In recent days, some Trump supporters have indicated that the reported evolution in Trump’s thinking on immigration will focus on ways to ensure that unauthorized immigrations with criminal records become a more significant priority for deportation. Last night on the O’Reilly Factor, Trump confirmed that he is indeed attempting to land in some new place on immigration, though where exactly still remains to be seen.
For those reporting/commenting on this evolving issue in the days ahead it is important to keep a few things in mind:
Deporting Criminals First Has Been USG Policy Since 2011 – In the aftermath of the GOP’s blocking of immigration reform in 2010, the Administration took significant steps to prioritize its immigration enforcement efforts in two areas – border deterrence and those with criminal records in the US. The vast majority of those deported from the US in the years since have fallen into those two categories. If this indeed is the direction Trump is going in, he will be endorsing existing long standing Obama Administration immigration and border enforcement strategies. You can find out more about these changes in US policy in this long brief I did last summer.
This new and smarter policy direction has been successful – flow of undocumented immigrants into the country have plummeted; the number of undocumented immigrants in the country today is less than when President Obama took office; it allows limited federal, state and local law enforcement to focus on more serious criminals both undocumented and those legally here in the US; and those undocumented immigrants without criminal records have far less to fear from the US government and can keep working and contributing to the economy.
It is important to note that since the implementation of this new strategy in 2011, Hispanics in the US have made very dramatic economic gains.
Given the success of this new policy in recent years, it would be wise for candidate Trump to embrace it. But as Greg Sargent reports this morning, his apparent embrace of this approach is in direct conflict with the television ad he is currently running, and more than a year of statements he has made about “open borders” and our ineffective border and immigration enforcement system.
In his new piece, Sargent also reminds us that last night Trump only seemed to endorse Obama’s immigration enforcement priorities. No mention of what to do with the millions of unauthorized immigrants who remain.
House GOP on Record Opposing Deporting Criminals First – In 2013 and again in 2014, the House GOP, led by restrictionist Rep. Steve King, voted to prevent the Administration from using its power of “prosecutorial discretion” to prioritize the removal serious criminals and recent border crossers over those without criminal records. This means that if Trump heads in the direction already embraced by the Obama Administration, he will be breaking from the restrictionist wing of his own Party, and his allies in the Paul Ryan led House. Politically, this is no small matter.
So, yes, lot's still to be learned about Trump’s ugly damned if I do, damned if I don’t dance on immigration.
One of those felons to be deported first might be Mrs. Trump – Last night it was reported that Trumpworld has threatened to sue Politico for their reporting on Mrs. Trump problematic immigration story. Weeks after this story first broke, this threatened law suit appears to be the first official response by the Trump campaign to the growing body of evidence that Melania Trump violated immigration laws. It is not exactly the response many of us were led to believe would be coming from Trumpworld on this important matter.
To be clear – the reporting by Politico, the Washington Post, Univision, Bloomberg and others suggest that Mrs. Trump committed a series of grave immigration crimes that could easily rise to the level of a felony, and even trigger a process that could strip her of her citizenship. Just yesterday Vanity Fair reported that Mrs. Trump committed perjury in a 2013 court case where she repeated some of these same fabrications about her past.
I review the seriousness of what has been reported about Mrs. Trump in this recent post, and once again call upon Trumpworld to immediately release all of Mrs. Trump’s work visas she acquired prior to 2011 and her green card and green card application. The only way for us to know whether Melania Trump followed immigration law is by the release of these and other immigration documents.
Now that Donald Trump has promised to address the question of whether Melania Trump broke immigration laws when she emigrated to the United States in the mid-90s and in the process of gaining her citizenship (here, here, here and here), there are at least four questions that need to be answered directly by the Trump campaign in the coming days:
Work Visa(s) - What work visa(s) did Mrs. Trump have in the years before she received her green card in 2001? Can you produce it/them and their applications for the public to see?
Green Card - Can you explain how Mrs. Trump received her green card in 2001? Was it based on an employer or family sponsor? If employment related, who was the sponsor? Was it through marriage as was reported on August 5th? Did Mrs. Trump get her green card by other means? Can you produce she green card petitions and applications?
Purpose of Early Travel to US - Can Mrs. Trump provide the date and purpose of each of her visits to the United States prior to moving here in 1996? Did she work, even for free, during any of these visits? We know she was here in 1995, and an associate from those days, Paolo Zampolli, has said on the record that she was living here before receiving a work visa in 1996. As you are aware, the United States government has a record of every trip she made in and out of the US prior to her receiving a green card. So it would help all of us understand her complete emigration story by providing this information as it is already known by immigration authorities in the US.
Lying to Immigration Authorities - Did Mrs.Trump represent that she had a college degree in her applications for work visas and green card? As you know, having a college degree could have been determinant in her receiving a visa or green card. Now that we know she has embellished her biography and only finished a semester or two of college, this seems relevant. Lying on immigration applications is a serious crime in the United States, and the public has a right to know if our future First Lady committed immigration fraud in the process of obtaining her citizenship.
Of course, the easiest way to put all this to bed is for Melania Trump to release her entire immigration file, or for her to authorize the United States government to do so on her behalf. Given that we are talking about serious crimes and immigration violations here - serial fraud, felonies and possible loss of citizenship for Mrs. Trump - the Trump campaign needs to be as transparent as possible in the days ahead. Just releasing any work visa she had in the 1990s and her green card application and card itself would have largely put this story to bed by now. The failure to release these documents already suggests the Trump campaign is struggling to reconcile what actually happened with a public story that has already proven to be fabricated.
Donald Trump has put the maximum punishment for those who violate American immigration laws at the center of his campaign. Given this, there is an urgency for the Trump campaign to resolve the very real issues raised by Melania Trump's statements about her immigration path into the US; and for Mr. Trump to demonstrate to the tens of millions of immigrants he has denigrated that the rule of law applies not just to them but to him and his own family too.
Additionally, if the Trump campaign doesn't make a serious effort to explain the discrepancies reported by Politico, Bloomberg, the Washington Post and Univision, leading lawmakers should call upon the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security to begin a formal investigation into Melania Trump and her problematic arrival story. Her potential crimes are far more serious than what the typical undocumented immigrant has committed, and warrant the full attention of US law enforcement now.
“Monday Musings” is a new column looking at the 2016 elections published most Mondays. You can find previous editions here.
2016 Overview – As expected, we find early evidence today of a Clinton bounce. CBS has Clinton going from 43/44 to 47/41, CNN from 45/48 to 52/43, Morning Consult from 40/44 to 43/40 and PPP and Ipsos/Reuters each have Clinton with a 5 point lead. The averages are showing gains for Clinton of 2-3 points already, and Obama’s approval rating in Gallup over the past 10 days has gone from 49/48 to 54/42, the best of his entire second term. It is early but Clinton and the Democrats are clearly getting a meaningful bounce.
It is significant that in some of these new polls have Trump hovering in low 40s, signaling that he still having trouble bringing his party together. If he is not in the mid 40s by mid August his campaign will officially be in trouble. Additionally, based on the Real Clear Politics state averages, Clinton should be firmly ahead in every single battleground state including Arizona and North Carolina by week’s end.
But could the economy slow over the next few months, and change the current dynamic that seems to be favoring Clinton? While Friday’s GDP report appeared to signal trouble ahead, as this analysis from the NYTimes’s Neil Irwin explains things are better than many reported on Friday. And for consumers (voters), things were particularly good:
“The wages and salary component of compensation is now up 2.5 percent over the last year; that same reading was only 2 percent in the second quarter. It’s just one number, but it points to this conclusion: Worker pay is not just rising; it’s also starting to rise at a faster pace. And it’s coming in the form of cash compensation, not being eaten up by health insurance and other employer-provided benefits.”
Given this report, it is far more likely for economic sentiment to be an asset for Clinton in these final 100 days of the election than Trump.
A Very Good Week for Democrats – Last week’s DNCC was my 8th Convention, and I think it was the best I’ve attended. The speeches and talks by private citizens were powerful, the production itself just excellent and the tone upbeat and can-do. It was an extraordinary contrast to the angry mess the Republicans stumbled through a week before.
What we saw last week was a mature, successful governing party, one with a deep set of talented, experienced and well-regarded leaders comfortable on the national stage. It was a reminder of just how successful the Democrats have been at the Presidential level – both the Clinton and Obama Presidencies left America better than they found it, and Democrats have won more votes in 5 of the last 6 Presidential elections. If Hillary Clinton wins this fall, it will be arguably the best stretch for a political party in all of our history.
This confident, mature, successful Democratic Party took a generation to build. When I got into American politics in the last 80s and early 90s, things were reversed – the GOP was ascendant, confident, well led, popular with young people and it was the Democrats who had run out of political and ideological gas. Led by the New Democrats of that time, the Democratic Party began a long period of modernization and reform that has helped produce the governing and political success we’ve had over the past generation.
Critical to that success today is the demographic opening NDN and a handful of other organizations helped identify a decade ago. If they can harness this emergent coalition in this and coming elections, the Democrats have discovered a young, growing and diverse coalition that could sustain them for many elections to come and will eventually also generate majorities in both Congresses. Remarkably, Democrats may be in the middle or even early stages of a very long run (see our 2007 magazine essay laying all this out, The 50 Year Strategy) and not at its end.
Many commentators and journalists writing about American politics grew up in era when the Democratic Party, after generations in power, was coming apart, and the GOP and conservatism were ascendant.
We are now in a very different era of American politics. Today, the once proud party of Reagan that is coming apart, and that era of conservatism is coming to an end. It is the Democrats, and an evolving 21st century liberalism, that are ascendant now. And I think many who analyze politics for a living have been slow to adapt to how fundamentally things have changed over the past generation, and far too often use and speak of stereotypes and political and ideological constructs that history swept away long ago.
-Democrats have won more votes in 5 of the last 6 elections, one of the most successful runs for the Presidential wing of an American political party in our history. If Democrats win this next election, this period will arguably the single greatest period of electoral dominance of an American political party in all of US history.
-Since the end of the Cold War, when the whole world changed, Democrats have governed successfully, twice producing Administrations that have brought us growth, rising wages, lower annual deficits and soaring stock markets. The GOP have twice brought us recessions, job loss and higher annual deficits. The Bush recession was among the deepest and most destructive in all of American history, and almost caused a global financial collapse. One can also argue that the Iraq War was as damaging to American interests as the Great Recession. In recent years the Rs have been far more a wrecking ball than a constructive force in American life.
What this has left us with us is a Democratic Party that has evolved/renewed itself from one in decline to one that is now a mature, successful governing party with a remarkable set of experienced and popular leaders. The Republican Party doesn’t have a single major party figure with net positive ratings, and can’t really claim any recent governing successes. The contrast is stark.
I believe that political analysts with a few more years on them have been slow to recognize how much politics and the two parties have changed since the halcyon Reagan days. The “meta” story of these two Conventions has been the contrast of an ascendant, modern, reformed and successful Democratic Party and a Republican Party and conservative movement clearly coming to the end of what was once a very good run. It is indeed a new era of US politics, one very different from the strong Reagan/weak Carter Mondale frame that did so much to shape a generation of analysts and commentators.
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!
“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.
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.