FridayTalkingPoints.com

Friday Talking Points -- Democrats' Closing Midterm Argument

[ Posted Friday, October 19th, 2018 – 17:18 PDT ]

As usual, there was all sorts of idiocy in the political news last week. But, for a change, we're only going to skim lightly over most of it in an abbreviated weekly roundup, because we've got a special talking points section at the end, where we try our hand at writing a "closing argument" speech for all Democratic congressional candidates to consider using. So there's that to look forward to. Before that, though, let's take a very quick look at the week that was.

President Donald Trump really wants the whole scandal over the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi to quietly go away. However, this hasn't been happening -- it's been headline news for weeks, and shows no signs of abating. Trump also really wants to just go back to being buddies with the Saudis without anyone looking too closely at how totalitarian their government is. After all, they rolled out the red carpet for him! With a sword dance and everything!

America is now so little respected in the world that dictators who are purportedly our friends feel unrestrained enough to viciously murder an American legal resident inside their own consulate, without the fear of serious consequences. Trump tries to mouth the words, but he obviously doesn't believe that he should be all that concerned with the fate of the guy -- after all, he wasn't a citizen, it didn't happen here, and maybe it was just rogue assassins or something. He continues to parrot the line his advisors have fed him, about how murdering journalists should bring severe consequences, but then he goes out on the campaign trail and praises a Republican congressman for body-slamming a journalist. It's pretty easy to see what Trump really believes about all this, in other words.

Republicans in Congress (who have apparently been bought and paid for by the Saudis) are now floating smears that Khashoggi was somehow a terrorist sympathizer, because it would be so much more convenient to do nothing, if that were true.

In other fear-of-brown-people news, a caravan of people is moving northwards from Central America, and Trump is positively freaking out about it. It seems he finally noticed that more people than ever are coming across the border, even though he promised all his followers he would wave a magic wand and make it stop. He's now threatening to rip up the recent trade agreement with Mexico if they don't stop the caravan, stop all foreign aid to Central American countries, and send the U.S. military down to "close the border" for good measure. Oh, and to bring back his family separation policy, because that went over so well the first time around.

Trump is even pushing a conspiracy theory of his own -- that the people in the caravan are being paid by American Democrats to come north, cross the border, and immediately vote for Democrats. No, seriously. Maybe he's just previewing his possible excuses if he gets shellacked in the midterms?

Let's see, what else? It's been going on two years, and Donald Trump has not seen fit to visit the U.S. troops in either Afghanistan or Iraq. The reason, according to him? He's been "too busy." File this in the bulging "Things No Democratic President Would Be Allowed To Get Away With" file, we suppose.

News from the campaign trail: Ted Cruz apparently had a Men In Black moment during a debate this week. You know -- those times when one of those aliens has to pretend to be human, and botches it horribly? Cruz was asked the softball question: "Tell us something you've done in the last year that has nothing to do with politics that would give Texans insight to who you are as a person." Cruz did his deer-in-the-headlights impression for a full six seconds before stammering out an answer.

Other non-empathetic news from the GOP campaign trail: Representative Dave Brat was visiting a prison recently, and heard from a woman who was fighting addiction while in jail. To her troubles Brat cluelessly responded:

You think you're having a hard time -- I got $5 million worth of negative ads going at me. How do you think I'm feeling? Nothing's easy. For anybody. You think I'm a congressman: "Oh, life's easy. This guy's off having steaks." Baloney, I got a daughter, she's got to deal with that crap on TV every day. It's tough.

You just can't make this stuff up, folks.

Up in Minnesota, the Republican running for Senate apparently compared Michelle Obama unfavorably to a chimpanzee a while back. Republican Karin Housley wrote on Facebook, back when Barack and Michelle Obama met the Queen of England: "Michelle is soooo far from cool. Don't we expect our First Ladies to at least stand up straight?" Later, she added, for emphasis: "I do miss Nancy Reagan. Ronald even more. Speaking of Bedtime for Bonzo, I think even that chimp stood up straighter than Michelle.. Uh-oh, someone is going to make a comment." Ya think?

In other animalistic slur news, Donald Trump called Stormy Daniels "Horseface" this week, because he heard Republicans needed to shore up their support with women voters.

But these aren't even the worst election stories this week from clueless Republicans. In Georgia, a bus from Black Voters Matter was stopped from driving senior citizens to the polls this week, and everyone was forced to get off the bus instead. A mayor of a town in the county this happened posted this charming note on the Black Voters Matter webpage: "It is utterly reprehensible that your group maintains that all black voters should vote for a black candidate just because they are the same color as you. A man named Jim Jones once ran an organization like that. Better check that Koolaid you are serving up." Because everyone knows that voting for Democrats is just like forcing everyone to commit suicide, right?

Astonishingly, that wasn't even the worst offender of the week from the Republican side of the aisle. A group called Black Americans for the President's Agenda ran ads in support of Representative French Hill of Arkansas that were so incredibly offensive that Hill was forced to disavow and condemn them. Here's just a taste of one of these ads, which ran in predominantly black areas of the state:

[Woman's Voice 1]: Our congressman, French Hill, and the Republicans know that it's dangerous to change the presumption of innocence to the presumption of guilt, especially for black men. If the Democrats can do that to a white Justice of the Supreme Court... what will happen to our husbands, our fathers or our sons when a white girl lies on them?

[Woman's Voice 2]: Girl, white Democrats will be lynching black folk again.

[Woman's Voice 1]: We can't afford to let white Democrats take us back to the bad old days of race verdicts, life sentences and lynchings when a white girl screams rape.

This ad ran in the year 2018, we remind everyone. Not 60 or 70 years ago. But last week, in Arkansas.

Speaking of history, it was exactly 50 years ago this week that Tommie Smith and Juan Carlos gave their "Black power salute" at the Mexico City Olympics, during the national anthem. Smith recently spoke about Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem, a subject he knows something about: "Don't hate this kid because he stood up for something. He stood up for the right to exercise Amendment One."

OK, let's have some lighthearted news to close on, shall we? Yet another building with Donald Trump's name on it successfully removed it this week, after the residents of the building voted overwhelmingly to get rid of it.

Here's the most bizarre news from the campaign trail yet this year:

Dennis Hof, the Nevada brothel owner and Republican candidate for state assembly, died Tuesday at one of his brothels after a birthday party, officials said. He was 72.

Hof, a candidate for the state Assembly in a district in southern Nevada, died in his sleep in the hours after a celebration that featured pornography star Ron Jeremy, former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio and anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, according to his campaign manager Chuck Muth.

The Nye County Sheriff's office said Tuesday that it was investigating Hof's death. He was found at the Love Ranch in Crystal Tuesday morning by Jeremy, who went to wake him for a meeting, police and Muth said.

"We had a wonderful event last night," Muth told the Reno Gazette Journal. "He was having the time of his life."

We're personally trying to picture a birthday party attended by Ron Jeremy, Joe Arpaio, and Grover Norquist, but our imagination is failing us. Again, you just can't make this stuff up, folks.

And some happy news for all our northern neighbors: it is now legal to buy, sell, grow, and possess marijuana in all of Canada. So please light one up for absent friends, Canadian pioneers!

Our final item has no real political import, but it was just too funny to ignore. Someone down in Savannah, Georgia played a prank on a local public statue, which resulted in the most amusing photo we've seen all year. It seems some nefarious vandal snuck up to a statue of Nathaniel Greene and (wait for it...) stuck googly eyes on it. The police are not amused, but they're the only ones not getting in on the fun. Best comments so far: "Who is Nathaniel Greene? Never mind. I'll Googly him," and the even funnier: "Don't vandal-eyes." Heh.

 

Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

We may be swimming against the tide on this one, but we're sticking to our initial take on it.

This week, Senator Elizabeth Warren released the results of a DNA test. It showed a Native American ancestor somewhere between six and ten generations back. Which is precisely what she had been claiming all along. She made the announcement via a very professionally-produced five-minute-long video, which many (us included) saw as her opening bid in a run for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

She did so, of course, in response to taunts from Donald Trump. Trump regularly calls her "Pocahontas," and had promised to donate a million bucks to a charity of her choice if a DNA test proved her claim. So Warren tweeted in response, after releasing her video:

By the way, @realDonaldTrump: Remember saying on 7/5 that you'd give $1M to a charity of my choice if my DNA showed Native American ancestry? I remember -- and here's the verdict. Please send the check to the National Indigenous Women's Resource Center: http://www.niwrc.org/donate-niwrc

Trump first responded by denying he had ever said such a thing. He invited reporters to check the facts. They did, and the facts showed him saying exactly that. So he responded: "So what?" Later in the day, he said he'd only pay out the million if he could administer the DNA test on Warren himself.

Warren proved she was telling the truth, and she proved Trump was both a liar and a cheapskate who would refuse to make good on a bet.

The reaction to Warren's video was pretty swift, and the reviews weren't exactly good. People on the right either refused to believe the science or just didn't understand genetics and math. People on the left and in the media were complaining about the timing of the announcement and some were even completely writing off Elizabeth Warren's chances to be president. The strongest reaction came from a spokesman for the Cherokee Nation, who denounced Warren for even taking the test in the first place, and for daring to claim any sort of Native American affiliation or heritage. Warren was hit from all sides, really.

We do not agree with this tide of negativity, however. We do think Warren has some bridges to mend with Native American groups, and she would do well to repair what damage has been done in the upcoming weeks.

But what was she supposed to do? Just accept being called a liar repeatedly by the leader of the Republican Party? Not try to prove her case? Trump specifically challenged her to take one of the commercially-available DNA tests, and even laughingly threatened to toss one of the kits at her, should they ever meet in a debate. Warren called his bluff. She wanted to defuse the issue once and for all, in other words.

It didn't exactly work out that way, but we'd bet that nothing would have ever stopped Trump's "Pocahontas" taunts anyway. What got lost in the DNA story was what Warren was really trying to prove in her video -- not just that her family lore was in fact correct, but that she never used it to her professional advantage in her career. That is a far more insidious lie, and the one that she really needed to counter before making a serious run for the presidency. But, unfortunately, this mostly got lost in the shuffle.

Trumpian taunts are tough to fight. We've seen this time and time again. No politician has yet come up with the perfect way to respond to what can only be called playground bullying by Trump. Republican after Republican tried various methods during the 2016 primaries. None of them really worked all that well. Democratic candidates eyeing a possible presidential run have also notably failed to really come up with any strategy for dealing with Trump nicknames and Trump tweets.

Warren tried her own way of dealing with it -- as Barack Obama was forced to, before her. She made a statement -- she is proud of who she is, and her family did not lie to her about their own history. By doing so she was not attempting to appropriate anything she was not entitled to -- a piece of her own family's history. She should not have to ignore this history or deny the reality of it. It is her history, and no one else's. Nobody can take it away from her, period. This is the point she makes quite strongly in the video, if you watch it all the way to the end.

We did watch all the way to the end. We thought it was an excellent video all around. In fact, we'll go further and predict that if she does indeed run for president, that the controversy of the past week will largely be forgotten by the public. Who doesn't have a family story about some incident or person in the past worth passing on through the generations? Why should anyone outside the family get a vote on whether that family lore is part of your personality or not?

Elizabeth Warren took a risk this week, in taking on a big Trump lie directly. She called his bluff, and proved the truth was on her side exactly as she had related it. She showed Trump, once again, to be a sore loser who refuses to make good on a bet. That is the message which we think will have staying power, no matter what people thought this week. Which is why we're going out on a limb and awarding Senator Elizabeth Warren the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week.

[Congratulate Senator Elizabeth Warren on her Senate contact page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]

 

Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

We would have two Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week awards to hand out today, but the facts are so murky in one of them we've got to hold it in abeyance for now.

Alaska Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott just abruptly resigned his office this week, but there have been no details forthcoming about what exactly happened. It seems Mallott made "inappropriate comments" but nobody's sure exactly what he said, or to whom.

Governor Bill Walker issued the following statement:

Byron recently made some inappropriate comments that do not reflect the sterling level of behavior required in his role as lieutenant governor. I learned of the incident last night, and Byron has taken full responsibility for his actions and he has submitted his resignation.

State Health Commissioner Valerie Davidson, who was sworn in as Mallott's replacement, added:

While I am deeply saddened by the resignation of Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott, I am also profoundly disappointed in his conduct. Respect for women and respect for all Alaskans is our responsibility, and I stand ready to serve as your lieutenant governor.

So apparently he said something disrespectful to a woman, and it was inappropriate enough for him to have to resign over it. That sounds pretty disappointing, so we're tentatively holding onto a MDDOTW for him, at least until any further details come out. Which they probably will, in time.

But we have no qualms about the other Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week, which goes to Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. Heitkamp was, even before this week, the most endangered Democrat in the Senate. She was down in the polls, and then she voted against Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation, which may not have helped her out politically.

Perhaps in an effort to counter the bad press she got over the Kavanaugh vote, Heitkamp's campaign ran an ad this week on the subject of sexual assault survivors. Here's the whole story:

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, the most endangered Senate Democrat in next month's midterm elections, apologized Tuesday for a newspaper ad that included names of victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or rape without their permission.

The ad was fashioned as an open letter to Rep. Kevin Cramer, Heitkamp's Republican opponent, criticizing comments he made during the confirmation process for Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.

In a statement Tuesday, Heitkamp (N.D.) said that her campaign "recently discovered that several of the women's names who were provided to us did not authorize their names to be shared or were not survivors of abuse."

"I deeply regret this mistake and we are in the process of issuing a retraction, personally apologizing to each of the people impacted by this and taking the necessary steps to ensure this never happens again," the statement said.

. . .

The ad included names of 127 women. It was not clear how many names were erroneously included or how they came to be part of the newspaper ad.

One of the women listed in the ad expressed her outrage:

A lot of these people listed, including me, did not give anyone permission for our names to be posted. I don't even support Heidi Heitkamp and I am not a domestic abuse survivor. Should this even be legal?? Using people's names as part of your campaign??

This was a disgraceful and perhaps politically-fatal mistake. One cannot imagine what her campaign was thinking, in fact. Nobody made triple-sure that these women had approved such a letter in such an ad? Nobody was tasked with receiving written and signed approval from all 127 women before the fact? Nobody was in charge of even basic fact-checking before the ad was approved? That is political malpractice, plain and simple.

Heitkamp apologized, but the damage has already been done. She wound up making her political position worse by the entire episode, in a seat Democrats cannot really afford to lose if they still hold out any hope of retaking the Senate. Which is why she's our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week.

[Contact Senator Heidi Heitkamp on her Senate contact page, to let her know what you think of her actions. Byron Mallott is no longer in public office, and we do not provide contact information on private individuals as a rule.]

 

Friday Talking Points

Volume 505 (10/19/18)

As promised, we have a special edition of our talking points this week. Because the election is now looming, the time has now come for all Democratic candidates to be making their closing arguments to the voters. We've got only two-and-a-half weeks to go, folks, so we're now officially in the homestretch.

Which is why we decided to write a generic Democratic candidate's closing argument, because at this point the following speech could probably be given by just about any Democratic candidate for the House or the Senate. You'll notice that Donald Trump is barely mentioned in it, which is in keeping with how Democrats have been campaigning. The voters know all about Trump and don't need to be reminded, in short.

What they want to hear about instead are pocketbook issues which affect them. Like healthcare. And protecting Social Security. This week, Mitch McConnell gave Democrats a big fat present tied up in a bow, as he explained while being interviewed what the Republican agenda after the election will be, should they retain control of Congress. So that features heavily in this speech as well.

So rather than a bunch of little talking points, what we've got today is one long one. Here is the speech we think any Democrat running for Congress should consider using, in the final days of the 2018 midterm campaign.

 

A Closing Argument For Democratic Candidates

The Republicans have been in control of both houses of Congress and the White House for two years now. So what have they done for you? What parts of their agenda have they passed into law to make your life better or easier? The answer is not only virtually nothing, but in fact they spent a large part of their time in power trying to make life harder for millions. That is their legacy. That is why I am running for office.

Two years ago, when the Republicans first took total control, Barack Obama turned over an economy that had fully recovered from the Great Recession. Deficits were once again under control. Jobs had come back. Millions of people had healthcare that hadn't been able to afford it previously. America was respected on the world stage.

Then Republicans quickly moved on their biggest agenda item -- repealing Obamacare and replacing it with absolutely nothing. They tried to completely throw out protections for people with pre-existing conditions. The person I am running to defeat in Congress voted to do so, even if now he [or she] seems to have forgotten this fact. They tried to jettison all of the good parts of Obamacare and return us all to the days when getting sick might mean going bankrupt. That is exactly what they voted for!

Right now, several Republican state attorneys general are suing to overturn all of Obamacare. This would immediately return us to the bad old days when insurance companies could dish out life-or-death decisions with impunity. The Republican Party supports and encourages this lawsuit, no matter what the consequences would be for tens of millions out there. They're now trying to fool voters into thinking that they would somehow protect people with pre-existing conditions, but their definition of this is to let the insurance companies charge the sun, the moon, and the stars to such people for an insurance policy. That is not "protecting" these people! That is exploiting these people's pain!

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recently admitted that the Republicans basically had nothing new to offer America. He was quoted saying that if Republicans somehow retain control of the House and Senate this November, then the first thing they'd do is to once again try to repeal Obamacare and replace it with junk insurance and broken promises to people with pre-existing conditions. At least he's being honest and up-front, which is more than most Republicans running for Congress can currently admit.

In all the years since Obamacare passed, Republicans have never -- not once -- agreed among themselves what to replace it with. They all agree it should be repealed, but they go silent when asked what would follow. That is all you need to know, folks, because a Republican Obamacare replacement does not exist and never has. They refuse to come up with a plan, because they know full well that any plan would be a lot worse for millions of people than what they've got now. They are afraid of this fact, which is why they can never answer the question what they'd do instead of Obamacare.

I not only want to keep Obamacare intact, I want to expand it. I want to make it better, not worse. I want to help more people, not harm as many millions as I can. There are many ways we can go about doing this -- improving things, not making them worse -- and I support [fill in the blank: the public option, Medicare-For-All, Medicare X, whatever...]. We can have discussions about how the best way to improve things is, and we'll have that debate in full -- but we will only begin this debate when Democrats take back Congress. Republicans will never begin this debate at all because at heart they simply do not care about people like you who may have a family member with a pre-existing condition. Elect us, and we'll immediately begin working to make Obamacare better. Elect them, they'll immediately try to destroy it, once again. It's what they do, after all -- which Mitch McConnell just fully admitted to everyone. In his own words: "If we had the votes to completely start over, we'd do it." He's even admitting more than he realizes, because "to completely start over" means just what I've been saying -- in eight years, they have come up with absolutely nothing to replace Obamacare, ever! So take him at his word -- elect Democrats if you want your family members with pre-existing conditions to have a representative who fights for them instead of fights to strip them of the protections they now have.

Astonishingly enough, this wasn't even the worst thing McConnell's been saying about what Republicans will do if they retain power. After passing a massive tax giveaway -- the lion's share of which went straight to the pockets of Wall Street and the wealthiest Americans -- McConnell is now ready to slash, as he put it, "the three big entitlement programs that are very popular: Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid."

Republicans keep trying the same exact gambit, folks, and they're hoping you'll be fooled by it. They slash tax rates for millionaires, they give corporate America an enormous windfall of wealth, and then they complain that the cupboard is bare -- which can only be solved by slashing Social Security and Medicare benefits. This is nothing short of a gigantic con job.

Republicans believe, all evidence to the contrary, that cutting taxes increases the money the government takes in. Each and every time, they are proven wrong. The Republican Congress passed the Trump tax cut and the deficit jumped to $779 billion this year -- the first fiscal year where Trump was fully in charge. Corporate taxes collected fell 22 percent last year, as a result of this tax cut. The deficit is projected to hit $1 trillion a year once again, perhaps as soon as next year. This is during an economic boom time, not during a recession.

And the Republican answer -- as always -- is to slash Social Security and Medicare. They absolutely refuse to admit that their tax cuts for the fatcats create the problem, and their only answer is to stick it to the little guy. So if you want to see Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block, vote for my opponent. Because that's exactly what the Republicans want to do!

When asked about the increasing deficit, Mitch McConnell responded: "It's disappointing, but it's not a Republican problem." He called it a bipartisan problem, and tried to pin the blame on the Democrats for not joining in with him in cutting Social Security and Medicare. That is how Republicans want to run things, folks. He's admitting it right out in the open.

Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan have done nothing but carry water for Donald Trump for two years now. They have only one major legislative achievement to brag about in all that time, but their tax cut is wildly unpopular with the public. If you get the chance, please ask my opponent: "What have you been doing the past two years? What have you accomplished? What laws have you passed that have made my life better, other than the tax cut where I got back pennies and people in your income bracket made out like bandits?"

You might also ask them why they have allowed cabinet members to act like absolute grifters, while you're at it. This administration is chock-full of people who feel entitled to spend taxpayer money on private jets to European vacations, complete with security detail. And yet Congress refuses to investigate even the most blatantly scandalous ethical violations. So please ask why Republicans should continue to be allowed to aid and abet these grifters.

Of course, they don't have an answer for any of that. They have no accomplishments worth bragging about, so they are running a campaign based purely on fear. Fear of immigrants, fear of Nancy Pelosi, fear of left-wing mobs in the streets. Seriously -- that's what they have sunk to. Warning of riots should Democrats win a congressional election. Stuff that used to be relegated to the tinfoil-hat brigades is now front and center in Republican campaigns. Openly racist language is being used against Democratic candidates, and voter suppression efforts are already underway. In Arkansas, ads are running in support of one incumbent Republican with two women warning that, and I quote: "Girl, white Democrats will be lynching black folk again," to which the other woman responds: "We can't afford to let white Democrats take us back to the bad old days of race verdicts, life sentences, and lynchings when a white girl screams rape." That is the Republican Party of today. That is how low they will stoop to try to scare people into voting for them.

This is an important election, and I hope you'll turn out on Election Day to vote for me. If Democrats take back Congress, we will fight for you. If Democrats take back Congress, we will fight for affordable healthcare for all Americans -- especially those with pre-existing conditions. If Democrats take back Congress, we will fight every day to protect Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. If Democrats take back Congress, we will fight to expand the number of people with health insurance, instead of spending all our time trying to take it away from people who already have it. If Democrats take back Congress, we will fight to make sure that the wealthiest among us pay their fair share in taxes, because the deficit should now be going down, not up! If Democrats take back Congress, we will exercise our constitutional duty to oversee the executive branch, and by doing so begin to clean up the swamp that arrived in Washington two years ago. If Democrats take back Congress, we will fight for racial justice instead of trying to bring back despicable racist fearmongering that belongs buried far in America's past. If Democrats take back Congress, Mitch McConnell will not even get a chance to try to gut Social Security, Medicare, and Obamacare. Because rather than destroying everything they touch, Democrats will work hard to make things better, not worse.

As I look out on your faces, it occurs to me that the Republican conspiracy theory is partially right. If Democrats do win this election, and win it decisively, then I'd bet that there will indeed be crowds of people out in the streets. I bet that from coast to coast large groups will indeed gather together. But, of course, Republicans got one crucial thing wrong, because all of these groups will not be rioting. Far from it. They'll be dancing in the streets instead.

Thank you, and please -- don't forget to vote on Election Day.

-- Chris Weigant

 

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Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground