endlessly replicating cells serves as a basis for much of medical research. Generations of scientists have tested new treatments on HeLa cells as part of standard research protocols.

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But hardly anyone even knew her name until journalist Rebecca Skloot wrote The Immortal Life If Henrietta Lacks in 2011.

The book was an unlikely best-seller and shined a light on issues of consent in medicine, as well as recognizing an unsung heroine of modern medicine.

Now a portrait of Mrs. Lacks will be on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery until November 4. It seems fitting that she should have a place among the faces of the greatest Americans in history. We all owe her so much.

Tweet Louder, Bro: A judge ruled that Trump cannot block people on Twitter because it subverts the guaranteed right of the people to petition the government for redress of grievances. Trump uses Twitter as a venue for communication with the public; he’s not allowed to cut parts of the public off just because they, for example, called him Fuckface von Clownstick in 2013. Blocking people for that, or any reason, denies them access to petition him for redress of grievances  and he can’t do it any more.

I talked about that very First Amendment issue right after the election so I feel awfully smart. Fuckface von Clownstick should appoint me to the bench.

Next Stop, DC:  The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have made indelible marks on our culture in the wake of the shooting that took the lives of 17 of their classmates. The young people have impressed the world with their articulate and organized approach to advocating for changes to US gun laws. On social media, on television, and on the streets of DC in March, these students have breathed new life and new hope into a gun violence prevention movement that was floundering in despair.

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Now, they are being invited to take their skills to the Hill. House Democrats are working to extend an invitation to Parkland students to come intern in Congressional offices and learn, up close and personal, what lawmaking looks like.

Hill internships are not glamorous, mind you. It’s a lot of answering phone and copying briefing materials. But interns get to work with legislators and their staff, learning about different issue areas, and how to effect change through legislation and advocacy. They also get access to a lot of receptions where there’s free food, which doesn’t make up for the fact that internships are unpaid but is still a nice perk.

I hope some of the students are able to come to DC this summer. The Hill could use their spirit.

There will be lots more to to discuss when we record our next episode. Meanwhile, enjoy the long weekend, everyone!

An Interview* with President Trump

by Kevin Kelton

* EDITOR’S NOTE: The More Perfect Union podcast reached out to the White House requesting an interview with President Donald J. Trump. They never got back to us. So we went ahead and held our own sit-down with the President, answering how we believe he would if he were being totally open and candid, as he reportedly is with friends.  This freewheeling hypothetical interview was held in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, just moments ago.

Interviewer: Good morning, Mr. President. Thanks for sitting down with us today.

President Trump: No problem. Can they get you anything? Coffee? Diet Coke?

Interviewer: No, thank you. I want to start off with a look at the office of the presidency itself, and your feelings about the job so far. You made some veiled references at a rally recently about being president for life. I assume only in jest–

Trump: Yes. If you look at the tape, I was clearly joking for the crowd, and they loved it. Although, my poll numbers are up, so…  (The President makes a hand-weighing gesture.)

Interviewer: Would you be interested in serving for more than two terms if it was possible?

President Trump: Well, I’m going to be here for two terms, that I promise. Who are they gonna put up? Biden? No contest. I’ll do to him what I did to Kasich and Jeb. Sanders? A little tougher, but I’d brand him as “Comrad Bernie” or “Commie Bernie” – I haven’t decided yet – and slowly increase his negatives to the point where no one but far left liberals would vote for him. Warren, Gillibrand or Harris in California? Please! Bring them on. That’s a wet dream for me.

Interviewer: But as for a third term–

President Trump: Yes, 2024. Not out of the question. If we hold the House in November, we’re looking at some kind of legislation we could send up now about changing the 22nd Amendment after 2020. Everybody on staff says you can’t make it for the current president, that it has to be retroactive…for future presidents. But we’re looking at a couple of ways around that. Then the American people could decide who they want and who they don’t, not some ridiculous amendment that was meant to retire a Roosevelt before he went senile. You know, they tried to pass it while he was in office, but he blocked it.

Interviewer: Uh, actually, that’s not correct. The 22nd Amendment was passed–

President Trump: Yeah, under Truman, I know. But some people were talking about it while FDR was alive. He was a physical mess. Reagan, too. You can’t be doing this job in your 80s. That’s why Sanders and Biden are a joke. Judges, maybe. Although Ginsberg, she’s long past her do-not-sell date. You want that with her finger on the button? 

As for a third term, I haven’t ruled it out. But what I prefer is to see Ivanka run. She should be the first woman president. She’d be great, don’t you think? So what I envision is her in 2024, with me as a president emeritus of sorts. You know, there when she needs me, but not trapped in the White House 24/7. Or if I ran again, maybe some kind of hybrid “senior presidency” where I could work out of my homes and leave the day-to-day stuff to someone else.

Interviewer: Like a part-time presidency?

President Trump: No, you probably couldn’t do this part-time. But you certainly don’t have to spend your entire day on it. That’s the old paradigm. You know, the Founders, they didn’t envision full-time government service. It was supposed to be, you serve your country, then you go on and make some money for yourself. Not this career politician thing we have now. What kind of loser wants to spend his life doing this? I wouldn’t trust anyone who doesn’t believe in capitalism. You do your time, salute the flag, then move on and build an empire. Me, I built mine first. But the idea is the same. 

Interviewer: Yes, but I think what you’re referring to is the concept of term limits and citizen representation. Not a part-time commander-in-chief.

President Trump: You brought it up. There’s lots of mayors – local mayors – who do the job part-time. I’m not saying I’d be part-time, mind you. Just, you don’t have to be 24/7. That’s the swamp talking. I do some of my best work at Mar-a-Lago. Even on the golf course, I’m taking calls, working deals. I don’t need to be locked in public housing in DC to do the job. Einsenhower got it. Moved to Camp David. It’s named after his kid, you know. David Eisenhower. At least, that was the cover story. Ike’s real name was Dwight David Einsenhower, you know, so some people say he really named it after himself. But they make fun of me for the name, Trump Tower. Camp David, Cape Kennedy, they all did it. That’s the part the fake news never tells you. Before that, FDR called Camp David “Shangri-La.” Did you know that? People make fun of the name, Mar-a-Lago, like it’s some elitist thing, but FDR called his second presidential home Shangri-La. Can you imagine? Mar-a-Lago is my Camp David. Better. Have you seen Camp David lately? A dump.

Interviewer: Uh, I think the name Cape Kennedy was changed after…

President Trump: Back to Canaveral, I know. Horrible thing to do to him. I have to look into that.

Interviewer: Moving on… You talked about the Founding Fathers, who I know you have admiration for. 

President Trump: Great people. Real patriots. Hamilton, I think, would’ve made a lot of money today. First Treasury Secretary. He set this whole deal up. He thought like a capitalist. Good man.

Interviewer: You also mentioned Presidents Kennedy, Eisenhower and Roosevelt. What is it like to know you are now in the company of those great men?

President Trump: It feels right. Honestly, I always felt I was in their company, to use your phrase. Kennedy? A big myth. His father created that whole deal. Bought him into Harvard. Bright guy, but nothing special. My dad knew his father. He set that whole deal up, Camelot – after Joe died in that plane crash. He was supposed to be president. John was just a playboy. They make a big deal outta my affairs, but John! He was humping German spies. There were no special counsels about that, I can tell you. Back then they knew, public was public and your private life was private. Ben Bradley got it. Not like this Bezos character. You didn’t have this phony morality you do these days. Fake morality from the fake media. They loved JFK, but they never investigated him like this. It’s ridiculous. FDR, Ike, Johnson, Bush one – they all had their infidelities. I’m sure Lincoln did too, with that crazy woman Mary Lincoln Todd at home hocking him every day. Imagine being married to that one! 

Interviewer: Mary Todd Lincoln.

President Trump: Right. Certified insane woman, you know. Like Maxine Waters, but worse. Used to wander the halls of the White House, talking to the portraits of the presidents. Total loon.

Interviewer: Uh… I think you might be conflating her with Richard Nixon.

President Trump: Both of them. Total nutcases. Not in his first term. Nixon was sharp, more than the fake media gives him credit for. That deal with the Chinese? That’s what I’m shooting for. Real Nobel Prize stuff. My dad knew him. But his second term, when they tried to hound him out of office? That’d drive anyone crazy. They appoint these prosecutors and give them carte blanche to look into anything they want, from decades back. His mistake was playing along. Should’a just burned the tapes. I said that then. He should have just stonewalled it and fought back. You never admit you’re wrong. Never give up. He was a weak man ultimately. With the drinking. I never touch the stuff. Not a drop. Fred, my late brother, that’s what killed him. Liquor is for weak men. I taught my kids that. And you see how they turned out.

But that whole deal about those other presidents being so great and all? Big myth; fake news! I’m in their league. Maybe more so, ’cause look what I did before being president. You think Kennedy or Ike could have built a private empire like that? FDR? Gimme a break. Joe Kennedy did, but he never had the balls to run. Left that for his kids. Not me. Fifty years from now school kids will be reading and learning about me, I promise you. I’ll be their JFK. Only better ’cause I won’t have been shot.

NEXT: An Interview* with President Trump, PART 2 – POLICY ISSUES

Kevin Kelton is a cohost of The More Perfect Union podcast and founder of Open Fire Politics on Facebook.

Trump’s Trade War: Part III

by D.J. McGuire 

A new casualty in Trump’s Trade War has become the most visible. Thankfully (for him, not for us), the victim (Boeing) is hardly sympathetic, but that doesn’t make the damage any less real.

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More Perfect Union – Gun Debate Segment

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This is an excerpt from The More Perfect Union podcast that covered the Las Vegas shooting and our discussion of guns in America.

Click here to listen

Trump’s Trade War

by D.J. McGuire

Over the eight months and change of the Trump Administration, two of his closest allies – both geopolitically and personally – have been Justin Trudeau and Theresa May, Prime Ministers of Canada and the United Kingdom, respectively.

This week, the Trump Administration declared a trade war on both of them – and the Democrats are practically silent. Between Trump’s economic ignorance and the opposition’s political malpractice, we’re in for a very bumpy ride.

Sanders’ Voters Are Not the Key to a Democratic Majority in the 2020s

by D.J. McGuire

Kevin Kelton is not just my collaborator on the More Perfect Union Podcast, he is also a friend. So it should not surprise anyone that I highly recommend the cyber-gauntlet he throws at Bernie Sanders supporters for 2018. I do think, however, that Kevin will be disappointed (although not surprised) to find that Sanders voters won’t tip the balance for the Democrats in 2018. On the plus side, once the lesson is learned, the Democrats can start reaching out to the center-right voters that are actually able and willing to help them build a majority coalition in the 2020s.

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“More Perfect Union” Promo

A promo for this week’s More Perfect Union podcast

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Why We Believe Election Results

There’s been a slew of news articles in the last few weeks about the possibility that the presidential election vote was somehow rigged, yet most Americans still accept the election night results as fact. There’s a reason for that. The problem with proving that votes were tampered with is that our entire news information system is built to implicitly trust an election outcome, not question it. And it starts the night of the election while the returns are still coming in.

First, the results are reported by our most trusted news institutions. AP, Reuters, major newspapers and the TV networks all report the results as fact as they come in. This imbues those results with legitimacy before they can be questioned or challenged. We know that these institutions report objective facts elsewhere — baseball scores, yesterday’s stock closings — so we instinctively give their election reporting the same faith we have in those objective numerical realities. Authoritative white men with gray hair tell us something, and we believe it.

Second, because the results come gradually — a Chinese water torture drip of counties and then individual states that are turning out contrary to what we believed would happen — we slowly absorb the shock and allow each one to become our new reality before questioning the overall senselessness of it. “Hillary lost North Carolina.” That outcome was plausible and therefore not questioned. “Trump is over-performing in Florida.” Again, an individual outcome that was considered possible so we don’t challenge it. Then slowly other slightly more unlikely outcomes begin to spill in, and with each new one we adjust our belief systems accordingly, letting our earlier doubts be gradually revised to accept the new reality. “It’s tighter than expected in Pennsylvanian… Clinton’s losing in Wisconsin… AP calls Ohio for Trump… Michigan is slipping away… She’s trailing in Pennsylvania… CNN calls Wisconsin for Trump… NBC calls Pennsylvania.” At each step, we adjust our belief system so that the cognitive dissonance of the totality of the outcome — that an election Clinton was destined to win somehow turned out differently — is made believable and acceptable. 

Third, as all this is happening, a slew of alleged “experts” come on TV and explain WHY the unexpected outcome happened, further infusing the reported results with legitimacy. Instead of CNN’s John King or NBC’s Steve Schmidt saying, “Hey, these results make no sense. Something is seriously wrong here,” they immediately come on screen to explain a result that is counter-intuitive to everything we knew before. These credible authority figures give us a wide variety of plausible reasons to believe what we doubt:

  • rural voters turned out in bigger numbers than anticipated
  • young and minority voters did not turn out in the expected numbers
  • polling methodology was off
  • third party votes shifted the expected results
  • the Comey letters created a last-minute wave
  • Hillary didn’t campaign in the lost states
  • turnout was down significantly
  • turnout was up significantly
  • turnout by white working-class men was up significantly
  • turnout by white married women was down significantly
  • women suddenly returned to Trump
  • men suddenly abandoned Clinton
  • Hillary didn’t have an economic message
  • strong GOP Senate race coattails carried Trump
  • weak Democratic Senate race coattails let Clinton down
  • Millennials voted for Stein
  • Millennials voted for Trump (in greater numbers than anticipated)
  • Millennials didn’t vote
  • Millennials voted, but not for president
  • Latinos voted for Trump (in greater numbers than anticipated)
  • Latinos didn’t show up in the numbers anticipated
  • Latinos only showed up in the numbers anticipated in the states Hillary won
  • the Latino vote was suppressed
  • the black vote was suppressed
  • Cubans voted differently than Mexicans
  • voters hate Mexicans
  • voters hate Muslims
  • voters hate blacks
  • voters hate NAFTA
  • voters hate Hillary
  • voters hate the establishment
  • voters hate third terms by one party
  • voters hate gridlock
  • voters hate ticket-splitting
  • voters hate themselves

And that’s only a partial list!

So Americans have a dozen theories competing with the one that is not even being said: that the true election returns have been adversely manipulated by humans.

It goes to the heart of how we all process information. Take for example, the JFK assassination. If you begin with the assumption that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman, you can work backward to cobble together a slew of unlikely theories and explanations that lead to that conclusion. But if you begin with no assumption about who shot Kennedy, virtually none of the evidence points to Oswald acting alone. (Some doesn’t even point to him firing a single shot.) Yet when our national authorities back a specific conclusion and “prove” it with twisted logic and partial evidence that defy the laws of time and physics, we still accept it because we trust the source. Especially when it’s repeatedly reported on television – the ultimate validator of information (true or false).

This type of counter-intuitive thinking is not exclusive to elections or government reports. Boxing matches and Olympic gymnastic competitions routinely end in judges’ decisions that do not conform to the match that every other spectator witnessed. Millions of Americans believe that professional wrestling is real. And talking heads on TV regularly convince people that cars will change their sex lives, processed cereal will make their kids healthier, a dollar a day will save a third world child’s life (or, even crazier, that the money donated will actually get to a third-world nation), and that if they don’t like their new magic frypan or miracle treadmill they’ll get a “money-back guaranteed” refund with no questions or hassle. Yet none of that is true.

Hell, TV even convinced people that Donald Trump can teach Dennis Rodman to be a businessman.

I can’t prove that the election was rigged, though I believe it. Maybe that’s because my bias and thought process are pre-disposed not to believe Americans would elect Donald Trump. So I start from a place of questioning the results, not blindly accepting them. That’s how I approach it.

But if 62 million Americans can be tricked into believing that a nasty, unethical, misogynistic, philandering, duplicitous, deceitful, self-aggrandizing, uninformed, tax evading, proven con man is worthy of the presidency, they can be convinced that the numbers coming out of a few dozen low populated, predominantly white counties in three states changed the outcome of a national election toward the guy who received two-and-a-half million less votes.


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

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The Trump Reset

The August 22, 2016 episode of the “A More Perfect Union” podcast series, featuring Kevin Kelton, Emily Brewer, Greg Matusak, D.J. McGuire, and Cliff Dunn discussing the 2016 presidential election including the Donald Trump reset, Hillary Clinton and The Clinton Foundation, Steve Bannon, Bernie Sanders, Gary Johnson, and Jill Stein.

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