“The More Perfect Union” podcast co-host Rebekah Kuschmider gives a talk on lessons she learned from her mother on women’s reproductive rights and reproductive justice at the Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church in Bethesda, Maryland. (June 9, 2019)
The More Perfect Union podcast
As we often mention on the podcast, the MPU co-hosts share a Facebook Messenger PM thread where we chat with each other every day, sometimes debating, sometimes commiserating, sometimes joking. This is one amusing exchange* we had last week….
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?
* 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.
by Kevin Kelton
Hi. Come in and sit down. I’m here – we all are here – because we love you and we need to tell you something. This may be a little tough to hear, but hear me out.
We know you and we see you. You are bright, educated, and consider yourself relatively smart, sophisticated, worldly, and informed. You’ve voted Republican most of your life (or at least over the last decade or so) because you love your country and truly believe in conservative political philosophy. While you think of yourself as open-minded and are still somewhat open to voting for the right Democrat, you’ve always hated the Clintons, and you came to particularly resent and despise Hillary during the 2015-16 campaign as you learned more and more about her true evil intent – from her “illegal” email server to her support for Muslim terrorists to the highly corrupt Uranium One deal, her secret concussion, The Clinton Foundation “slush fund,” how she and the DNC cheated Bernie to fix her nomination, the “highly suspicious murder” of that poor young DNC staffer who was about to spill the beans, and all her other “crooked” behaviors that were revealed to you day after day by Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones, conservative media outlets and blogs, and of course by your close, trusted friends on Facebook and the links with the salacious headlines that they reposted and urged you to read…day after day after day.
YOU WERE DUPED. And you still don’t know it (or do but can’t accept it) because you are still being duped by the same powers that filled your brain with fake news and utter nonsense. You think you were immune to the more far-fetched conspiracy stories. But you’d click anyway, at first just once or twice to see what people were saying. But soon you were doing it regularly – as each click got you more and more intrigued. You say to yourself, oh, I never really believed that stuff. You just thought they were funny and had a slight “ring of truth,” even though you didn’t really buy into them.
It was just recreational web surfing. It was fun; it was harmless. You could stop anytime you wanted.
But you absorbed it all – fake new story after story after story – and it clouded your judgment and subtly changed your perceptions. Your mind was slowly poisoned, so slowly you didn’t realize it was happening. You still sincerely believe you are smart, informed, and your belief system is right and true. But you have been brainwashed and used by people smarter than you. You are a walking, talking disinformation campaign and you don’t even know it. You are part of a massive, worldwide disinformation pyramid scheme.
You are a Russian bot in human form. And you don’t even realize it.
Consider this an intervention by a friend. You are on a very self-destructive path. You are a disinformation addict, and the disinformation pushers have you hooked just like a junkie. You shoot-up regularly on Twitter, Facebook, and with Fox News and other disinformation cartels who are playing you like a fool and cashing in on your addiction. Only in this case, you won’t die from your overdose. You’ll only kill the nation you love. Look at what happened to Michael Flynn and Michael Cohen – two other “smart men” who got duped and hooked, and saw it destroy their lives. Learn from their mistakes.
We all love you and are here for you. But you need to make a change, and make it fast. So please read these articles and start to turn your life around now.
by Kevin Kelton
And they are right to do it.
The idea that news coverage should be totally “objective” and neutral in reporting the news is a misconception about the duty of journalism and a free press. It is not the job of the press to give artificial balance to an imbalanced story. Indeed, FOX News itself dropped it’s silly “Fair & Balanced” slogan in 2017. Apparently, the FOX News overlords finally realized that even the slogan itself reeked of hypocrisy.
For instance, when a war is unjust, or a government policy is clearly hurting people or unfairly rewarding others, or a politician has committed crimes or ethical lapses,it’s incumbent upon the news media to report it in clear, unambiguous terms that their viewers can understand. There is no responsibility of the press to be “friendly” or “balanced” in its reporting. To the contrary, its primary responsibility is to be adversarial and tough, to push back and question, and to report when the claims of government officials do not match the facts they uncover.
Let’s look at sports journalism as an example. If the New England Patriots are caught cheating by illegally inflating game balls, should the sports press fail to report that? Should they continue to say “allegedly” when clear testimony has shown the allegations to be true? Should they cover the football game as if the cheating episode never happened? If they discover evidence that a boxing match may have been fixed and a fighter took a dive, should they report that and condemn it? Or should they say, “Maybe the other guy would’ve won anyway, we’ll never know. So it’s speculative as to whether the fix affected the outcome of the fight or not.” Clearly their responsibility is to report the true facts as they unearth and understand them. And while they are reporting the unfolding story, they have every right (and obligation) to let their audience know that these questions are out there and the players are acting awfully suspicious.
I pay for newspapers not to get an artificially “balanced” reporting of the news. That’s what a ticker tape is for. I want context, perspective and analysis, and when it’s appropriate, I want them to help shame the offending parties into correcting their behavior. Consumer ombudsmen reporters often do some of the best investigative journalism out there precisely because they don’t treat their subjects with kit gloves.
A democratic free press isn’t simply a mirror. It’s a painting…it’s art. It should communicate and inform. It should move its audience. It should affect positive change.
Walter Cronkite was great because he showed human emotion when reporting JFK had died, and when showing cynicism and doubt when covering the government’s false narrative of the Vietnam War. Edward R. Murrow’s greatest moment was helping to unmask and end McCarthyism. Woodward and Bernstein didn’t give President Nixon the benefit of the doubt; they doubted and dug.
That is the mark of great journalists. Not to protect, but to unmask. Not to defend, but to offend.
Journalism isn’t a tool of the powerful. It’s a tool of the people they seek to govern. I’m glad the press is being tough on an immoral, unethical, and profoundly unqualified president. The only person who is responsible for their negative coverage is the man himself. He’s more than earned it.
by Kevin Kelton
Like most people, I turn on cable news every morning and am endlessly bemused to hear the same story reported the same way time after time after time, all the while reporting it like it’s some great mystery what’s going on. Here’s what the news sounds like to me every day:
Good morning. Breaking News overnight… a bank robber just sent a Tweet claiming that there was no robbery. The bank robber says that news reports of a bank robbery having happened are “fake news.” Breaking: The bank robber just hired a new criminal defense attorney who says there was no bank robbery and his client is 100% innocent of being involved in the bank robbery, and yet he refuses to let the police talk to the bank robber. I wonder why?
Whoops… more Breaking News… the bank robber just rubbed out two people who witnessed the bank heist and could testify about it. I can’t figure out why he did that. Hmm. And it’s now being reported that the bank robber is telling everyone there was no robbery and no bank and no money was stolen and that the FBI made up the whole bank robbery because they hate him. I wonder why he said that? Do you think the FBI is out to get the bank robber? Why would they do that? My, the bank robber sure seems to be acting a little suspicious, don’t you think? Or maybe he’s just tired of hearing about the “fake” bank robbery, and he’s fed up with it distracting from his getaway. Yeah, I can see how that would be very annoying to the bank robber.
Breaking News… the bank robber just said the FBI is the one that robbed the bank. And that ‘Crooked Hillary’ was the real bank robber. But he still claims there was no bank robbery. Wow, I can’t figure out why the bank robber would say all that. Do you think somebody really robbed the bank? We know there is bank money missing, and we found lots of evidence pointing to the bank robber at the crime scene. And he announced on TV two years ago that he’d like some help robbing a bank… right before a big bank robbery. But he says he was just joking. Do you think he was?
Here’s video of the bank robber congratulating Vladimir Dillinger on his rigged re-election victory and saying how much he admires him for being a strong bank robber. Dillinger was caught by the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, and 14 other law enforcement agencies planning the bank robbery. But the bank robber still says he doesn’t believe it happened. I wonder why.
Breaking news… the bank robber just fired his new criminal defense lawyer and hired a *new* new criminal defense lawyer. And the new new criminal defense lawyer swears his client didn’t do it and insists the police stop investigating the bank robbery or else the bank robber may have to fire the police chief. And all the bank robbers’ friends are saying don’t fire the police chief or we may not believe you didn’t rob the bank.
Have you ever noticed that the bank robber never says anything bad about Vladimir Dillinger, the guy who helped him rob the bank and almost certainly has proof of that the bank robber is guilty… evidence that could get the bank robber in a lot of trouble. I wonder why the bank robber won’t say anything bad about him. And won’t condemn him for robbing the bank they both robbed. Isn’t that strange? I don’t get it.
Why don’t the police stop investigating this fake bank robbery? The bank robber said he didn’t do it. And I believe him over the police, the bank manager, all the tellers, and the bank video. Don’t you? Plus Vladimir Dillinger just said there was no bank robbery, and that corroborates what the bank robber said, so it must be true! Why does the FBI hate the bank robber so darn much?
Whoops… more Breaking News… the bank robber just bought something with the marked stolen money. So, was there a bank robbery or not? I’m so confused.
by Kevin Kelton
Dozens of high school students in Florida went to their state capitol this week demanding action on sensible gun safety legislation. Nothing happened. Dozens more have been camped out at the White House. Nothing happened. Students and parents met with the President of the United States. And nothing will happen.
Just like nothing happened after mass shootings in Columbine, Virginia Tech, Omaha, Geneva County, Binghamton, Fort Hood, Manchester, Tucson, Seal Beach, Oakland, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Herkimer, Navy Yard, Alturas, Marysville, Lafayette, Charleston, San Bernardino, Roseburg, Colorado Springs, Hesston, Orlando, Sutherland Springs, and Las Vegas. (I bet you don’t even recognize several of those!)
Because until we start limiting what types of weapons can be sold and who can get them, the shootings will continue. And like has happened in Europe, they won’t just be confined to our schools and churches.
I hope that high school students stage an ongoing national protest until some sensible gun controls laws are enacted. I encourage them to stay out of school until it happens. Yes, boycott high school… even if it means delaying your graduation for a year.
Let colleges sweat over the lack of incoming freshmen (and their tuitions). Let the school boards debate what to do. Let the nation’s teachers and professors be mobilized. Then watch the churches join in, and businesses and companies. Let the state legislators feel the heat from the nation’s student population and their parents. Let parents feel the pain of their children, who must walk into what now amount to caged human target ranges every morning.
If parents won’t lead, their children must.
Because if we don’t stop this now, soon it won’t just be schools and movie theaters and churches. It will be malls (as in Nairobi and Omaha). It will be restaurants (as in Paris and Killeen). It will be hotels (as in Mumbai and Kabul). It will be theme parks. It will be Little League games. It will be Main Street.
Politicians will not yield until the national pressure is so great that they cannot NOT act.
Just like it took sit-ins and walk-outs at colleges in the 1960s and ’70s to end the seemingly never-ending Vietnam War, we once again need to look to our student population to lead us out of the never-ending gun war on our streets and in our schools.
I urge the students of Parkland to continue to lead on this issue, and other students across the nation to follow their lead. Stay home. Do not walk into another killing field like Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School again until something is done to protect you. You will not be hurting your future if you push back your first year of college. You will be making your college years safer and your future brighter.
Adulthood will still be there for you. But you need to be there for it.
Many will call this column radical and hysterical. They are wrong. Inaction demands action. Change demands sacrifice. Courage demands leadership. Even if it comes from 16 and 17 year-olds.
It’s time to end this madness. If it means a few weeks or months of missed classes, so be it.
I want my high school-age child alive. I’ll worry about college later.
Episode 141 of The More Perfect Union podcast looks at the aftermath of the Parkland High School shooting, the indictment of 13 Russian nationals in the special counsel probe, the failed DACA negotiations, and Laura Ingraham’s diss of LeBron James. Then the gang takes a look at other political podcasts and talk about why they do the show and what they think sets it apart from other podcasts.
by Kevin Kelton
Though the makings of a democratic wave election in the midterms seem apparent – enthusiasm, leading indicators, a highly divisive president – one key component is missing… and it could be the fatal flaw.
It’s the “why.”
Every wave election has an overriding theme or movement behind it. Today’s Democratic party lacks either.
In the last half century, there have been six wave elections.* Two were presidential election cycles, the other four were midterms.
The 1980 Reagan wave was powered by a weak economy and the Iran hostage crisis, but mostly by a charismatic presidential candidate who gave a face and voice to the movement. Similarly, the 2008 Obama wave was driven by a war-weary nation and a financial crash, and a charismatic candidate. But let’s put those aside and look at midterms, where there is no presidential candidate to embody the movement.
In every midterm wave, there were clear economic and foreign policy crises that turbo-charged the national mood:
1974 – the Vietnam war and Watergate
1994 – a faltering economy, healthcare, and the GOP’s “Contract with America”
2006 – a war-weary nation, Hurricane Katrina, and GOP scandals (Jack Abramoff; Tom DeLay)
2010 – Obamacare, a stagnant economy, high unemployment, the national debt, illegal immigration
Now let’s look at the prospects for 2018. Other than an historically unpopular first-term president, what issues do the Democrats have to run on? Even with the current stock market correction, it’s unlikely the economy will tank before November. (It takes six months of negative GDP to classify a recession, and right now GDP is strong.) Unemployment is historically low. There is no new military conflict. By November DACA will likely be resolved and the only immigration issues will be the border wall and the lingering Muslim ban court cases. Trump is riding high on the tax cuts and the recent long-term budget deals. Even the #MeToo movement is too fractured to break solidly Democratic. The party can’t own the issue with Bill Clinton, John Conyers, Harvey Weinstein, Al Franken, and Anthony Weiner as its poster boys.
Plus the Democrats are still a splintered party with no national leader to rally the troops. So they will be left to a series of local races with no unifying issue or theme to power them past heavily financed incumbents.
Unless the anti-Trump movement itself is enough to power the wave, what should be a tsunami may turn into a small storm. Democrats are likely to pick up seats in the House, but unless they net 24, the GOP will still own both chambers and the Executive branch.
The party’s leaders better settle on a set of core issues now, issues that will resonate with middle-class voters and power midterm turnout. And they better be bumper sticker stances, not nuanced wonky ones that take two minutes to explain.
So what can you do? Find the issue you are passionate about and post about it tirelessly on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Join Facebook political groups to magnify your voice. Share posts on the issue and send them to your senate and congressional candidates. Be your own campaign manager and campaign spokesperson. Then pick five races with five candidates you are excited about and donate. If every Democrat becomes a one-man SuperPac, we win.
Unless we’re all in the campaign, Trump and company will be campaigning on tax cuts, jobs and prosperity, while Democrats be running on Russia and Robert Mueller.
I respect Robert Mueller. But I don’t think he’s a wave.
* An argument an be made that 2014 was also a wave election, but since the House was already heavily GOP, movement of congress further right isn’t being counted here as a “wave.”
Episode 138 of The More Perfect Union podcast looks at Trump’s overseas trip to Davos, his upcoming State of the Union address, and whether Trump’s possible testimony in the Russia probe could be a perjury trap. Or is it a bear trap? Is it all leading to a constitutional crisis? Listen and find out.
Episode 137 of The More Perfect Union podcast looks at the government shutdown, the “Release the Memo” movement, Kremlin Twitter bots, Russian Facebook trolls, the latest Trump mistress rumor, and the Aziz Ansari bad date broohah.
And we introduce new theme music by our #OpenFire friend, Alan Kuehne.
Episode 136 of The More Perfect Union podcast looks at the Hawaii nuclear alert scare, President Trump’s sh*t hole comment, Medicaid work requirements, The Donald’s star problem, the Oprah’s presidential chatter, and whether it’s appropriate to psychologically diagnose the president.