There are two things currently happening in the world of Democratic and progressive politics, which are happening independently of each other, for the most part. This weekend, the Democratic National Committee will meet to elect a new chair. Meanwhile, out in the hinterlands, the progressive wave of energy and resistance to Donald Trump and his agenda shows no signs of abating. But I would extend a word of caution to whomever becomes the next D.N.C. chair: Don't attempt to corral or co-opt the burgeoning Indivisible movement -- instead, just do your damnedest to fulfill their expectations.
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We have one prediction for Donald Trump's presidency that we haven't noticed elsewhere, so we thought it worth mentioning up front. Donald Trump will quite likely use the "bully pulpit" of the presidency better than anyone since the man who coined the term, Teddy Roosevelt. Well, Franklin Roosevelt certainly connected with the people, so maybe that's an unfair omission, but no matter who you put on the list of presidents who effectively used public opinion against Congress, Trump is very likely going to wind up pretty high on that list.
Heading into tonight's speechifying, I was convinced that Ted Cruz would emerge afterwards as the heir apparent to the Republican nomination in 2020, should Donald Trump fail to win in November. Now, I'm not so sure.
But before we get to the big story of the night, let's start at the beginning. Today, the realization finally dawned in the Trump camp that they had to do something to stop the bleeding over the plagiarism storyline. A staffer was summarily dragged out who offered to fall on her own sword, and magnanimous Donald pardoned her, saying "everyone makes mistakes." So they likely successfully prevented the story from continuing for another day. But it would have been overshadowed anyway (obviously) by the end of the night.
In 1781, Benjamin Franklin wrote a satirical letter, purporting to be a proposal for a subject for European scientists to study. Franklin, an amateur scientist himself, was making a snide point about what he considered to be rather frivolous research by the Europeans. The equivalent today would be those American politicians who routinely point out some of the more far-fetched research the federal government now funds. This tongue-in-cheek document is now known by the title "Fart Proudly," although Franklin didn't actually use that phrase in his satirical essay.
We have to admit, we don't know where we heard that subtitle, and we certainly can't claim original credit for it. We think we read it in a comment to a Washington Post article, but we're not certain. In any case, as the stream of Republicans fleeing the Donald Trump candidacy becomes a flood, it does seem the appropriate metaphor to use -- the ships are leaving the sinking rat this time, not the other way 'round. We'll get to all of these amusing developments in the talking points this week, because we're devoting the entire section to the "Dump Trump" theme this week.
What is largely missing in this raging debate, however, is an issue I explored last week -- the constitutionality of government watchlists in the first place. I was convinced to revisit the issue after watching all the Sunday political chatfests on television, and reading a letter to my local paper today. What the letter-writer pointed out (and what all the talking heads almost universally missed) was that "freedom to travel" is also a constitutional right. The discussion so far on the gun control measures centers around the question of whether the government can explicitly deny a right written into the Constitution (in the Second Amendment) to people it has not offered the slightest bit of due process whatsoever. Indeed, this is almost the entirety of the Republican argument on the issue.
Newt Gingrich is a smart guy, Washington insiders will tell you. He's certainly smarter than Donald Trump, based on nothing more than vocabulary and the complexity of ideas he is able to comprehend. Newt is currently on Trump's vice-presidential shortlist, which makes sense if you believe what Trump's been saying about his veep pick for months now -- he wants someone with experience dealing with Congress. Newt, being a former Speaker of the House, certainly fits that bill better than most.
Whither the fabled "Party of Lincoln"? That was the question on the minds of many Republicans this week, at least based on how often they used the phrase. Now, we're used to scathing attacks on character being hurled in the frenzy of a presidential campaign. Indeed, it's woven into the fabric of American politics. It's just that in normal years, these attacks are flung across the aisle, at the other party's nominee. It is extraordinary that all of the vicious attacks we're going to feature in our talking points section this week came from Republicans, all aimed squarely at their own party's presidential nominee. Seriously, when in the past have you ever heard the term "unendorse" used? We haven't checked, but we believe it just got coined and added to the political lexicon. It hasn't existed before because the concept hasn't ever existed before (again, in our own memory, at the very least). But we're going to get to all this in great detail later, so let's just move along for now.
For those readers who weren't alive (or old enough) to experience the 1960s, this week we had somewhat of a history lesson, packaged as a Democratic debate. Now, part of why this happened is that the Democratic presidential campaign has entered into a "convince the minority voters" phase, since the upcoming two states to vote have a lot of Latino (Nevada) and African-American (South Carolina) voters. So there was quite a bit of attention spent on the Civil Rights era, which will continue right up to Super Tuesday, at the very least. We keep waiting for Bernie Sanders (or a moderator, for that matter) to bring up the term "Goldwater Girl" in a Hillary Clinton question, and last night would have been a dandy opportunity. But PBS held a much more "polite" debate, meaning lots of softball questions and ignoring any unseemly discomfort for the candidates (at least, for the most part).
Federal land is currently being occupied by protestors. Or, according to some, by domestic terrorists. But pigeonholing these guys with either label isn't quite as easy as it might first seem. There's some history here that needs pondering before anyone decides exactly what to call the group and, more importantly, what to do about them. Because it is a little more complicated than it first might seem, at least for those who care about the concepts of fairness and consistency.