Joe Trippi and I published this op-ed, "End the Anti-Democratic Superdelegate System," in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Friday, July 22, 2016. Both of us are also supporting the campaign to end Superdelegates.
Next week, our party will meet in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection to nominate our candidate for president of the United States. We hope that Democrats will emerge unified in support of Hillary Clinton, in opposition to Donald Trump, and formidable enough to win the presidency and make gains in other offices across the country.
We have supported Clinton throughout this primary, but we believe that Sen. Bernie Sanders and his supporters have made the party stronger and have pointed toward legitimate concerns about the voice that rank-and-file Americans have in our governance structures and political processes.
In Philadelphia, we will be presented with an opportunity to act on some of those concerns and further unify our party. In doing so, we can bring the party's structure more in line with its ideals - and even with its name:
It is time to end the antidemocratic superdelegate system.
Our party's platform and coalition of supporters are built on the concept that representation should be fair, equitable, and just. Democrats advocate social and economic justice, and we fight for inclusion and equal opportunity. However, the superdelegate system explicitly contradicts these values.
In fact, that violation is literally spelled out in the party's charter:
Around The Web Article 2, Section 4 starts by laying out broad, noble principles of fair representation and gender equity that are meant to govern the delegate selection process - and then crashes into a "notwithstanding" clause that explicitly allows for these principles to be undermined in order to create room for the superdelegates to exist.
This exceptional clause is needed because the superdelegates - a mix of Democratic elected officials and party insiders who are given the same power as delegates ex officio - don't look very much like the voter base of the party that bestows upon them so much authority: The superdelegates skew far older, far more male, and whiter than the party's rank-and-file supporters or recent pledged-delegate cohorts.
And there's no rule that prevents the superdelegates from voting against - or even overturning - the will of the party's voters.
Even so, the superdelegates have essentially as much weight as do the pledged delegates from the District of Columbia, four territories, and 24 states combined.
It's for these reasons and others that more than a dozen state Democratic parties and various prominent elected officials - and even superdelegates themselves, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) - have called for reform in recent months. It's why a 2009 commission impaneled by the Democratic National Committee, and cochaired by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.) and Rep. Jim Clyburn (D., S.C.), proposed significant reforms to the superdelegate system, which were supported by then-DNC Chairman Tim Kaine.
Yet those changes were never implemented.
Sanders and his supporters often decried what they perceived as a "rigged" political system. To be clear, Clinton won this year's election fair and square by getting the substantial majority of the support of the party's electorate: The superdelegates did not tip the balance - the voters did.
But structures like the superdelegates create the appearance - and the factual possibility - that in future years, our party's nominees for the land's highest offices could be decided by insiders and not by the voting public. Democrats should not have a system that is ever capable of being rigged or could even be perceived to be so.
Our new party platform's preamble - which passed unanimously in Orlando last week - reads, "Democrats believe that cooperation is better than conflict, unity is better than division, empowerment is better than resentment, and bridges are better than walls." That's absolutely right.
The party should put these precepts into practice by agreeing that Sanders supporters and others (like us) who support ending superdelegates are right.
We should cooperate to fix this system once and for all - and doing so will serve to unify our party and empower voters to choose future presidential nominees without worrying that their will might ever be overturned.
Friends – at this year’s Democratic Convention take a break from the parties and the schmoozing and come feed your brain for a bit! Join NDN on Tuesday, July 26th for a few hours of talks about the future of America and American politics with some of the smartest and most innovative people we know. These “TED” like talks will last 10-12 minutes or so, with time afterwards for questions.
Our event will take place from 10:30 am to 2:30 pm on July 26th in Room 204 C, 200 Level Concourse at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. The doors open for our Looking Ahead forum at 10:15 am Please enter at the Market Street/Marriott entrance. A limited number of lunches will be served from noon to 1:00 pm. Sign up today – we expect this exciting event to sell out quickly. Look forward to seeing you in Philadelphia!
1040am - Rep. Ben Ray Luján, Chair, DCCC, "Taking Back the Majority"
11am - Scott Goodstein, CEO, Revolution Messaging, "From Barack to Bernie: Changing the Digital Playbook"
1240pm - Jose Antonio Vargas, Founder, Define American - "The Future of Immigration and How We Define American"
1pm - Joelle Gamble, National Director, Roosevelt Network - "When Millennials Rule the World"
120pm - Ricardo Rosselló, "Puerto Rico: The Unfinished Business of American Democracy"
NDN President Simon Rosenberg will host and moderate the forum. He will be joined by Karen Kornbluh, former Ambassador to the OECD and Policy Director to then Senator Obama, as a co-host. The final schedule will be released on Friday, July 22nd - so be sure to check back then!
The NDN team is looking for a few volunteers or young staff to work at our two events at the Convention on Tuesday July 26th. If you know folks who are interested they should contact Chris Murphy at NDN at email@example.com by COB Wednesday, July 20th. The gigs will be 2-3 hours long and be mostly check in at our public and private events. Please feel free to send this on to people who might be interested.
“Monday Musings” is a new column looking at the 2016 elections published most Mondays. You can find previous editions here.
2016 Overview - This will be a short column this week as so much news will be made in next few weeks any big analysis will just have to wait till after the Dems gather in Philadelphia.
That said, our trusty Huffington Post poll aggregate has the race at 43.4 Clinton to 39.8 Trump. My quick summary of the many national and state polls that have tumbled out in recent days is that Clinton still holds a meaningful lead nationally and in the battleground states. The main issue for US politics in the next two weeks is whether Trump can do anything to change that central dynamic. As I've written many times, I remain doubtful. Why?
First, Trump. I just don't see how his high negatives, ongoing nastiness, terrible campaign, no real solutions to things that matter and warring Party can help him make the gains he needs to make in the coming months. As others have written he is still hovering around 40%. My guess is that he should be up at 44-45% by mid August, but does he have the ability to rise above that level? Am super skeptical.
Second, Clinton. Friends despite the obvious challenges the Clinton effort has been a well run, confident enterprise, not likely to make a major mistake that could alter the trajectory of the race. With Sanders endorsing, a VP pick this week and what will be a strong Convention with a slew of well-regarded and popular politicians, she should match any bump Trump gets. We won't really know where the race stands until about two weeks after Philadelphia, but my expectation at that point is that Clinton will lead by 4-6 points nationally and in the battlegrounds, putting her in a very good position to win this fall.
On Trump and Chaos - One of the more remarkable things about this memorable election is the Trump's campaign comfort in comparing their effort to Richard Nixon's in 1968. First, why anyone would knowingly compare oneself to Richard Nixon is hard enough to understand. Second, the embrace of the son of Southern stategy "law and order" theme and its very direct indictment of the Obama era is something Democrats will have to rebut head on. I offered some thoughts on this debate in last week's column, "America is Better Off and Safer Today." The order/disorder theme, which was so central to the GOP's late victories in 2014, will be just about all we hear about in Cleveland this week. Will Democrats be ready? That is the big question now.
“Monday Musings” is a new column looking at the 2016 elections published most Mondays. You can find previous editions here.
2016 Overview – The Huffington Post poll tracker now has the race at 4.8 points for Clinton, a slight drop from her high two weeks ago. While there are some polls showing movement in the last few days away from Clinton, others show large leads. Expect a period of very volatile polls over the next month or so until they settle down a bit in August.
With Sanders coming on board the Clinton campaign today, a central contrast of the 2016 campaign will begin to emerge more clearly – united party/strong team/proven track record/thoughtful agenda vs. isolated Trump/unpopular leaders/failed Presidencies/no forward looking solutions to emerging challenges. This emerging contrast, an inevitable outcome of the next few weeks, will make it far more likely that Clinton and the Democrats make gains and lead heading into the home stretch of this historic campaign.
Part of that contrast has been developed in the deeply respectful and civilized way the Democrats worked through their platform over the past few weeks. While the primary was contentious, and there were meaningful platform fights/disagreement, this process was well within the bounds of our how our politics is supposed to work. The capacity to resolve disagreements is the cornerstone of a properly working democracy. Which is why this contrast with Trump, who remains at war with his own party just days before his own convention, is so important. Trump is missing perhaps the single most critical trait for a leader of a democracy – the ability to work through and solve problems with people you disagree with. His take his ball and go home sensibility, isolationist in the extreme, is one that almost guarantees the failure of a Trump Presidency. Democrats would be wise to make more of how he has conducted himself during this campaign with his own fellow Republicans as a clear signal of his inability to manage the complexities of the Presidency itself.
Are We Better Off?
There is little doubt the questions of are we better off and safer today after 8 years of the Obama Presidency will become central to the coming campaign. To me, this is not even a close call. Let’s review some data and bust some myths along the way:
- Millions More Have Jobs, and Incomes Have Been Rising Since at Least 2013 (link)
- Tens of Millions Have Gained Health Insurance, and the Uninsured Rate Has Dipped to Historically Low Levels (Link)
- Annual Deficits Are One Fourth % of GDP That They Were Under Last Year of Bush Presidency (Link)
- The Stock Market Has Been Hovering at All Time Highes, and Is More Than Twice What It Was When Obama Came to Office (Link)
- High School Graduation Rates Are at An All Time High (Link)
- Crime Across the US Has Plummeted, and the Nation is Much Safer Today (Link)
- There Have Been No Foreign Fighter Attacks on US Soil in 15 Years (Link)
- There Are Fewer Undocumented Immigrants in the US Today than At End of Bush Administration - The Flow Has Dramatically Slowed (Link)
- Far Fewer Americans Have Died in This Decade Due to Terrorists Attacks or Died in Military Actions Overseas (Link, Link)
- The US Could Be Energy Independent By 2020 (Link)
- Greenhouse Gas Emissions Declined in 2015 (Link)
If you look at recent polling data, it is hard to conclude that Americans are angry or giving up hope. They may be anxious, and want more from their country and their leaders, but you can find in the data that people understand that things are improving in America. Here is a good example.
I am not being Pollyannaish here. There are lots of challenges facing our country, and the world today. Yes, we have much work to do. But finding a data stream to counter what I just put up there is no easy thing to do. Should we be satisfied with where we are? Of course not. But are we better off today? Clearly.
Look forward to discussing this in the months to come.
“Monday Musings” is a new column looking at the 2016 elections published most Mondays. You can find previous editions here.
2016 Overview – Yesterday, we saw several different countervailing dynamics at work which will do much to shape the Presidential race in the coming weeks. First, the very rough Comey press conference. While it appears now that no legal action will be taken against Secretary Clinton, the findings of the FBI investigation have created new and significant challenges for her campaign. You can find good summaries of these new challenges here and here. Second, we saw President Obama on the stump for the first time, marking another step forward in the Democratic Party’s coming together around their new nominee after a contentious primary process. Third, Donald Trump continues to say and do outrageous and truly crazy things (more praise for murderous dictators!) that will make it very hard for the American people (and it appears many Republicans) to ever vote for him.
The FBI’s report on Clinton’s emails has injected a new dynamic into the race at a consequential time. Over the next three weeks the two candidates will pick their Vice Presidential candidate and hold their conventions. As we enter into this intense period of politics in the US, let’s look at where things stand. Clinton has lost a little ground in our favored polling aggregate, dropping from a 6.8 to 5 point lead. Most of the polls taken in the past week have the race at 4-6 points, with a few showing much wider leads. Possible her post-nomination bump has begun to dissipate, as Trump’s did. To me this is still more noise than signal, and she and the Democrats enter this new period in far better shape than Trump and the Rs in overall image, head to head polling, party unity, fundraising and organization. In my mind it remains a year of opportunity for Democrats.
It is significant that the Clinton campaign choose North Carolina as the first state for a joint event with President Obama. Obama didn’t win North Carolina in 2012, and it isn’t necessary for Clinton in 2016. But it is a sign that Democrats view this year as one where they can expand the map, and not just win the Presidency but make significant gains in Congress to help Sec. Clinton govern next year.
Importantly, for discussions of our politics post-Brexit, there just isn’t a lot of evidence that the American electorate is as rebellious, or as angry at globalization or at Democrats/Obama as some say. We went in depth on some of this data last week, finding broad satisfaction with Obama, Democrats and current economic policies that have brought lower deficits while offering many Americans new jobs, better health insurance and rising incomes. This week we add to that data Pew’s recent look at American attitudes toward trade. Asking simply if trade is a good or bad thing, Americans choose “good” by 51% to 39%. Democrats choose “good” by 60% to 30%, while Rs choose “bad” 52% to 40%. 18-29 year olds were the most pro trade age cohort, choosing “good” 67% to 25%. Hispanics were the most pro trade demographic, with 72% saying trade was “good.” Importantly for the coming debate inside the Democratic Party, Bernie Sanders supporters said trade was good by 55% to 38%. This stat, coupled with young people’s significant support of trade, suggest there are limits to the power of Sanders’s anti-globalization/trade argument even among his own supporters; and that it was other issues other than this one that drove people to him in the primaries.
Brexit Raises the Stakes In The US Election – Last week Donald Trump gave an extraordinary speech, one which has no real analog in recent American political history. In his speech Trump essentially called for the break-up of the West as a political idea, suggesting, rather remarkably, that US policies over the past several generations had made America weaker and poorer. During his campaign, Trump has now gone on the record for ripping up the global trade system, praising Brexit, ending the North American project, pulling out of the Paris climate accords, questioning the propriety of NATO, abandoning America’s historic commitment to religious liberty, forcibly removing 11m people from the US and aggressive global censorship of the Internet. Given current trends in Europe, Trump’s election here in the US could signal a radical break from a body of thought that has animated the US and Europe since the end of World War II.
It is important to note that leaders like Trump and the UK’s Nigel Farage are not offering a corrective to the modern West, they are only offering its dissolution with no imagined alternative to replace it. The Isolationist/Nationalist vision advanced by Trump last week had remarkable echoes of language from the 1930s, an era where rising tariffs and reactionary politics brought us a global depression and history’s most horrible war. The current global system criticized by Trump (and far too often by Bernie Sanders) was designed in response to the economic and human wreckage in a time when Trumpian style policies prevailed.
And while not perfect, the Four Freedoms-inspired Post WW II era has brought about perhaps the greatest period of productivity and innovation in all of human history, with rising standards of living across the world; dramatic advancements in life expectancy, literacy, and overall health; far less grievous conflict and far more living under democracies; and of course historic technological advances that altered and improved the human condition in ways unimaginable in the mid 20th century.
Whatever issues Hillary Clinton thought she would debating this fall, it is now clear that the entire Western post WW II project is on the ballot here in the US this year. A win for Trump could deal this project a potentially lethal blow. A win for Clinton will do much to slow nationalism’s progress in the West, and help preserve the global system we have today. History is calling Hillary Clinton now, and has given her a truly vital mission – the preservation of a global system, while not perfect, that has done so much for so many while advancing American interests along the way.
In this campaign, Democrats, as current stewards of the American political party who imagined and built this global system, have to raise their sights a bit higher than they have them today. We need to far more purposefully take on the responsibility of preserving the post WW II project for future generations. The construction of this global system over the past 70 years has arguably been the Democratic Party’s greatest achievement in its proud history. But history is calling us too, and we need to take the steps here at home and abroad that prevents the extraordinary work of previous generations to crumble on our watch.
I will talk a bit more about what Democrats should be doing to modernize and reform our global system, and companion steps we should be taking at home to bring the American people along in coming columns. But I end with a link to the very first paper this organization published back in the spring of 2005, “Meeting the Challenges of the 21st Century: Crafting A Better CAFTA,” which argued then that after years of no wage and income growth in the US policy makers should only expect continued support for globalization among the American people if their own personal economic conditions improved. The core of our work over these past 11 years has been an extended effort to both preserve the openness characteristic of the West today, while advancing policies that would make sure more Americans prospered in a new and different economic age. While things are undeniable better for the American people than they were eight years ago, we still have a lot of work to do.
Update: In a new, very strong piece, Frank Foer offers his take Putin and Trump and the end of the West.
As the debate on the President's trade agenda in Washington continues with discussions over TPP, we wanted to have one place to share all background resources for those who wish to learn more. We hope you find these reports and pieces to be helpful. (Updated on Friday 7/1/16)
2016 Overview – Despite recent turmoil, Secretary Clinton and the Democrats remain in a very strong electoral position. If anything, things may have improved for the Democrats in recent weeks, in part driven by the continued erratic performance by Donald Trump and the slow consolidation of Democrats by Hillary Clinton after winning her nomination a few weeks ago.
Clinton/Trump – Clinton’s lead is now 7 points, the highest of the year - 45.8 to 39. Importantly, Trump remains under 40, a place few general election candidates have found themselves at this point in the past several decades of polling. While Clinton’s negatives are higher than she wants at 42/54, Trump’s are twice hers, 36/60 (24 points net negative compared to 12). Polls over the past week have Clinton’s leads at 2, 4, 5 (3), 6, 7, 9, 10 and 12. The trend line continues to favor Clinton, and more gains are possible in the coming weeks.'
Obama/National Environment/Party – Obama’s job approval is 50/46, personal approval 50/45. On the economy he is 47/47, health care 42/48 and foreign policy 42/46. The approval rating of the Democratic Party stands at 45/46, while in perhaps one of the more important pieces of data of the election, the Rs are at 30/61. The GOP brand was only 53% negative and net 20 negative in the fall.
The bottom line is that these numbers do not find an electorate unhappy with the status quo, and ready to throw the bums out. While there are some weaknesses for the Democrats here, the wildly negative ratings of both the GOP and Trump suggest it will be very difficult for them to exploit them this fall. If these numbers hold, expect Democrats to make substantial gains in both the Senate and House, and perhaps even putting the House into play.
Obviously the new big unknown at this point is whether Brexit will bring an economic slowdown to the US in coming months, something that could impact the overall environment.
2016 and A Post Brexit Politics – With Brexit in the air, it is important to understand what is similar here in the US to the circumstances in the UK and throughout Europe, and what is different. First, economic conditions are better here. Our recovery from the 2007-8 financial collapse has been far better than Europe’s by virtually every measure. Importantly, as Rob Shapiro has been writing for months now, wages and incomes for most Americans have been rising since 2013 as our recovery gained steam (see Robert Samuelson for another cut on this “rising wages” theme today). The strength of the Democratic Party we see in the numbers above is to a great degree a reflection of voter’s perceptions that things are better, and continuing to improve.
The success of the Democratic Party in the US is the second biggest difference. Throughout Europe, traditional social democratic and socialist parties (the center-left) are in collapse. The most striking example of this is in the UK of course, where the Labour Party suffered an historic defeat in the last general election. Europe and the UK are losing their ideological alternatives to center right and far right politics, leaving the playing field more open for nationalists. This is not true in the US. The Democratic Party not only has high marks from the public, it has won more votes in 5 of the last 6 elections, leads in this coming election, and has left America better than it found it in both the Clinton and Obama Presidencies. The success of a liberal and open Democratic Party in the US has given our country a far more effective break on rising nationalist sentiment than the UK/Europe (and we will leave the investment vs austerity debate for another day).
There is a fair bit of anecdotal evidence and real data that the inability to control migrant flows is driving more of what is happening in the UK and Europe today than even economic discontent. These tensions, long simmering, have been heightened by recent terror attacks on the Continent and the truly challenging Syrian refugee crisis. A collapsing Middle East and North Africa could present Europe with a terror/migrant challenge for many years to come, and is a legitimate and serious concern for everyday UK/European citizens.
I would argue, perhaps controversially, that this area is perhaps more similar to our domestic debate than many here in the US understand. While yes we have a larger immigrant population, and one that is overwhelmingly from non-jihadi parts of the world, what has been clear in the polling data in recent years – and frankly this is just common sense – the American people want an orderly immigration system, with the government not migrants in control. The Trumpian argument is that Democrats are advocating for “open borders,” out of control migration driven by the migrants themselves. And of course the Supreme Court failed to rule in favor of the Administration last week on its signature immigration reform effort of the 2nd term, leaving these matters more unsettled than is desirable at this point (here is my statement on the US vs Texas non decision decision).
While I don’t think Trump is winning this argument with the public, it is important that in the months ahead Democrats do define their immigration position and make it clear what we are for. Vague references to comprehensive immigration reform (which has failed to pass for 11 years now) and our proud immigrant tradition are insufficient given the current political breezes blowing through the West.
And the good news is that Democrats have a very strong story to tell. During the Obama Administration, due to new and far better enforcement strategies, crime along the border region is down and the two largest cities on the border are two of America’s least violent and safest; after 15 years of huge flows of undocumented immigrants into the US, the flow is way down and with net migration of undocumented immigrants into the US is at zero for the entire Obama Presidency; our smarter enforcement strategies have prioritized deportation of criminals (something opposed regularly by the GOP), and created a significant deterrent at the border that has helped drive down flows to historically low levels. It should also be noted that there has been no domestic US terror attack conducted by a foreign fighter since 9/11 - a rather remarkable achievement.
While doing all this, the Administration has also essentially stopped deporting long settled law abiding families from the interior of the US who used to have to fear deportation every day; shown that a program like DACA (for DREAMers) could be successfully implemented without creating new flows; and seen trade with Mexico during this period more than double. Today Mexico is our 2nd largest export market for American goods in the world, buying more from us than Japan, Germany and the UK combined.
I have argued, and still believe, that the smart and effective management of the US border remains one of Barack Obama’s most unheralded policy successes. Despite rancorous politics and the defeat of his two major reforms of the system itself, Obama has shown that we can indeed manage the border and the US immigration system while expanding trade flows all at the same time. Coupled with our strong and spirited advocacy for broader immigration reform, this is a record Democrats should be embracing and running on in 2016 (akin to a more aggressive defense of our economic progress over two consectutive Democratic Presidencies).
What may, of course, upset this narrative this year is what has been known as the Central American migrant crisis, something that looks a bit like the Syrian crisis in Europe. There can be little doubt that the politicization of this ongoing challenge in 2014 contributed to a late GOP surge that helped Rs win a significant number of seats in Congress despite the Administration eventually getting their arms around the crisis. Flows from Central America have begun to tick up again this year. Anticipating that things could become more unsettled here, it would be wise for Democrats to prepare for Trump and his allies, emboldened by Brexit, to rachet up their attacks on Obama's management of the immigration system and the border itself. Democrats need to keep it front of mind that the desire for an orderly immigration system is a reasonable and every day concern for Americans of every backgroud while challenging the Republicans to join us in solving these challenges rather than just playing politics with them every electon year.
………I will have more on our post Brexit politics in the coming weeks. In the meantime, read Rob Shapiro’s smart take on it, and check out my quotes in a major Washington Post piece on it from the Washington Post this weekend. For my previous weekly columns on the 2016 election, visit here.
Like many, we are disappointed with the Supreme Court’s Decision today. But as we move forward, a few things to keep in mind:
Hispanics Are Upbeat About Their Future – Despite rising anti-immigrant rhetoric and insufficient progress on immigration reform, Hispanic Americans are optimistic about their future and have made substantial economic gains in recent years. 81% of Hispanic families believe their family’s economic situation will improve this year. Millions of Hispanics have jobs who didn’t a few years ago; millions have health insurance who didn’t a few years ago; and millions of Hispanics have seen their wages rise in recent years. These last few years have been good ones for Hispanic families in America, and it is testament to the work ethic and grit of this community that they continue to make such valuable contributions to our country when the political climate has grown so hostile.
The 5m Who Would Have Been Covered Should Not Fear Deportation w/Democratic Presidents – Since changes made in our in enforcement strategy in 2011, the United States government has prioritized the deportation of two classes of undocumented immigrants – recent border crossers and those with criminal records. Since 2011 the number of undocumented immigrants who have been deported outside those classes has been very small. To be clear – it has been the policy of the United States government for five years now to not deport long settled immigrants without criminal records who would have been covered in the new Obama Administration rules blocked by the Supreme Court today. Advocates and the media need to work a little harder to get this part of the story right.
It is very unlikely that a President Hillary Clinton would change these new far smarter enforcement priorities. However, if Donald Trump becomes President, those 5m, and another 6m not covered by the new Obama rules, should fear immediate efforts to remove them from the country. For these families and their relatives in the United States, this has now become a very consequential election.
For more on Obama’s reforms of our immigration enforcement system, see this recent memo.
Republicans Continue to Block Democratic Efforts to Reform the Immigration System – In the 11 years since John McCain and Ted Kennedy introduced what is known as Comprehensive Immigration Reform, GOP hard liners have repeated blocked legislative efforts to reform the immigration system. GOP-led Houses refused to take up bi-partisan Senate passed bills in 2006 and 2013; Senate hard liners tanked efforts in the Senate in 2007 and 2010; Republican elected officials led the lawsuit that blocked the President’s reform today; and of course Republicans passed a bill to deport all 11m undocumented immigrants through the House in 2005, and in 2012 and now again 2016 the GOP Presidential nominee has called for all 11m undocumented immigrants to leave.
For 11 years, one party has tried to reform and modernize our immigration system in America; the other has unfortunately lost its own internal battle to hard liners who have ended up repeatedly, and successfully, blocking the efforts of reformers in both parties.
2016 Overview – The last few weeks have been remarkably bad ones for Donald Trump. His erratic performance has pushed his poll numbers down. Voices of dissent in his own party have grown louder, and stories about a renewed effort to replace him at the Convention have resumed with vigor. His campaign organization and fundraising are in a shambles, and so behind at this point it is not clear he can mount a traditional campaign at all this cycle. Even a domestic terrorist attack did nothing to aid his standing or wound the Democrats. And while all this is happening, the Clinton campaign has become confident and sure footed, her public performances as good as they’ve been all cycle, and her capable campaign team is executing a long awaited game plan with intensity and purpose. Republicans are right to be panicking about the fall.
Some numbers: the basic structure of the race hasn’t changed in the last few weeks, despite Orlando. As I wrote two weeks back, the underlying dynamics of this cycle would have suggested Clinton to be up 6-8 points at this point. Today, the Huffington Post aggregate has her up 45.3 to 37.7, 7.6 points net. This is up from a 2 point average in Mid May. As you can see from the graph below, the change in the race is coming not only from Clinton gaining ground and consolidating Democrats after clinching the nomination, but also because Trump has been dropping. What is important is that all this movement has come before Bernie Sanders has officially endorsed (which will come), suggesting that Clinton has even more room to grow in the coming weeks.
Yesterday, Trump said he would not officially begin his general election campaign until after the Convention. In political Nerdistan this was a bit of a bombshell. For it means that at a moment where the race is starting to slip away from him, Trump is going to allow the Democrats a full five weeks on the air in the battleground states without a response. Traditional campaign tactics would suggest that Trump go up on the air now with a very substantial buy to blunt Clinton’s significant momentum. By not responding at all until late in the summer when vacationing voters will be harder to reach, Trump is possibly in the process of losing the general election right now.
At the core of his campaign’s historic levels of dysfunction is a big and consequential lie – that he was wealthy enough to self-fund his candidacy. You could say that this impression was an essential building block of his brand/persona – couldn’t be bought, successful businessman, no politics as usual. It was perhaps the most important part of the early Trumpian brand, but it also had the practical effect of preventing his campaign from setting up a real fundraising operation (why do it if you are a self funder?). What we are learning now is the myth of his wealth – and at this point it looks to be more myth than reality – will have prevented him from establishing even a modest campaign to take on a Democratic Presidential apparatus that has won more votes in 5 of the last 6 elections. It is just too late at this point for Trump to build even a modest campaign, and every day GOPers on the ground in the battleground states don’t see ads up on the air the greater the panic and dissent will be.
The realization that Trump’s enormous whopper about his wealth prevented him from mounting a real campaign could have an extraordinary impact with GOP insiders – those who vote at the Convention. Unless Trump dumps $100m or more into his campaign in the next week or so, I think there is a very real chance he will be replaced at the Convention. Replacing his campaign manager won't be enough.
After Orlando/Not Just Trump – While the Democratic effort to close the “terror gap” and other common sense gun safety measures after the Orlando shooting is smart politics and the right thing to do, it would be wise to couple that with a challenge to the Rs to join them in giving the President the legal authority to fight ISIS in the Middle East. As the President said last week, it is not an either/or, but a both/and. The authority the President is using to fight ISIS abroad was explicitly written to fight Al Qaeda and the Taliban in 2001. If words matter – as many Rs say – then let’s name our current adversary properly – the Islamic State – and give the President the authority he needs to fight them in the months ahead. The Congressional GOP’s refusal to give the President the authority he needs, along with the explicit political support, is one of the great abdications of responsibility we’ve seen in the past generation of American politics. They should be called on it.
This refusal to take responsibility for the world as it is today (something I wrote about extensively recently) has become a hallmark of the modern GOP. Consider Paul Ryan’s House right now – no budget, no Zika funding, no TPP, no immigration reform, no response to ISIS/home grown threats. And of course the Senate has for the first time in American history refused to act upon a Supreme Court vacancy. Today’s GOP is simply ideologically incapable of governing in a time of enormous global change that its leaders are struggling to understand.
Previous Columns – Previous editions of this weekly column can be found here.