Looking Past Florida And Georgia

[ Posted Wednesday, November 14th, 2018 – 18:02 PST ]

We're over a week from Election Day, and the vote-counting still ongoing. Currently, three races are commanding the media's attention, but there are plenty of other interesting things happening out there if you look beyond just Florida and Georgia. Because while the Election Day news for Democrats was good, it has only grown better and better since then -- even if few in the media are still paying attention. Today I thought it'd be worth it to take a look at all the other late election returns, which might be classified not so much as a blue tsunami (crashing ashore quickly) but rather as a sort of blue high tide -- a slow rise over time that eventually hits a high-water mark. Because that's exactly what is happening out there.

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Democrats Chart Ambitious Path With H.R. 1

[ Posted Tuesday, November 13th, 2018 – 17:55 PST ]

While most of the Washington political press continues an obsession that had little (or nothing) to do with the Democrats' midterm election successes -- merely by changing their stock question: "So, if elected, will you immediately move to impeach Trump?" to: "So, now that you've been elected, will your first act be to impeach Trump?" -- the actual journalists over at NPR took the more obvious step of just asking the incoming House Democratic leadership what they were going to do first (without any preconceived and/or obsessive assumptions). The answer they got back was ambitious, if not downright breathtaking. Their scoop has so far been mostly ignored by the rest of the inside-the-Beltway crowd, but will likely grow in importance over time.

The answer NPR got back was that Democrats are going to begin by directly attacking some of the worst aspects of the way American elections are run, as well as some of the worst ethical lapses that Trump has normalized. Here is what the first bill of the incoming House -- or "H.R. 1" -- will aim to accomplish:

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Lest We Forget

[ Posted Monday, November 12th, 2018 – 18:54 PST ]

Today, I am reprinting an old column about World War I, since yesterday was the centenary of the armistice which ended the war, on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. Over the years I've been blogging, I have written about "The Great War" twice (both of which were actually written for Memorial Day rather than Armistice Day). In 2009, I wrote of honoring all the war dead, most certainly including the tens of thousands of soldiers who died of the Spanish Influenza after being called up.

But a year earlier I wrote a column to honor the soldiers who fought in this most brutal of wars. In it, I quoted another article about the battle of the Meuse-Argonne which generally pointed out Americans' lack of interest in World War I (compared to World War II and the Civil War). My article ends with a plug for a French organization which is dedicated to laying flowers on American soldiers' graves in Normandy. The level of dedication the French give to the slain of both world wars should impress every American. This is the column I've chosen to run again today.

But I have to add at least a short note of condemnation for President Donald Trump before we get to that. Trump's actions over the weekend were (to use a word he loves throwing around with abandon) nothing short of disgraceful. He only went to the centenary because the Pentagon essentially denied him his own military parade, and his boredom with the entire process was evident to all. And yet, for some reason, prominent ex-military voices are silent here at home. Just imagine what they would have said if a Democrat had put in a similar performance on the world's stage at a solemn event to honor our war dead.

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Friday Talking Points -- Democrats' Biggest Midterm House Win Since Watergate

[ Posted Friday, November 9th, 2018 – 17:33 PST ]

Our subtitle today is (appropriately) nothing short of a talking point. Democrats just won their biggest pickup in the House of Representatives since 1974, the first post-Watergate election. That's not only impressive, it's downright historic. But, for some reason, many Democrats and many pundits are concentrating solely on the downside rather than face the many ballot-box victories the Democrats just chalked up. We have no real reason why this is so, and we wonder why so many seek the dark lining to what is indisputably a very silver cloud. Democrats won, and they won big. They didn't win every race, and some rock-star candidates lost, but why dwell on it? There were so many other wins Tuesday night that more than made up for it, after all.

Once again: House Democrats just had their best midterm since Watergate. They have picked up at least 30 House seats, and probably more. There are still 13 races which have not been officially called yet, and Democrats are up in at least five of them. If they win every one of these races where they are now leading, Democrats will have 230 House seats to Republicans' 205. That is a major turnaround, any way you slice it.

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Setting The Democratic Agenda For The Next Two Years

[ Posted Thursday, November 8th, 2018 – 17:48 PST ]

Democrats are poised to start setting the political agenda in the House of Representatives, beginning in January. This agenda will consist of three different types of actions: investigating the Trump administration, doing legislative deals with Trump where possible, and creating the Democratic Party platform for the 2020 election.

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There's A Lot For Progressives To Celebrate Today

[ Posted Wednesday, November 7th, 2018 – 18:00 PST ]

Was it a blue wave, or (as one television commentator last night waggishly put it) only a "blue ripple"? The one thing everyone can agree upon is that it wasn't actually a tsunami, but I'm still kind of surprised at the bickering this morning over the precise amplitude of the Democratic victories last night (as measured in metaphorical ocean waves), because no matter how you spin it Democrats had a really good night pretty much everywhere but the Senate races. Since the Senate was always going to be tough, this wasn't all that big a deal, really, but some today seem overly dismayed by the fact that Democrats didn't run the table everywhere.

Personally, I am celebrating the numerous victories on the Democratic side. Because when you get beyond all the garment-rending over the Senate (and a few other high-profile losses), there was indeed a lot for progressives to celebrate.

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[From The Archives] Craig Ferguson's Excellent Rant -- "If You Don't Vote, You're A Moron."

[ Posted Tuesday, November 6th, 2018 – 15:04 PST ]

I miss Craig Ferguson on late-night television. I freely admit my own bias here, because watching Craig at night was always a surreal trip into the mindset of someone who obviously just didn't give a rat's ass about what anyone else thought, at all. Craig would say whatever was on his mind, completely undiluted. Watching him helped me to recover from all the political nonsense of the day, so I could sleep better at night.

So rather than sit down today and write out a "Get out there and VOTE!" column, I thought I'd re-run a column I wrote ten years ago. This was the first time I ever saw Ferguson, and when I did my jaw hit the floor. People (at least, back then) just didn't say stuff like this on television, no matter how late the hour. I was so enthralled by Craig's rant that I sat down and transcribed it the next day. It remains the best "get out and vote" rant I've ever seen, so while the political references are dated (this was during the McCain/Obama race), the sentiments are not.

One technical change I have to make, though. The link I provide within the column is now dead. However, the clip still lives on YouTube, so if you've never seen this before, check out both part one and part two of Craig's rant (there was a commercial break in between the two). You won't be sorry you did, I promise.

Oh, and, of course, GET OUT AND VOTE!

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Put Not Your Trust In Early Vote Counts

[ Posted Monday, November 5th, 2018 – 16:59 PST ]

It happens every time we have an election. The numbers-crunching uber-wonks among us have to work themselves into a frenzy for Election Night, because that's when the data will be coming in fast and furious, so they've got to be at their peak performance. But, unfortunately, before the polls actually close and the numbers start flowing, there is a dearth of data in the buildup period. There are last-minute public opinion polls to watch, but they don't say much that is all that different than other pre-election polling. So the temptation is to take the only hard numbers available and overanalyze them to death. But my experience causes me to issue the following warning to all who are obsessing over the midterm elections: Put not your trust in early vote counts.

Until the votes start to actually be tabulated, these are the only numbers made public by the people running the elections in each state. But early voting numbers are just not determinative of much of anything, even though all the wonks are having lots of fun making all sorts of predictions based upon these numbers. But when you get right down to it, the only thing early voting numbers really tell us is how many people voted early, period. Which, in and of itself, doesn't really tell us a thing about the likely outcome.

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Friday Talking Points -- Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

[ Posted Friday, November 2nd, 2018 – 17:18 PDT ]

Our subtitle today is an apt summation of the Republican Party midterm campaign message, in full. That's what they're running on, led by our Snowflake-in-Chief, Donald Trump. Fear. Naked, undiluted fear. "Be afraid!" they warn their voters. "Be very afraid!"

Be afraid of penniless refugees who are walking thousands of miles to legally make an asylum claim. That word bears repeating: legally. Because you won't hear it much from the GOP. To them, it's an "invasion." An invasion that demands sending more U.S. soldiers to the Mexican border at any time in the past century. More soldiers than are still fighting in Afghanistan or Iraq or Syria. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, (supposedly one of the "adults in the room") has gone along with this political nonsense, much to his diminishment. When the soldiers get to the border, they'll be firing live weapons at anyone who dares to throw a rock at them, Trump promises, and locking everyone up in tent cities (or "refugee camps," to give them their proper title). Oh, and don't forget to be afraid that the migrants are disease-ridden, full of "strong young men" who happen to be brown, and that they probably have some ISIS members among them. Also, be afraid that George Soros is paying for it all, for some inexplicable reason. Even Soros getting a pipe bomb in the mail has not dialed down the hatred and fear directed at him from the president on down.

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Why Is Trump Waiting To Sign Immigration Executive Order?

[ Posted Thursday, November 1st, 2018 – 16:50 PDT ]

President Donald Trump just gave a speech today on immigration policy, which was notable for its lack of actual details, while being heavy on rhetoric and fearmongering. That's about par for the course for Trump. But the most interesting thing Trump said was, in response to a shouted question, that he wouldn't actually be signing any executive orders until "sometime next week." Since next week is a rather momentous one on the political calendar, that leaves open the question of whether Trump will hold such a signing ceremony before or after (or even, conceivably, during) the midterm elections on Tuesday.

Why would Trump delay such a ceremony, if he truly is interested in rolling out a new policy? There doesn't seem to be any good answer to that question, really. Why didn't Trump end his speech today by sitting down and signing an executive order? Even just looking at it through a political lens, that would have made the most sense. Trump is quite obviously only really interested in the political benefits of a new immigration policy, which is why he's rolling it out now -- he thinks it'll be a great closing argument for the Republican Party's midterm campaign. So why wait on the actual policy?

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