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Democrats Begin Eyeing 2018 Senate Takeover

[ Posted Wednesday, December 13th, 2017 – 18:21 PST ]

Can Democrats retake control of not just the House of Representatives but also the Senate in 2018? Well, they'd pretty much have to run the tables to do so, but with last night's Alabama's upset victory by Doug Jones, what has changed is that it is now a distinct possibility. While many Democrats are giddily celebrating their surprise win, they should also take the time to examine the factors present not just in Alabama but also in the other races that have happened over the past year, to identify the key factors in winning. Because if they've got any chance at all of taking the Senate, they should work as hard as possible to maximize what has been going well for them.

Before I get to that, let's take a closer look at what happened last night in Alabama. The first and most obvious conclusion to draw is that Trump is now a three-time loser. He has blundered into three statewide races in the past two months, and he has wound up on the losing side in all three. First there was the governor's race in Virginia, then the Alabama primary (where Trump backed the wrong horse), and then last night's special Senate election where Trump actively campaigned for Roy Moore only to see him lose. That's 0-for-3, folks. This might lead many Republican candidates next year to quietly beg the White House for President Trump not to get involved with their races, but it's pretty early to predict that drastic a GOP move away from Trump. But there's no denying it -- of late, the Trump ballot box magic does not extend to anyone not named "Trump," it seems. This is no real surprise when his job approval ratings are so dismal (Monmouth just posted a poll where only 32 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump's doing -- less than one-third of the public, in other words).

Even in Alabama, Trump doesn't have the influence he once had. Last year, Trump won the state with 62 percent of the vote -- by a whopping 28 percent margin. In yesterday's exit polls, this lead had evaporated completely. When Alabama voters were asked whether they approved of the job Trump was doing, the results were tied at 48 percent approval and 48 percent disapproval. This means Trump support has eroded by the entirety of that 28 percent. In one year. In Alabama.

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Alabama's Stunning Upset

[ Posted Tuesday, December 12th, 2017 – 18:10 PST ]

Doug Jones will be the next senator from Alabama, according to all media sources. With over 90 percent of the votes counted, Jones snatched away the lead that Roy Moore had been holding for almost the entire night. Rural votes got counted first, but when the urban votes came in, they propelled Jones into the lead. Alabama has stunned the nation with this upset victory -- the first Democrat they'll have in the U.S. Senate in a quarter-century.

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Trump Hits New Polling Low

[ Posted Monday, December 11th, 2017 – 18:29 PST ]

I originally wrote "Trump Hits New Low" as this article's title, but then realized that it was far too generic a headline. After all, Trump hits new lows all the time, in many shocking and unusual ways. A sitting president endorsing an accused child molester to sit in the U.S. Senate, for instance. So I clarified it, since this is a more qualitative thing -- Trump has indeed hit a new all-time low in the polls. As of this writing, his daily job approval average (as calculated by Real Clear Politics) is a dismal 37.3 percent. Trump's job disapproval also hit a record high, to now stand at 57.9 percent. This is also (not surprisingly) the most he's ever been underwater in the polls -- a negative gap of 20.6 points.

To briefly put these numbers in some historical perspective, during Barack Obama's entire two terms in office, he only slipped below 40 percent for a single day. On December 13, 2013 -- when Obama was suffering from two simultaneous political blows (the government shutdown in October and the disastrous rollout of the new Obamacare website) -- Obama was only at 39.8 percent average job approval, while 55.9 percent of Americans disapproved of the way he was doing his job. That was Obama's worst day ever, since for the entire other eight years of his presidency, he stayed above 40 percent approval. Trump is now two or more points worse than that, in both directions.

George W. Bush didn't do so well, of course. But even Dubya stayed above 40 percent for his entire first term. It wasn't until November of 2005 that Bush sank down to 38 percent approval. Bush continued to slide downwards, hitting bottom the month before Obama was elected in 2008, when he only had 25.3 percent job approval, and 69.3 percent disapproval. So things could indeed be worse for Trump. He's still 12 whole points above Bush's worst showing.

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Friday Talking Points [464] -- Ending GOP Whataboutism

[ Posted Friday, December 8th, 2017 – 18:28 PST ]

In the same week that Time magazine gave its "Person Of The Year" award to the #MeToo movement, three members of Congress resigned because of it. The last week anything similar happened, according to historians, was during the Civil War, over the issue of slavery. On a single day in January of 1861, five senators resigned (as their states seceded from the Union). One historian noted: "If you look over the history of the 20th century in Congress, there just is no comparable event."

John Conyers Jr., Al Franken, and Trent Franks all announced their resignations this week -- two Democrats and one Republican. There are several others under pressure to resign on both sides of the aisle as well, so this may only be the beginning and not the end of the trend.

Politically, so far, the Democrats are in the winning position of taking the moral high road. Democrats, on the whole, have reacted to these scandals by drumming the offenders out. Republicans don't have much of a moral leg to stand on, and are left with weak complaints that the Democrats didn't act fast enough. However, they are hamstrung both by Donald Trump being in the Oval Office and by the special election race in Alabama, where they truly are proving they want to win no matter what the political cost. And now they've even been denied the "whataboutism" argument.

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Maybe Al Franken Should Run Again

[ Posted Thursday, December 7th, 2017 – 18:03 PST ]

Today was a sad day for progressives, as Al Franken took to the floor of the Senate to announce he will be stepping down from his seat due to the multiple allegations of sexual misconduct which have been made against him. Franken was seen by many as one of the best newcomers to politics in the past decade, an intelligent and unrelenting voice strongly supporting a very progressive agenda. So his loss is felt more deeply than some other random Democratic senator (who was a lot less well-known) would have been. Franken was even being talked about as a possible presidential contender in 2020, but that now seems like an impossibility. However, even before the news broke yesterday that Franken was on the brink of resigning, I've been wondering about a larger argument being made -- that of whether the voters aren't the ultimate jury for such allegations against politicians. Which, today, brings me to the question of whether Al Franken might just redeem himself politically by running for the seat he will soon be vacating when it comes up again for election, in 2020.

At first glance, that seems pretty far-fetched, and it may seem overly partisan of me to even suggest such a thing. I'll address these in reverse order, since what made me consider the idea of what role the voters play in the outcome of these scandals is the upcoming Senate special election in Alabama, the election of Donald Trump, and even the original election of Bill Clinton back in 1992. So my thought processes haven't been as partisan as might originally be assumed.

At the heart of it is a very basic question: how much do scandals matter to the voters? Sometimes they matter a lot, and sometimes they don't. Whenever any supporter of Donald Trump is faced with the question of the accusations of Trump's sexual misconduct, they usually reply with some version of: "Well, the voters knew all about it, and he won anyway -- so it's not even worth discussing now." The voters have spoken, in other words, so who are we to second-guess their judgment?

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Making The GOP Tax Bill Slightly Less Awful

[ Posted Wednesday, December 6th, 2017 – 18:11 PST ]

Republicans like to boast about how their current plan to reform the tax code is the biggest such effort since the 1980s. They especially like this line because it references Saint Ronald of Reagan [pause for GOP genuflections], whose irreproachable sanctity is about all the Republican Party can even agree upon, these days. But back in Reagan's day, Congress spent something like two years developing their tax code overhaul, with at least six months of that spent in committee hearings and bipartisan work toward a common goal. That common goal was to reduce taxes on individuals and increase them on corporations. None of that is true this time around, of course, as Republicans only even have a prayer of passing anything these days (despite controlling both houses of Congress) by rushing things so hastily that nobody has a chance to talk about what is in the massive bill. That two-year process will be smushed into a few paltry weeks, with a self-imposed Christmas deadline. Also, the end goal this time is exactly the opposite -- massively reduce the taxes corporations pay by increasing the share individuals pay.

All of this means that the American public has much less time to process what is happening, which is by design (of course). Republicans know that the longer people have to examine their tax plan, the more the public will learn about what it actually does. And, so far, the more the public learns about it the more they hate it. Overwhelming majorities see the GOP tax "reform" as nothing short of redistribution upwards -- which screws over the middle class (once again) in order to provide lavish goodies for those at the top of the income scale, and Wall Street. Since this is the actual bedrock upon which the GOP tax bill was constructed, it is impossible to hide its inherent nature for very long.

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Forty-Nine Sister States All Had Alabama In Their Eyes

[ Posted Tuesday, December 5th, 2017 – 17:59 PST ]

In one week, Alabama is going to shock the nation in one way or another. Either they will elect an accused child molester to the United States Senate, or they will elect a Democrat. Either one is pretty jaw-dropping to consider, in this day and age. The polls are as tight as can be, with several recent ones showing Republican Roy Moore up by a few points, and others that show Democrat Doug Jones up by a few points. In other words, it is all going to come down to turnout.

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Welcome To Our Annual Holiday Pledge Drive!

[ Posted Monday, December 4th, 2017 – 20:02 PST ]

It's been a tough year all around, but it is finally almost over. That's about the best thing you can say about 2017, really. So for this year's holiday pledge drive, we're going to inundate you with an absolute blizzard of kittens, in our annual subliminal plea to break out the wallets and give generously to keep the site going throughout next year.

From the very start, 2017 has been an endless parade of shiny, shiny objects which only prove repeatedly how easily distracted the media gets, which is why we are rededicating ourselves to ignoring the fluff and concentrating on what's really going on.

The shiny, shiny objects are so distracting!


Doing so, of course, involves slogging down a very tough path. At times, it can even feel like things are piling up so fast that we'll soon be in over our heads. But you've got to dig in and push through it all in the end so the situation doesn't become totally overwhelming.

Ever get that sinking feeling? Push through it!


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Friday Talking Points [463] -- Lock Him Up!

[ Posted Friday, December 1st, 2017 – 19:35 PST ]

This morning, Donald Trump's first National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, pled guilty to charges of lying to the F.B.I. He is now the highest-ranking Trump aide to be targeted by Robert Mueller, and also the highest-ranking person to have flipped on Trump. Flynn is still at risk of being prosecuted for other charges as well, including lying about his foreign lobbying on government forms. But he's now apparently cut a deal with the prosecution to possibly avoid further charges and also reportedly to avoid charges for his son.

The main assumption, however, is that he is now singing like a little birdie to the investigators. Trump (as of this writing) has yet to respond on Twitter, which likely won't be pretty when it does happen. Already, news reports surfaced this week of Trump's increasingly unhinged behavior, including (astonishingly) trying to tell people the infamous Billy Bush Access Hollywood tape wasn't actually his voice. But there was one interesting bit about the "is Trump losing it?" story, as it relates to the entire Mueller investigation:

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Program Note

[ Posted Thursday, November 30th, 2017 – 18:58 PST ]

Sorry, but there will be no new column today, as I had to take time to deal with jury duty. The good news, however, is that I was not selected and thus will be able to write a Friday Talking Points column tomorrow. So there's that to look forward to.

If I had had the time to write today, there's an interesting article over at that would have formed the basis of what I would have written. Long story short, the current GOP tax cut bill is not only less popular with the public than all previous tax cut bills (going back to the 1980s), but actually less popular than two tax hikes. That is a stunning level of unpopularity, and should put to the test the Republican thinking that all they have to do is pass a tax cut (any tax cut) and their base voters will reward them next year at the ballot box. Again, that's what I would have written about if I had had the time.

So my apologies again for the lack of new column today, and I'll see you all back here tomorrow.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant