Wednesday, January 23, 2019

What I missed in assessing the Republican Strategy for Winning in 2016

In a piece I wrote in June 2016 titled, The GOP's Strategy for Winning Hearts and Minds, and the 2016 Election, I wrote that Republicans worked at winning the 2016 Presidential Election from the day Barack Obama won the 2008 election. That was accurate. Republicans turned 'loyal opposition' into outright obstructionism. Their thinking was that if nothing worked, if policies weren't promulgated, if laws weren't passed, if vacancies weren't filled, it would thwart Obama's "liberal agenda," and as a bonus, make Americans become disillusioned with government. When that happened, voters would be less likely to turn out for elections. That would favor Republicans, as it has historically, and as it did, ultimately putting the "Grand Old Party" back in control of both the House and the Senate.

But they needed to do more to win the Presidency

The RNC made it their mission to reach out to "low information, low propensity" registered Republicans, who made up some 35% of the Republican base and generally didn't vote. They made a concerted, heavily-funded get out the vote (GOTV) effort through direct, personal contact -- these folks didn't do social media. In my 2016 post I identified some of the organizations they reached out to on this. Click on these hyperlinks and be amazed.





Uniting the Right Wing Base

The Republican strategy also involved uniting the right-wing base, which consisted of a plethora of single-issue factions (like the Democrats, actually), including:

National Rifle Association (NRA), Gun Owners of America (GOA), other gun groups, and militia organizations.

The Tea Party, which had split into the Tea Party Patriots, Tea Party Nation, Tea Party Express, and unaffiliated voters who call themselves Tea Partiers.

The 9-12 Project (an Ayn Rand sort of group with god thrown in for good measure). Their principles included, "Government cannot force me to be charitable."

Smart Girl Politics Action (SGPA) This organization began with the mission to "engage, educate, and empower conservative women to get involved in the political process." The RNC didn't think they'd have to do much to entice them into the fold, but they began to worry when Trump became the nominee. They needn't have worried. Trump won 53% of the vote of white women -- not Republican white women -- all white women voters. Digest that. was Sarah Palin's personal money making venture designed to capitalize on what she termed "her historic endorsement of Donald Trump." Palin's fund-raising message to prospective donors was that she supported "anti-establishment" candidates, but the RNC wasn't particular. If they could latch on to Sarah's "momma grizzlies," they'd use their money and voter network and nominate who they damn well felt like nominating. Of course things didn't quite turn out the way they hoped.

Grassfire a very social media centric group, which the RNC used it to network with the organizations outlined above.

Evangelical Christians. In the 2014 midterm elections, white evangelicals or born-again Christians made up 26 percent of the electorate and 78% of them voted for Republican candidates. During the primaries, a plurality of self-identified white evangelicals voted for Trump (40%), while the majority split their votes between Ted Cruz (34%), Marco Rubio (11%), and John Kasich (10%). The RNC's challenge was to unify that voting block behind their presumptive nominee. It wasn't a problem once Trump promised to rollback the last half century of progress made on women's reproductive rights ("Two Corinthians" notwithstanding). Evangelicals continue to stand firmly with Trump, as I write about here.

The laying on of hands
AsaMom mission was, "to empower Moms and Moms at Heart in preserving our Constitution, country and children’s future." The RNC had to convince this voting block that Donald Trump was only kidding when he said it doesn't matter what the media said, "as long as you have a beautiful piece of ass with you." The Access Hollywood video surfaced later and the RNC thought, "Oh, shit," but once Trump explained that it was "only locker room talk" everything was okay.

Why the RNC got Donald Trump instead of JEB!

The problem the RNC had in leading up to the Republican 2016 Primaries and in then trying to unify the above groups, whose commonality was primarily angry disaffection, was that the RNC was the 'establishment' and it was peddling the same, tired establishment bullshit. In other words, they totally misjudged the give-a-shit basis for their audience's mood, which was poor-paying jobs, no jobs, shitty jobs, and Mexicans taking all the shitty jobs that they didn't want, but were unhappy to see said Mexicans making money at. But the elephant in the room was named 'Xenophobia' -- a fear that the white person's place atop the slag heap was in danger of toppling. So yeah, "Fuck you, RNC, we'll vote for an asshole, that'll teach you!" And voilĂ  -- Donald Trump.

And then came Russia barreling down the Fulda Gap

Now this rather too-long piece is about my 2016 assessment of the Republican strategy for wining the election, not why Hillary Clinton lost -- there have been plenty of hand-wringing analyses of that. What I want to express is how embarrassed I am for missing what turned out to be a key ingredient in the Republican strategy, viz, Russia. I didn't see Russia coming. Did you?

Ultimately, our Intelligence agencies ferreted it out and not long after Trump's inauguration, their findings led to the Mueller investigation looking into whether the Trump Campaign and Trump himself had been colluding with Russia (remember, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing"?).

Is it too far fetched to think that the RNC itself was colluding with Russia. After all, the RNC watered down language in the Republican Platform supporting U.S. assistance to the Ukraine in its efforts to resist Russian interference in their internal affairs. And according to reports, the RNC was also penetrated by Russian hackers, but their data were not released. More recently, Republican lawmakers faced scorn when they decided to celebrate July 4th in Moscow. Did they have favors to return?

Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) led the eight-member Republican delegation on a multi-day tour of Russia.
Donald Trump claims the Russia investigation is a "witch hunt." Well, a lot of witches have been rounded up. It will be interesting to see what the latest witch, Maria Butina, revealed about her contacts with the RNC and with her handler, Alexander Torshin when questioned by the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and by Robert Mueller.

Scott Walker between Walker stood between Maria Butina and Alexander Torshinh
We now know that Russia deployed active measures to influence the 2016 Election, and they did so to aid Donald Trump. There is growing evidence that members of the Trump Campaign colluded with Russia, with the latest revelation being that Paul Manafort shared campaign polling data with the Russians before the 2016 Election. Certainly this aided the Russians social media blitz. What we don't know for sure, and may never know, is how much Russia's interference impacted election results. Opinions?

Friday, January 18, 2019

Stop Waiting for Robert Mueller to Do Your Work

The 2020 election is just two more episodes of “March Madness” away, and I mean the college basketball tournament, not the debacle that poses as DC politics. In the meantime, left-leaning political operatives are conducting their own madness as various factions maneuver to place their preferred progressive on the Presidential Ballot. Not all, or even most of these groups are democrats. Some are decidedly not democrats, such as DemExit, which appears to be more a hashtag than a coherent organization.

We have to hope that the one coherent party with an opportunity to overthrow the wannabe dictator, Trump, can get its act together and unite like-minded progressives behind that imperative. Even if it does, there’s no guarantee Trump can be defeated in 2020.

Past experience shows that an incumbent president is re-elected 75% of the time. Democrats may feel that their impressive gains in the 2018 midterms will carryover to the 2020 Presidential election and sweep Trump out of office. But history has shown that there is very little correlation between a president’s first midterm election and their reelection bid. For example, Bill Clinton’s party lost 52 House seats in 1994 and Barack Obama’s party lost 63 House seats in 2010, yet both men garnered more than 330 Electoral Votes in 1996 and 2012, respectively.

Political analysts, licking their wounds after most predicted Hillary Clinton would wipe the floor with Donald Trump, have since explained to us why he won. Their verdict? It’s the rural voters. If that’s the case, what changes in 2020 to turn the red tide (given that we still have an Electoral College, and we will)?

Pollsters show Donald Trump retaining a dedicated cadre of supporters, no matter what the latest “blockbuster” reveal is about his repugnant behavior or his criminal exploits during or after his campaign. The best assessment I’ve found of what factions of society make up Trump’s base comes from Sean McElwee (@SeanMcElwee) in Data for Politics. Rural voters are just the tip of the cornstalk. It shouldn’t surprise you to find out that the real barnacles on the hull of our ship of state are white evangelicals. Being “born again” seems to equate to being born yesterday when it comes to believing and/or believing in Donald Trump. That demographic is no small thing when it comes to making Trump a one-term president. Evangelical voters account for 1 in 4 voters; roughly equivalent to the share of the electorate accounted for by people of color.

Laying on of Hands by the Clergy on the Chosen One
I’ve read the posts of many progressives who try to reason with evangelicals, arguing that their positions on many issues actually run counter to the teachings of Jesus. Forget about it! Evangelicals are a lot more practical, not to say hypocritical, than that. Donald Trump has embraced and actualized anti-choice rhetoric, selected Mike Pence as his Vice President, appointed culturally conservative Supreme Court justices, and promised to repeal RoeWade and the Johnson Amendment. His Administration recently negotiated the release of American Evangelical Pastor Andrew Brunson after two years of captivity in Turkish confinement, after which one televangelist said, “I love him so much I can hardly explain it.”

I haven’t seen a substantive plan for how the DNC plans to take on Trump in the 2020 election. Rather, I see a widening chasm forming over whether to run full socialist, or take over the right of center territory abandoned by Republicans when they veered hard right into Donald Trump’s fascism — in other words, to run a moderate and move left incrementally. So this could shape up as the socialists versus the incrementalists.

Lacking a unified platform, let alone the broad general outlines of a plan, the Democrats, the disaffected, the Dem Exits and Enters, the “Our Revolution,” and the “Resist” movements wait with fretful anticipation for Robert Mueller’s report, which they hope will put the stake through the heart of Trump’s presidency, if not Trump himself. But will it?

According to @MuellerSheWrote, writing in The Economist, "the report, when it eventually comes, will probably not be made public." William Barr's testimony during his confirmation hearings did nothing to assuage my fears that it won't be. @MuellerSheWrote went on to point out that, "The judgment on what that report means for the president will be political, rather than legal. It will rest on the views of Republicans in Congress. And many of them would rather not think about it."

So, my feeling is that since the president could not be removed by articles of impeachment unless around 20 Republican senators break with him, almost no matter what Mr Mueller may find, we may find Donald J Trump on the 2020 Ticket as the Republican nee Fascist nominee. Given that eventuality, I recommend we come up with the best damned plan for defeating him that the best damned minds in the progressive multiverse can devise.

In the meantime, my favorite really, really non-establishment candidate to go up against Trump so far is Vermin Supreme. Supreme has said that if elected President of the United States, he will pass a law requiring people to brush their teeth. Can’t argue with that.
Vermin Supreme

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Eastern Washington Remains Stubbornly Red After 2018 Midterms

2018 House Election Results, 11/11/18: Democrats 228, Republicans 199, Undecided 8.
As the days after November 6th rolled by and results rolled in, the hoped-for "Blue Wave" took shape. Democrats regained control of the House, and won governorships and state legislative seats. The Blue Wave was real, and the Republican party’s vulnerabilities with Donald Trump at its helm were revealed. The picture wasn't so rosy here in Eastern Washington.

Results won't be certified until November 27th, but, as the map above shows, Eastern Washington's 4th and 5th predominantly rural Congressional Districts voted in lock step with the rest of rural America.

Democrats up and down the ticket were shut out here in Benton and Franklin counties. For federal office, incumbent congressman Dan Newhouse defeated challenger Christine Brown by about the same 65/35 percentage margin Republicans have been winning over Democrats for the last quarter century.

Brown was a phenomenal campaigner, putting something like 30,000 miles on her Prius crisscrossing the district from Kennewick to Okanogan. She campaigned hard and employed her considerable skills as a broadcast journalist to produce excellent TV and digital ads to extend her reach, including Spanish-language ads on Spanish radio stations. Despite this, she won only 21 of Benton County's 244 precincts. She won 1 precinct in Adams County, none in Douglas, 1 in Grant, 41 in Okanogan, and 39 in Yakima. We don't yet have a precinct count for Franklin County, which she lost by 20%.

Christine Brown campaigned hard no matter the weather

Shir Regev
Leo Perales, Shir Regev, and Christopher Tracy, Democrats running for the legislature in District 8 lost by similar if slightly greater margins. Regev ran against Brad Klippert for state representative, and received the endorsement of the Tri-City Herald. The Herald said of Regev:

"She is smart – graduating from Washington State University in two-and-a-half years. And that’s before the Running Start program was implemented. She wants to help people who are struggling with health care, retirement and making ends meet."

The Herald said of Klippert that he, "has a tendency to vote against government just because it is government, and we would encourage people to look at his voting record."

Shir Regev won 7 precincts. Christoper Tracy won 8 precincts. Everett Maroon won 14 precincts in the 16th and Rebecca Francik won 13 precincts.

The turnout for the 2018 Midterms in the 4th Congressional District, at 59.13% was slightly better than that for the 2014 Midterms, at 54.85%. Benton County's turnout was 67.15% vs 55.09% in 2014, which reflects an increase of almost twenty thousand people voting. On the other hand, the county with the most registered voters, Yakima, did what it did in 2014 -- it lagged every other county in turnout, at 43.18%.

The number of registered voters in the 4th Congressional District increased by 35,183 voters between 2014 and 2018, with the biggest jump occurring between 2014 and 2016. 

Registered voters in 4th Congressional District
Over the succeeding months we will be refining the Benton County election numbers and then cross checking precinct-level results with the precincts that have PCOs and those that don't. The PCO data maintained by the Benton County Auditor shows Democrats having only 33 elected PCOs. John Harder will have data on PCOs appointed by our outgoing Chair, Allison Dabler. Benton County data shows Republicans having 61 elected PCOs. Benton County has 244 precincts.

We have work to do!

Read more here:

Read more here:

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Be afraid. Be very afraid!

That’s the message from Donald Trump, who is making a group of immigrants straggling towards hoped-for asylum in America a political issue in the Midterm Elections.

Trump calls these people, many just children,“not little angels,” “bad people,” “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners.” The Republican President said, “Think of and blame the Democrats for not giving us the votes to change our pathetic Immigration Laws!”

The fact that Republicans control not just the Presidency, but the House and Senate as well, seems to have escaped him. It hasn’t escaped us. We know that getting balance back in government is crucial to passing comprehensive, sensible, humanitarian immigration reform.

Let's send Mr. Trump a message that we will not be cowed by his shameless scaremongering. Help GOTV with one of the many campaigns where our fearless democrats are running:

For recommendations on ballot initiatives, check out the Progressive Voters Guide by Fuse. My personal recommendations are; Yes on 1631, 1639, and 940, and No on 1634 (this initiative is being heavily financed by the Sugar lobby, which is also a big contributor to Dan Newhouse). I also recommend voting "Maintained" on Advisory 19.

To participate in reclaiming America, donate to one or more campaigns, canvass, make phone calls, write letters, use social media to reinforce candidate messages. Stop on in at the Democratic Headquarters 1212 N 20th Ave. Ste B in Pasco or call Savanna Steele at (509)209-9825 to get plugged in with Canvass and Phone Banking Opportunities.

Remember, when we win, America wins!

Friday, September 14, 2018

Neil Arthur Norman, 1931 - 2018

Our friend and colleague Neil Norman passed away Wednesday night September 12, 2018, after a long, courageous battle with cancer. We'll miss him -- a lot! Neil was a mentor to many of us, and an inspiration to all of us. He walked the talk, literally, walking his precinct well into his Eighties.

I was honored to present the the Benton County Democrat's 2018 Norm Miller Leadership Award to Neil on May 31 of this year. I'm publishing the text of my presentation here in Neil's memory. It says so much about why we held Neil in such high regard.

Neil A Norman accepting the 2018 Norm Miller Leadership Award

 When I was asked to say a few words about Neil as our 2018 recipient of the Norm Miller Leadership Award, I asked his wife Jan for some input on things Neil did before joining us on the Benton County Democrats. I think she said something like, “Oh, my goodness!” I understood her reaction when I received the “summary” 3-page email outlining Neil’s service and accomplishments.

I read through Neil’s impressive record of public service and political activism. I tried to wrap my head around the idea of someone who started actively looking out for others when he was in the 3rd Grade in a little town in Tulare County, California.

As legend has it, Neil recruited his best friend, a big 5th Grader, the son of migrant farm workers, and Neil’s self-proclaimed bodyguard, to help patrol the playground to ensure children of farm workers were not being bullied. Neil, seeking an advantageous vantage point from which to survey playground unity, rode on his friend’s shoulders.

That was a long time ago — we won’t say how long — but in all that time, Neil’s dedication to fairness, to the ethical treatment of human beings from every walk of life, of every race, and religion, has never wavered. What’s changed is that Neil, throughout his long record of service, has now carried others on his shoulders.

Neil’s record of public and professional service is long and distinguished, ranging from a plethora of democratic party and campaign leadership positions from El Dorado, California, to Lynchburg, Virginia and back to Richland, Washington, and places in between, to achievements in science and technology that include everything from rocket ships to nuclear power plants.

Please visit the displays here in the room, because I don’t have time to go through all of Neil’s accomplishments, and even if I did, you wouldn’t believe me.

Neil has received many prestigious awards. Just last year he received the National Society of Professional Engineers Award — the highest award given to an individual by the Society. Their description says, “It is presented to an engineer who has made outstanding contributions to the engineering profession, the public welfare, and humankind.

And that phrase, “public welfare and humankind,” gave me the inspiration for how to tell you who my friend Neil Norman is.

When our current president attacked Muslims, Neil met with the Imam of the Tri-Cities Islamic Center to find ways to reassure members. When the president attacked immigrants, Neil worked with the Tri-Cities Immigrant Coalition to ensure that immigrants in our community knew their rights. When police in Pasco used what was perceived by the community and others as disproportionate lethal force to subdue a clearly mentally disturbed Hispanic man, Neil advocated for police de-escalation training. When refugees were relocated to our community, Neil collected donations of furniture for them, stored them in his garage, and helped distribute them.

Neil is a man of faith, and so I would like to quote from the Bible, if I may. This Bible was presented to me in 1946 — I think Neil may have been working on Harry Truman’s campaign at that time.

This is from James 2:14 - 26

If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?

You see that a person is justified by works, and not by faith alone.

And so, while Neil is an eminently deserving recipient of our 2018 Norm Miller Leadership award, what I think we are doing here tonight is celebrating the life of a man who lives his faith. A man whose myriad good works, define who he is.

It is my honor to present to Neil Norman our 2018 Norm Miller Leadership Award.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

September 11, 2001, Reimagined

WTC Attack September 11, 2001
On Tuesday of this week 17 years ago, Hijackers flew commercial airliners into New York's World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania. Passengers and crew were credited with thwarting the terrorist hijackers’ planned attack on the U.S. Capital. The September 11, 2001, terrorist attack, in which close to 3000 people were killed, was the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil in history.

We were fortunate at that time to have great confidence in the leadership of our country; in our intelligence community, the FBI and in law enforcement. There were system failures, particularly in communications. And sure, there was second guessing later about the actions taken in response to the attacks, but while events were unfolding, we trusted in our leaders to see the country through.

George W Bush first hears of WTC attack
Imagine what would happen now under the Trump Administration. The “usual suspects” carry out a devastating attack on a soft target with symbolic importance, like the December 19, 2016, attack on a Berlin Christmas Market — an attack claimed by ISIS.

Who would be blamed for not connecting the dots? Would the Intelligence and Law Enforcement agencies — the FBI, the CIA, NSA, DIA — carry sway with President Trump in formulating a measured response?

Who would we bomb, who invade? What new immigration restrictions would be imposed, what internment camps would we open for Muslim-Americans?

What new requirements would be added to the Patriot Act, what more intrusive surveillance on all Americans? What nature of protest would be made illegal? When would martial law be lifted?

The next terrorist attack on American soil is not a matter of if, but when. Determined fanatics willing to die for their cause will usually outwit even a well-managed Department of Homeland Security staffed with highly motivated and trained officers. A bombastic “strongman” equipped with a keyboard and wielding a heavy-handed immigration policy will never be an effective counter to terrorism. A country divided against itself will never be ready, or resilient.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

A Commencement Address Never Given But Oft Quoted

I received this email and link from a Republican friend.


You may not like this commencement address, but I l like it, especially the points at the end.

My response was as follows:


This was written as a tongue-in-cheek protest by Neal Boortz* for never having been invited to deliver a commencement speech.

Interestingly, the sentiments expressed reflect a growing sense of frustration among the “new right” (Trump’s Republican Party) that universities are “indoctrinating" students to be liberals. In fact, an Iowa state Sen. Mark Chelgren* proposed a bill that would institute a hiring freeze at state universities until the number of registered Republicans on faculty comes within 10 percent of the number of registered Democrats. Sen. Chelgren — who, it should be noted, claimed to hold a degree in business that turned out to be a certificate from a Sizzler steakhouse — is not an outlier. Not among Trump Republicans.

That being said here’s what I agree with in Boortz’s piece:

Heading off with a diploma doesn’t mean learning is over, or even that your smarter than the mechanic who works on your car, although you’re probably smarter than the President

People need to pay more attention to what’s going on in the world and despite what the President says about "fake news," read newspapers, especially your local paper, and listen to a variety of news sources. Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet, especially if its a tweet by the President (or something sent to you by one of your many gullible Republican friends).

The rest of this piece by Boortz is conventional conservative bias against those who think things such as the Americans with Disabilities Act is government overreach.

I haven’t had time yet to address your contention that the Press is unfair to Trump.


*Neal Boortz is an American author, attorney, and former Libertarian radio host. Boortz writing about his talk show, said, "Don't believe anything you read on [the Neal Boortz] web page or, for that matter, anything you hear on The Neal Boortz Show unless it is consistent with what you already know to be true, or unless you have taken the time to research the matter to prove its accuracy to your own satisfaction."

*Mark Chelgren is an American politician who serves in the Iowa Senate. He is a member of the Republican Party. He was elected to the Iowa Senate in 2010 and re-elected in 2014. He represents District 41. He has said that immigrant felons who enter the country illegally should be executed.