Friday Talking Points -- Let's Replace Columbus Day With Leif Eriksson Day!

[ Posted Friday, August 16th, 2019 – 17:01 UTC ]

In 1867, right after the Civil War, President Andrew Johnson's State Department explored the possibility of buying Iceland and Greenland. This, of course, did not happen.

In the midst of the first World War, America was more successful at enticing Denmark to sell off some territory it didn't want. The deal was completed in January of 1917, after a few months of negotiations. The U.S. paid $25 million in gold (the equivalent of more than $575 million in today's dollars) and took possession of the Danish West Indies soon after. The islands were renamed the "Virgin Islands of the United States" and remain an American territory to this day.

After World War II, President Harry Truman offered another $100 million to Denmark in a second bid to buy Greenland. Denmark turned him down.

This week, the Wall Street Journal revealed that Donald Trump, for some strange reason, now wants to try to buy Greenland again. The Washington Post later followed up on the story:

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Sanders And Warren Rising In The Polls, But Biden Still Dominates

[ Posted Thursday, August 15th, 2019 – 17:23 UTC ]

It's time once again to don an ascot, pick up the binoculars, and turn our attention back to the horses running around the 2020 Democratic presidential racetrack. Enough time has passed from the second debate round that the public has had a chance to digest the results and react accordingly. So let's dive right back in to parsing the poll numbers.


Campaign News

The 2020 Democratic presidential field shrunk today, as John Hickenlooper dropped out of the race. He becomes the fourth such candidate to do so (after Richard Ojeda, Eric Swalwell, and Mike Gravel), but even with four gone there are still a whopping 23 candidates left in the running.

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Summer Bugaboos: Moscow Mitch Versus The Squad Versus The Fed (Oh, My!)

[ Posted Wednesday, August 14th, 2019 – 17:29 UTC ]

August in the year which predates a major election is a time for both parties to field-test a few tactics and strategies for the upcoming campaign. This year, Democrats have served up "Moscow Mitch," while Republicans have been focusing their attention on "the Squad." Of course, these are secondary themes, as the main race will be Donald Trump versus the winner of the Democratic primaries, but that won't really get underway until after the primaries actually happen. In the meantime, Trump has been trying out some new snotty nicknames for some of the Democratic frontrunners, but he has also been ramping up his attacks on a rather bizarre political target: the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. Hey, they don't call it the silly season for nothing, right?

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Spinning A Conspiracy Theory Of My Own

[ Posted Tuesday, August 13th, 2019 – 16:50 UTC ]

Donald Trump finally had to admit today that his tariffs are actually paid by American consumers and not China (as he's been saying all along). This is a fairly basic economic concept, but Trump has deluded himself up to this point that up is down and black is white. Finally, cracks are showing in this facade. The Trump administration announced (after a disastrous day on the stock market) that they would be holding off on inflicting another round of tariffs in September, and instead would wait until the middle of December to add this new tax to thousands of products made in China. This way, American consumers won't get hit by the Trump tax when they do all their Christmas shopping. But if Trump's version of reality were correct -- that China was paying all the tariffs -- then Christmas wouldn't even matter and there would be no reason to delay the new tariff. Trump even reluctantly had to admit this out loud to a reporter (although he included caveats like: "just in case some of the tariffs would have an impact on U.S. consumers").

The delay of the new Trump tax won't be across the board, however. A new 10 percent tax will indeed be slapped on roughly half of the products Trump had threatened, on schedule, beginning next month. The Trump administration tried to cherry-pick those items that would be high on consumers' Christmas shopping lists when they selected which would be allowed to avoid the new Trump tax. This was smart politically, because otherwise Trump was setting himself up to be the Grinch who raised prices on everything, right before the holiday shopping season began. But even with this cherry-picking, consumer prices will indeed rise on some items.

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Possible 2020 Blue Pickups

[ Posted Monday, August 12th, 2019 – 17:16 UTC ]

The big story from the 2020 presidential election was the previously solid-blue states that flipped for Trump. Democrats still fixate on the roughly 70,000 votes it would have taken for them to hold onto three states in what had previously been considered solid Democratic states (part of the famous "Big Blue Wall," in other words): Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Was this a new demographic change, as blue-collar workers completed a journey they had begun in 1980 (they were originally called "Reagan Democrats," if you'll remember)? Did this shift in the red/blue map presage a much tougher road to victory for any future Democrat?

Well, the answer is still: "It's too early to tell," since we haven't had a presidential election since. Nobody really knows, in other words, whether Trump's pickups will be lasting or whether it was just the circumstances of the 2016 election (call it misogyny or anti-Hillary hatred or what you will). Flipping those three states back to blue would have meant an extra 46 Electoral College votes, which would have put Hillary Clinton over the top.

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Friday Talking Points -- The Fallout Continues

[ Posted Friday, August 9th, 2019 – 17:27 UTC ]

Will anything actually change this time around? Will these mass shootings finally spur the politicians to act, when all the others didn't? While it's easy to be pessimistic, since it is rare indeed that anything happens after such tragedies, perhaps this time is different. We couldn't say why this time seems to have had more of an impact than the other 250 times it has happened this year, but so far it has. Perhaps it was the fact that there were multiple mass shootings in a single day or perhaps it was the high body count or perhaps it was the El Paso gunman's obvious racist motivation, but for whatever reason this time could be different.

Of course, the big question at the heart of whether the National Rifle Association can be defeated in Congress this time around is whether the Democrats can get Donald Trump on their side or not. As of this writing, that is still an open question.

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A Real Twitter War

[ Posted Thursday, August 8th, 2019 – 17:15 UTC ]

A real Twitter war has now erupted. This is not a mere "tweetstorm," where people snipe at each other through Twitter messages, this is a dispute between Twitter itself and what looks to be the entire Republican Party election machine. How it all ends nobody knows, but it was almost inevitable that Twitter would eventually get sucked in to the partisan divide in one way or another. In this growing conflict, Twitter fired the first shot, by locking up Mitch McConnell's election site for posting a threatening video (the video was of protesters outside Mitch's house threatening him, so it wasn't like the campaign was threatening anyone else, in all fairness). The Republicans have returned fire by announcing they are pulling all election Twitter ad spending. So far, neither side has blinked.

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Keep The Pressure On Mitch McConnell

[ Posted Wednesday, August 7th, 2019 – 16:41 UTC ]

Over 200 House Democrats just signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell which demands he allow Senate votes on the universal background check bills that have already passed the House with bipartisan support. Democrats are also saying McConnell should call the Senate back from their August recess to hold a special session devoted to passing these bills. This seems unlikely, seeing as how Mitch doesn't want to pass these bills in the first place. But perhaps shaming him into doing something might eventually bear fruit, if Democrats keep the pressure on McConnell until the Senate does reconvene.

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Post-Debate Polling Trickles In (And Our New Contest)

[ Posted Tuesday, August 6th, 2019 – 16:46 UTC ]

We're beginning to see some polling which reflects the impressions the voters got in the second round of Democratic debates. It's still early and these trends won't become really solid until we see at least another week's worth of polling, but it's still worth taking a look to see where the Democratic field apparently now stands. So far, there hasn't been a whole lot of dramatic movement in the polls. There are really only three mini-trends to watch, and two of them really began before the debates even got started.

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For The 250th Time This Year...

[ Posted Monday, August 5th, 2019 – 17:07 UTC ]

In 2017, immediately after the Las Vegas shooting, I wrote a column titled "A Sad New Normal." It began:

Here we are again. We all know the drill by now. We all know pretty much what the eyewitnesses will say, what the talking heads on the television will say, and what the politicians will say. None of it ever seems to change, and none of it seems to change anything going forward, either. We go through the cycle of "mass gun attack" and hear the same words over again. We go through the cycle of grief which will then fade, right up to the time when it happens anew all over again. This is, sadly, the new normal for America.

It was a pretty pessimistic article, as you can see. There was ample reason for such pessimism, since even after the most horrific acts of gun violence imaginable, nothing ever seems to change. The debates are trotted out, there's a lot of fury and indignation, and then there is no concrete result and everything returns to normal until the next outrage committed by a mass shooter.

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