Vegas Debate Thoughts

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The Democratic candidates debate in Las Vegas ended a little while ago. I watched it along with my friend Mark and while he had a mostly negative reaction to it, I found it . . . not a positive development, necessarily, but at least rather interesting.

One thing that was a slight improvement over last time was the nature of the questions, but they still kind of sucked. Asking Sen. Klobuchar "Why didn't you know the name of the Mexican president?" was a lame question and well deserved the rebuke that Elizabeth Warren gave the moderator for it.

In no particular order, some thoughts:

  • Sen. Warren didn't take my advice, but she did have a very strong performance. She opened by rightly bludgeoning Mike Bloomberg, who was vastly outclassed. Warren also jabbed at other candidates, some surprising (she name-checked Klobuchar a few times in criticisms) some not (Mayor Pete and his big-money donors), but more importantly showed her fire in championing Democratic principles.
  • Mayor Pete was the only one on stage that kept his cool the whole time. The fire worked for Warren, the calm worked for Pete. Even under attack he was cool and collected and parried reasonably well. That said, his centrist health-care talking points remain specious and his characterization of Sanders' policies as "burn the house down" did not help him.
  • Speaking of Mayor Pete, his heavy-mustache stubble made him look like a high school kid desperate to grow facial hair to look grown up.
  • Bernie was Bernie. As Mark and I talked about, say what you will about Bernie Sanders, there's never any ambiguity with him. He came under some fire for the actions of some of his purported supporters, reprehensible behavior, and I have some sympathy for Bernie there; a candidate simply cannot manage all that people do online, and even disowning those supporters isn't going to matter there. Plus, some of that abuse is probably being done in the name of his campaign but by people whose only goal is disruption. Pete went after him for a failure of leadership that allowed this awful behavior, and OK, he's got a point, but how much of it is really controllable?
  • The post-debate outcry over the truly inane question from Chuck Todd (WTF is Chuck Todd doing there anyway? He's a lousy interviewer) about whether or not the field should simply anoint the candidate with the most pledged delegates after the primaries are over even if they don't have a majority is maddening. You can't just have a simple blanket answer to that, the only reasonable answer is "it depends," which is essentially what all except Sanders said in response. That talking heads decry "it depends" as a shocking answer is absurd.
  • I'm really curious to see what kind of fallout, if any, there is for Sen. Klobuchar after this one. It seems to me that she didn't help herself at all tonight and did not react well to criticism. She even said to Buttigieg, "are you saying I'm dumb?" which was not at all what he was doing. The hostile defensiveness may not play well. I admit I don't know how much of that might amount to sexist double-standards. Dudes can be nasty and get away with it. But I think this was something else. I'll be surprised if she doesn't lose support.
  • There was not NEARLY enough talk about Trump. Especially in light of the continuing presidential crime spree and his spate of pardons this week, all of the candidates needed to direct their venom more in his direction and there just wasn't much there. This is on the moderators as much if not more than on the candidates themselves.
  • There was some back and forth on the "socialism" label that Sanders has made part of his identity. Most of what was said was stupid—especially from Bloomberg, who basically said anything other than unfettered capitalism was "communism"—and some opportunities for clarity were missed. Pete at one point invoked Denmark as the place in the world one is most likely to achieve "the American dream," but here was critical of the concept of socialism. That was a contradiction that begged to be highlighted and no one mentioned it.
  • Still way too much time spent on health-care policy. Yes, it's important, yes, some are better on this than others, but there are bigger fish to fry here and the moderate position always warns against "taking away" insurance plans that "people love." Well, if anyone really loves their insurance plan they probably don't love the premium. No one will shed a tear if they lose a private insurance plan that they don't like/pay a fortune for and in its place get simple universal coverage that covers them fully at lesser overall cost. Unless you have Bloomberg money, in which case it might cost you a little more, but you have Bloomberg money, so it won't bother you. The moderate argument is specious. If you want to restrict your argument against single-payer to Federal budget constraints, OK, that's valid, but don't bullshit us about being able to keep our shitty for-profit insurance.
  • Pete pointed out that neither Sanders nor Bloomberg are actually Democrats. Nice. That's a concern for me with Bernie; if he's President, will he be leading the party? He's running in the Democratic primary, but he's still an independent and will not become a Democrat. Bloomberg left the Republicans and good for him, but as Mark pointed out, he didn't change—his party left him, he still has the positions he had when he called himself a Republican.
  • At one point when discussing health insurance, Warren began telling an anecdote about being in Reno and for just a second I wondered if she was going to channel Johnny Cash and say she saw a man in Reno and watched him die. (She didn't.)

Some post-debate favorites from my Twitter feed...

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Comments Fixed

It was brought to my attention that the comment feature on this site was not working properly. Oops. There was some alteration to the server setup during my time neglecting the blog. Fixed now! Comment away!

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Debate Strategy

EWbutton

In advance of tomorrow night's Democratic candidates debate in Las Vegas, I have concerns. My preferred candidate, Elizabeth Warren, is getting the shaft from the media—even to the point of being omitted from head-to-head questions in a major NBC News poll today—and needs to gain some traction. Writing anyone off after just 1.5% of delegates have been allotted is absurd, and as noted before, the system that requires fundraising to be contingent on results in two tiny whitebread states is in dire need of reform. That said, Warren still has the third-most delegates and is behind a very polarizing candidate and an untested moderate that is very much a dark horse in the race. Not that you'd know it from the media stories of late.

So the senator needs to make a splash tomorrow, get the attention of the cameras and the journos as well as, of course, the voters. Here's my open letter of advice.

 

Dear Senator Warren,

As you know, we need to beat Trump in November. Soundly. Overwhelmingly. We need as much voter turnout as we can muster. I believe you're the best candidate in the field to accomplish that for us, and I think that should be a principal line of attack in the next couple of debates.

Don't get me wrong, I love the policy positions and I think those should be in the conversation, but some focus on the ones that relate directly with the Trump crime spree would be welcome. Bickering about health care policy isn't going to do the trick, even though yours is the best-articulated plan for that.

No, let's focus instead on your proposal for the Office of Public Integrity, a new agency to monitor and review executive branch actions for illegality. Let's focus on the law and the upholding of the law, let's give some time to the view that the heretofore accepted practice of not going after previous presidents (e.g. Ford pardoning Nixon and Obama not supporting action confronting war crimes committed by the George W. Bush administration) cannot apply in the case of Trump or anyone in the future who might try to turn our democratic republic into a tyrannical autocracy. One might go so far as to argue that pardoning Nixon set a bad precedent that helped lead us to the crisis we are in today. Let's focus on your anti-corruption proposals and bona fides, particularly in light of Trump's latest spate of pardons and commutations for financial criminals. The anti-conflict-of-interest provisions of your proposals seem pertinent in light of all this, though they have weight regardless given the plethora of Trump emoluments violations.

The top issue for all of us in this election is beating Trump. I mean, there's no more United States as we know it if we don't. But there's a divide within the anti-Trump electorate, with a disturbing number of voters who say they support Bernie Sanders but will not support anyone else; a contingent that insists on sweeping change butting heads against a contingent that fears overreaching; a media environment that is beginning to push a false Bernie-vs.-Bloomberg narrative.

You are uniquely positioned to appeal to the most voters. All respect to Mr. Sanders, among the candidates you are easily the most antithetical to Trump and Trumpism. Your policy positions are at least as appealing to those that support Mr. Sanders as his are, and you don't have the baggage of (a) the "Bernie Bro" army that offends and alienates all over social media; (b) the easy target of "socialist" that Banana Republicans will exploit against Mr. Sanders (though to be fair, they will make up scandal about any of you); or (c) the lingering bitterness from the 2016 primary cycle. None of the other candidates are likely to have as easy a time incorporating the Sanders support into a general election movement. Further, your experience and temperament are more appealing to many if not most than the youth, inexperience, and centrism of Mayor Buttegieg; the awkward speechifying, seemingly obsolete view of Republicans, and odd defensiveness of Vice-President Biden; the moderation from Senator Klobuchar; and the disturbing history of racism and moneyed bias from recent Republican Mr. Bloomberg.

Frankly, if logic were the sole basis of support, you'd be running away with this. But even with personality and emotional relativity seeming to be more important, your agenda is well-suited to such appeals and your ability to connect with people one-on-one should be a strength.

One more thing: When I worked on John Kerry's campaign in 2004, the thing that drove me up the wall more than anything else he did was speak on the campaign trail and in debate forums with the sort of language that works in the well of the Senate but can turn off people in other contexts. For example, he'd do the Senator thing of beginning sentences with "Look," and then make his point, but tonally that always sounded condescending, as if there was an unspoken "you moron" after "Look." You've done this same type of thing, and I urge you to be aware and maybe modify that kind of verbiage.

Good luck in the debates. I'm hoping for a great run of press afterward. :-)

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#FireManfred

baseball

It's small potatoes compared to the existential crisis of Republican totalitarianism, but today the commissioner of baseball held a press conference and I have opinions about it. See the deets at my other site.

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Larry Wilmore, National Trasure

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Larry Wilmore

I listen to a lot of podcasts (most political, some not), and tonight on my walk around the neighborhood in the Seattle mist I was listening to Ronan Farrow's boyfriend's weekly pod, "Lovett or Leave It," which featured guest panelist Larry Wilmore. Larry is one of those guys that I see occasionally on TV and think, "that guy is hilarious." Then I forget about him and move on. But Larry said a couple of things here that (a) led me to seek out his own podcast, "Larry Wilmore: Black on the Air," which I have not yet listened to but will add to my list of regular downloads; and (b) reminded me that Larry Wilmore is brilliant and should be not-forgotten when you move on from one of his hilarious appearances.

One of those things was just a throwaway reference to our current president, a moniker which I find perfect in every way and may start using in everyday conversation: "Tangerine Idi Amin." The other was a generous offer to Democratic presidential candidates regarding their, let's say racial insensitivities, capped off with the suggestion to "go skiing, do something really white, knock yourself out."

Here's a taste.

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The Rule of Law is Broken

Ten minutes from Rachel Maddow tonight that I thought deserved some amplification.

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Believe the Autocrat

The other day I cited Rachel Maddow as an exception in my screed about the failure of the news media to treat the Trump crisis as a crisis. This segment from her show earlier this week illustrates her difference.

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Primary Directive

IANH

Warning: This post will likely be a bit of a disjointed ramble.

As a politics nerd, I spend a lot of time listening to podcasts and watching news reports and surfing news sites online. I'm a consumer of the "horse-race" coverage every time presidential or even midterm election season comes 'round. I am, thus, part of the problem.

Because when it comes to Presidents, our election system is . . . let's say, not optimal. And that's not even taking into consideration the crises of the moment, the real possibility that a foreign and domestic terror campaign is well underway to disrupt and delegitimize our democratic process with the goal of turning the USA into a banana republic. No, even if we set aside that nightmare for a moment things are a bit wack.

I suppose things are bound to get screwy when you build a system that evolves and changes in some ways over long periods while simultaneously not evolving or changing with external contexts. But here we are, primary season, and once again Iowa and New Hampshire are wielding power far greater than is remotely reasonable.

I've been hearing several wonks on news shows and podcasts speculating on who should drop out of the race, who now has a shot, who connects with what demographic—all based on the results in two tiny, near-homogeneous states that combined account for about 1.5% of the available delegates. With 98.5% of delegates still to be allotted, people—even George Takei, in a since-deleted tweet! George, my man, you are wrong here!—are saying anyone who finishes worse than third in both Iowa and New Hampshire should drop out. People are calling on the so-called moderate candidates to consolidate themselves into one, with two of Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, and Amy Klobuchar dropping out to throw support to the third in order to prevent Sanders from winning with a small plurality. I hear others decrying the proportional-allotment system, advocating for a winner-take-all primary setup like the Republicans have. All sorts of complaints and theories and advice based on two tiny near-homogeneous states representing one-and-a-half percent.

It's about money, of course. Candidates need to keep raising money unless they're Bloomberg-like gazillionaires, and a poor showing in the first and/or second state can hurt that. Do well in one or both and you can get more donations. Or, more accurately, have it reported that you did well or poorly and you can get more/not get enough donations. Because the media drives this as much or more than the actual voting does. And we consumers of media reinforce that behavior, thus part of the problem.

What's the fix? (Presuming that we still have presidential elections after 2020, of course, and that they are once again more-or-less legit.) Is it a national primary, everyone votes the same day? Is it bunching a few more states up front with Iowa and New Hampshire, or maybe pushing things so nobody is close to those two? Is it just mixing up the order of who goes when so different states get the power IA and NH have now each time? Go back to using the party convention as the principal venue for choosing a nominee?

One change that would go a long way to improving everything in our electoral system would be mandating public financing, take the billionaire factor out of things and relieve the fundraising pressure on individual candidates.

Another thing I'd change would be the concept of open primaries. Those should go away. I know that would be unpopular in some circles, but they make no sense and are invitations to ratfuckery. And New Hampshire has an open primary, another reason its power is sorely misplaced. Trump and his cronies invited their supporters outright to vote for "a weak" Democrat in the New Hampshire primary in order to disrupt the Democrats' process. Even without prompting from your cult leader, one could make a calculation to cast a strategic primary vote for your preferred opponent in the general election. Regardless, these are party primary elections/caucuses. To determine your party's nominee. If you do not belong to that party, should you really have a say in who they nominate? I think not. We in Washington also have an open primary now; we don't even allow party registrations. I get wanting to have as much voter participation as possible, I appreciate that concept. And it absolutely applies to general elections. But if you have a club or organization, and need to nominate a leader for it, do you open that up to people not in your club or organization? No. So why are Republicans and independents allowed to vote for who the Democratic party nominates as their candidate? Democrats should vote in Democratic primaries and Republicans should vote in Republican primaries and Greens in Green primaries, if those ever become a thing, and so on. And if you're keen on being an independent, well, sorry, but you get no say until the general election. I know, it's largely symbolic; one can change one's party affiliation whenever, but it irritates me to see, for example, that 43% of people who voted in the New Hampshire Democratic primary were not Democrats:

NBC NH

 I do, however, support keeping proportional allotment of delegates. Leave the all-or-nothing, I-got-mine-you-get-nothing-sucks-to-be-you attitude to the Republicans.

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Wake up, News Media

sundayshows

I am really curious, and really pessimistic, about how the network news shows and principal print press are going to handle President VonClownstick and his enablers going forward.

Three years into this nightmare administration and Chuck Todd is still asking milquetoast questions on Meet the Press and Margaret Brennan is still letting Republican Senators and administration officials walk all over her on Face the Nation. (How Stephanopolous is doing on his show I don't know, but based on his performance in last week's debate I have to think he's asking dumb questions too.) Now that POTUS has gone full-on dictator with his consigliere henchman Bill Barr, taking revenge on those who dared testify under Congressional subpoena and using the Justice Department (which really will need a new name) as an arm of the Trump Crime Family, will reporters change their ways? Will they start confronting enablers of autocracy on their overt and covert abetting of an insane clown tyrant?

I have my doubts. The outrages we've already lived through seem like plenty to light a fire under the press and, with some very notable exceptions*, they still cower. The President of the United States has called our free press "the enemy of the people" and decried all truthful reporting as "fake news," he is (and has been for years now) employing Russian-style propaganda tactics, spewing misinformation at a truly astonishing rate, and has somehow conned or coerced the entire Republican Party (what remains of it) into helping him bring down the country; even during impeachment reporters basically gave these people a pass.

I've noticed a small change since the impeachment show-trial; Brennan was tougher than usual when interviewing Sen. Lindsay Graham (R, Ninth Circle) last Sunday, though not nearly enough. Todd was better with Sen. Lamar Alexander (R, Bizarro-world) a week prior and got him to admit he thought Trump was guilty but would let him off anyway, but failed to sufficiently press the point to confront Alexander with the hypocrisy of his vote. Baby steps, I guess.

But baby steps are too little too late, this is crisis time. The Republican party writ large is trying to discredit the press in its entirety. STOP LETTING THEM.

* The MSNBC prime time trio of Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow, and Lawrence O'Donnell are doing very well, but they are considered, rightly or wrongly, as biased because of the Republican narrative that MSNBC is "liberal." Anderson Cooper has likewise stepped it up of late. Washington Post columnists like Gene Robinson and Atlantic Magazine writers like David Frum (a conservative!) are solid, but these are analysts rather than straight reporters. The news needs to be frank, direct, call out lies and propaganda, and treat this political era with the gravity it requires.

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Stray Political Thoughts

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I watched tonight's Democratic candidates debate with some friends and have some thoughts.

  • The moderators from ABC News were gawd-awful. Every question from them seemed to be designed to start a fight. To their credit, the candidates generally refused to take the bait, which seemed to frustrate, especially, moderator David Muir. When Muir didn't get an answer he liked, he followed up with another candidate trying to bring out the claws. It was infuriating. Muir's ridiculously simplistic question to several candidates concerning the killing of Iranian general Soleimani was embarrassingly stupid and his rejection of nuanced answers to it spoke quite poorly of Muir's grasp of reality. Most if not all debates have occurrences when a candidate dodges a question or otherwise manages to avoid a direct answer, but this was the first time I can recall being pleased to see question avoidance. The questions tended to suck.
  • Candidates that impressed: Pete, Bernie, Warren, and Steyer. Mayor Pete was exceptionally eloquent, gave brilliant answers to lame questions, and came across as monumentally competent. As I said to my companions here, if Pete were ten years older and had served in Congress, I'd be tempted to vote for him based on this.
  • My candidate of choice right now, though, is Senator Warren, and she had one standout moment by articulating an agenda based around fighting corruption, including creating a standing agency to keep tabs on government actions that cross lines of legality. Unfortunately, none of her other answers struck me as enough to move the needle for her; she remains strong, but this debate probably didn't win new voters to her side.
  • Bernie Sanders was the only one to give an actual answer to the final question that candidates used for closing remarks, and he hit an upper-deck homer with it. The question was, essentially, child poverty continues to be really bad in the U.S., why is that? Sanders crushed it with a simple truth: Because our priorities are fucked up, rewarding the rich and corporate in a Republican economic disaster that began in the 1980s and has never truly righted itself. Bernie also had good remarks on party unity—his most fervent supporters really need to hear that, we can have no _____ or Bust people this time—and on his evolution on gun control.
  • And Tom Steyer, who nobody really considers to be a legit contender, barged his way into the discussion with a frustration that a lot of us watching were also feeling: These nitpicky arguments about Medicare for All vs. Medicare for All Who Want It vs. Obamacare + Public Option and the like are tiresome, we've been over it and over it, and no matter what, every single Democrat running will push for vast improvements with the same ultimate goal; what we really need to be discussing is the existential danger of a President Trump who would be King Trump the Dear Leader. Several candidates made the case for turning out a massive number of voters as necessary for victory, which is true, but none of them noted that part of the reason it's necessary is that we need to overcome the cheating that the Republicans are and will continue to perpetrate.
  • Amy Klobuchar and Yang were fine, came across well, but didn't impress me. Yang seemed pretty simplistic by always leaning on his basic income proposal as a panacea.
  • Everyone missed the opportunity for a simple, clear, true, and relevant answer to a question on whether or not approving the USMCA was a good idea. Instead of arguing that not making climate-change mitigation part of the agreement was a reason to oppose it or defending that it was more important to have a united bloc among the US, Canada, and Mexico on trade, there was a better response: For the Senators who cast a vote, there were but two options—nothing, or a bit better than nothing. Voting no would not help climate change, but voting yes would help some in other areas. Warren almost got there, but veered off before making the point.
  • Joe Biden was better than he was in prior debates, but he still seems like a poor choice. Not that he'd be a poor choice to be President, I mean a poor choice to be a candidate for President in the general. The stakes are so very, very high this time around and Joe has this way of interrupting himself, speaking in terms that lack context, being oddly aggressive at times that don't really call for it, and, at least in a debate format, is remarkably defensive. It's scary to me, given how malleable voters have shown themselves to be in the past.
  • Mayor Pete is going to make an excellent Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
  • I'm more in Warren's camp than ever at this point, but not due to her performance tonight. I started out supporting Kamala Harris, thinking that we need a prosecutor in this election (and she's been a solid public servant). Warren is closer to my thinking in terms of policy, but now, with the field narrowed as it is, she's also the one that gives me the least anxiety as a potential nominee. She's unabashedly and authentically the opposite of Trump in most ways: anti-corruption, pro-labor, full of integrity, whip-smart, and compassionate. And she relates to the general public well. There is still some of that Senator-speak that I cringe at—it's the thing that drove me nuts more than anything else while working for John Kerry's campaign, using the language of the Senate floor on the campaign trail and sounding condescending when it was far from his intent—but in general she connects with the masses.
  • Biden and Sanders do the Senator-speak too—the most common offense being to start a sentence with "Look, blah blah," which almost 100% of the time sounds as if there's an unsaid portion that makes it really "Look, you idiot, blah blah"—but Sanders is such a unique character that it just blends into his style and doesn't stand out. Biden is really bad with it, though, especially when he's defensive or amped up.
  • Discussing the idiocy of having Iowa and New Hampshire get so much say in who gets nominated, my friend Mark mentioned that at least we in Washington have done away with caucuses. This, weirdly, was news to me! What? When did that happen?! Why didn't I know this?! Just yesterday I blogged about how much I enjoyed them! Turns out Mark is correct—last April the state Democratic party made the change to a primary, and we vote shortly after Super Tuesday. How this escaped my notice I have no idea. Seems like something I would have been plugged into. It was April, so I was likely immersed in baseball, but still. Sigh.
  • Little to no commentary in the debate tonight about Trump's truly frightening off-the-rails ego trip yesterday in the East Room. It deserved a mention.
  • However, Trump's retaliation against impeachment witnesses Col. Vindman and Ambassador Sondland did get mentions, though not enough. He's going full-on Emperor Palpatine now.
  • FactCheck.org has a rundown of things said in the debate that aren't 100% accurate, and it's kind of amusing; none of the items are in spirit incorrect, only in fine details, which is such a giant contrast to any given day of Trump's Twitter feed.

This has been a brutal couple of weeks, politically, and it's necessary to remember not to fall back into normal election season behavior. Watching the debates is interesting and reading analyses of candidate performance is good and all that, but we have to keep in mind that if Trump has his way, this election will not be on the up-and-up and could easily be the last one with any sense of legitimacy at all for a long, long time. Tom Steyer was right: bickering about who has the incrementally better health-care plan means nothing compared to defeating Trump and making it stick. Because we know he won't take losing gracefully, he'll fight it with claims of fraud—because in his mind, everyone does what he does as nothing else makes sense to him—and bogus whining about being a victim and his corrupt and evil henchmen in the Justice Department. That's the priority: Not just beating him, but beating him so soundly and forcefully that he can't cheat his way out of it.

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Caucus Mockus

LisaBensonIowa
By Lisa Benson, WaPo Writers Group

HayesTweet

 

So, the Iowa caucuses were a bit of a shitshow this year, and people all over the political world are to some extent losing their minds, including the esteemed Mr. Hayes, above. As if this was something new.

Iowa caucuses have been a mess for a long time, this shouldn't surprise anybody. Remember 2012, when Mitt Romney won Iowa, no wait, Ron Paul did, no wait, Rick Santorum did? There wasn't even a mobile app to blame then. Yes, the Iowa state Democratic Party screwed the pooch on this. No question. But let's not make a bigger deal of it than it is; Iowa fucks up, it's normal, and eventually we get results that are agreed upon.

That said, I do think things should change. The wonks on Pod Save America predict this was the last time we'd have Iowa caucuses, at least as we've known them since the modern process started in 1972. I don't see that happening, because this mess will be forgotten just as all previous Iowa caucus messes have been. But the problems are undeniable.

Ultimately, I think I agree with Chris Hayes. Doing away with the caucus process and having every state adopt a primary instead would be more democratic, more inclusive, more understandable. It'd be better. Yet, I like caucuses. I'd miss them.

I've attended the Washington State Democratic caucuses in 1992, 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2016, skipping the years when incumbent Democrats were running for reelection and had essentially no competitors. They're fun. For political nerds like me, anyway; they aren't continuously fun, they also involve a great deal of boredom and standing/sitting around. But when stuff is happening, it's neat. It's talking with your neighbors about important national issues and advocating for your chosen candidate. It can also mean greater participation in the whole lengthy campaign—in 2004, I was elected as a delegate for the John Kerry campaign (which I had been doing considerable volunteer work for over many months by then) to the next stage in the nominating process, the district caucus, and had circumstances permitted I would have run for delegate to county and state conventions.

One positive element to caucuses is the ability to switch your allegiance. In a way, it seems unfair, but in the end it's a good thing: If your chosen candidate does not have enough support in your precinct to net a delegate, you may join the group supporting a different candidate so your participation will aid your choice of the remaining options. This happened to me in 1992, my first caucus—I was the only one in my precinct supporting Jerry Brown, thus Governor Moonbeam was unviable there, having less than 15% support. So was Senator Paul Simon. I then opted to join the Clinton supporters over the Paul Tsongas supporters. In the moment I didn't like this, but had the state apportioned delegates via primary election, my vote for Brown would have contributed zero while my caucus support for Clinton gave him one more delegate at the precinct level. Similarly, in 2008—before the scandal broke—I was in the John Edwards camp, but again was in a sub-15% minority and thus had the chance to throw my support to Barack Obama and help him take the state over Hillary Clinton. Of course, calculating voters can make strategic votes in primaries by making assumptions on viability ahead of time, but I still like the process.

We should get rid of it, though.

Caucuses by design limit participation and effectively disenfranchise voters who for whatever reason cannot devote several hours to go to a school gym or a church basement or wherever. They discourage those who simply don't want to give up their afternoon (or evening, in Iowa). They are not a secret ballot, which can keep people away. People who are not comfortable speaking up in groups or who have social anxiety issues won't participate. Elections, on the other hand, are simple. Especially here, where it's all done by mail (or neighborhood drop box). Far more voters can participate. Sure, there are election security issues that caucuses avoid, but as we see every time, there are caucus administration issues that are inevitable. And elections, done right, have a paper trail that can be audited while caucuses can be comparatively recordless proceedings.

Oh, and caucus or not, Iowa has had its fun being first. Time to share that honor around. Yes, yes, they like it so much (as does New Hampshire) that they have a state law mandating they be first, but let's be serious. Let's revamp this to give (a) a more populous and diverse state (say, Georgia? Michigan?) the influence of being first, and (b) change up the order every cycle, so it isn't always the same three or four states that winnow the field. Iowa and New Hampshire have the most influence on who gets nominated, always. South Carolina got in on it recently, and more recently Nevada got in on things, but by the time any large population gets to vote, the field has been cut considerably. Every damn time.

So, change it up. Put in a rotation system. Not necessarily random, I mean, having California go first might be its own problem, but put some thought into it. Albino Iowa and palesnow New Hampshire can go later. Maybe on Super Tuesday.

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Welcome to the Banana Republic

634054 1

Well, they did it. As we knew they would. As they telegraphed they would on multiple occasions and as they confirmed with vehemence last Friday by denying evidence be admitted to trial. 52 United States Senators decreed today that we are no longer a democratic republic, no longer a representative democracy. Instead, in direct opposition to the will of the national majority, those 52 United States Senators welcomed the transition to despotism by giving the current president of the nation unchecked power, by removing any remnants of inhibition that might remain in his behavior.

The current holder of the office of the President, whose actual name I will not use today and whose name will, should we survive into history, become a synonym for corruption and cruelty, was impeached by the House of Representatives on only two counts. He could have been impeached on many more, as he has committed many more reprehensible offenses, but the two in question—abuse of power by extorting a foreign leader to tar a political opponent with made-up accusations and obstruction of Congress in covering that abuse up—were slam-dunks. The proof was overwhelming. He admitted it, repeatedly, on television. No attentive person with even a modicum of intelligence and understanding of the United States Constitution could reasonably deny that he committed these offenses.

52 United States Senators, however, found they could unreasonably deny it and pretend they were honorably upholding their principles.

President VonClownstick reacted to his faux-acquittal by immediately tweeting an animated graphic based on a Time magazine cover displaying his desire to remain in power in perpetuity. Some of the 52 Senators gloated, many of the wannabe-dictator's fans and cultists verbally bashed adherents to the rule of law as losers and, paradoxically, traitors. The wannabe-dictator's son attacked the only Republican Senator to side with the Constitution by demanding that Senator be expelled from his party and branding him a "member of the resistance," a term that in and of itself is troubling. (If there is a resistance, there must by definition be something to resist, and common parlance relegates "The Resistance," in political contexts, to oppressed populations opposing tyranny.)

Those 52 Senators will rue this day, presuming they live more than another few months. There is no question that our wannabe-dictator will continue to abuse his power, will continue to commit atrocities, will continue to show contempt for the Constitution, will continue to behave like the leader of the international criminal enterprise that he is. As House Impeachment Manager Rep. Adam Schiff put it, the odds of this are "one-hundred percent." Further details of the abuses already committed, including those the 52 Senators declared to be perfectly acceptable, will come to light soon. The political calculation these 52 people made will backfire. But will it matter?

We have one opportunity to reclaim the United States of America as the democratic republic it had been before this administration began tearing it down. 52 United States Senators have abdicated their responsibility out of fear of retribution from a vindictive man-child, out of their own corruption and lust for power, out of rank stupidity, and/or out of allegiance to foreign dictatorships. That leaves the electoral process as the only remedy left, and as we have seen many times before, too many American voters are easily-manipulated simpletons that can be tricked into voting against their interests.

It's crisis time. If this president is not defeated in this year's election, if the Senate is not wrested from the death grip of Mitch McConnell, then this country is finished. That sounds hyperbolic, I know, but it's not. This president is profoundly anti-democracy, profoundly dishonorable, profoundly corrupt—and profoundly fragile. He is so thin-skinned and insecure, so in need of utter adulation to fuel his ego, that he demands complete fealty. The danger is, to use one of his favored words, tremendous.

And 52 United States Senators do not care.

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