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Kevin Kelton

A National Boycott for Gun Safety

by Kevin Kelton

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

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

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

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

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

If parents won’t lead, their children must.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13 Reasons Why (Ep. 141)

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.

Wave Goodbye to the Wave Election

by Kevin Kelton    

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

It’s the “why.”

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

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

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

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

1974 – the Vietnam war and Watergate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Little Donald Trump (Ep. 139)

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.

Nuclear Memo War

by Kevin Kelton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stronger Together: Lessons Learned from 2016

by Kevin Kelton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perjury Trap (Ep. 138)

Episode 138 of The More Perfect Union podcast looks at Trump’s overseas trip to Davos, his upcoming State of the Union address, and whether Trump’s possible testimony in the Russia probe could be a perjury trap. Or is it a bear trap? Is it all leading to a constitutional crisis? Listen and find out.

Trump Takes USA Chapter 11 (Ep. 137)

Episode 137 of The More Perfect Union podcast looks at the government shutdown, the “Release the Memo” movement, Kremlin Twitter bots, Russian Facebook trolls, the latest Trump mistress rumor, and the Aziz Ansari bad date broohah.

And we introduce new theme music by our #OpenFire friend, Alan Kuehne.

Diagnosing Trump (Ep. 136)


Episode 136 of The More Perfect Union podcast looks at the Hawaii nuclear alert scare, President Trump’s sh*t hole comment, Medicaid work requirements, The Donald’s star problem, the Oprah’s presidential chatter, and whether it’s appropriate to psychologically diagnose the president.

Fire and Fury: The Movie (Ep. 135)

Episode 135 of The More Perfect Union podcast discusses the new book about Steve Bannon and the Trump White House, “Fire and Fury,” and muses about who might be cast in the movie.

The Russia Show

by Kevin Kelton

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

Two knowledgeable political experts, two opposite opinions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A More Perfect New Year (Ep. 134)

The first MPU podcast of the new year looks at milestones from the year past and what it means to do a political podcast in our heightened era of political awareness.