Link Roundup, 9/16/16

From Governing: Maine voters will decide a ballot measure that would introduce ranked-choice voting.

From The Atlantic: How should journalists report a candidate’s lies?

From Politico: Gov. Kasich is pulling a Christie – embracing a Democratic President in an election year.

From Aeon: What Japanese religious culture may tell us about life in our post-Christian future.

From Scientific American: Sea ice in the Arctic has reached a stunning low and is unlikely to rebound.

Posted in Uncategorized

Political violence

It may be possible for America to survive a second Clinton Administration, but only if true patriots are willing to shed blood to achieve our nation’s redemption. If Clinton is elected, only violence can redeem what our apathy has lost.

Republicans have been toying with this kind of hyperbole since the 90s, but it has mostly been confined to the margins. It might have remained there if leaders had possessed the courage to confront this kind of thinking. They didn’t. Instead they quietly and cynically stoked white outrage, imagining it was a tamable beast that they could ride to power.

That opening paragraph is no AM radio rant. It’s not some misspelled, ALLCAPS Facebook post from your crazy uncle. It summarizes comments made by an ambitious Republican Governor this week at the Value Voters Summit.

Beyond the reddest of the red states, very few people appreciate the level of hysteria building at the edges of the Republican Party. Election results this fall are likely to sweep away any delusion among white nationalists that they can “restore” their country through the democratic process. Get ready to see them explore alternatives.

Our system is far more vulnerable to political violence than we realize. Hype over international terrorism has obscured a remarkable fact – we have been living through a remarkable period of domestic calm. More Americans are killed every year by falling TV sets than by terrorists. Toddlers accessing their parents’ guns rack up a higher death toll than political violence. Oblivious to rising rage and over-estimating their power, establishment political figures will be surprised by their own weakness when faced with organized domestic violence.

Today, what we often call political violence is generally just random individual violence dressed up in a cause. The Orlando nightclub shooting, the San Bernardino shooting, the church attack in Charleston, these were acts carried out by disturbed loners. They differ from the Columbine school shootings or the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan only in the perpetrators’ garbled themes. These incidents emerge not from strategy, organization, or protected political cover, but from a background level of violence. They are a default, the static produced by a violent culture saturated in cheap weapons.

As recently as the 60’s the country was awash in organized political violence aimed at achieving specific policy outcomes. Perhaps nowhere in the country was political violence carried out with more success and impunity than in the South. National news captured a few high-profile cases like the Birmingham church bombing and the deaths of visiting civil rights workers, but there was virtually no coverage of the bulk of the paramilitary campaign. Seldom were these acts investigated or prosecuted as they were commonly carried out with the complicity of local authorities.

When FBI pressure forced the Klan and other mainline terror organizations to moderate in the mid 60s, splinter organizations like the Silver Dollar Group stepped up their violence. The Greensboro massacre against labor organizers in Greensboro, NC occurred in 1979. The Cold Case project has attempted to document and investigate more than a hundred unsolved murders, but no one knows the full death toll. The political impact of this terrorist campaign has never been gauged.

On the left, a kaleidoscope of violent groups emerged in the 60’s. Some were almost comically addled, yet still deadly. Bizarre groups like the Weather Underground and the Symbionese Liberation Army carried out high profile attacks that were difficult to predict or suppress.

As frustration grew over the pace of civil rights reforms, the Black Panthers promised a more muscular approach to black liberation. Efforts to suppress the Panthers led to military-style engagements across the country. In 1969, a massive para-military raid on the Black Panthers’ headquarters in Los Angeles was carried out by an innovative new police unit created specifically for these kinds of tasks. It was the first engagement for a “SWAT” team.

As recently as 1979, Councilman Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by a colleague on the San Francisco city council angry over their politics. Until the late 70s, it was not at all uncommon for political groups to leverage violence as a strategic tactic. The practice declined across the political spectrum in the 80s. Organized political violence is now rare, though it has persisted at a kind of low-boil in anti-abortion circles. As this era of relative calm comes to an end, keep an eye on anti-abortion activists. They are the most likely starting point for a re-emergence of strategic violence.

How is this era of relative calm likely to be broken? To avoid inadvertently sketching a blueprint, you won’t see much detail here. However, a few of the outlines are already clear.

It will probably start on the right, but will not be confined there. The most volatile event, something likely to be noticed and remembered, will probably resemble the occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Reserve. However, instead of being located in the middle of nowhere and perpetrated by a band of misfits, it will happen in a major city with tacit (or perhaps even semi-accidental) support from local political figures.

It will probably occur in a red state, creating pressure on a Republican Governor and Republican local administrations who will struggle to find the political will to act. Their dithering (if not outright sympathy) would place on the onus on Federal authorities, inviting a conflict on a very troubling scale.

Governor Bevin and others like him may come to regret their intemperate remarks. Republican political figures who have stoked this kind of hysteria will find themselves in a very difficult position when people start taking their comments seriously.

Our era of relative calm reflects an era of relative political success. That success is coming to end as the Republican Party descends into chaos and its refugees push the Democratic Party toward the middle. Frustration on the chaotic right and the disenchanted left are fuel for trouble. Responsible leaders could defuse the tension, but instead they are stoking outrage.

We have been relatively fortunate in recent years to enjoy a period of political calm. Thanks to political figures like Matt Bevin and political entertainers like Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter, that calm is probably coming to an end.

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Posted in Election 2016, Uncategorized

The agents of intolerance have won

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-10-48-15-amThe day after McCain’s “Agents of Intolerance” speech I was online exploring ways to volunteer for his campaign. Good thing I was quick, because it didn’t last much longer.

That speech in February of 2000, posted here in its entirety, was the last gasp of the Party of Lincoln. For a few weeks that spring it looked as if sane, thinking Republicans might stage a coup against the Neo-Confederate coalition gradually seizing control from the South. That coup failed.

When he took the nomination in 2008, he did it with apologies to his previous positions and a running mate chosen from a ‘basket of deplorables.’ Though he still had the temerity to acknowledge that climate change was real and Obama was a decent human being, he had been forced to abandon almost any other reality-based position. When he lost, the last flicker of Republican sanity had effectively been extinguished.

Human beings struggle to recognize environmental changes that occur gradually, even when those changes are enormous. As an exercise in alternative history, pull up a transcript of one of Donald Trump’s bizarre, stream of consciousness rants and place it next to McCain’s February 28, 2000 speech. That juxtaposition between war-hero statesman and reality TV idiocrat is a capsule of the party’s decline. The man who gave that speech 16 years ago very nearly became President. Now, Republicans will never see anything like that again.

Elections have consequences. McCain’s defeat in 2008 destroyed a rational, pragmatic wing of the Republican Party that will never be revived under that banner. By destroying their influence, Republicans lost the guardrail that could have pulled the party back from its white nationalist death-spiral. Trump is not an anomaly, he is a straight-line descendent of the forces McCain described sixteen years ago.

When he limps back to his bankrupt tower, there will still be no force in the Republican universe capable of stopping his ideological successor. The former Party of Lincoln is now the Party of Trump. There is no going back.

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Posted in Religious Right, Republican Party, Uncategorized

Agents of Intolerance

Transcript of Senator John McCain’s remarks on the religious right, delivered in Virginia Beach on February 28, 2000, at the height of his campaign for the Republican nomination.

[Intros and thank you’s]

We usually conduct a town hall meeting after I make brief remarks, and I want to do that today. But I want to start this morning by making a few remarks about our Republican Party, the party that’s been my political home since I entered public life. I am proud of that affiliation, for I’ve always been proud of the beliefs of our great party, our belief in personal freedom and personal responsibility, our belief in a strong national defense, and vigorous and capable world leadership, our belief in small but effective government and in fiscal conservatism.

Most important, I believe in our party, because underlying all our party’s conservative principles is our respect for the nation’s greatness and our appreciation for the ennobling political and social values from which our greatness is derived. Thus I have always felt quite comfortable describing myself as a “proud conservative,” a “proud Reagan conservative.” And as a member of Congress, I have compiled a record of a proud conservative. I have fought many battles for small government and low taxes, for personal freedom and responsibility, for a strong defense of our national interests and values. I have fought against wasteful spending, whether its patrons were Democrats or Republicans. Moreover, I have proudly defended the sanctity of life and the values that make families strong and our country great. I have fought these battles in good times and bad for our party, and I will fight them for as long as I have the strength to fight.

Throughout my presidential campaign, I have remained true to our conservative principles. It’s conservative to pay down the national debt, to save Social Security and Medicare. It’s conservative to insist on local control of our children’s education. It’s conservative to expose the pork barrel spending practices of both political parties. It is conservative to seek to improve the lives of our servicemen and women and the means with which we ask them to defend us. And it is conservative to demand that America keep its promises to our veterans.

I run for president, my friends, because I believe deeply in the greatness of America’s destiny. We are the world’s lantern of freedom and opportunity, the bright beacon of hope that our fathers fought to bequeath us, and our children were born to inherit. But I know, but I know that unless we restore the people’s sovereignty over government and their pride in public service, unless we reform our public institutions to meet the demands of a new day, and unless we renew our sense of national purpose, we will squander our destiny.

Toward that end, I have called for the reform of campaign finance practices that have sacrificed our principles to the demands of big money special interests. I have spoken against forces that have turned politics into a battle of bucks instead of a battle of ideas. And for that, my friends, and for that, my friends, I have been accused of disloyalty my party.

I am also proud to help build a bigger Republican Party, a party that can claim a governing majority, for a generation or more, by attracting new people to our cause with an appeal to the patriotism that unites us and the promise of a government that we can be proud of again.

And for that, I have been accused of consorting with the wrong sort of people. Well – my friends, I have always in what I believe to be the best interests of my country. And I always believed that what is good for America is good for the Republican Party.

I don’t believe it’s loyal to suggest that the Republican Party cannot stand on its own feet in the fight for public opinion without six- and seven-figure contributions from people with interests before government, but not necessarily ideas to sustain our country’s greatness. I don’t believe it’s loyal to suggest that the Republican establishment is more important to save than a Republican majority. I believe it is the heighth of foolishness to build a wall around our party in fear that we are so narrowly defined that new faces and fresh ideas, in accord with our basic principles, will jeopardize our values.

America is more than the sum of its divided parts, and so our party should be. America is more powerful than its established power centers, and so our party should be. America is greater than the accumulation of wealth, and so our party should be.

This is my message to my party and my country: It is an honest Republican message that threatens none of our party’s principles or the social values of any constituency in our party. On the contrary, it is an inclusive but principled message that trusts in the people to guide our nation in this new century.

I am a conservative, my friends, a proud conservative who has faith in the people I serve. But those who purport to be defenders of our party but who, in reality, have lost confidence in the Republican message, are attacking me. They are people who have turned good causes into businesses.

Let me be clear. Let me be clear. Evangelical leaders are changing America for the better. Chuck Colson, head of Prison Fellowship, is saving men from a lifetime behind bars by bringing them the good news of redemption. James Dobson, who does not support me, has devoted his life to rebuilding America’s families. Others are leading the fight against pornography, cultural decline, and for life. I stand with them.

I am a pro-life, pro-family fiscal conservative and advocate of a strong defense. And yet, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and a few Washington leaders of the pro-life movement call me an unacceptable presidential candidate. They distort my pro-life positions and smear the reputations of my supporters.

Why? Because I don’t pander to them. Because I don’t ascribe to their failed philosophy that money is our message. I believe in the cause of conservative reform. I believe that because we are right, we will prevail in the battle of ideas, unspoiled by the taint of a corrupt campaign finance scheme that works against the very conservative reform of government that is the object of our labors. The Republican Party will prevail because of our principles, because that’s what it’s about, my friends. Principles, not special interest money or empire or ego.

The union bosses who have subordinated the interests of working families to their own ambitions, to their desire to preserve their own political power at all costs, are mirror images of Pat Robertson. Just as we embrace working people, we embrace the fine members of the religious conservative community. But that does not mean that we will pander to their self-appointed leaders.

Some prefer to build walls and exclude newcomers from our support. Apparently, appeals to patriotism can only be heard by card- carrying Republicans and only certain Republicans at that, not the kind of Republicans who might dissent from the soft-money ethics of a tired party establishment. Apparently, Republican reformers, independent reformers or Democratic reformers, any group that might, like the Reagan Democrats of 20 years ago, be attracted to our cause of conservative reform and national greatness, are too great a threat to the Washington status quo. That surprises me; that surprises me since the essence of evangelism is to seek converts.

My campaign is bringing new people into the Republican Party every day. I don’t apologize for this; no, I wear it as a badge of honor. I will not padlock the Republican Party and surrender the future of our nation to Speaker Gephardt and President Al Gore. My friends, we are building a new Republican majority, a majority to serve the values that have long defined our party and made our country great.

Social conservatives should flock to our banner. Why should you fear a candidate who believes we should honor our obligations to the old and the young? Why should you fear a candidate who believes we should first cut taxes for those who need it most? Why should you fear a candidate who wants to reform the practices of politics in government so they fairly reflect your aspirations for your family and country?

Why should you fear a candidate who would sign, without hesitation, a partial-birth abortion ban or who would work tirelessly with anyone to improve adoption and foster-care choices for those who might be considering the taking of unborn lives? Why should you fear a candidate who shares your values?

My friends, I am a Reagan Republican who will defeat Al Gore. Unfortunately, Governor Bush is a Pat Robertson Republican who will lose to Al Gore.

I recognize and celebrate that our country is founded upon Judeo- Christian values, and I have pledged my life to defend America and all her values – the values that have made us the noblest experiment in history.

But political intolerance by any political party is neither a Judeo-Christian nor an American value. The political tactics of division and slander are not our values. They are corrupting influences on religion and politics, and those who practice them in the name of religion or in the name of the Republican Party or in the name of America shame our faith, our party, and our country.

Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance, whether they be Louis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton on the left or Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell on the right.

Many years ago, a scared American prisoner of war in Vietnam was tied in torture ropes by his tormentors and left alone in an empty room to suffer through the night. Later in the evening, a guard he had never spoken to entered the room and silently loosened the ropes to relieve his suffering. Just before morning, that same guard came back and retightened the ropes before his less humanitarian comrades returned. He never said a word to the grateful prisoner, but some months later, on a Christmas morning, as the prisoner stood alone in the prison courtyard, the same Good Samaritan walked up to him and stood next to him for a few moments. Then, with his sandal, the guard drew a cross in the dirt. Both prisoner and guard stood wordlessly there for a minute or two, venerating the cross, until the guard rubbed it out and walked away.

This is my faith, the faith that unites and never divides, the faith that bridges unbridgeable gaps in humanity. That is my religious faith, and it is the faith I want my party to serve, and the faith I hold in my country. It is the faith that we are equal and endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is the faith I would die to defend.

Don’t let anyone fool you about me, my friends, or about this crusade that we have begun. If you want to repair the people’s confidence in the government that represents us, join us. If you want to restore the people’s pride in America, join us. If you want to believe in a national purpose that is greater than our individual interests, join us.

We are the party of Ronald Reagan, not Pat Robertson. We are the party of Theodore Roosevelt, not the party of special interests. We are the party of Abraham Lincoln, not Bob Jones. Join us. Join us. Join us, and welcome anyone of good faith to our ranks. We should be, we must be, we will be a party as big as the country we serve.

Thank you, and God bless, and thank you for being here today. Thank you.

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Posted in Religious Right, Republican Party, Uncategorized

Link Roundup, 9/9/16

From Esquire: As the pain of 9/11 becomes less raw, we are beginning to see it in more depth. Esquire looks at the history of one of that day’s more harrowing photos.

From JSTOR: A scholarly journal commemorates the 50th anniversary of Star Trek.

From Film Comment: Someone finally makes the connection between Winter’s Bone (Jennifer Lawrence’s first and still greatest performance) and The Hunger Games.

From Mental Floss: Origins of all 32 NFL team-names.

From The Week: A look at Europe’s stunted tech-boom.

From the GOPLifer archive: On a related note, why Europe is not a healthy model for the US.


Posted in Uncategorized

New Forbes post, 9/6/16

From this morning’s post at Forbes, Trump’s Bad Math:

If the rambling wreck of the Trump campaign can be said to have a strategy, it seems to center on a myth from the 2012 race. A faction on the right responded to the party’s advice with an alternative idea.

Many of the same minds devoted to “unskewing” 2012 polling data are now convinced that Republicans can win with a hardened racial appeal. Their plan is to convert Democratic voters in critical Rust Belt states by transforming the GOP from a party of affluent suburbanites and urban professionals into the political engine of working and lower-income whites.

Proponents of this strategy somehow overlooked changes in their own party over the past few decades. This conversion of the Republican Party into the primary vehicle for populist white nationalism already happened and its political value is utterly spent. Trump’s strategy suffers from more than a moral weakness. It has a math problem.

Posted in Uncategorized

This is not a close election

millerThere were a lot of good reasons for Monday Night Football to cancel its experiment with Dennis Miller in the booth. Nobody understood his obscure references, he used too many big words, and his shtick was a consistent distraction from the game. None of those factors were what got him in really serious trouble.

In the third-quarter of a pathetic 2001 matchup between winless Dallas and Washington, Miller committed one of the cardinal sins of sports announcing. He spoke honestly about the game. It was hilarious. It was refreshing. It kept me watching that bumbling spectacle of athletic failure for another hour. That kind of candor is what doomed his sports journalism career.

In the press box, the game is always exciting, it is always competitive, and it will probably go ‘down to the wire.’ Cincinnati is trailing 24-3 with 3:28 to go in the 4th, but we’re going to hear how they could pull it out with a Hail Mary and two onside kicks returned for touchdowns. As an announcer, that’s what you’re paid for and by-God, that’s what you’re going to pretend to believe.

As politics descends into entertainment and journalists trip over each other to start earning Hollywood bucks, the same thing is happening in political coverage. Telling the truth about this election would be career suicide. The race is always close. You should always keep watching.

We aren’t going to hear about a historic blowout until a certain Tuesday night in November, and then only around midnight when the eagerly awaited results from hotly contested Oregon are finally, breathlessly tallied. We’ve been hearing about Hillary Clinton’s emails for years. They haven’t stood in the way of a primary victory or stopped her from leading every weekly polling average for the entire campaign. Every aspect of that woman’s life has been lived on stage and recorded for microscopic review for thirty years. Nonetheless, day by day we’re going to hear a new, obtuse ‘revelation’ that might decide the election.

This is entertainment. No one is going to tune in to watch a blowout.

There’s nothing entertaining about the GOPLifer blog and there’s no money at stake. So here’s the straight scoop from every remotely predictive data point available. This is not a close race. It has never been a close race. There is no basis on which this could become a close race. There is no credible path to victory for the Trump campaign.

And for good measure, let’s just add this observation. Though Trump is an unusually miserable candidate, he will only be dropping about 4-6 points from what any other GOP nominee might have earned. Depending on how many Republicans decide to hide behind Gary Johnson, Trump should finish somewhere in the 36-41% range nationally. No Republican capable of winning a GOP primary was going to top 46% under the best of circumstances.

In 2020, that ceiling, even for a conventional candidate like Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush, will probably drop to 44 or 45%. And we’re not going to see any more “conventional” candidates from what remains of the GOP.

From whence cometh this observation? All of the available data. Clinton has held a polling lead in this race since before she announced her candidacy and she never lost it. One daily average in July showed her trailing – by a fraction of a point. She holds solid leads in every critical state, including an astounding 15-point lead in the former Republican stronghold of New Hampshire.

For as long as we’ve had reliable metrics, only two candidates ever consistently polled in the 30’s (in a two party race – note ’92), Walter Mondale and Bob Dole. And note a vital detail – Dole and Mondale were running against incumbents. For the Republican nominee in 2016 to be scraping against these lows heading into Labor Day is almost unprecedented.

Some candidates have overcome summer polling deficits. Perhaps there are quiet factors Trump might leverage toward a comeback? No, there aren’t.

This candidate is so bad that Congressmen and Senators in his own party have refused to support him. You have to go back a very long way to find any precedent for this (’48 & ’64). He has no campaign organization. It appears very much as though his campaign donations are being funneled back to his family businesses. He trails in fundraising, advertising, internal party support and cross-party support. His campaign is supposed to be founded on “expanding the voter pool” but no one seems to be able to find this “silent majority” who supports him.  No major Democratic figures have broken ranks to join his campaign.

Here’s one more helpful tidbit you won’t hear on CNN or MSNBC. Almost nothing interesting happens on Election Day. In a political environment this tribal, this polarized, a good pollster can pretty reliably tell you which party will win not just this election, but the next one. Politics is not a sport. There are no three-pointers or onside kicks. Amazing feats of political aptitude almost never turn an election. The opinions people will carry into the 2020 and 2024 elections are already formed. Unless a party can pivot after a loss to accommodate that landscape, it cannot survive.

One of two things might happen to make the 2020 Election interesting, and neither of them has anything to do with a candidate or personality. Either the GOP will break completely to be reconstituted under a new alignment, or the Democratic Party will follow the Republicans down the road to crazytown. Barring one of those two outcomes, the Democrats will win in 2020 by a margin similar to 2016.

Dennis Miller was right about that Monday Night game, one of the worst NFL performances since the ’87 strike. It is unlikely that we’ll hear any similar outbursts of honesty about this race. It’s ‘a horse race’ that will ‘go down to the wire.’ Entertainment has rules and the entertainers on your cable news station will stick to those rules and collect their checks.

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Posted in blue wall, Election 2014, Uncategorized

First post at Forbes

While plans are underway for a successor to the GOPLifer blog, I have also started to post some material to a new blog at Forbes. The inaugural piece looks at selected down-ballot races this fall for guidance into the power of the Blue Wall.

The GOP’s long demographic decline seems to have created a Democratic “Blue Wall” in Presidential Elections. States behind that wall may now hold enough Electoral College votes that, until the GOP is fundamentally reorganized to include urban and minority voters, every subsequent race for the White House will be decided in the Democratic primaries.

Election results this November could have offered some clarity, but Donald Trump’s bizarre campaign clouds the data. Thanks to Trump, results in the race for the White House will not offer much insight on the Blue Wall. It may possible to get clues from down-ballot races. These less prominent contests stand out for the insights they might offer.

Interested in your thoughts on these races. Going forward I’ll probably be posted at Forbes about once every week or two. In the meantime, work on is underway. There might be some changes in this corner of the Internet by Thanksgiving. We’ll see.

Posted in Uncategorized

Link Roundup, 8/29/16

From Gizmodo: NOW I care about climate change. Coffee shortage is starting to take a toll.

From Scientific American: Our per-capita environmental impact is declining.

From Rolling Stone: The story of two soldiers left behind in Iraq.

From Recode: Google’s research unit is struggling.

From Food52: Why expensive tomatoes are worth the money.

Posted in Uncategorized

Paying out the Trump pool

It was a simpler, more innocent time.

Back in the summer of 2015 the GOPLifer blog laughed off the threat of a Donald Trump nomination with a lighthearted wager. Commenters posted a date when they estimated Trump’s polling numbers would drop below the minuscule threshold of the race’s also-rans.

Now Trump is the nominee, Chris Ladd is no longer a ‘Lifer,’ and this campaign isn’t funny anymore. Time to clear the table and pay up.

By my count there were eight estimates beyond the date of the convention. Regardless what happens from here it seems like they should all qualify as winners. If your screen-name appears below you’ll be getting an email from me soon at the address you used to register for comments. Don’t delete it! It’s worth a free Amazon ebook of The Politics of Crazy, the book that will change your life.

And, dirty little secret, it’s really just a gift code so you can use it for any of the fine products available there.

Let me know if I’ve missed someone. Congrats to the winners.

Cpl. Cam 13-Oct-16
fiftyohm 3-Sept-16
EJ 25-Oct-16
Rob Ambrose 8-Nov-16
n1cholas 9-Nov-16
Houston-stay-at-Homer 2-Feb-17
Mark Maros 9-Nov-16
duncancairncross 15-Nov-16
Posted in Uncategorized

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