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The More Perfect Union podcast

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.”

 

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?

The Gender Equation (Ep. 133)

The Christmas episode of the MPU podcast looks at the evolution of teenage gender identity and transgender issues, and then turns light as the hosts discuss their unusual political gifts and tattoo preferences.

Like what you heard? Subscribe on iTunes and don’t miss a podcast. 

And if you like talking politics, join us in our Facebook political debate group, OPEN FIRE, where you can discuss news and politics with Kevin, D.J., Greg, Rebekah, and lots of other smart, fun people. 

Find us on Twitter at @MPUpodcast

How The Trump Stole Christmas (Ep. 132)

This week’s “More Perfect Union” podcast covers the post-script on the Alabama senate race, the imminent passage of the Trump tax reform (“tax deform”) bill, the net neutrality debate, the latest in the Russia investigation, government revelations about UFO sightings, and Greg’s very strange “Dayton Conspiracy.” Plus lots of holiday cheer from your friends at The More Perfect Union.

My Alabama Blunder

by Kevin Kelton

On election night, with 60% of the vote counted and Roy Moore leading Doug Jones by 8 percentage points, I declared in Open Fire that it was all over. “I have never seen a candidate come back from an 8 point deficit this late in the count to win. Never,” I bloviated.

Well, now I have. And I earned plenty of well-deserved razzing from my Facebook peers for that short-sighted forecast.

But I have an even more embarrassingly bad prediction to which I must now confess:

I didn’t think black voters would show up.

In what I now see as my own amazingly misguided reading of the electorate, I simply thought the charges of sexual impropriety by a white man toward young white girls would not carry much weight in the black community. I referenced back to the racial divide over the O.J. Simpson verdict, when many news analysts hypothesized that blacks simply didn’t care about a rich, beautiful white woman being murdered, and to the more recent history of the 2016 election, where black voters in North Carolina, Michigan and other key states simply weren’t motivated to vote against another white man accused of abusing white women, and I assumed the same would hold true in red state Alabama.

I now realize there was more than a tinge of racist presumptions in my thinking, for which I publicly confess and sincerely apologize.

However, that was not the least of my prognosticating blunders regarding this election. I also discounted the influence that high-profile black politicians like President Barack Obama (in robocalls) and Sen. Cory Booker, Gov. Deval Patrick, and Reps. John Lewis and Terri Sewell on the ground in the state would have on voter turnout. That might be the most telling sign that the Alabama results portend for 2018 and beyond.

When Democrats turn local races into national referendums, and get boots on the ground in the name of high-profile party icons, we can goose voter turnout to unprecedented numbers. But it takes work. You have to frame each race for a nationwide audience, and make local voters appreciate the far-reaching significance of their vote.

With effective voter engagement and a well-planned GOTV drive, Democrats can defy historic turnout patterns to bring new voters into the system and push our candidates across the finish line.

So to everyone that I misjudged or underestimated, I apologize and salute you. You showed our electoral process at its finest.

But to Democrats who bask in the after-glow of pulling out a long-shot win, let’s not forget that the unusually high minority turnout on Tuesday masks a massive racial divide that still infects the electorate at large. A full 74% of white men and 65% of white women still voted for the accused pedophile and Trump-endorsed darling of the alt-right. Sobering numbers indeed!

We can’t keep pulling inside straights by relying on only the minority vote. Democrats need to push up turnout among disaffected white voters as well. In every presidential election, if even 58% of registered voters show up, that leaves 42% missing in action. And many more who should be registered but aren’t. Despite the painful loss to Trumpism in 2016 (in which we still got 2.9 million more votes), our ideals and values are still the predominant values of America. We just have to get our potential voters registered and to the polls.

I don’t have a magic elixir for that. Maybe it will unveil itself in the progressive passion of another Bernie Sanders run, the modest decency of a Joe Biden campaign, the feminine power of an Elizabeth Warren or Kirsten Gillibrand nomination, or the big tent appeal of a ticket featuring Booker or Kamala Harris or Julian Castro.

But we need a message and a compelling voice for that message. Democrats cannot continue to compete with a white electorate that has written us off. Demographic trends may be promising, but in the here-and-now we need to start winning more white votes before the Trump Administration and the Republican party completely disembowel the compassionate, fair-minded America we fought so hard to create.

We threaded the needle on Tuesday night, and for that I’m extremely thankful. But we won’t always have god-awful opponents like Roy Moore to help us out.  Let’s be heartened by the outcome, but not blinded by it.

A big win? Yes. A turnaround? Hardly.

Let Them Eat Cake (Ep. 131)

Episode 131 of The More Perfect Union podcast covers the Alabama senate race, the Supreme Court arguments on same-sex marriage wedding cakes case, yet another major news scandal involving Russia and pee, and other headlines of the week as Greg toots his own horn and Rebekah craves some cake.

Franken’s Fall: How It All Began (Ep. 130)

This special episode of The More Perfect Union podcast talks with KABC radio host Doug McIntyre, who first broke the Al Franken sexual misconduct scandal. Doug explains his role in breaking the story and the humorously strange path of how it came to light, a path that included SNL producer Lorne Michaels, the late comic Garry Shandling, Matt Drudge, and Roger Stone. Doug also talks about sanctuary cities, the Kate Steinle murder after the acquittal of the illegal immigrant who shot her, and his take on the Trump-Russia investigation and tax reform.

Like what you heard? Subscribe on iTunes and don’t miss a podcast. 

And if you like talking politics, join us in our Facebook political debate group, OPEN FIRE, where you can discuss news and politics with Kevin, D.J., Greg, Rebekah, and lots of other smart, fun people. 

Find us on Twitter at @MPUpodcast