Saturday, August 19, 2017

Get To Know Kansas Progressive Democrat Jim Thompson A Little Better-- The Reddit AMA


Earlier this week Kansas Berniecrat James Thompson, the progressive candidate running for the Wichita-based congressional seat (KS-04) did an Ask Me Anything on the Sanders For President reddit page. If you were unable to participate, the archive is available at the link just above. Thompson has been endorsed by Blue America and we enthusiastically vouch for his character and his positions. He's our kind of candidate. Here are some of the questions and responses that I hope will help you get a better understanding of who James Thompson is and why he deserves your support.
Q: In a state that historically votes Republican, what do you plan on doing differently as a democrat to capture some of the moderate vote or even some of the Republican vote?

JT: We only had 60 days during the special election to get out to 16 and a half counties-- talking to people and hearing their concerns is the key. This time, we have 15 more months to go out and listen. I believe that people will follow their convictions and choose me over my opponent if they're just given the chance to meet me. With all the success we had in just two months in our April election, imagine what we're going to do with a full election cycle!... I'm going to get out to the whole district more, talk to as many folks as possible, and help build infrastructure across the district. Specifically, we're working to register voters and continue the progress we made in Sedgwick County, and building out across the district. We believe this will help up and down the ballot. We're identifying and supporting local candidates. We're doing weekly training with volunteers working with these local campaigns... I know a lot of Republicans who respected Bernie Sanders because they always knew where he stood in regard to the general public. I will also never waver in my fight for the people of Kansas. While we may not always see eye to eye, people from all parties respect me because they know I care about them and the issues impacting their lives. That's something that's important regardless of party. In the end, people want leaders who are real."

Q: 5 months ago in an AMA, you wrote: "I like the idea of single payer, I don't see it getting accomplished in our current political environment. The main goal is to make sure that everyone gets covered, and we have to keep pushing towards that goal in whatever steps we can take to get there." I have some follow ups and want to know your current opinion of Medicare For All.
1- Most importantly, would you co-sign HR 676 if elected?
2- What steps do you think we should take to get to universal coverage?
3- Shouldn't the main goal instead be to get everyone healthcare without a financial burden, not just "covered"? Many people are "covered" by the ACA but have such high premiums and deductibles that they are too discouraged by costs to go to the doctor. Also, medical debt is the #1 cause by far of personal bankruptcy.
JT: 1- I would absolutely be a co-signer for HR 676 because that's where I want us to go, eventually. Rep. Conyers' bill has a lot of good pieces to it. However, I think that this bill as it stands now faces a hard uphill battle to pass in the current political environment.
2- I plan to push for a Medicare public option, similar to what was in the original Affordable Care Act before it was removed in the Senate. If you want to learn more about where I stand on healthcare, please check out our healthcare town hall coming up on this Sunday, August 20th. We'll be livestreaming the Q&A from 4:00 P.M. to 6:00 P.M. CST on our Facebook and Twitter pages!
3- There's always going to be a financial burden for healthcare. The goal is to make it affordable for everyone; so yes, I agree with you. This public option will decrease costs for everyone because the program will also have the power to negotiate medical costs and drug costs. There will be some, namely the very poor, who would be unable to pay for coverage with a premium. The public option will have a large enough risk pool, however, that we can cover the unemployed and very poor.

NOBODY should ever be forced into bankruptcy because of a medical crisis. We have a moral obligation to ensure that everyone in our country receives healthcare.

Q: What was the most surprising and/or difficult thing you learned about running for office? What advice do you have for anyone who might be thinking about running for office, especially if they might not have institutional support?

JT: Great question. The most surprising thing? Some of our worst enemies are within our own party. That was pretty disappointing, and the most difficult thing to come to terms with. But that's OK. You just have to build up your campaign, your vision and your movement on your own terms. My advice? Be true to yourself, no matter what. Stay authentic. Don't talk at people, listen to them and discuss issues. If you want to help on a grassroots level, that's amazing, because that's exactly what we're going to need: click here.

Q:: As a civil rights lawyer, what's your take on tearing down the confederate statues?

JT: As a civil rights lawyer, and as a human being, I believe they should be taken off of public lands. I believe they belong in a museum, and not in places of honor like public squares or schools. They should serve as reminders of a history we need to remember but not memorialize.

Q: You ran in the special election, and for that race, you were considered the sign that midwest progressivism was a real thing.

What have you learned, other than you need to get more people in rural areas?

JT: We learned many important lessons, the need for rural outreach being central among them. We also learned that there's not a great deal of difference between what urban and rural voters want. We all want a good job to support ourselves and their families, a good education for our kids, and affordable healthcare.

Most importantly, though, is that people respond to authenticity. I never said anything on the trail that I didn't believe and refused to hedge on my convictions. Voters can smell bullshit from a mile away. More Democrats need to stand up for their progressive beliefs and stop running away from them!

Q: What are your foreign policy views? Specifically, in what circumstances would you advocate military intervention?

Thanks for doing this!

JT: I believe we should always seek diplomatic solutions before using force. If diplomacy fails, we should seek to create multinational alliances as we did during the first Gulf War. Unilateral actions should only be used when American lives or land is at stake. I believe in the Powell Doctrine that says if you use force, you should use overwhelming force.

Q: Stand up for progressive values (like Bernie) and you might win. If you try to be "conservative lite," you don't deserve to win.

JT: I agree! We can't pretend to be Republicans running under a different banner anymore. It's time for us to stand up and make our voices heard and run as proud progressives.

Q: What policies would you support to strengthen the union movement; i.e. increase union membership and make it easier to form/join a union, etc. Also, what do you think of a federal jobs program, similar to the WPA, that would be devoted to the transition to green energy.

JT: The best thing we can do is ensure if employees have an election petition, that they hold that election within a short timeframe, say 21 days. If you give longer than 21 days, companies often wage a misinformation campaign. During the Bush administration, many stretched out campaigns over years. If we're to be a democracy, we need to honor the right to organize. We need to give teeth back to the NLRA. It's been watered down continually since the Wagner Act, making it harder and harder to organize. Right now, the NLRB is rolling back more and more rules that help workers make their voice heard in the workplace. W/r/t a federal green jobs program, I think the idea is good in theory, but I'd be curious to see legislation dedicated to this before proceeding. Green energy is an economic engine in Kansas, and it's the right thing to do, so of course I like that idea.

Q: Should there be a "litmus test" on abortion for Democrat candidates?

JT: I am a pro-woman candidate and I support our Constitution and the Democratic platform, which are both pro-choice. I believe we should be seeking other pro-woman candidates whenever we can find them. I trust women to make decisions about their own healthcare. I also support a woman's right to accessible and affordable birth control. In the end, being pro-woman is not solely about access to abortion. We need to close the wage gap, make health care affordable, ensure families have access to affordable and excellent childcare, encourage our school girls to be involved in the hard sciences and mathematics... among other things. This is just a start. Women's rights are human rights and none of us make progress until we on equal footing. As far as a "litmus test," I will leave that up to voters to decide.

Q: Hey James-- I live in Olathe (KS for you non-Kansans, which isn't in his district). Thanks for doing this AMA.

How do you see the race between Democrats shaping up in your area? I know Lawrence would have a lot of further left supporters, but I'm not as familiar with Wichita. But outside that, it seems like you'd be trying to attract more center left rural Dems, who maybe wouldn't have supported Bernie.

What's your take on how segmented Dems are between center and further left, and what your approach is to attracting each group?

Edit: Another follow-up question-- I think we're familiar with the type of talking points you're running on, but if you're elected, what are the things you'll work on where you expect to actually get something done in a currently GOP-dominated Congress?

JT: Great questions. I believe progressive values are much more prevalent in rural areas than many people believe. Rather than try to shift my positions with the various political winds out there, I give my opinion on what I believe to be right. People respond to authenticity and honesty and want their elected representatives to listen, even if they disagree. I think Bernie winning the Democratic caucus, and then our special election showed that the Democrats as a collective group respond to the progressive platform. I do believe there is some segmentation in the party but that people will hopefully come together for the greater good. It often plays itself out in a Hillary vs Bernie model, which is counterproductive. 2016 is over and we need to move on together.

Goal ThermometerWhen I am elected, I will go to Washington to get things accomplished regardless of who holds the majority. That means looking for common ground. For example, infrastructure is a great area where both sides can come together and accomplish great things for the good of this country. Kansas is in desperate need of infrastrure repair and improvements, especially in the rural areas and green energy. This will create good jobs with fair wages. I also see opportunity in Agriculture with the upcoming farm bill to provide certainty for our producers. Education is also ripe for reform to better fund our schools and protect our teachers. Finally, healthcare is an area where I think we can make improvements and get somethings accomplished to reduce the burden on Americans, particularly in regards to closing loopholes in the ACA that cause hardship on poor people in states like Kansas because of the Republicans refusal to expand Medicaid.
If you happen to be in Wichita on Sunday... James' campaign is hosting a healthcare town hall tomorrow to hear from the people of Kansas about their concerns and ideas for America's healthcare system. It's planned for 4pm at Aero Plains Brewing, 117 N Handley St in Wichita. If you can't make it and want to support Jim's campaign, please consider clicking on the Blue America ActBlue thermometer just above and contributing what you can. Just because the DCCC persists on writing off huge swathes of America, it doesn't mean progressives have to.

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DCCC & Kings Landing Consultants Are Instructing Candidates How To Deceive Democratic Primary Voters On Healthcare


I know it's hard to imagine but there was a time when the DCCC used to give their candidates my contact info and tell them to talk with me about progressive issues. That was almost a decade ago. Today they tell their candidates to avoid me at all costs-- or else! And many of their candidates do... but not all. I have decent and professional relationships with some of the DCCC candidates and this week one, a centrist guy who feels his district will respond to centrism better than to a progressive approach, sent me a note about one of his primary opponents sending out a notice embracing Medicare-For-All." I wrote him back and told him that that's the Blue America standard and wondered why he sent something that we would admire about his opponent.

That's when it got interesting. He said the DCCC is now instructing their candidates to thwart progressives by pretending to be for Medicare-For-All to help them defeat progressive primary opponents who are for Medicare-For-All. This is what he sent me, in confidence:
Short version is this: As you know, "Medicare for All" is language that can either refer to Medicare as a public option or Medicare as a vehicle for single payer. It's intentionally confusing (my DC consultants advised me to use this language, and I told them I wanted to be very clear about where I stood). The language below (including talking about Medicare for All in the context of "access to health care for all" and "improving on the successes of the ACA") sounds consistent with the public option version of Medicare For All and not a single payer approach.
He was referring to his opponent's notice. On a follow up phone call he went on and on about the DCCC and their associated consultants are telling their candidates to say whatever it takes to trick Democratic primary voters. Admirably, he refuses but he's one of the few who is refusing. So now, I guess, we have to ask candidates for fuller explanations about why they're for Medicare-For-All and if they will pledge to co-sponsor John Conyers' Medicare-For-All legislation, H.R. 676, as 116 House Democrats have, the most recent being the just-elected Jimmy Gomez, who won a special election in Los Angeles this summer, beating a conservative "ex"-Republican.

First sign of trouble is when a candidate starts hemming and hawing and seem unable to give a public yes or no answer. As Kaniela Ing, Hawaii's most progressive state legislator, told us a week or so ago, "The consultant class is obsessed with having candidates try to sound like America's most popular politician while somehow not upsetting their donors. Unfortunately for them, authenticity matters, and voters are smarter than they think. A silver tsunami of aging boomers is approaching, and single-payer, Medicare-for-all is America's only sensible and sustainable healthcare solution. Anything short will continue to allow big-pharma, corporate hospitals, and insurance companies to exploit the sick and their cash-strapped families into paying way too much for needed services. This in turn could have devastating effects for our overall economy. Democrats know that healthcare is a human right. If you want to reach Republicans, add that Medicare is the most efficient system we got, and that Medicare-for-all will save taxpayers $17 trillion. We have facts on our side and shouldn't run from them. Voters in both parties recognize that the pharmaceutical industry, insurance companies, and corporate hospitals have too much power. The People's trust will go to the party or set of candidates willing to take them on."

No one has to twist Kaniela's arm to get him to say he's for Medicare-For-All, for single payer, for Conyers' H.R. 676. That's what he's about. Similarly, David Gill, a progressive candidate in Illinois' 13th district and an emergency room doctor for nearly 3 decades, has been aggressively working on this issue for 25 years. "I think the most important part of my ability to appeal to people across the political spectrum, even those who disagree with one or more of my progressive positions, is the fact that I am genuine. I simply say what I believe-- I don't try to tailor my talk or be particularly nuanced. I've been a physician for 29 years and I've been a member of Physicians for a National Health Program for 25 years, and I'm sick and tired of watching the vast majority of Americans get ripped off by a for-profit private health insurance industry that doesn't provide them with one iota of health care or actually give a damn about their well-being. I use that type of language while also incorporating the terms 'single payer' and 'improved Medicare for all', and I make it clear that I'm running because I ACTUALLY CARE about their well-being. The same caring instinct that drove me into a career in medicine is what drives my desire to be a leader in Congress. Each candidate has a unique set of circumstances, but I think that demonstrating a passion is ultimately even more important than the particular words that we put forth."

Goal ThermometerThe newest Blue America candidate-- we're endorsing him officially tomorrow-- is Derrick Crowe for the TX-21 seat currently occupied by Science denier and anti-healthcare fanatic Lamar Smith. Derrick told us, simply "I support Medicare For All in virtually every speech, in front of every audience. It's in our literature and is one of our main platform planks. Democrats shouldn't shy away from it for any reason. Most Americans think our country should make sure everyone has health care coverage, and among those under 30, a stunning 89 percent support that statement, with 66 percent of those young people saying they want a single national government program. Nearly two-thirds of Americans have a positive reaction to the term, 'Medicare For All.' If Republicans want to try to attack you for supporting Medicare For All in public, hand them a microphone, because we'll take their seats. Beyond the polling, it's just simply time for America to get back into a leadership role on health care. We spend more money on health care and have worse outcomes than virtually any other well-developed nation. Of the 35 countries in the OECD, we rank 27th in life expectancy, despite spending the most on health care-- so for those worried about the cost of a single-payer system, I'd challenge them to prove the value of a private system. Tell me why we should die earlier so insurance CEOs and pharma bosses can get richer off our misery."

And Derrick is eager to co-sponsor H.R. 676. His top primary opponent is "ex"-Republican Joseph Kopser, who a year ago was happy to have himself described as a "Reagan Republican" and who sits on the board of the Texas Association of Business, which the Texas Tribune describes as "the most powerful conservative business lobby on the state." Kopser uses the misleading DCCC/Beltway consultant misdirections, talking about how he supports "health care for all," but carefully skirting anything about "single payer" or Medicare-For-All.

Geoffrey Petzel, the progressive Chicagoland candidate running for the IL-06 seat occupied by TrumpCare-backer Pete Roskam, said that "Personally I agree with Our Revolution. Dems who don't publicly support single payer should get a primary challenge. I strongly support single payer, have since I ran in 2011, and proudly show my battle scars for taking that stance. Because I support single payer I was not endorsed by local media in 2011. In a bigger picture, Dems lack of vocal support for single payer is my biggest personal issue with the party. Just the other day I had a serious discussion about running as an independent instead of a Democrat because the party isn't pushing progressive policy positions like they should. The reason I'm not running as an independent, other than the prohibitive ballot requirements in Illinois, is that I believe we need to re-set the Democratic party and place it back on a track that supports progressive ideas proudly and loudly. [Democrats who] fear to proudly promote single payer makes me believe they're not real progressive and represent the status quo we have been served by the DCCC over and over again."

Little on-topic bonus, this morning: remember a couple months ago I warned you about longtime corporate shill and Blue Dog wretch Elen Tauscher trying to worm her corrupt right-wing ass back into California Democratic politics? It didn't take long. This week she was on the attack-- against Elizabeth Warren. She could hardly wait to croak out the same old corporate shill tune to The Hill, which reported that Tauscher, a surrogate for 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton who is leading the Fight Back California super PAC aimed at winning back seven House seats for Blue Dog-type characters in the Golden State, said "We can't win the House back with progressives running in swing states." Democrats will never take back the House with people who lost it originally calling the shots. (And of course, her crooked website asks for contributions for herself, not for any candidates-- always the mark of a criminally-minded conservative.)

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Midnight Meme Of The Day


-by Noah

A prayer for the weekend. Oh Lordy, hear our prayer!

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Friday, August 18, 2017

New Film Rumble Reclaims Indigenous Roots of American Music


-by Denise Sullivan

Forget everything you think you know or have been told about the birth of the blues and the histories of jazz and rock 'n' roll: Rumble-- The Indians Who Rocked The World has a different story to tell and by the sound of it, much of what's been handed down to us about North American music and its origins has been wrong.

The sound of the American South-- the rush of its waters, the song of the bird, the crack of thunder and the rain that follows-- informs the sound of Native American music, the root of all other American forms. Take the story of the Mississippi Delta's Charley Patton, widely acknowledged to be the father of the country blues. An existing photograph of him reveals he is likely a man of mixed race origins, though without clear proof, historians have remained perplexed and inconclusive in their findings. Rumble reveals through interviews, research, and recordings, that Patton's blood ties are to the Chocktaw nation and moreover, his connection to Native American music contributed to the rhythmic and vocal patterns of what we know as country blues. In the film, musician Pura Fé (Tuscarora) a/b's his technique with a turntable and her voice: “That's Indian music with a guitar,” she says. Calling on a kind of pre-blues origin of his sound, the assembled scholars and musicians, including modern day bluesmen Corey Harris and Alvin Youngblood Hart, go into deeper explanation of Patton's relationship to Dockery Plantation, the setting where he developed a showstopping style living among Black, Choctaw, and European farmworkers. He went on to pass on what he knew to other area musicians like Son House and visiting players like the young Roebuck Staples and Chester Burnette (who of course became Howlin' Wolf). So why is Patton's history generally painted so sketchily in the history books?

Pura Fé

Insufficient investigation into Native America's contribution to popular music is of course by design. Following the US government's attempts to eradicate the tribes and erase all vestiges of its culture, particularly following the slaughter at Wounded Knee, embracing and promoting Native ways became a dangerous pursuit. And yet, despite the genocide, Native musicians continued to innovate with sound.

Link Wray (Shawnee), with his heavy touch on the guitar strings, as on his signture song “Rumble,” became the inventor of rock's power chord. Iggy Pop, Slash, the Band's Robbie Robertson, MC5's Wayne Kramer, bluesman Taj Mahal, and Little Steven Van Zandt, all testify to the startling, life-changing power of Wray's sound. Pete Townshend and Jimmy Page owe their electric styles to him.

Monk Boudreaux and Cyril Neville unravel how Indian music came to New Orleans where indigineous people of the US and the indigenous people of Africa met and stirred it up. Poet Joy Harjo (Muscogee) explains how blues, rock, and jazz are tied up in these origins.Historian Erich Jarvis puts together how the slave trade resulted in African-Americans and Native people living in close proximities and why many Southern Indians lived their lives masked as Black. The lineage is matrilineal, usually a great grandmother on the mother's side, though none of this information is generally incorporated into our understanding of the origins of American music. Rumble lays down all of the prequel and more in the first 20 minutes of the film, and then it goes deeper:

Mildred Bailey, the first woman with her own radio show and to perform in front of a swing band was born on the Couer d'Alene reservation in Idaho; she was a profound influence on Tony Bennett and also informed the melodic styles of Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. The details are best left to be revealed by the excellent use of original recordings, film stock, and interviews collected by filmmakers Cathernine Bainbridge and Alfonso Maiorana who left no Indian unsung in their effort to make their definitive documentary about Native Americans and popular music.

The film's producer, hard funk and rock guitarist, Stevie Salas (Apache), introduces Jimi Hendrix's story into the mix. Hendrix's ties to his grandmother's Cherokee ancestry extended not only in the way he looked and to his style, but in the touch with which he played (“I Hear My Train A'Comin'”). His sister Janie recalls Jimi's pride at his mixed cultural heritage (and the way his interpretation of The Star Spangled Banner nearly 50 years ago at Woodstock was a reflection of that pride). Derek Trucks calls Hendrix a national superhero for the power his multi-ethnicity brought him-- and in turn to his listeners. Trucks words serve as a critical reminder that a society's multiethnic pride is in fact its strength.

Buffy Sainte-Marie (Cree) and John Trudell (Santee Sioux) address the government's continued interference with their art and activism; Robbie Robertson recalls his journey from a partime reservation Indian to full tilt teenage rocker who toured the world with Bob Dylan. With the Band, Robertson forged a timeless vision of American electric music. Names lesser-known to casual listeners, from folksinger Peter LaFarge, Redbone's Pat Vegas, metal drummer Randy Castillo, and Jesse Ed Davis also get their due.

It was Taj Mahal who brought the guitarist best known to friends and fans as Jesse Ed into his band, and the Rolling Stones who brought the band to Europe, introducing Jesse Ed to the rock aristocracy for whom he became the sideman of choice. Davis is perhaps best known for his solo in Jackson Browne's hit, “Doctor My Eyes;" he later collaborated with Trudell on the acclaimed Graffitti Man, a groundbreaker in spoken-word recording in the '90s. A moving sequence pairs Salas and Trudell (who passed away in 2015 after the film's making) on a trip to New Mexico in memory of drummer Castillo, who died in 2002: It is in fact Castillo's story that underscores why the imprint Native Americans have left on popular music is singular: It is of the earth.

After viewing Rumble, it's unlikely you'll hear, sing, or play music the same way: Now we know not only was the land and air we breathe stolen, but the music we claim as our own was Native American too.

Denise Sullivan is the author of Keep On Pushing: Black Power Music From Blues to Hip Hop and an occasional contributor to DWT! on arts, culture, and gentrification issues.

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There's Never Been A More Fetid Swamp In Washington Like The One Trump Has Set Out To Create


NPR's Fresh Air has a fascinating piece on Wednesday that sought to shone some light on how the Trump Regime is accomplishing quite a bit while everyone is paying attention to the clown tripping all over himself in the center ring. The guest was NY Times journalist Eric Lipton and he's been reporting on how the Trump Regime has brought in lobbyists to help destroy the regulations that have protected the public from the very industries that those lobbyists were working for-- and no doubt will again. The whole show in worth listening to and it's embedded above.

Lipton began by explaining how the Trumpists quickly changed the rules governing lobbyists in government. "[T]he Obama administration explicitly banned lobbyists from going to work in agencies that they had in the prior two years lobbied. And Trump removed that explicit restriction and has allowed quite a number of lobbyists to come into agencies to regulate the same sectors that they just a few months ago had been trying to influence... Trump eliminated the prohibition on lobbyists coming in, but he kept the two-year ban in participating in the same matter. And so then the question becomes, well, how are they enforcing this two-year ban because there are now dozens of lobbyists and lawyers who represented private industry who have been placed into the Trump administration in the same sectors that they had worked in for the private industries. But the question is, you know, how are we looking and knowing whether or not they are then working on essentially their former clients to-do lists but now with the power of the government agency that they're running?

"During the Obama administration, there was an agreement that anytime anyone was given a waiver, that waiver would be either posted on the White House website or shared with the Office of Government Ethics and made public. So we as reporters could look and see, well, this, you know, man or woman is working in the same area that they had previously been paid to represent. But we would know the conditions upon which they could do that and why they had been granted such a waiver. Then when the Trump administration started, they initially were refusing to make those waivers public despite the fact that we were asking for them. And it became the subject of a pretty intense fight. And ultimately, they made some of them public, but they don't continue to post them.

"...One of the more prominent ones is Michael Catanzaro, who was a lobbyist for Devon Energy and also for an electric utility that operates some of the largest coal-burning power plants in the United States. And so he was lobbying on things like trying to block a rule that the EPA had passed that was going to limit methane emissions from oil and gas drilling sites across the United States. Methane is many times more potent as a climate change component than CO2. And methane also-- when you release methane, you're often also releasing volatile organic chemicals, which are... you know, can be carcinogens and cause other health consequences. So the EPA was trying to regulate methane emissions. And Michael Catanzaro was working for Devon Energy to try to kill that rule. So he then goes into the White House. And he also had previously been representing the largest-- one of the largest coal-burning utilities in the United States. And he had been fighting the Clean Power Plan, which was trying to force coal-burning power plants to reduce their CO2 emissions. And so once he gets to the White House, among the things that he does is he helps write an executive order that essentially instructs the federal agencies to terminate the Clean Power Plan and the methane rule. And so he is essentially continuing the work that he'd been doing on behalf of his private-sector clients. But he's now doing it as one of the most powerful, you know, policy people in the United States. And so you wonder, how is that possible? So we were aware of Michael Catanzaro's shift. And I then went and interviewed a number of industry lobbyists who were lobbying the White House to try to get those rules repealed because they hated it. And now all of a sudden, they've got their former, you know, colleague and, you know, compatriot who is essentially helping run the show. And I said, have you talked to Michael Catanzaro since he went into the White House? And they said, yes. And I said, how is this possible? I thought there was this two-year ban on participating in a particular matter that you had represented a client on. And so we-- and then I asked the White House, well, can I see his waiver because he must have been granted a waiver. And they would not give it to me.

"After I wrote that story, the Office of Government Ethics said, you know what? This is an impossible situation. How can we have an ethics program if there - if we can't see the waivers? So the head of the Office of Government Ethics did what he called a data request, and he made a request of every federal agency. And he asked every federal agency for copies of any waivers that had been issued through April. And as a result of that request-- and there was a bit of a fight where initially the White House indicated that it may not comply with the request. But ultimately the White House complied. And there you go. On the day of the deadline, they-- the White House issues a list of waivers that had been issued, and there's Michael Catanzaro. And he was in fact-- had been granted a waiver to participate in the same matters that he had previously been paid to represent.

..."There's a guy at the Department of Transportation Security Administration. And in this case, I don't know the extent to which he has participated in the same manner. But he was working for a company that was trying to sell the Transportation Security Administration new equipment that would do security screenings. And that company had just gotten its agreement from TSA, the airport screening agency, to do kind of actual testing in its laboratory to see whether or not this equipment was worth buying and spending, you know, potentially tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars to install in airports in the United States. And then the same gentleman, Chad Wolf, then became the chief of staff at TSA, which would-- you know, as the chief of staff, you're involved in issues across the agency. And you know, if you're going to be making a major change in the way that you inspect carry-on baggage to look for explosives and then potentially commit to buying, you know, tens of millions or hundreds of millions of dollars in new equipment, you know, the chief of staff of the agency is going to be involved. So he is now the former lobbyist for the, you know-- explosive detection equipment is now the chief of staff overseeing, you know, various things at the Transportation Security Administration.

"There's a woman that is working in the Environmental Protection Agency who had worked for the chemical industry. And it was lobbying to try to limit the-- kind of the strength of a law intended to regulate toxic chemicals. Now she's at the EPA, helping establish the rules that will regulate the same chemicals and the same companies that she just previously had represented. And so I mean literally there are dozens of people who have made this shift from being the regulated to the regulators, and so-- at a pace that I have going back to George W. Bush and being in Washington and covering administrations that I have not seen before."

We asked two of the sharpest attorneys running for Congress this cycle, Dan Canon in Indiana and Sam Jammal in California. Dan's running for the 9th district seat held by a rubber stamp backbencher, Trey Hollingsworth. He told us that Trump's systemic dismantling of regulatory protections "is consistent not only with the unashamed corruption on display in this administration, but also the unchecked dismantling of the federal government we've seen over the last 7 months. The executive branch wants to make government into a private corporation, free from the fetters of ethical rules, public transparency, and the democratic process. And Congress isn't doing anything to hold these oligarchs accountable."

Sam Jammal, an Orange County candidate for a seat held by an entrenched top ally of Paul Ryan and the Trump Regime-- Ed Royce-- is concerned with the way the Trump Regime is perverting the role of the federal government on behalf of powerful special interests. "We need a government that works for us," he told us, "not one filled with individuals looking to turn around and make a quick buck or so biased towards one powerful interest. Regulatory capture is one of the biggest problems we face in government that no one discusses. Its an even bigger problem now with Trump and his revolving door of special interests running our government. But this has been going on for a while. The result is that we have policy decisions focused solely on the interests of the most powerful incumbents, which hurts innovation, competition and ultimately the rest of us. Everyone-- regardless of political leanings-- should be concerned. I saw this firsthand as thousands of solar jobs were lost due to regulatory capture in state public utilities commissions.

"The best way to avoid regulatory capture and the revolving door are clear rules and oversight. First, we shouldn't make it so easy for special interest representatives-- it's not just lobbyists-- being in positions to influence policy on their former employers. There must be transparency and some waiver process in order to at least require a case be made for the hire. Additionally, there should be a longer ban on returning to lobby or participate in policy roles within the regulated industry. This will remove the profit motive to write policies to open doors for the next job. Lastly, we need congressional oversight. Congress stopped holding oversight hearings years ago, which leads to powerful interests shaping policy when there are bad actors like Trump, but also leaves our government vulnerable to only favoring the loudest voices and usual suspects since no one is paying attention."

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Señor Trumpanzee Has Been Looking For An Excuse To Demote Or Fire Bannon-- Here Are A Couple On A Silver Platter


This post was written just before Trump fired Bannon today

Chris Cuomo says CNN contacted all 52 Republican senators-- every single one of them, even Mike Rounds, Thad Cochran and James Lankford who no one ever calls for a national interview-- to come on the air and defend their president's Charlottesville remarks. Not one accepted the invitation. Meanwhile Bannon accidentally did an interview with the liberal American Prospect by calling an outspoken Trump foe, Robert Kuttner, out of thin air-- for a chit-chat? I don't think so.

Background: the new CBS poll shows that "nearly two-thirds of Americans consider the attack that led to loss of life in Charlottesville an act of 'domestic terrorism,' a view that spans partisan lines. But President Trump's response to Charlottesville finds more division. He gets majority disapproval overall for his response to the events, while most Republicans approve. Republicans interviewed following Tuesday's press conference also feel Mr. Trump is assigning blame accurately in the matter, while Democrats and Independents, and the country overall, disagree... Disapproval of the president's handling of events rose following the press conference. Both partisan groups showed at least slight ticks up in disapproval, with Republicans becoming a bit more disapproving and Democrats even more so... Overall, Americans are more apt to say Mr. Trump's policies have encouraged racial division rather than racial unity."

Now back to Bannon's interview with Kuttner, which has been driving Regime insiders into a frenzy since it surfaced Wednesday night. By way of introduction, Kuttner wrote that we "might think from recent press accounts that Steve Bannon is on the ropes and therefore behaving prudently. In the aftermath of events in Charlottesville, he is widely blamed for his boss’s continuing indulgence of white supremacists. Allies of National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster hold Bannon responsible for a campaign by Breitbart News, which Bannon once led, to vilify the security chief. Trump’s defense of Bannon, at his Tuesday press conference, was tepid. But Bannon was in high spirits when he phoned me Tuesday afternoon to discuss the politics of taking a harder line with China, and minced no words describing his efforts to neutralize his rivals at the Departments of Defense, State, and Treasury. 'They’re wetting themselves,' he said, proceeding to detail how he would oust some of his opponents at State and Defense." Bannon appears to be calling all the shots at the White House and treating Trump like the puppet Saturday Night Live used it explain their relationship.

“I’m changing out people at East Asian Defense; I’m getting hawks in. I’m getting Susan Thornton [acting head of East Asian and Pacific Affairs] out at State.”

But can Bannon really win that fight internally?

“That’s a fight I fight every day here,” he said. “We’re still fighting. There’s Treasury and [National Economic Council chair] Gary Cohn and Goldman Sachs lobbying.”

“We gotta do this. The president’s default position is to do it, but the apparatus is going crazy. Don’t get me wrong. It’s like, every day.”

Bannon explained that his strategy is to battle the trade doves inside the administration while building an outside coalition of trade hawks that includes left as well as right. Hence the phone call to me.

...I asked Bannon about the connection between his program of economic nationalism and the ugly white nationalism epitomized by the racist violence in Charlottesville and Trump’s reluctance to condemn it. Bannon, after all, was the architect of the strategy of using Breitbart to heat up white nationalism and then rely on the radical right as Trump’s base.

He dismissed the far right as irrelevant and sidestepped his own role in cultivating it: “Ethno-nationalism-- it's losers. It's a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more.”

“These guys are a collection of clowns,” he added.

From his lips to Trump’s ear.

“The Democrats,” he said, “the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”

I had never before spoken with Bannon. I came away from the conversation with a sense both of his savvy and his recklessness. The waters around him are rising, but he is going about his business of infighting, and attempting to cultivate improbable outside allies, to promote his China strategy. His enemies will do what they do.

Either the reports of the threats to Bannon’s job are grossly exaggerated and leaked by his rivals, or he has decided not to change his routine and to go down fighting. Given Trump’s impulsivity, neither Bannon nor Trump really has any idea from day to day whether Bannon is staying or going. He has survived earlier threats. So what the hell, damn the torpedoes.

The conversation ended with Bannon inviting me to the White House after Labor Day to continue the discussion of China and trade. We’ll see if he’s still there.

Yes, we will. When the clownish Mooch attempted to entertain Señor Trumpanzee by making reference to Bannon sucking his own cock, he wasn't just pulling a reference out of thin air. He was probably aware by then about the Coconut Grove party house-- not far from the infamous park where Marco Rubio used to work as a male prostitute-- that Bannon occupied. Bannon and his third ex-wife lived at 1794 Opechee Drive in Miami, a notorious meth and porn den. "The Miami-Dade Police Department’s public corruption unit launched an investigation into whether Bannon had fraudulently registered to vote in that county. Bannon had signed the lease, listed himself as an occupant, and paid the rent every month," wrote Jason Brad Berry yesterday. "One of Bannon’s colleagues, Arlene Delgado, testified that she had met with Bannon at the house on Opechee Drive, which he described as 'my house,' where she saw 'boxes, papers, and effects' that indicated he lived there. They met, according to Delgado, because Bannon had moved to Florida and wanted to increase the presence of the far-right Breitbart News, of which he was executive chair."
[In a 2017 report] the Washington Post focused primarily on the bizarre fact that Bannon listed the Opechee Drive house as his place of residence, despite living in California. The article lightly touched on the state of disrepair in which Bannon left the house-- including a bathtub apparently destroyed by acid.

But the truth turns out to have been much worse than that.

When Curtis first saw the house, the real estate agent, Beatriz Portela, told him the previous tenants “were not very upstanding people” and had “severely damaged” the property.

They had “put padlocks on all the doors, installed video cameras, and had ruined the bathtub, kitchen counter, and floor.”

Worse, though, was that it had been a “party house,” she said, known for frequent drug use.

Carlos Herrera, who owned the house with with his wife, Andreina Morales, painted a picture of what initially seemed to be a normal tenancy but soon evolved into an almost daily parade of debauchery and drug use, including run-ins with the police.

“The conclusion is she was probably cooking meth in here,” Herrera said of Bannon’s ex-wife. That would have explained the damage done to the bathtub and kitchen sink.

Curtis heard the same stories of porn, drugs, and debauchery over and over again.

“Each person gave accounts that the house was used to film pornography, had a constant flow of men, women-- and even children-- at the house and that blatant drug use was occurring at all hours of the night and day,” Curtis said.

At least five people told him tales of drug use and porn at the house.

Felix, a handyman who frequently worked on the property, told Curtis he had personally “witnessed women and men being filmed in the act.” He described the buckets of chemicals and bags of trash and rags he had to remove. He spent hours scrubbing the master bathtub, “which appeared melted by some form of acid.” Felix suspected the bathtub had been used for “making drugs.”

Curtis heard similar stories from the pest control service man.

“In fact,” Curtis said, “he did so in an almost gleeful and boastful manner.”

The pest control worker described witnessing drug use each time he came to the house, “even at early day hours.” He told Curtis it would blow his mind to know what “what went on in the house.”

An unnamed male tenant, he said, who was “a heavy set man,” offered him “girls for sex and/or drugs in lieu of payment,” but he never accepted because he could lose his job.

When the oven range needed repair, the repairman refused to come to the house. Despite the service warranty, Curtis said, he was told no one would come “if the same people were living in the house because ‘that house is evil and the people are evil.’”

The company ultimately agreed to send someone after being assured the prior tenants were gone.

When Curtis opened the gate, the repairman said with seeming relief, “You aren’t him.”

He proceeded to work on the range and also share his own horror stories about the previous tenants.

He told Curtis that on several occasions, when he would arrive to service the house, “the tenants would scream at him to leave and threatened him with violence.” At other times, when he was allowed into the house to perform work, he observed topless and naked men and women and the constant presence of drugs, which they would sometimes offer to him.

He told Curtis it was “the worst experience of his life” and that he “did not want anything to do with those ‘evil people.’”

“You have no idea what kind of evil stuff went on in the house,” he said.

One day, Curtis said, a woman came to the house asking for “Steve or [his ex-wife].” She appeared distraught when he told her they no longer lived there. She stood outside the gate for several minutes in a daze.

“I assumed she was probably a regular visitor to the house looking for drugs from the previous tenants,” Curtis said, “but I didn’t realize just how bad the drug use in the house had been at the time. I firmly told her to leave and to not come back.”

Meanwhile, according to the realtor, the neighbors had formed a committee “in an effort to get the owners to evict” the tenants before they ultimately left.

In September 2016, upon returning from a filming in the South Pacific, Curtis came home to a pile of mail addressed to Steve Bannon and his ex-wife. Curtis would write “return to sender” on the mail, but “the flow of bills, notices from the city of Miami, and letters from the Bank of Ireland started piling up.”

That’s when the landlord finally told Curtis about the identity of the former tenants.

“He told me that [Bannon] was indeed the previous tenant who caused such drama,” Curtis said. And now that Bannon had joined Trump’s presidential campaign, everyone was looking into Bannon and his history.

“He told me the FBI had contacted them, as well as several reporters and journalists,” Curtis said, “and that I should expect to be contacted as well.”

“It was an unusual situation, to say the least,” he added.

But it was more than unusual. It was also a health hazard.

Shortly after Curtis moved into the house, he started to experience a variety of symptoms: fatigue, inability to sleep, eye and skin irritation, chronic chest pain, and dizziness.

The symptoms would subside when he was away from the house for weeks at a time and they would resume when he returned.

In March, Herrera finally admitted to Curtis that the prior tenants had manufactured meth there. That’s when Curtis went to stay in a hotel. Again, his symptoms subsided.

He also purchased kits to test for methamphetamine in the house. At first, he focused on the kitchen, master bathroom, and guest room. The tests showed a high level of contamination, so Curtis ordered six more tests and had them shipped overnight.

The contamination was through the roof. So Curtis hired a company to test the house at well. The test confirmed “levels of meth and very high levels of cocaine.”

In May, Curtis moved out of the house.

He still suffers from health problems related to living in the house once occupied by Steve Bannon.
This morning Digby mentioned that "Steve Bannon is reportedly going back to Breitbart. That is a mistake and I'm surprised he's doing it. He has an agenda and part of it is to sow dissension on the left over "identity politics" vs economic populism and hostility toward the "deep state," which is a real fault line, if less of a chasm than some people want to believe. He could possibly make progress on that if he started a new project and re-branded himself as an isolationist, economic populist but Breitbart's "alt-right" identity is toxic to everyone on the left. From what I'm seeing so far, Breitbart is planning to "go to war" against the administration saying that it's full of "Democrats, globalists and Generals." (You can be sure that they will also continue to be a hub for the "alt-right's" connection to the Nazis and Neo-confederates too.)

"From the commentary I heard this morning, much of the punditocrisy apparently agrees with Bannon that all that confederate statue stuff has no salience among Trump voters since they inexplicably continue to contend that those nice salt-o-the-earth All American boys and girls reject white supremacy and just want some good union work in a factory somewhere and are looking to Donald Trump to finally deliver now that he got rid of that awful racist. The pundits are deluded."

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Trumpanzee Lashes Out In All Directions-- Congressional Republicans Are Victims Of Domestic Abuse


Trump is fighting with Republicans again. He's all but endorsed one of the right-wing lunatics primarying Jeff Flake (R-AZ)-- and is expected to explicitly do so when he travels to Phoenix to pardon Joe Arpaio this weekend. He seemed peeved that Flake pointed out in his new book that Trump's antics are "the spasms of a dying party." On top of his feud with Flake, Trump's been on a rampage against Lindsey Graham again after Graham addressed him directly in regard to his horrifying Charlottesville comments that offered succor to muderous Nazis the KKK and domestic terrorists:
"Mr. President, I encourage you to try to bring us together as a nation after this horrific event in Charlottesville. Your words are dividing Americans, not healing them... I, along with many others, do not endorse this moral equivalency. Many Republicans do not agree with and will fight back against the idea that the Party of Lincoln has a welcome mat out for the David Dukes of the world." Trump's reaction was to call Graham "publicity seeking" and to say he "just can't forget his election trouncing." He then threatened "The people of South Carolina will remember!"

David Nakamura covered the spat between Trump and the 2 Republican senators for the Washington Post yesterday. "In a morning tweetstorm," he wrote, "Trump lambasted Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (SC) and Jeff Flake (AZ), calling Graham 'publicity-seeking' and Flake 'toxic,' and endorsing a primary challenger to Flake in his reelection bid next year.'"
Trump's tweets made clear that the president is willing to challenge fellow Republican lawmakers and potentially imperil their reelection chances if they criticize him. The GOP holds a narrow 52-48 margin in the Senate, though most political analysts say it will be difficult for Democrats to win back the chambers in 2018 due to the election map favoring Republicans.

But Trump also needs to maintain party loyalty to help pass his legislative agenda, including upcoming efforts at tax revision and, perhaps, infrastructure. Graham's fellow Republican senator from Arizona, John McCain, cast a crucial vote against the GOP's effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, prompting Trump to attack him repeatedly.
But it's worse than the Twitter rages. McClatchy's Katie Glueck reported Wednesday on how deeply anxious Republicans are that Trumpanzee is ruining their brand. And do they ever deserve it! "If Donald Trump’s campaign stomped all over the Republican Party’s 2012 plans to build a more diverse movement," she wrote, "his refusal now to squarely blame white supremacists and neo-Nazis for Charlottesville violence has destroyed those efforts entirely." So much for Priebus' autopsy report and any hopes the GOP might start making inroads with fast-growing Hispanic and Asian electorates. And people under 40. "[A]fter the president this week insisted that there were 'very fine people' among those who violently marched at a white supremacist rally, many Republicans fear that Trump is reinforcing the same negative perceptions about the party that they have spent years working to combat."
“Our plan is to reach out and talk to people who haven’t always agreed with us,” said Emmanuel Wilder, a North Carolina-based activist with the Young Republican National Federation. Trump’s comments, he said, make it that much harder. “It’s a major step back. The fact that the head of the party cannot call a spade a spade, it hurts…it’s near impossible for us to try to explain. It’s not really explainable.”

Added a dejected Republican state party chairman, “If he intended that-- that’s almost so crazy that it’s sad. And of course, it’s counter to what the Republican Party has been trying to do, and sincerely so by most of us, for years: to let people of all races and backgrounds and socioeconomic circumstances know they have a home in the Republican Party.”

Interviews with a dozen Republican operatives and activists around the country revealed genuine frustration-- and for some, disgust-- over Trump’s repeated suggestions that there is an equivalence between the neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and white supremacists who marched in Virginia this weekend, and those who turned out to protest them, even as a woman died after a white supremacist rammed a car into a group of the counter-protesters.

“He is destroying the GOP one day at a time, one reckless statement and action at a time,” said Sally Bradshaw, a longtime adviser to Jeb Bush who co-authored the “autopsy” report and went on to leave the party over Trump. “Why would anyone consider supporting a political party when the leader of the party is anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-woman, and anti-black? He makes me sick.

Some expressed relief that a significant number of GOP lawmakers robustly rebuked Trump’s remarks, and those looking ahead to congressional elections are hopeful that voters will be able to distinguish between Trump and hometown lawmakers, as was the case in many competitive 2016 contests.
We spoke with several Democratic congressional candidates about how that is playing out in their own districts. Derrick Crowe, Blue America's newest endorsed candidate, told us pretty much what almost all the candidates are saying about their own races. "Lamar Smith has issued no official press release on the events beyond a vague tweet. He's said nothing to condemn White supremacy as an ideology. He's not mentioned the death of an American at the hands of a domestic terrorist. He's said nothing critical of Donald Trump's stunningly insipid remarks on the topic. It's clear Trump's first congressional donor is no more willing to criticize Trump than Trump is willing to criticize Putin."

Sam Jammal is the Blue America-endorsed progressive Democrat running in CA-39. He pointed out that "These GOP ties to the KKK and Neo-Nazis are really concerning. We know where Trump stands, but really don't know where the rest of the Republican Party stands, especially Ed Royce. A few years back, he actually spoke at a rally against multi-culturalism which is kind of crazy when you consider that he represents a heavy immigrant district that is 2/3rds communities of color. Last election, the district even voted 60-40% to pass a ballot initiative returning bilingual education as an option in our schools. Proving just how out of step he is, Ed has a long history of supporting English Only policies. Ed's game plan seems to be to say reasonable sounding things when people are paying attention, but do extreme things when they are not-- like speaking at this rally or taking photos with hate group leaders. This is not the type of leadership we need, especially given Trump's full embrace of racial divisions. I think people are now paying attention and Ed is going to have a lot of explaining to do."  

Jenny Marshall, Virginia Foxx's opponent in NC-05, isn't shy about making sure residents of Forsyth, Watauga, Iredell, Wilkes, Davidson, Rowan counties know that "Foxx's silence on President Trump’s statement on Charlottesville shows that she supports a president who condones, and some would say encourages, white nationalists.  But again, let’s be clear-- Virginia Foxx has chosen repeatedly to ignore racism in our home state of North Carolina and throughout the nation. Just this year, federal courts struck down laws created by the North Carolina state legislature because they found that they had directly disenfranchised people of color. Foxx supports these laws and other efforts like them, showing that she has no commitment to at-risk communities. I believe that the people of North Carolina deserve representatives who will take a stand against racism, not just on twitter, but in the halls of congress. Congress must schedule oversight hearings of the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland security to ensure that resources are allocated to combat white nationalists, neo-nazis and other hate groups. When elected, I will fight for this type of congressional oversight to ensure that every American is treated fairly and can feel safe."
In another sign of just how deeply the incident is resonating among people of color, two African American commentators-- one from the left, one from the right-- broke down in tears while discussing the issue on Fox News.

Trump’s remarks Tuesday were a stunning reversal from the more explicit condemnation of hate groups that he offered Monday, following several days of criticism for an equivocating initial statement on the Charlottesville violence.

The comments sparked the most significant Republican backlash his administration has faced to date, with leading Republicans including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pushing back on Trump’s characterizations.

Notably, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Stivers, not known as a routine Trump critic, swiped on Twitter: “I don't understand what's so hard about this. White supremacists and Neo-Nazis are evil and shouldn't be defended.”

“Politics is about expansion, not contraction,” said Glen Bolger, a prominent GOP strategist and pollster working on midterm races. “Language like that, as many senators and congresspeople have noted, is not exactly helpful in terms of expanding the coalition. Nobody’s coalition wants Nazis-- or should want Nazis-- in it. It was baffling to say the least.”

Bolger said that it was far too early to gauge what the long-term implications of the incident might be for the GOP brand in the next election, given the pace of the news cycle. But some Republicans are concerned that the moment has the potential to do long-term harm.

“I worry the president’s remarks yesterday undermine everything that we are as a party,” said former New Hampshire GOP Chair Jennifer Horn. “As the party of Lincoln, we are built on the very concept of inclusion, equality, freedom for all. His comments undermine that considerably.”

Indeed, in his remarks Tuesday, Trump did not emphasize the GOP’s “party of Lincoln” reputation, instead equating monuments to Confederate leaders with those for presidents such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. He suggested that if Confederate symbols come down, as rally-goers in Charlottesville were agitating against, then those honoring U.S. presidents and Founding Fathers could be next.

“As a party, we go out of the way to try to spread that message” of inclusion, Horn continued. “Having a president who calls himself a Republican and then makes these kinds of comments obviously undermines that message.”

The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, Democrats are already making clear that they plan to use Trump’s remarks to tarnish the entire GOP brand. Coming from a corrupt and morally reprehensible character like Debbie Wasserman Schultz makes it hard to take seriously, but listen to how Randy Bryce, Paul Ryan's 2018 opponent put it:

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How Much "Trump" Is The Right Amount Of "Trump" For Congressional Candidates To Use?


by Nancy Ohanian

Yesterday, in relation to an unrelated post I was discussing with him, L.A. area Congressman Ted Lieu happened to mention that "The American middle class helped to create the greatest economy the world has ever known. However, misguided policies-- mostly driven by Republicans obsessed with tax cuts for the wealthy-- have hollowed out opportunity for Americans to enter the middle class and live out their fair share of the American dream. Hard-working Americans deserve an economy defined by strong wages, good benefits and retirement security-- we have governed this country from the right and from the center, now we need to try an innovative progressive approach." As part of a process of reform, the House Democrats elected Ted DCCC Vice Chair for the West Coast. He's being very proactive with all the candidates who seek his advice and I'm sure they're getting this kind of meta-messaging from him and his staff, meta-messaging that will serve them well if they weave it into their campaigns' approach to the 2018 midterm contest in their districts.

That said, ALG Research noted yesterday that "Trump entered office with a historically low approval rating, one that is made even more notable when taking into account the low rate of unemployment, a booming stock market, high consumer confidence, and the fact that the United States is not currently engaged in a drastically unpopular war. As outrage over the President's response to the violence in Charlottesville this past weekend has become the subject of a vast public outcry, it's important to remember just how unpopular Trump was even before the events of the last two weeks... Three recent polls from CNN, Quinnipiac, and Gallup all found that the President's job approval rating had dropped to record lows of 38%, 33%, and 34% respectively... reflective of a slow and steady decline in Trump's job approval rating, as well as a slow yet steady increase in his disapproval rating."
Most shocking about these recent polls however, is the proportion of people who have very firmly made up their minds and say they disapprove "strongly" of Trump's job performance. In the CNN poll, out of the 56% of respondents who said they disapprove of the way Trump is handling his job as president, 47% said they "strongly" disapprove and only 9% said they "somewhat" disapproved. The Quinnipiac poll showed a similar split amongst respondents. Out of the 61% who said they disapproved of how Trump is handling his job, 55% said they "strongly" disapproved, with just 6% saying they "somewhat" disapproved.

These numbers show that Trump's job approval rating is not a soft number that will be easily influenced by White House attempts to win Americans back over, but rather is indicative of strongly held opinions amongst Americans that are unlikely to change without a significant shift in strategy. While it's not impossible for Trump to win over Americans who currently strongly disapprove of his job performance, it is unlikely, and leaves the White House a very narrow path to attempt to rebuild public perception of Trump's job performance thus far.

Trump's approval ratings amongst Americans who aren't affiliated with a political party or identify as Independents, many of whom are frequently recognized as swing voters, are also declining. In the recent Gallup poll Trump's approval amongst Independents sank to a record low of 29%. The Quinnipiac poll also found job approval amongst Independents was low, with just 34% of Independents approving of Trump's handling of his job so far.

The recent Quinnipiac poll also showed that a half of white Americans without a college degree hold a negative view of Trump's job performance so far. 50% said they disapproved of Trump's handling of his job as President, while 43% said they approved. Largely hailed as one of the groups that propelled Trump to victory, this could present big problems for Trump and his coalition moving forward into the midterms. While job approval and vote share are distinctly different measures, they are also intrinsically linked and a drop to just 43% approval from a group that voted for the President by a margin of 67% to 28% certainly signals that the President's base is not as strong as it once was.

Democrats Have a Path to Retaking the House of Representatives

Trump's job approval also holds important implications as both parties prepare to fight for Congressional majorities in 2018. The chart below from NBC News shows the number of House seats gained or lost in midterm elections side-by-side with September approval ratings from those elections.

With the midterm elections over a year away and Trump's approval under 40% in all of these recent polls, we could be looking at midterm election results comparable to those of 1946, 1978, 1982, and 1994. In these years when Presidential approval was at 45% or lower in September of the midterm election year, the party in power lost an average of 37.5 seats in the House of Representatives in November elections. That would be more than enough for Democrats to take back the House.

Unfortunately, the President's low job approval is not an ace in the hole for Democrats... However, if Democrats are able to capitalize upon Trump's weaknesses on healthcare policy, foreign affairs, immigration policy, and helping the middle class-- not to mention his implosion amongst Independents-- it could certainly lead to them retaking the House in 2018.
Tuesday night, Alabama Republican primary voters rejected Trump's endorsed candidate, incumbent Luther Strange, for the U.S. Senate seat, despite massive amounts of money going into Strange's campaign and only modest amounts spent by his opponents. Strange came in second and there will be a September 26 runoff.

Crackpot extremist Roy Moore took 162,570 votes (38.9%), while Strange, the Trump guy, took 136,910 (32.8%) and another crackpot, Mo Brooks, took 82,363 votes (19.7%). Moore is more of a Trumpian character than Strange but Trump repeatedly endorsed Strange and did all he could do to motivate his supporters in Alabama, where's he's still popular, to vote for him. All he could do wasn't enough. And if he doesn't have coattails in Alabama... what do you think Mimi Walters, Ed Royce, Darrell Issa, Steve Knight and Dana Rohrabacher are thinking in Southern California. John Culberson, Will Hurd, Pete Sessions, Lamar Smith and Kenny Marchant are all sweating up a storm in Texas now. Trump coattails in the northeast-- for GOP incumbents, Bruce Poliquin (ME), Leonard Lance (NJ), Tom MacArthur (NJ), Frank LoBiondo (NJ), Chris Smith (NY), Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ), Lee Zeldin (NY), Peter King (NY), Dan Donovan (NY), John Faso (NY), Elise Stefanik (NY), Claudia Tenney (NY), John Katko (NY), Ryan Costello (PA), Pat Meehan (PA), Brain Fitzpatrick (PA) and Lloyd Smucker (PA) would be turned into absolute anchors by a competent DCCC. And even the grotesquely incompetent one we have might be able to win some Republican seats here and there.

One thing that many Democratic candidates want to get the balance right on has to do with how much they should make their races about Trump. The DCCC strategy is basically to recruit a pack of dreadful corrupt self-funding conservatives-- Blue Dogs, New Dems, "ex"-Republicans, anti-Choice fanatics, corporate whores (the whole Republican wing of the Democratic Party)-- and hope Trump's self-destruction bleeds over into congressional campaigns. Sensible candidates always ignore DCCC strategy and this year the ones who look like they're doing the best so far are the ones who are campaigning on Medicare-For-All, legalized pharmaceutical importation, free state college education, $15/hour minimum wage, a real infrastructure program, expanding Social Security by lifting the cap and other specific policy proposals the conservatives who run the DCCC abhor.

Our friends at HSG Campaigns laid out the pros and cons for using "Trump" and a piñata in House races.

According to Rasmussen, strong disapproval for Trump exceeded 50% in July, mostly among Democrats. Using Trump's image can be a good way to motivate the base to come out and vote on Election Day. "Send a message to Trump" is a good message for progressives.
Attacking Democratic primary opponents who hold any views that align with Trump's can give your primary campaign a shot in the arm and move the needle in your favor.
In general elections, Republicans who align themselves with too closely Trump will lose independent voters. So, if you have a Trumpian Republican you're facing, you should exploit that in your mailers, ads, and press conferences.


Many voters understand that Trump is not a typical Republican. While anti-Trump messages will work well with progressive Democrats and people of color, they are likely to fall short of expectations with other voters, especially if the Republican in the race distances him or herself from the president.
There is a law of diminishing returns when you try associating a Democratic primary opponent to an unpopular Republican. We have seen it many times in the past. While it can give your campaign a shot in the arm, sustaining those attacks will make them less and less effective because (frankly) voters don't find them very believable.
Traditional Republican voters like the ones we discussed a few weeks ago (wealthier, more educated, suburban) might not like Trump, but that doesn't mean they're ready to vote for a Democratic congressional candidate. They will see through it if you try to get them to vote Democratic with an anti-Trump message.
We asked some of the Blue America-endorsed candidates how they're trying to get the balance right. Jenny Marshall is running for the very gerrymandered west central North Carolina seat held by GOP crackpot Virginia Foxx. "In my campaign," she told us today, "I am about holding our elected leaders accountable for their words and actions. Whether that is Rep. Foxx or President Trump, they do not get a free pass for their bad behavior. I do try to frame it as a contrast rather than just look at how awful these two are. I speak briefly about their statement and then quickly shift to what I believe in and how do I want to enact changes once elected. It can't all be about them in a sky is falling way. You have to show why you are the best candidate for the job."

Sam Jammal is the progressive Democrat in the race for the northeast Orange County seat occupied by Ryan crony/Trump rubber stamp Ed Royce. He said he can't speak for other districts around the country but almost all the candidates we spoke with expressed a similar perspective to his for their own districts. "I can't speak for every district, but, here in the 39th District, Trump has created a level of activism we have never seen. This will be helpful for mobilizing a grassroots army to defeat Ed Royce. But being anti-Trump is not enough. Voters will not just fire an entrenched incumbent, like Ed Royce, they need a reason to hire the Democrat. This is why I am running. I believe we need bold ideas-- like Medicare for All and 100% clean energy-- and to also get back to the basics and focus on making sure workers get a raise, people can afford a home and student debt doesn't cripple the next generation. My campaign is focused on fighting for the families I grew up with and giving voters a clear choice. Trump gets people to pay attention, but real solutions will win these seats."

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