This episode of the MPU podcast looks at comedian Michelle Wolf’s turn as the headliner at The White House Correspondence Dinner, dictator Kim Jong-un’s turn as a statesman in South Korea, President Donald Trump’s turn as a guest on Fox and Friends, and Bill Cosby’s turn as a convicted sex offender. Amazingly, the only one who came off well was Kim Jong-un! What does that say about the world we live in?
by Kevin Kelton
As we head into the 2018 midterm elections, it’s astounding that the national Democratic Party still has yet to formulated a coherent message to voters. While President Trump and the GOP rally around simple, bumper sticker messages like MAGA, Build The Wall, and Drain The Swamp, the Democratic party cannot form a coherent message that can appeal to both liberal voters on the coasts and midwest working-class voters. This was a critical failing of the 2016 Clinton campaign, and it will be just as damaging to Democrats going forward if the party doesn’t speak to the voters it needs to win.
Here’s a proposal for a simple, clear four plank Democratic platform to retake congress and the White House. I call it The Campaign for American Justice:
1) Healthcare justice — expanded, reasonably priced healthcare using a mixed economy approach with the goal of quality healthcare for all.
2) Economic justice — tax incentives and economic incentives to get private employers to raise wages and decrease the wealth gap; make higher education more accessible and affordable to all.
3) Social justice — working with courts and local authorities to promote racial justice and reduce violence. This includes smart gun laws and better police training to reduce accidental deaths.
4) Political justice — reducing the power of money in politics and increasing voter participation.
The overriding theme of justice was chosen because it appeals to Americans across ideologies and demographics. Instead of promoting specific programs like “medicare for all” or “guaranteed jobs” (both toxic ideas to free market conservatives), the focus should be on the goal of finding a range of bipartisan solutions to promote justice in healthcare, the wealth gap, racial and social issues, and politics.
Rather than insisting on one pre-measured legislative cure like single payer health insurance, Democrats would be better off to identify the problems we face as a nation and offer a variety of proposals to solve them. “Drain the Swamp” isn’t a policy, it’s a goal. So is “Make America Great Again.” Even the seemingly specific “Build a Wall” is a euphemism for the goals of a stronger border, cultural hegemony, and economic security.
People want to vote for ideas that reinforce the good in America. They don’t need a position paper on each issue with cost breakdowns and detailed legislative language. Tell them what you stand for, and give them a reason to stand for it, too.
And without saying it explicitly, a campaign for “American justice” suggests a counter-balance to the corruption and lack of candor that is the hallmark of the Trump White House. A subliminal message that Democrats will stand for a better America, a fairer America, a just America.
Whether it be the Campaign for American Justice or another theme, Democrats need to start branding their party now so voters fed up with Trumpism have something to vote for in November.
by Kevin Kelton
And they are right to do it.
The idea that news coverage should be totally “objective” and neutral in reporting the news is a misconception about the duty of journalism and a free press. It is not the job of the press to give artificial balance to an imbalanced story. Indeed, FOX News itself dropped it’s silly “Fair & Balanced” slogan in 2017. Apparently, the FOX News overlords finally realized that even the slogan itself reeked of hypocrisy.
For instance, when a war is unjust, or a government policy is clearly hurting people or unfairly rewarding others, or a politician has committed crimes or ethical lapses,it’s incumbent upon the news media to report it in clear, unambiguous terms that their viewers can understand. There is no responsibility of the press to be “friendly” or “balanced” in its reporting. To the contrary, its primary responsibility is to be adversarial and tough, to push back and question, and to report when the claims of government officials do not match the facts they uncover.
Let’s look at sports journalism as an example. If the New England Patriots are caught cheating by illegally inflating game balls, should the sports press fail to report that? Should they continue to say “allegedly” when clear testimony has shown the allegations to be true? Should they cover the football game as if the cheating episode never happened? If they discover evidence that a boxing match may have been fixed and a fighter took a dive, should they report that and condemn it? Or should they say, “Maybe the other guy would’ve won anyway, we’ll never know. So it’s speculative as to whether the fix affected the outcome of the fight or not.” Clearly their responsibility is to report the true facts as they unearth and understand them. And while they are reporting the unfolding story, they have every right (and obligation) to let their audience know that these questions are out there and the players are acting awfully suspicious.
I pay for newspapers not to get an artificially “balanced” reporting of the news. That’s what a ticker tape is for. I want context, perspective and analysis, and when it’s appropriate, I want them to help shame the offending parties into correcting their behavior. Consumer ombudsmen reporters often do some of the best investigative journalism out there precisely because they don’t treat their subjects with kit gloves.
A democratic free press isn’t simply a mirror. It’s a painting…it’s art. It should communicate and inform. It should move its audience. It should affect positive change.
Walter Cronkite was great because he showed human emotion when reporting JFK had died, and when showing cynicism and doubt when covering the government’s false narrative of the Vietnam War. Edward R. Murrow’s greatest moment was helping to unmask and end McCarthyism. Woodward and Bernstein didn’t give President Nixon the benefit of the doubt; they doubted and dug.
That is the mark of great journalists. Not to protect, but to unmask. Not to defend, but to offend.
Journalism isn’t a tool of the powerful. It’s a tool of the people they seek to govern. I’m glad the press is being tough on an immoral, unethical, and profoundly unqualified president. The only person who is responsible for their negative coverage is the man himself. He’s more than earned it.
This week’s MPU podcast looks at Roseanne Barr’s love affair with Donald Trump, the differences between what liberals and conservatives watch on TV, Laura Ingraham’s cheap shot a Parkland shooting survivor, and what a remake of Red Dawn might look like.
This episode of The More Perfect Union podcast looks at the newest darlings of the left – the Trump appointees who have turned on him or were dumped by him. Or in the case of Don Jr.’s wife, Vanessa, the person who dumped a Trump. Plus you’ll learn the names of DJ’s current band and of all of Greg’s college bands.
This episode of The More Perfect Union podcast looks at trade wars, little white lies, the exit of Hope Hicks from Trump’s inner sanctum, the West Virginia teachers’ strike, and some things that may secretly be making the president more cranky than normal.
Episode 141 of The More Perfect Union podcast looks at the aftermath of the Parkland High School shooting, the indictment of 13 Russian nationals in the special counsel probe, the failed DACA negotiations, and Laura Ingraham’s diss of LeBron James. Then the gang takes a look at other political podcasts and talk about why they do the show and what they think sets it apart from other podcasts.
Episode 140 of the MPU podcast looks at the eight-hour government shutdown, the domestic abuse scandal that has given the White House a public relations black eye, and President Trump’s tenuous understanding of the word “treason.”
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.
* 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.”
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.
This episode of The More Perfect Union podcast looks at the dualing Carter Page memos, the stock market freefall, Trump’s war with “Little Adam Schiff,” the new developments affecting the midterm elections, the looming government shutdown redux, and our favorite Super Bowl commercials. It all culminates with a Dirty Dancing tribute.