U.S. Politics


Stephanie Keith/REUTERS


Bernie Sanders and other Senate Democrats addressed a crowd of thousands in Warren, Michigan.

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act gathered to protest the health care law’s repeal in rallies across the country on Sunday.

The demonstrations were in response to an appeal by Democratic leaders in Congress for a day of action against ACA repeal, the defunding of Planned Parenthood and other policies promoted by the incoming Donald Trump administration.

Perhaps the highest-profile gathering was a rally at Macomb County Community College in Warren, Michigan, that drew thousands of people. Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and several other members of Congress addressed the large crowd that had waited in long lines in below-freezing weather to attend the event. Many who have received health insurance thanks to the ACA shared their emotional stories as well.

COREY R. WILLIAMS/AP | People wait for the start of a health care rally in Warren, Michigan, north of Detroit, on Sunday.

“So our job today is to defend the Affordable Care Act. Our job tomorrow is to create a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system,” he exhorted the crowd.

There were some 70 similar rallies across the country, according to Sanders. Photos on social media show significant crowds in Portland, Maine; Richmond, Virginia; Tampa, Florida; Boston, New York City and many other metropolises.


U.S. Politics

Trump calls Democrats ‘party of slavery’ in pitch for African American votes

Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at Fountain Park in Fountain Hills, Arizona (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at Fountain Park in Fountain Hills, Arizona (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)


Republican Donald Trump on Tuesday night called Democrats the “party of slavery” and praised what he called the millions of African Americans with career success, as he tries to revamp his outreach to minority voters.

Trump has made much-maligned efforts to appeal to black and Hispanic voters, groups that generally support Democrats and are expected to vote heavily for Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 election.

“The Republican Party is the party of Abraham Lincoln,” Trump said at a rally in Everett, Washington.

“It is the Democratic Party that is the party of slavery, the party of Jim Crow and the party of opposition,” he said, referring to racial segregation laws that once existed in the American South.

The Republican nominee has said Democrats failed minority voters with economic policies that have not improved their job prospects, but his attempts have been criticized for painting a bleak view of the lives of all black and Hispanic Americans.

Clinton last week released an ad mocking Trump’s attempts to reach those groups and showing headlines about a racial discrimination lawsuit the New York real estate mogul faced in the 1970s.

A prominent supporter of Trump’s apologized on Tuesday for sending out a tweet that showed a cartoon image of Clinton in blackface.

Trump sought to correct course in Washington state on Tuesday, saying millions of black Americans “have succeeded greatly” in art, science, sports and other endeavors.

“But we must also talk about those who have been left behind, the millions suffering in disastrous conditions in so many of our inner cities,” he said.

(Reporting by Emily Stephenson; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

U.S. Politics

Obama Endorses Hillary Clinton


President Barack Obama has endorsed presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, signaling he will fight to ensure that she succeeds him in the White House.

Obama made his endorsement via a video released Thursday:

President Barack Obama has endorsed presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, signaling he will fight to ensure that she succeeds him in the White House.

“I want to congratulate Hillary Clinton on making history as the presumptive Democratic nominee for the president of the United States,” Obama said in the video.

“I don’t think there’s ever been someone so qualified to hold this office,” he said, adding, “I want those of you who’ve been with me from the beginning of this incredible journey to be the first to know that I’m with her.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) met with Obama at the White House earlier in the day, and said afterward during a press conference that he would work to ensure presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump does not make it to the White House. Sanders did not endorse Clinton or say that he would withdraw from the race.

Obama mentioned Sanders in his endorsement of Clinton, thanking the senator for “shining a spotlight on issues like economic inequality and the outsized influence of money in our politics, and bringing young people into the process.”

Obama emphasized that Clinton and Sanders have a shared vision of “the values that make America great.”

“Those are the values that are going to be tested in this election,” he said.

Clinton thanked Obama for his endorsement in a tweet:

Trump reacted to Obama’s endorsement in a tweet Thursday:

Clinton quickly responded to his criticism with a tweet of her own:

Clinton became the presumptive nominee on Monday, exceeding the 2,383 delegates required to be the party’s choice on the November ballot, according to The Associated Press. She declared victory Tuesday evening, after winning primary contests in four states and earning a majority of pledged delegates in the race.

Obama has hinted for months that he would endorse Clinton, but said it would be inappropriate to wade into the campaign until she clinched the nomination.

He is set to campaign with Clinton in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on June 15.


U.S. Politics

Reminder: The Right-Wing Owes Us 25 Billion Dollars

Mark Wilson via Getty Images


Rest assured, Bobby Jindal (R-LA). Republicans are not the stupid party. They are the evil party.

Democrats are the stupid party. With the havoc that could be wreaked by the Zika virus, the right-wing feel they must “find” money in the budget to offset the research and development necessary to be ready for it.

But, $25 billion to shut down the government? Not a problem.

The Democrats are genetically incapable of calling them on it. A statement here or there, and that is it. Or, as Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) once told me about another subject, “didn’t you see my press release?”

Like Katrina and 9/11, we know it is coming. And yet, like Katrina and 9/11, Republicans sit on their hands.

After all, how much more fun to blame Obama for Zika, as Donald Trump will certainly do. And, while they are at it, they will make it more and more difficult for mothers who are carrying the microcephalic babies to have abortions.

This, Secretary Clinton/Senator Sanders/Senator Reid/Congresswoman Pelosi, could not be an easier case to make to shape public sentiment.

Republicans owe the country $25 billion from a shutdown so absurd that their own Speaker, John Boehner (R-OH) lashed out at it, and the architects said they they knew in advance it would fail.

$25 billion.

U.S. taxpayers will, thank you very much, take the first $1.9 billion of that back to protect unborn children and mothers from the Zika virus. (Unborn children? Who, pray tell, pontificates their love for them?)

A little clue on how to make this happen. Speak about it from all quarters. Have Hillary and Bernie call into morning news programs, just like Trump does, to talk about it. Repeat-repeat-repeat-repeat-repeat. Keep making the distinction. Demand the first “credit” from the $25B the right-wing owes the country is protection against the Zika virus.

Every time you are on a Sunday morning yapping show, talk about it. Bring every question back to Zika, right-wing obstruction, hypocrisy over protecting the unborn, $25 billion they blew on the government shutdown.

Of course, the above scenario will never happen. After all, the Dems are indeed the stupid party.

Paul Abrams

U.S. Politics

The Day American Democracy Died (January 21, 2010)



The government of the people, by the people, and for the people, has perished. Democracy was terminally ill for a long time and just lingering on life support. Freedom of individuals to choose their leadership has been trumped by the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision known as Citizens United which gave corporations equal rights with the people. As then-candidate Mitt Romney famously quipped, “Corporations are people.” Importantly, that SCOTUS decision was not a fluke or accidental, it was part of a strategic long-game designed and engineered to shift the balance of power even further into the hands of plutocrats. It was a culmination of carefully packing the courts at all levels of government with judges favorable to big business at the expense of middle class.

With the legalization of political action committees (PACs), the amount of money that can be spent on elections is virtually limitless. Even worse, PACs often are allowed to conceal their donors and thus it is impossible to determine who is supporting the ads. Masquerading under innocuous sounding, and often misleading names, they sway unsuspecting voters, usually with emotional discourse devoid of accurate facts. More disconcerting are the ads and social media campaigns using overtly false information, and doing so with impunity.

The notion that people have a real choice is an illusion. What is left of elections are referendums about what appear to be the lessor of bad or even evil options. Like many others, rarely have I voted for any candidate. Rather, we have voted againstthe candidates we thought posed the most harm to the country. In the current presidential election cycle, the leading candidates of both parties hold the unenviable record of being the most disliked in history. Yet, inevitably the media keeps referring to the choices as “the will of the people.” In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. At present the voters mostly are stuck with the simply awful candidates that represent the plutocracy in which we live.

The will of the people no longer counts, even when actions are supported by an overwhelming majority, such as in the case of gun control legislation. Other examples include most of votes going to Democratic candidates in the 2014 elections, yet Republicans taking majority positions in both the House of Representatives and Senate. In fact, 20 million more votes were cast for the Democrats, but because of gerrymandering, their votes were concentrated in previously conceded “Blue” districts, but generally spread out in predominantly “Red” districts.

It was Tip O’Neil who once famously stated, “All politics is local.” That is an anachronism. Evidenced in the 2014 elections, vast amounts of external funding flooded states and districts that were considered to be “in play,” while only minimum amounts were spent in “safe” districts. A prior example was during the 2012 election to recall Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin. In that election, outside groups provided over $33M to successfully influence the outcome.

While the campaign with most money does not always win, (think Jeb Bush), the ability to inundate the public with a storyline is usually a successful strategy.Campaigns built on lies too frequently are successful. It should be noted that many of these falsehoods are intentionally placed including an emotional hook. It is anticipated that the public, especially with social media, blindly will retransmit the counterfactual message. Readers should remember the nonexistent “death panels”that were supposed to be part and parcel of the Affordable Care Act. Using the tobacco industry model, climate change is under continual assault; raising doubt is enough. Some of my friends are certain that at any time now Federal agents are going to knock on their door to collect their guns. The critical question, in all cases, should be cui bono (who profits)? Unfortunately, the answer is with dark money, provenance often is impossible to trace.

A quote often, but incorrectly, attributed to Thomas Jefferson states, “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.” The sentiment is correct, but has clearly been abandoned in our current political climate. Conveyed by a variety of media the public is now inundated with misleading and overtly false information. Agencies that attempt to evaluate the validity specific statements and claims, themselves become suspect. What is most disconcerting are the educated people, who when confronted with demonstrable falsehoods, vociferously state, “I don’t care!”

In reality this is symptomatic of a larger problem, the loss of trust and confidence in our most fundamental systems and organizations. Specifically, I refer to the federal government, the established news media, big business, and even our educational institutions. The U.S. Congress approval rating hovers around record lows at only 14.5%. More important is the disapproval level near all-time highs at above 77%. That is little wonder as the recent sessions have accomplished less than any prior terms. The overt refusal to approve a nominee for the vacant Supreme Court seat is a classic example of the partisan politics that has stagnated The Hill.

Confidence in the once-venerated U.S. Supreme Court has fallen to a new low with approval at only 30%. Given the blatantly political decisions that have been handed down in recent years, it is little wonder that trust in them has diminished. More problematic is that only 23% of the people indicated they had a lot of confidence in the criminal justice system. Yet incongruently, voters tend to support tough criminal laws and lengthy prison sentences. That sentiment has caused the U.S. to have the highest incarceration rates in the developed world and at considerable expense. Despite lack of trust in the system, people still support capital punishment for which retribution is a disturbing component. Heinousness of the crimes aside, executions cost more than imprisonment for life. More important, repeatedly the death penalty has been proven to be adjudicated on innocent suspects. Of course, it is applied disproportionately, mostly to people of color and/or from lower socioeconomic status.

A byproduct of the clamoring for tougher criminal laws is the number of innocent people caught up by the furor to punish somebody. Across the nation, prosecutors, as elected officials, run for office based on their conviction rate. Of course, the public assumes that integrity is paramount and no ethical attorney would bring false charges and against an innocent suspect. This is simply wrong as cases of prosecutorial misconduct repeatedly come to light. A huge problem is that the offending prosecutors almost never are held accountable for their misdeeds. Note that 2015 saw the highest number of exonerations in history. If ever there was an argument against capital punishment, it is the number of those convicted of murder that were on that list. Because of the inherent weakness in the public defender arena, some innocent people take plea bargains just to avoid the risk of a harsher sentence.

The media does not fare much better in public trust and is in steady decline with only about 20% of the people having confidence in their accuracy. Appropriately, news originating on the Internet is even lower. Truly independent news sources is an archaic concept. Several factors play into that situation but the foremost is money. Print media has been especially hard hit, with many newspapers going out of business. Television news is driven by ratings and generally tied to the entertainment value of the station. Like many other industries consolidation by mega-corporations has limited diverse views, and nearly eliminated controversial reporting that would shed a bad light on sponsors or owners. As an example, here in Las Vegas the largest paper in Nevada was surreptitiously bought by Sheldon Adelson, a GOP mega-donor. When the leading columnist, John L. Smith, was told he could not write about the nationally influential owner, he resigned.

Polls indicate that citizens don’t have much confidence in big businesses either. They show a marked difference from small businesses but large companies only have about a 20% trust level. That is not a record low (16%) but close enough to it to be of concern. It is clear that most people believe that corporations place their financial interests well ahead of those of the public, or even the nation. Quarterly earnings reports are seen to be far more important than doing what is right or focusing on long-term goals. Product recalls and accusations of voluntary environmental damage certainly hurt their image. Then, of course, the exposure of dramatic price gouging by large pharmaceutical companies is yet another factor in trust degradation.

Many higher-level educational institutions are viewed as being too liberal in thinking, and thus suspect by conservatives. Right-wing talk radio hosts often lament that the younger generation is being corrupted and subversively indoctrinated in “progressive thinking.” A well-educated friend (Ph.D.), and GOP supporter, recently told me it was “impossible to be a Republican (professor) in a university.” Obviously he is not familiar with the philosophical position of Pepperdine University, where I received a master’s degree. While the notion that all colleges are liberal-leaning is held by many conservatives, that statement it is simply false. Consider the staff and faculty of such institutions as George Mason, Hillsdale, Brigham Young, or Texas A&M, which is the fourth largest university in the country. All are recognized as conservative institutions.

Integrally interwoven are universities and the financial system. Led by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders some politicians have been quite vocal about the staggering inequality that exists in our financial system. In recent decades there has been a dramatic shift in wealth concentrated in a minuscule segment of the population. Stories abound about CEOs being compensated in millions of dollars, yet actively fighting the concept of raising the minimum wage for their employees. A recent poll found that many of the young millennials no longer trust capitalism. A logical explanation could be the predominance of the “winner take all” philosophy that has dominated financial institutions and large businesses. Yet, the conservative-aligned talk radio hosts choose to blame the “liberal-leaning” education they received.

A fundamental factor in American lives today is fear. Fear permeates everything we do from politics to sales. Big Pharma bombards us with sales messages for diseases and syndromes that didn’t even exist a short time ago. Appealing to emotion versus logic, the Internet carries concerns about perverts in bathrooms, vast voting fraud, and that refugees are only coming here to kill us. In reality, none of those areas are significant problems. Legal issue proponents call for a ban of sharia law, even though it doesn’t exist in the U.S. Crimes are committed by citizens and illegal immigrants alike. Yet when the same crimes are done by an immigrant, the acts are viewed as especially heinous. The unfortunate bottom line is that fear strikes an emotional chord and it sells. It sells both products and political issues.

An Outline for Redemption

Restoration of confidence will not come easily in the U.S., but it is possible. There are a number of obvious steps that can, and should, be taken. We currently endure an antiquated two-party system as if we live in a binary world. While there are other political groups, such as the Libertarian Party or Green Party, when it comes to the outcome of elections they are insignificant. Like other third party attempts at the national level, while it may be emotionally satisfying at a personal level, at best they can act as a spoiler by diverting votes from one of the two major political parties.

The election primary enterprises conducted this year clearly have illuminated the serious fractures in the current system. Under the existing two-party system most voters are faced with the unenviable choice of selecting the person they disagree with the least. Both the Republican and Democrat parties suffer internal distress. This is not a new problem; but one exacerbated by limitless funds. In reality, politically connected plutocrats determine who will be the candidates most to their liking. Those options are then foisted upon the general public and the winner falsely anointed as “the will of the people.”

A viable option is to break the existing structure and subdivide into several major parties which would be more representative of our multipolar society. That would force the leading candidate from the national election to form a government based on coalitions. Hardly a new idea, this form of governance is practiced by half of the countries who freely elect their leadership. The overriding factor would be to insure that some of the subdivisions were strong enough to survive an onslaught from the residual system. Breaking the stranglehold of the current parties would create a situation in which many more political positions would have to be accommodated; yes, giving the people more control of their destiny. By design, it would force coalitions and cooperative exchanges in order to govern more effectively.




2016 Hopefuls

The Boston Globe Calls Upon Elizabeth Warren To Run For President

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass (L) and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R). GETTY IMAGES

She’s definitely my preference but the reality is…she doesn’t have the political power that Hillary wields.

Hillary can win, Ms. Warren can’t…at least not in 2016.

Addicting Info

Elizabeth Warren has said that she isn’t running for president in 2016, but the Boston Globe is calling upon the Massachusetts Senator to do so for the good of the people and Democratic Party.

The Editorial Board of the Globe penned a piece outlining their desire to see Warren run and why she should do so.

Right out of the gate, the Globe explains that allowing Hillary Clinton to capture the Democratic primary unopposed would be a mistake because there are some serious splits among Democrats on certain issues that need to be debated. Of particular importance is how Warren has championed the fight against income inequality while Clinton has been more cautious on economic issues because she has Wall Street backing.

DEMOCRATS WOULD be making a big mistake if they let Hillary Clinton coast to the presidential nomination without real opposition, and, as a national leader, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren can make sure that doesn’t happen. While Warren has repeatedly vowed that she won’t run for president herself, she ought to reconsider. And if Warren sticks to her refusal, she should make it her responsibility to help recruit candidates to provide voters with a vigorous debate on her signature cause, reducing income inequality, over the next year.

Even in areas where the candidates agree, there are bound to be different priorities: It’s hard to imagine a President Clinton defending and enforcing the Dodd-Frank legislation with as much vigor as a President Warren, for instance.

Indeed, the big-picture debate on financial regulation and income inequality is what’s most at peril if the Democratic primaries come and go without top-notch opponents for Clinton. While she has a great many strengths, Clinton seems far more likely to hew to a cautious approach on economics. Her financial backing from Wall Street, her vote in the Senate to reduce bankruptcy protections, and her past reluctance to raise capital-gains taxes are no secret. Nothing about her record suggests much gumption for financial reform or tackling the deeply entrenched economic problems that increasingly threaten the American dream.

The Globe is 100 percent correct. The Democratic Party is prepared to crown Clinton as their nominee without much of a fight if any at all. Sure, there are other Democrats who are considering throwing their own hats in the ring, but Warren is a grassroots superstar who has mass appeal among the middle class and the poor. Her dedication to ending income inequality and the economic unfairness that has plagued the nation for over 30 years now is exactly what America desperately needs. And if Warren runs, her signature cause would take center stage.

As the Globe points out,

Seven years after the financial collapse, those challenges remain serious. To name just a few of the financial problems facing Americans: stagnant wages; ballooning student loan debt; exploitative payday lenders; shady subprime car loans; the proliferation of dubious for-profit colleges; inadequate retirement savings.

Unlike Clinton, or any of the prospective Republican candidates, Warren has made closing the economic gaps in America her main political priority, in a career that has included standing up for homeowners facing illegal foreclosures and calling for more bankruptcy protections. If she runs, it’ll ensure that those issues take their rightful place at the center of the national political debate.

Even if Clinton stills wins the nomination, she would be a stronger candidate precisely because of the competition with Warren. Clinton may also be forced to focus more on income inequality herself. Plus, a strong showing on the national stage, even in defeat, would propel Warren to greater national recognition and prominence, thus setting herself up as the frontrunner in 2020 if Clinton declines a second term, or in 2024 if Clinton loses or wins another 4 years in office.

If Warren runs and loses, she and Clinton would be better candidates for it. Clinton could potentially lay the groundwork for Warren to tackle income inequality head-on during her own future stint in the White House, but only if Warren forces Clinton to make the issue a major part of her campaign. That only happens if Warren throws her hat in the ring. And who is to say that Warren wouldn’t win? Just look at how the competition between Clinton and Obama in 2008 made Obama a stronger nominee. The same could happen for Warren in 2016. Republicans are already terrified of a Clinton presidency, but they are even more terrified of a Warren presidency and what it could potentially bring to the table.

The greatest single domestic issue in this country right now is income inequality and the people yearn for a leader who can end the vicious cycle that has placed so many in poverty as the rich get richer. Warren has populism on her side and she is the ideal Democratic candidate who can truly shape the party and finally bring it back to strongly supporting the economic values and principles it once championed from the 1930s through the 1960s when America was at the height of world respect and power. Senator Elizabeth Warren is the leader we need.

2016 Senate Races

These Democrats Could Be The Party’s Ticket To A Comeback


San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro (Left) and California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (Right) | AP Images

The Huffington Post

After the Republican Party took control of the Senate, strengthened its House majority, picked up a host of state legislative chambers and elected a slate of new statewide candidates, various pronouncements were made about how the Democratic bench had been devastated. But there’s more to the story.

The Huffington Post asked the party’s national committees, as well as a variety of progressive advocacy groups that recruit and train candidates, to identify up-and-coming current or former officials whom they could see running for higher offices in the future. The reality Democrats face is a sobering one, as Republicans are in the majority in 68 out of the 98 partisan state legislative chambers and hold 31 governorships. So Democrats will have to get more creative, and persuasive, with their candidate recruitment to capitalize on 2016, which promises to be an easier year to inspire voters and draw them to the polls.

The sentiment expressed by Kurt Fritts, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee’s national political director, was typical of the responses HuffPost received: these kinds of ambitious candidates can be found, but it just requires going a little deeper than the higher-profile posts Republicans occupy in a majority of states.

“There’s a lot of talent out there, for sure,” Fritts said. “The idea that the losses have hollowed out any kind of bench, that’s not what I’m seeing.”

Statewide Office-Holders

Massachusetts Attorney General-Elect Maura Healy was a first-time candidate and a civil rights attorney who won earlier this month — even as her former boss, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley, lost. In a blue state like Massachusetts, where Healy was elected the nation’s first openly gay attorney general, she is already being talked about as someone who could run against incoming Gov. Charlie Baker (R) four years from now, or for the Senate further down the road.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who rose from working as an obscure district attorney to the statewide post, is frequently mentioned in discussionsof Republican Sen. Pat Toomey’s re-election in 2016. (Former Rep. Joe Sestak [D] has already entered the race). Kane’s decision not to defend Pennsylvania’s ban on gay marriage last year, as well as her filing of criminal charges against an Exxon Mobil subsidiary, has won her fans among progressives.

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway has already declared that he’s in the race to succeed Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear next year, and he similarly indicated that he isn’t afraid to prioritize his personal politics when he refused to appeal a ruling that struck down a provision of the state constitution that prohibited it from recognizing same-sex marriages performed outside the state.

The most intriguing match-up is in California, where two rising stars, Attorney General Kamala Harris and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, appear to be on a collision course to face off in a Democratic Senate or gubernatorial primary, unless they collude and figure out a solution. There’s Gov. Jerry Brown’s likely retirement in 2018 to consider, as well as the potential retirement of Sen. Barbara Boxer in 2016 and Sen. Dianne Feinstein in 2018.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is rumored to be considering a run against Sen. Mark Kirk (R) in 2016, or against incoming Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) in 2018. And New Mexico’s newly elected Attorney General Hector Balderas could succeed popular Gov. Susana Martinez (R) in 2018, when she won’t be able to run again because of term limits.

State Legislators

Georgia state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams was the potential leader named by almost every group and committee spokesperson HuffPost contacted. She demonstrated her commitment to expanding the electorate in the Peach State with her leadership of the New Georgia Project, a voter participation group that sued the state over missing voter registration forms. And she is considered one of the state Democratic Party’s best chances at unseating Gov. Nathan Deal (R) in 2018, or Sen. Johnny Isakson (R) in 2016.

Oregon state House Speaker Tina Kotek, who in 2013 became the first out lesbian in U.S. history to lead a state legislative chamber, is mentioned as someone who could run for the seat of Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden or Jeff Merkley when either retires, or for governor when John Kitzhaber steps down.

And President Barack Obama’s state Senate successor Kwame Raoul passed on a gubernatorial bid this year but has said that doesn’t rule out a run at some point in the future. Like Madigan, he could run against Kirk (following Obama’s trajectory from the state Senate to Senate) or against Rauner four years from now.

Mayors And City Officials

Though Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton has said that serving in his current position is his “sole priority,” he’s a popular mayor in a state that has two Republican senators and a new GOP governor, so he is expected to face pressure to run for a higher office after his mayoral re-election in 2015.

Georgia state Sen. Jason Carter and nonprofit executive Michelle Nunn were frustrated in their attempts to beat Gov. Nathan Deal (R), and businessman and Sen.-Elect David Perdue (R), respectively. But Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who has done bold things like take on pension reform, has hinted he could seek the governorship in 2018.

Add Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti into the California mix of Harris and Newsom: he could run to succeed Brown if Harris and Newsom decide to run for Boxer and Feinstein’s seats, or there could be some other iteration of that lineup in the works.

In a state like Florida, where promising Democratic candidates for statewide office are few and far between, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who leads the national Young Elected Officials Network, could run for a statewide office in 2018.

Ohio Democrats face a similar, if not more devastated, bench problem, given the total wipeout of their candidates for statewide office this year. It’s not inaccurate to say that their future may rest on the shoulders of Cincinnati Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, who is widely expected to seek a statewide office in 2018. State Rep. Connie Pillich, who was hurt in her race for Ohio Treasurer by the Democratic gubernatorial candidate’s drag at the top of the ballot, has indicated that she may give a statewide bid another shot.

City officials like incoming Chicago Treasurer Kurt Summers Jr. and San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim are both considered prospects.

Congressional Representatives

Incoming Reps. Patrick Murphy (Fla.), Seth Moulton (Mass.), Ruben Gallego(Ariz.), Tammy Duckworth (Ill.) and Joaquin Castro (Texas), (plus his brotherJulian Castro, the current U.S. Secretary for Housing and Urban Development), have all been mentioned as potential leaders because of their biographies or the political circumstances for Democrats in their states.

Murphy was re-elected in a Republican-leaning district that used to be represented by Allen West. Moulton, a former Marine, gained attention because he actually underplayed the honors he had received for his military service. Gallego has said he hopes to rise eventually to a leadership position in the House Democratic caucus. The Castros appear to represent the best chance for Democrats to win a statewide office in Texas, after Wendy Davis‘ disappointing finish in her gubernatorial bid this year. And Duckworth could be a leading contender against Kirk in 2016.

Those Who Lost Or Were Term-Limited

Outgoing Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden is apparently running for governor in 2016, though he is laying low following a surgery he underwent last year to remove a small lesion from his brain.

And outgoing Colorado state House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, who couldn’t run again because of term limits, is the Denver Public Schools’ incoming chief financial officer. Outgoing Michigan state Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer, who famously spoke out in the state legislature about a past sexual assault, remains popular and could run for governor or attorney general in 2018.

Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver lost a close race for New Mexico Secretary of State but appears to be passionate enough about issues like voting rights to make another attempt for a higher office. Nevada Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, who lost her lieutenant governor’s race, said during her concession speech that she would remain active in state politics.

And finally, though Rashida Tlaib lost her bid for Michigan state Senate, the outgoing state representative — who became just the second Muslim woman to serve in any of the nation’s state legislatures — looks like she’ll stay engaged in politics and could run for another office in the future.


Elizabeth Warren

It’s Elizabeth Warren’s party now! How to remake it in the liberal heroine’s image

Elizabeth Warren, Barack Obama | (Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque/Yuri Gripas/photo montage by Salon)

I’ll just say, I hope she runs in 2016…


If they’re smart, liberals could use Warren’s new power to make the changes to the party that are so badly needed

Despite being so notoriously difficult to get right, predictions are part of the pundit’s stock-in-trade. So once you’ve got some grains of salt ready to toss into the mix, please indulge me for a moment as I make one of my own.

Here it goes: Twenty years from now, assuming climate change has not yet ended the world as we know it, most American liberals won’t think of this fall as the time when Republicans finally retook control of the U.S. Senate. And they won’t think of it as the brief pause that separated the era of Barack Obama from that of Hillary Clinton. Instead, when the liberals of our near future look back on the current moment, they’ll remember it as the hour when the Democratic Party began to move decisively to the left, thanks in no small part to the continued ascendance of Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Pessimist that I am, I’ll readily grant that this is very optimistic. In fits and starts, the party’s been moving leftward for a number of years now, and I’ve little doubt that the midterm blowout will be cited by some as proof that Democrats must become even more centrist. Yet unlike the talk surrounding a historically ignored election, which will dissipate quickly (especially if I’m right about the return of government-by-crisis), the opportunity raised by the Democratic Party’s recent decision to make Warren part of its Senate leadership has the potential to be far more enduring. But only if liberal activists know what to do with it.

At this point, it’s not entirely clear what the folks nominally in charge of this infamously disorganized party are trying to do by elevating Warren. Because the former Harvard Law professor has been prominent in liberal circles since the launch of her brainchild, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, it can be easy to forget that she’s only been in Congress for a couple of years. And coming as it does after a truly disastrous midterm showing, this seeming vote of confidence from Democratic bigwigs has the risk of being a “glass cliff” situation. My former colleague Brian Beutler, for example, has guessed that Senate Dem leadership may have opted to bring Warren into the fold because they’ll need a popular spokeswoman to deliver the next two years’ worth of bad news to the “professional left.”

Still, even if Warren’s promotion isn’t motivated entirely or primarily by idealism and generosity, it could nevertheless be a major turning point for activists looking to push the Democratic Party in a more left-wing direction. After many years of kvetching about their paltry influence — and following decade after decade of enviously watching the conservative movement refashion the GOP in its own image — lefty ideologues and organizers now have the chance to turn Warren into a kind of trojan horse for a resurgent politics of economic populism (or, as it used to be called, liberalism). And if they adapt and adhere to the script used many years ago by visionary right-wingers, who famously responded to an electoral drubbing in 1964 by staying the course and propelling a true believer to the White House less than 20 years later, it just might work.

It’s not a perfect analogy, I admit. There are fundamental, irresolvable differences between liberals and conservatives, and they extend well beyond ideology and into the realms of psychology and sociology. (Liberals are less hierarchically minded, more demographically diverse.) Further, in spite of all the mythology about conservative movement turning the GOP into the “party of ideas,” the fact is that the men (and women, but mostly men) who transformed the party of Lincoln into the chief vehicle of the Reagan Revolution spent much more time talking about and organizing around what they were against — taxes, the welfare state, the civil rights movement, feminism, LGBT equality, the separation of church and state, etc. — than what they were for. And while there are certainly some recent Supreme Court decisions they’d like to see reversed, a politics centered around a return to the glorious past is, for liberals, not really an option.

But notwithstanding all of that, I still think the conservative example offers activist liberals unhappy with the Obama record –which is most of them — some valuable lessons.

For one, if left-wing troublemakers want to make Sen. Warren a Goldwater of their own, they’ll have to ignore the 2016 presidential race as much as possible. That doesn’t simply mean giving up on the lost cause of forcing Wall Street favorite Hillary Clinton to reinvent herself as a true progressive. And it certainly doesn’t mean wasting resources on a quixotic primary challenge, which in the present circumstances will do little more than help Clinton get back in the swing of triangulation. Instead, it means building institutional support from the bottom up by creating funding networks and community spaces outside of the Democratic Party’s reach, so lefties can feel personally invested in their cause without having D.C. grandees step in and tell them to be “serious.” That’s what right-wing activists did through churches, think tanks and mailing lists; and the often successful Internet-based organizing from people at Daily Kos and the Blue America PAC has already offered a hint of how those on the left can do it again.

For another, the conservative precedent suggests that even if policy is overrated when it comes to deciding the outcome of elections, it’s extremely important to be in control of the policymaking apparatus for the time that comes next. Our political culture may pay an inordinate amount of lip service to the idea that policy is a translated version of the people’s will, but the reality is that most partisans and politicians choose their policy views by following where their party leads them, not the other way around. Conservative dominance over the grants, scholarships and think tanks that comprised the GOP’s policymaking infrastructure was integral to the dramatic lurch to the right the party platform experienced between 1960 and 1976 (before Reagan’s coronation, you’ll note). And as the Tea Party’s recent takeover of influential right-wing policy shops like Cato and Heritage shows, the value of this approach has not over time been diminished. As Grover Norquist, one of the leading right-wing activists of his generation, noted in 2012, controlling the GOP policymaking machine made it so all conservatives needed in a Republican president was the ability to use a pen.

Last but not least, the success of right-wing activists from the past and present indicates that there can be long-term benefits in a short-term stint as the minority. To be clear, it’d be taking things too far to say that it’s a good thing Democrats now only control the White House. As the last four years have taught us, the powers of the imperial presidency don’t seem to extend very far into the realm of the domestic (at least not yet). So having a majority in Congress is vital, still. At the same time, there’s value, to a degree, in having a party with ideological coherence — increasingly so, I’d argue, in an era of institutional failure and partisan polarization. Most of the Democrats dissolved in the red tides of ’10 and ’14 were “blue dog” conservatives, and while their absence has stripped Democrats of control over Congress, it’s offered lefties within their ranks the chance to redecorate, as it were, now that the majority times have ended.

Perhaps more than anything else, though, what lefty activists should learn from their right-wing counterparts is this: In a dysfunctional two-party system such as ours, in which voters are perpetually unhappy and ready for any excuse to throw the bums out and start all over, it’s only a matter of time until the losers of yesterday are once again ascendant. And as the GOP has shown in the years since its back-to-back wipeouts in ’06 and ’08, responding to electoral defeat by moderating is no longer necessary, while moving further away from the center is no longer a death sentence. Now that they have a political superstar and ideological true believer as their behind-the-scenes agent, lefty activists with an eye on the long term have a chance to, in the words of Warren, “frame the issues for the next few elections” and ultimately make the Democratic Party truly progressive.

Alison Lundergan Grimes · Democrats

When Democrats are afraid to be Democrats

Alison Lundergan Grimes came off as a politician who couldn't trust voters to be adults.
Alison Lundergan Grimes came off as a politician who couldn’t trust voters to be adults. Photo: (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The Compass via The Week

Open warfare has broken out in the Democratic Party over just how much President Obama’s low approval rating led to a midterm drubbing, and whether the White House did too much, too little, or didn’t care, to reduce his drag on the ticket.

Republicans did everything but obtain search warrants to find out how close their opponents were to President Obama. Some guilt-by-association was inevitable, but instead of accepting it and then pivoting, a bunch of Democratic candidates hemmed and hawed, temporized and made themselves look silly.

When Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Kentucky Secretary of State running against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R), was asked by a newspaper editorial board whether she had voted for Obama, she said that because she was the state’s voting administrator, she wanted to uphold the principle of a secret ballot and didn’t want to set a bad example. Or something.

What she could have said was, Yeah. My party has a history of fighting for the middle class and I’m proud of that.”

As a self-professed Clinton Democrat, Grimes could then have talked about Republican obstructionism during the Clinton administration and how President Clinton ushered in record economic growth and prosperity.

Short, sweet, has the benefit of not mentioning the words “Obama” or “Democratic Party,” and answers the questions.

A week later, she flubbed the same question, a question she knew would be asked of her.

“I’m not going to compromise a constitution right provided here in Kentucky in order to curry favor on one or (an)other side or the members of the media,” she answered.

Her discovery of an unrecognized constitutional right gave Mitch McConnell permission to suggest that Grimes was deceiving voters about her record. It allowed him to shine a spotlight on the very weakness that Grimes was trying to deflect.

At the debate, here’s what Grimes could have said:

Yeah. I did. And let’s talk about votes. Let’s talk about records. Let’s talk about who’s associated with gridlock, with Washington not working, with an economy that won’t get off the ground.

Whatever Mitch McConnell did for the state a while back, he’s had almost 30 years to fix Washington. What happened in Washington happened on his watch. He hasn’t been able to stand up to President Obama for six years. When I agree with the president, I’ll say so. When I disagree, he’s going to hear it, too. And yes, President Obama has made mistakes. And we’re gonna hold him accountable.

But Mitch McConnell was up there, a stone’s throw from the White House, when the government bailed out the big banks and left homeowners under water. Failed to pass a minimum wage? That’s Mitch McConnell’s Republican Party. Failed to deal with the immigration crisis? That’s not on Barack Obama. That’s on Mitch McConnell’s Republicans. Republicans, under Mitch McConnell, threatened to take the country off a fiscal cliff. Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell, financed two wars on the nation’s credit card. Government has grown beyond our wildest imagination. New entitlements? Mitch McConnell was in the Senate leadership. Doesn’t matter whether the president was named Bush or named Obama.

You want to talk about votes? A vote for Mitch McConnell is a vote for everything we hate about Washington. It’s a vote for a guy who can’t cut it. He’s got a proven record of doing nothing. He’s the epitome of why we’re in trouble today.

McConnell could have chosen any number of responses to this, but he’d be defending his record, not attacking Grimes for an association she made.

It was McConnell’s best insight that voters would blame Washington gridlock on the president and his party even if the president and his party were not its primary cause. That connection — Obama’s in power and Washington seems chaotic and out of control — was really hard to break. But the polling swings, even allowing for a Democratic oversampling, showed that voters were willing to give Grimes a chance to break that connection and make her argument.

Instead, she tried to draw attention away from what everyone already knew, and came off as a politician who couldn’t trust voters to be adults.

Her association with Obama was a weakness in Kentucky. It was there from the moment she jumped into the race. It was a given. Her non-denial denial of an undeniable truth gave everyone who watched it a headache. And it made Mitch McConnell look like a genius.

Candidates of both parties should learn from her fumble.


7 reasons the Democratic coalition is more united than ever

Hillary Clinton |Andrew Burton Photo


Last weekend, Ross Douthat penned a provocative column arguing that Democrats should be thankful for the super-star power of Hillary Clinton because without her the party could be in severe trouble. Much of the subsequent debate has involved speculation about likely possible outcomes of the 2016 general election, about which I think the best one can say is that it will probably depend on the objective state of the world over the next 18 months.

His more intriguing idea was a vision of a deeply divided Democratic Party that, absent the presence of a star candidate, would likely fall apart: “the post-Obama Democratic Party could well be the Austro-Hungarian empire of presidential majorities: a sprawling, ramshackle and heterogeneous arrangement, one major crisis away from dissolution.”

This, I think, is completely wrong. The Democratic Party could easily lose the next election, but the coalition as a whole is more durable and robust than it’s ever been for reasons that go much deeper than Hillary’s popularity.

1) Hillary seems inevitable because Democrats are united

Edward Kimmel/Flickr

Hillary Clinton’s celebrity status and stature in the party combined with the lack of appropriately credentialed and charismatic alternatives put her head and shoulders ahead of the competition. But if the party faced a major policy divide, someone or other would emerge to champion it. Perhaps someone who would lose! But someone.

Today we have the opposite situation. It is impossible to mount a coherent anti-Clinton campaign because there is no issue that divides the mass of Democrats. If she were to unexpectedly decline to run, some other figure (perhaps Joe Biden, perhaps Martin O’Malley) would step into the void and lead the party on a similar policy agenda.

2) 2008 was about Iraq

Subsequent events have tended to obscure this, but the 2008 Democratic Primary was, among other things, a major argument about foreign policy. Hillary Clinton had supported George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, and Barack Obama had not. Obama’s appeal, obviously, stretched beyond this fact. But his core substantive argument against Clinton dealt with Iraq in particular and foreign policy doctrine more broadly.

Crucially, both sides of the argument agreed that an argument was taking place. Clinton hit Obama as weak and naive for his willingness to undertake direct negotiations with leaders of rogue states and charged him with being unready to keep the nation safe in an emergency.

The 2008 campaign directly echoed the 2004 primary between the less-compelling figures of Howard Dean and John Kerry. Many of Obama’s key primary-era foreign policy aides — people such as Susan Rice and Ivo Daalder — had been Dean supporters, and the arguments and recriminations between Obama-supporting and Clinton-supporting foreign policy hands were vicious.

That Clinton ended up serving as Obama’s Secretary of State makes this look a bit ridiculous in retrospect. But it seemed very important at the time.

The 2008 campaign directly echoed the 2004 primary between the less-compelling figures of Howard Dean and John Kerry. Many of Obama’s key primary-era foreign policy aides — people such as Susan Rice and Ivo Daalder — had been Dean supporters, and the arguments and recriminations between Obama-supporting and Clinton-supporting foreign policy hands were vicious.

That Clinton ended up serving as Obama’s Secretary of State makes this look a bit ridiculous in retrospect. But it seemed very important at the time.

3) The banking picture is muddled

Valerie Jean/FilmMagic

Many intellectuals who care passionately about regulation of the financial services industry would like to believe the Democratic Party is deeply divided between a bankster-friendly establishment and its populist critics.

There is something to this, but really much less than the proponents of schism-ism think.

Crucially, the allegedly bank-friendly faction of the party doesn’t accept this account of where they stand.They see themselves as having shepherded a massive bank regulation bill through congress, and as constantly fighting on multiple fronts — inside bipartisan regulatory agencies, in the courts, at international meetings, in congressional negotiations — to get tougher on the banks.

And the financial services industry agrees! Ever since the Dodd-Frank debate began, the financial services industry has poured enormous sums of money into GOP congressional campaigns and the effort to beat Barack Obama.

People who follow the issue closely will know that there are some very real disagreements about the details of bank regulation. And there are some even realer disagreements about atmospherics, rhetoric, and overall feelings about the financial sector. And even Obama has, selectively, engaged in populist anti-finance rhetoric when it suits his purposes.

Broadly speaking a non-specialist voter is going to see that any plausible 2016 nominee is going to push for tighter bank regulation, will be opposed by the bank lobby, and probably won’t accomplish everything she tries for due to GOP opposition.

4) Everyone agrees on inequality

David Shankbone/Flickr

Twenty years ago, Democrats were divided on the question of inequality with moderates largely accepting the Reaganite precept that some loss of equity was a reasonable price to pay for faster economic growth. Today, all Democrats think that inequality is out of control (heck, the CEO of Goldman Sachs thinks inequality is out of control) and that it should be addressed through tax hikes on high-income Americans.

Clearly, different people are going to differ on the details. But congressional Republicans have also made it clear that securing any tax hikes is going to be a very difficult political battle. Any Democratic nominee will try to raise taxes on the rich if she wins, and any Democratic President will end up in a huge fight with the GOP about it.

5) K-12 education doesn’t matter enough


For an example of the kind of issue that does divide the Democratic Party, look no further than K-12 education. The Obama administration has pursued an “education reform” agenda that features calls for more charter schools, and for more linkage of teacher compensation and job security to test results. Many Democrats around the country agree with Obama about this. But many other Democrats around the country agree with teachers unions that this is entirely backwards, and there should be fewer charter schools and less reliance on test-based assessments of teacher quality.

This is the kind of tug-o-war with one faction pulling one way and another faction pulling the other way that really does tear a party apart.

Except it’s not an important federal issue. Not because education isn’t important, but because the federal government plays a relatively modest role in America’s K-12 education policy. The education divide can be quite explosive and state and local politics (witness the disputes between Bill de Blasio and Andre Cuomo in New York) but it just isn’t important enough on the federal stage to lead to a major schism.

6) Demographics aren’t destiny

American Federation of Government Employees/Flickr

The much greater demographic diversity of the Democratic Party coalition may give it an illusion of fragility. Talk during recent primary campaigns of “wine track” versus “beer track” Democrats further amplifies that sense. But a look at the congressional caucus’ behavior reveals a party that is dramatically more united than at any time in the past hundred years. Defections come overwhelmingly from outlier legislators representing very conservative states like Arkansas or Louisiana.

What you would expect to see from a party torn apart by demographics is elected officials who put together very different voting records. But even though Jerry Nadler (Greenwich Village and the Upper West Side), Peter Welch (in Vermont), and Maxine Waters (South LA) represent very different people they vote in very similar ways. And you see that on most big issues Democratic Senators representing the contested terrain in the Midwest, Southwest, and Virginia vote together with those from the Northeast and the Pacific Coast.

Rustbelt legislators back Obama’s EPA regulations, and comprehensive immigration reform was unanimously endorsed by Democratic Party Senators. American politics is becoming more ideological, and the Democratic coalition is increasingly an ideological coalition that happens to be diverse (and, indeed, that upholds the value of diversity as an ideological precent) rather than a patchwork of ethnic interests or local machines.

7) American politics is getting nastier

Partisan_animosityAs a recent Pew report on polarization showed, completely apart from substantive policy issues both Democrats and Republicans are increasingly alarmed by the other party’s agenda. This alarmism in fact stronger on the GOP side, but it’s quite strong — and growing — on the Democratic side as well.

This seems like an unhealthy trend for the country, but it’s excellent news for party cohesion. Splits require not just internal disagreement, but a relatively blasé attitude toward the opposition.

None of this means that victory is somehow assured for Democrats in 2016 — far from it. But it does mean that the coalition is at no risk of collapse. The kind of electoral mega-landslides that happened in 1964 or 1980 where one party’s candidate gets utterly blown away simply can’t happen under modern conditions.