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2020 presidential election

This Is What Abuse of Power Looks Like

by D.J. McGuire

Donald Trump committed an impeachable offense Friday night; if his defenders would rather I stop saying that, then he needs to stop doing them. This particular abuse of power and offense to the Constitution was his commutation of Roger Stone’s jail time.

I’m not going to provide chapter and verse on Stone’s role in Russia’s interference with the 2016 election, largely because David Frum whipped up an excellent cliff-notes version in The Atlantic. Here are his key takeaways (emphasis in original):

It is not illegal for a U.S. citizen to act or attempt to act as a go-between between a presidential campaign and a foreign intelligence agency, and Stone was not charged with any crime in conjunction with his Trump-WikiLeaks communications. But it’s a different story for the campaign itself. At a minimum, the Trump campaign was vulnerable to charges of violating election laws against receiving things of value from non-U.S. persons. Conceivably, the campaign could have found itself at risk as some kind of accessory to the Russian hacks—hacking being a very serious crime indeed. So it was crucial to the Trump campaign that Stone keep silent and not implicate Trump in any way.

Which is what Stone did. Stone was accused of—and convicted of—lying to Congress about his role in the WikiLeaks matter. Since Stone himself would have been in no legal jeopardy had he told the truth, the strong inference is that he lied to protect somebody else. Just today, this very day, Stone told the journalist Howard Fineman why he lied and whom he was protecting. “He knows I was under enormous pressure to turn on him. It would have eased my situation considerably. But I didn’t.” You read that, and you blink. As the prominent Trump critic George Conway tweeted: “I mean, even Tony Soprano would have used only a pay phone or burner phone to say something like this.” Stone said it on the record to one of the best-known reporters in Washington. In so many words, he seemed to imply: I could have hurt the president if I’d rolled over on him. I kept my mouth shut. He owes me.

And sure enough, Trump did owe him. Trump commuted Stone’s 40-month sentence. Roger Stone will not go to prison. Stone’s former business partner Paul Manafort is likewise keeping silent. And so the American public will likely never know what use the Russians made of the Trump polling information that Manafort shared with them. Manafort has extra reason to keep quiet, for he must feel new confidence that his pardon is coming.

Now I’m sure several of Trump’s defenders will populate the comments below with the closest thing they have to an intellectual defense on this: the president’s “right” to pardon or commute sentences for convicted federal criminals. The fallacy behind that is rather easy to expose.

The president has no “right” to exercise authority in the Constitution. The Constitution gives him the power to do several things – including pardon and commutation power. Having said power does not allow him to use it to obstruct justice. The ordinary American with a driver’s license has the power to operate an automobile. That doesn’t absolve one who drives the getaway car in a bank robbery, or transports an abductee, or even violates speeding limits. If one is using power to prevent themselves from being exposed for criminal behavior, then the power is being abused.

As it happens, Stone himself was brazen enough to present the evidence of abuse of power: “He knows I was under enormous pressure to turn on him. It would have eased my situation considerably. But I didn’t.”

Donald Trump can pardon whomever he wants. He can commute the sentence for whomever he wants. However, if he commits a crime in the process, it is an abuse of power that requires his impeachment and removal from office.

There’s no need to take my word for it; here’s Senator Mitt Romney: “Unprecedented, historic corruption: an American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president.”

That from the lone Republican Senator who voted to convict Trump for abuse of power – and thus to remove Trump from office – over the Ukraine fiasco.

Simply put, Donald Trump abused his power – again. His actions warrant impeachment, conviction, and removal from office – again. I fear that outside of Mitt Romney, members of his party will deny this truth – again.

Restoring the American republic is up to the electorate in November.

Bleach Blonde (Ep. 254)

The podcast introduces DJ’s wife, Ora, as she joins the gang to inject disinfectant into the week’s coronavirus news.

Biden Endorsements Galore (Ep. 253)

This MPU podcast catches up with the 2020 presidential race as Democrats line up to endorse Joe Biden. Then the hosts look at the week in the world of Coronavirus, and how it’s changing their own lives.

School’s Out (Forever?) [Ep.252]

This MPU episode looks at how the coronavirus will affect schools, the economic recovery, and the 2020 presidential election.

Covid-16 Is Infecting 2020

By Kevin Kelton

You wouldn’t knowingly risk infecting someone important to you with the coronavirus. Yet millions of thoughtless Democrats are infecting their party’s presumptive nominee.

Every day, we see reckless Democrats passing on the germs of dirty politics to Joe Biden. They selfishly cough up words like “dementia,” “handsy,” “corporate-owned,” and even high-risk terms like “pedophile” into the air of social media, spreading those deadly labels into the body politic, much like was done to Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Let’s be clear: Joe Biden is not Hillary. But he is just as suseptible to the same gutter character attacks that made millions of normally Democratic voters avoid the polls that year, killing her candidacy. It could be called Covid-16, and it was just as deadly as coronavirus germs are on your unwashed hands.

Four years later, it’s time for disappointed progressive voters to face reality. Whether you supportered Sanders or Warren or Buttigieg or Yang, Biden is going to be the Democratic candidate this Fall. He earned it fair and square, pulling off one of the greatest political comebacks in history. Not only did his one-on-one debate with Sanders prove he isn’t hobbled by age, it clearly demonstrated his mettle as a viable candidate and a strong leader.

And with his latest thumping of Sanders across Florida, Illinois, and Arizona (along with Michigan, Minnesota, Virginia, Texas, and North Carolina) he proved he can replicate the same coalitions that led to the blue wave of 2018. There is little doubt Biden will continue that success in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia, and probably Wisconsin – virtually running the table in the swing states the party will need to hold come November 3.

Consider a second Trump term the political equivalent of the coronavirus, because it could literally kill thousands of LGBTs, Dreamers, seniors, pregnant women, service members, undocumented immigrants, POC, and other high-risk groups. Every time you infect Joe’s reputation with claims he may be suffering from dementia or some similarly untrue character smear, you risk spreading that idea to others. Your Facebook friends read it, then they spread it to their friends, and they spread it, until you have an epidemic of people turning off to Biden and staying home in November.

You might as well go phonebank for Trump, because that’s exactly what you’re doing with your social media posts.

It’s time for progressives to put some social media distance between them and the virus of hate that can kill our party’s chances in November. Irresponsible character attacks are our Covid-20. If you chose to be a carrier and infect this election cycle like so many did in 2016, don’t be surprised when you send your dearest issues – climate change, reproductive rights, economic inequality, and LGBT rights – to an early grave.

Kevin Kelton is the founder of the Open Fire community of Facebook discussion groups and a cohost of The More Perfect Union Podcast.

 

 

Supporting Bernie Sanders is a Mistake, No Matter Your Reason

by D.J. McGuire

I’ve said relatively little about the party I joined in the aftermath of Trump’s election victory — besides warning the Virginia branch not to get too complacent about recent election victories. The Trumpster fire that is the Republican Party has, for what I think are understandable reasons, dominated my attention.

That doesn’t change the fact that the Democrats are in danger of making a very serious mistake in whom we nominate for president. Bernie Sanders, should he be nominated, wouldn’t just be the least likely Democrat among the viable field to win in November; his Administration risks enabling the Trumpified GOP for decades — even as he, Sanders, advances much of Trump’s agenda.

I will not spend much bandwith insisting Sanders “can’t win,” because I’m not sure of that. His path to victory is very narrow (Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin — while giving up any chance of Arizona, North Carolina, or Florida) while requiring the party to play defense in states that have been moving its way (Colorado, Virginia, and possibly even New Mexico and Minnesota), but not impossible. What is being ignored — ironically, because so few pundits think Sanders can beat Trump — is what would happen if he does.

For starters, voters looking for a dramatic departure from the Trump Administration would find — to their chagrin — that they won’t get one. On some of the major issues America faces in the world, Sanders and Trump are in agreement.

They both support — and, indeed, personify — the rise in isolationism that is exceedingly dangerous to America. The revulsion felt by many Americans at Sanders’ potential nomination will be shared by our allies at his potential election.

Indeed, a Trump-Sanders race by its very existence is likely to weaken NATO and our other democratic alliances, to say nothing of our partners in the fights against the Taliban and against Daesh. The lesson of 2016 — namely, that leaving Russia to its own devices means allowing them to attack our elections as well as our interests around the world — will be lost. Our allies will take note, and further distance themselves from us.

There are similar problems on international trade. To some extent, the rest of world has been holding its breath, trying to see if America’s protectionist turn is permanent or not. A Sanders nomination would make than an unequivocal “yes” — and they will act accordingly. Tens of millions of Americans who also support freer trade will be effectively silenced, but the biggest problem is that a failed and backward economic theory will be validated without even so much as an argument.

Meanwhile, the Trumpenproletariat will simply bank the policy victories and go all-in on outrage caused by their differences with a Sanders Administration — one whose re-election chances are nearly zero. Whether you subscribe to the Bitecofer Theory (Politico) about negative partisanship dominating the electorate, or look to economics (where a long-delayed recession is almost certain to hit in the early 20s), the Republican nominee for president in 2024 will be in a very competitive position.

Who would that nominee be is less important than what the Republican electorate wants of them. Trump has exposed a dangerously wide authoritarian streak within the GOP. No 2024 nominee can ignore it. More likely, they will embrace it. Even assuming Trump himself doesn’t attempt a rematch, he could put forth one of his children as his successor. Ironically, that may be the best case scenario, as neither Junior nor Ivanka has the dark genius of Josh Hawley or Tom Cotton.

Either way, Republicans in 2024 will be able to run against a president who promised the moon and delivered only what Mitch McConnell would let him – namely, zilch. All the while the damage Trump has done to our international standing would continue, because the policies that created the damage would be continued.

Democrats still have numerous options before them in 2020: Barack Obama’s Vice President, a youthful mayor untainted by Washington, a moderate Senator from the Upper Midwest, a successful Mayor of New York City, and a policy wunderkind. They have their weaknesses, too, to be sure, but all of them would be a better general election candidate than Sanders.

More importantly, all of them would make a better president than Sanders.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described progressive conservative – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015. He is also a contributor to Bearing Drift.

The Goldilocks Democrats

by Kevin Kelton

I just watched a segment on Morning Joe in which the hosts were saying that the Democratic Party insiders they know are nervous because as much as they disdain President Trump, they simply cannot bring themselves to vote for Elizabeth Warren. But, they countered, there are just as many Democrats who are worried Joe Biden is too shaky and may not be up to the task of taking Trump down. They lamented that the country needs that “just right” moderate Democrat who could excite base voters in a way that Biden cannot, and could appeal to moderates and independent voters in a way that Warren cannot. Where, oh where, is that perfect Democratic candidate?

The discussion reminded me of all those single friends I’ve known through the years who date and date, never couple up, and blame it on the self-comforting rationale that there’s no good men/women left out there. At a certain point, you have to sit these friends down and gently tell them, “It’s not the dating pool; it’s you. You are the common denominator in this equation. You are the problem.”

That’s where the Democratic party is today. We’ve had 24 fine people offer themselves up to run against Trump. Senators… governors… congresspersons… captains of industry…. all with a wealth of experience, proven competence and liberal ideologies across the Democratic party spectrum. Yet none of them have caught the imagination of a wide swath of the the Never Trump universe.

Why is that? Why is no one “just right”? We really need to ask ourselves, out of two dozen worthy suitors, why couldn’t we give our hearts and souls to any of them?

It’s the same thinking as my single friends: one is too old and plain, one too young and risky, a few are daring badboys/girls who make our hearts flutter but our heads tell us aren’t long-term prospects, and several had interesting profiles but something felt naggingly missing.

And nice-guy John Delany might’ve been “the one” if he wasn’t so darn bland and bald!

I know that many of you want to fall in love and believe that Buttigieg, or Harris, or Castro-Beto-Booker-Bennet would be just perfect – if only everyone else thought exactly like you do. But they don’t. To this point, the majority of the Democratic Party has resoundingly rejected all of them, and that’s not likely to change. By mid-October, after several televised debates, if you haven’t climbed beyond 5%, the chances of you exploding by Iowa are slim to none.

So far, only Biden and Warren have shown any real capacity to draw enough votes from enough demographics to compete for the nomination. And yet neither of them is considered electable by a wide swath the party that is poised to nominate them.

Why is that? Why, after three years and 24 proposals, are we still searching for that elusive, perfect match who’s not too hot, not too cold, not too young, not too old?

The fault, dear Democrats, is not in our candidates, and not in our stars.

It’s in ourselves.

 

Kevin Kelton is a co-host of The More Perfect Union podcast.

Primary Colors 2020

by Kevin Kelton

Democrats, forget left vs. moderate for a moment and talk raw primary politics. Because ultimately primary races are a battle of personalities, not political purity. Once Joe Biden and Beto O’Roarke jump into the 2020 race, the field will be set.* Now the game is primary chess. So let’s look at the board.

Bernie Sanders is likely to win or do very well in his neighboring New Hampshire, the second big prize, a place where an old school candidate like Biden is not likely to run well. (Granite staters tend toward newer flavors.) And South Carolina will be tough for both Joe and Bernie, two guys not known for playing to the grits crowd.

That means Joe must win Iowa. Otherwise he’ll be 0 for 3 in the first three contests⁺ and no one comes back from that except the ’04 Red Sox.

If Beto or Kamala Harris can knock off Sanders in New Hampshire, that could douse The Bern for good. Harris seems positioned to do well in minority-heavy South Carolina. But neither of them is likely to break free if they don’t win Iowa. At best, one might emerge as the fresh-face candidate who will still have to fend off the old guard to prove their mettle.

So once again Iowa is key, even more so this time than normally. (How do a few hundred thousand caucus voters kidnap the nation every four years?) Should Biden somehow win there, it’s probably a Biden-Bernie or Biden-Beto or Biden-Harris race.⁺⁺

That would set up yet another epic battle for the ideological soul of the party, with pragmatists behind Biden and ideologues splintering between Bernie and Beto or Harris. There’s only one lane out of that bowling alley, while Biden would be free to play to the pragmatist, anti-Trump crowd.

But for Joe to get there, it’s Iowa Iowa Iowa. Can he out-caucus Sanders in the heartland? Or will a smooth-talking Music Man (or Woman) from out west come in and steal their swooning Iowan hearts?

If Biden stalls in Iowa, NH and SC become the game. The party will lurch left. Everyone will be touting Medicare For All and play some version of a Green New Deal hand. “I’ll see your carbon tax and raise you a solar jobs bill.” Each will have their own version of a Robin Hood wealth tax, turning the debates into a giant Mathletes club. “Is 70% of an eight figure salary greater than 2% of a nine figure estate? Please show your work.”

And Trump will run against socialism, no matter who tops the ticket. Meaning the world may finally learn what would’ve happened if a Democratic Socialist had secured the 2016 nomination and ran against Trumpism.

There. I just spared you the next year of your life. Now, who do you like for 2024?

Kevin Kelton is a cohost of The More Perfect Union podcast. He also runs the Facebook political group, Open Fire Politics.

* No one is waiting to see what Jeff Merkley or Michael Bennett will be doing. And Sherrod Brown doesn’t have the fire to catch fire.

⁺ The Nevada caucus actually comes before SC this time, but I don’t see that traditionally blue state being much of a factor. Considering it’s so far west compared to the others and what that entails in travel time, it may not get much candidate play at all.

⁺⁺ At this point I don’t give Amy Klobuchar much of a shot, but we can’t rule her out, since “Midwestern nice” plays well in Iowa. And though I personally like Elizabeth Warren, I doubt she can compete in this field. She has no lane that I can see, and I get no sense of traction for her in Open Fire, my Facebook focus group. 

Shutdown Showdown Hoedown (Ep. 188)

This MPU episode looks at the ongoing showdown between President Trump and the new Democratic congressional majority over his demand for $5.7 billion for his border wall/steel slats/fence/drones/security/whatever, watching Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez dance on the top marginal tax rate, and Elizabeth Warren’s first week on the presidential campaign trail.

Is the Past Prologue for Democratic Presidential Candidates?

by D.J. McGuire

The events of the last 24 hours (for which we did a special episode – you can listen here) have led many to wax nostalgic over Watergate (euphemism, people, euphemism). It’s also led me to ponder the era between then and now, and I’ve found something that could be ominous for nearly all of the potential 2020 Democratic candidates (including my preferred choice, Congressman John Delaney).

The early 1970s gets harder to remember with every year (the past is like that), but we should not forget that the American people’s revulsion with Washington corruption neither began nor ended with Richard Nixon. This was the era of the Church Committee hearings with subsequent intelligence reforms, campaign finance law reform, and a serious rethink of the structure of economic regulation. Right and left had their own answers to the conundrum of corruption – smaller government for the former, cleaner government for the latter.

One other result that has dramatically impacted the nation has been noticed less: the effect on presidential elections. We’ve had 11 of them since Nixon’s resignation. Here are the highlights:

  • Permanent coalitions are not in vogue: Republicans have won 6 elections; the Democrats, 5. Democrats have won the popular vote 7 times; Republicans, 4. Only once has a party won 3 in a row (GOP: 1980-88). Prior to Watergate, it happened five times.
  • More instability markers: Four times the winner did not win a majority of the popular vote. More to the point, the popular vote winner lost the election twice. That had only happened three times in the previous 184 years.
  • In only six of the the elections did the voters also give the winning party control of the House of Representatives – two of them were in elections where the president elected did not win the popular vote.
  • Yet one consistency came through: the candidate with less experience in Washington was elected nine out of eleven times – including three of the four times an incumbent president was re-elected.

The data point to a clear recommendation for the Democrats in 2020: do not nominate someone with more than four years experience in Washington D.C. Of course, that would rule out nearly every Democrat considering a run: Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Corey Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, John Delaney, Sherrod Brown, etc. Even Kemala Harris, whose Washington tenure started 17 days before Trump’s, might have pause.

Granted, Trump himself “broke” more than a few rules in 2016, but he didn’t break this one. Moreover, the Trumpenproletariat’s instinct for whataboutism is likely to make voters even less likely to value experience in the nation’s capital. Democrats might want to look to Governors. One of them, Montana’s Steve Bullock, is already considering a run. Moreover, when incumbent presidents have lost in the post-Watergate era (1976, 1980, and 1992), a Governor has defeated them. Every time.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described progressive conservative – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015

Violent Agreement (Ep. 150)

The 150th episode of “The More Perfect Union” podcast finds the hosts in violent agreement on some issues, in wide disagreement on others, and even saying nice things about President Trump a couple of times. (Well… sort of nice.) Then the gang looks back on their 150 episodes together and reminisce about their favorite moments.

Teachers Packing Heat (Ep. 142)

This episode of The More Perfect Union podcast looks at the idea of arming public school teachers, the latest in the Trump-Russia collusion investigation, and the possibility of Ohio Gov. John Kasich challenging Trump in 2020.

For more debate between shows, join Open Fire Politics on Facebook.