The repeated assertion by Donald Trump that the upcoming election is “rigged” and thus illegitimate needs to be denounced forcefully by all Republicans, including the Chairman of the Republican Party, Reince Preibus. It is not only an unprecedented attack on the legitimacy of our political system by the nominee of an American political party, it is disturbingly resonant of the strategic aims of Vladimir Putin – to weaken the image of democratic capitalism and the West in the eyes of the world. Republicans must rediscover their inner patriot immediately – and not just denounce Trump’s outrageous claims, but also repudiate the involvement of a foreign adversary and its allied institutions like WikiLeaks in an American election.
The GOP’s drift from full throated support of American democratic norms is not something new to our politics. From shutting the government down as a tactic in a normal budget negotiation, to yelling “liar” at the President during the State of the Union, to an historic abuse of the Senate filibuster, to denying President Obama his Constitutional right to appoint a Supreme Court Justice, the national Republican Party has been crossing lines that should not be crossed in our democracy far too often in recent years.
But there has been perhaps no greater betrayal of the American creed than the systemic effort by Republicans across the country in the last several years to make it harder for Americans to vote. While in theory one could defend the idea of “voter ID,” courts now have repeatedly determined that the way it has been crafted by Republicans have been unconstitutional and illegal; and the other steps taken by Republicans in the name of “reform” to eliminate early voting windows, reduce the number of polling locations and erect barriers for registration have been designed with only one malevolent intent in mind – to make it harder for everyday people to participate in their own democracy. As Ari Berman has noted in recent days, Republican in four states who had their new election laws tossed out or altered – North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin – are continuing to use restrictive practices already outlawed by the courts in this election as we speak. No Republican leader of course has stood up to repudiate this shameful national strategy which to me is as gross a violation of democratic norms as anything Trump has done or said this year.
In the days ahead Republicans have been given an extraordinary opportunity to reaffirm their patriotism and support of our inspirational democratic tradition for all Americans to see. If they fail to seize it, we may witnessing one of the greatest betrayals of our democratic tradition by a political party in all of American history.
-Simon Rosenberg, NDN
Simon recently covered these topics in a major op-ed for US News & World Report, "Calling all Patriots".
Simon has signed up with US News and World Reportto write a column every Thursday or Friday through the end of the year. His first column, "How America Prospers in a Global Age," ran last week. His new column, "Calling all Patriots," argues it is time for Republicans to once again find their inner patriot and work with the Democrats to keep the Russians from intervening in our election, and to make it easier for Americans to vote.
The piece was well received yesterday when it was released. DNC Chair Donna Brazile for example tweeted it to her many followers. You can read the whole piece here, and we include an excerpt below. Check here and at US News each week for new insights from Simon.
In the past week, we've seen Republicans from across the country denounce Donald Trump for his vulgar remarks caught on tape by Access Hollywood. Some, like John McCain, have said the remarks were so disturbing that he was no longer capable of voting for the GOP presidential nominee this fall.
While in a reflective mood about the future, their nominee and party, I would like to suggest two other activities Republicans should swiftly denounce and distance themselves from – the national effort to make it harder for Americans to participate in their democracy, and the attempt by a foreign adversary to intervene in and disrupt our upcoming election.
First, the pernicious effort to make it harder for Americans to vote. In the aftermath of Barack Obama's historic win in 2008, Republicans in dozens of states took steps to make it harder for people to vote. Their efforts ran the gamut – making registration far more difficult, eliminating the use of student IDs for voting even at public universities, cutting early voting windows, radically reducing the number of polling locations in heavily Democratic areas and, of course, successfully gutting the Voting Rights Act. It has been an all-out, national, party-wide effort to make it harder for every day Americans to participate in their democracy, and it has affected tens of millions of people including in big states like North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin.
In several states, courts have invalidated some of the more extreme measures. But what is perhaps most remarkable is how hard current GOP leaders are fighting court mandated changes in their laws. Election officials in Texas and Wisconsin have continued to follow practices declared illegal by courts in this current election. In North Carolina, a federal court recently invalidated their law, writing that it "targeted African Americans with almost surgical precision." Not deterred by being labeled racist, the Republicans of North Carolina, supported by Trump, appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court. Gratefully the Supreme Court denied to hear the appeal and this awful law was struck down.
This renewed embrace of time worn voter suppression tactics is particularly worrisome given America's already low rate of voting. As I wrote in U.S. News earlier this year, low rates of voter participation weaken our democracy by limiting the actual amount of consent Americans are giving to their leaders. For a party so powerfully inspired by the Revolutionary call of "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death," it is hard to understand how they've ended up embracing systemic efforts by politicians making it harder for the American people to exercise their liberties and keep our historic political system vibrant and strong.
To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can also find more of Simon's USNews articles here.
Friends, the middle class has not been in decline for 40 years, nor have incomes been flat in America for the past 15. Over the past several months we’ve released a series of reports that show that things are far better today than much of what we’ve heard on the campaign trail this year, and that Americans themselves can feel it. In my new Op-Ed in US News (read here, excerpts below), I argue that since a new age of globalization began in 1989, America has seen periods of growth, lower annual deficits, booming stock markets and real income gains for workers – but only when the right policies have been put into place. There is a need for all of us to get closer to this data, find a better way to talk about the US economy and help reframe the economic conversation in the months and years ahead. The profound economic pessimism we’ve heard from many candidates these past two years neither accurately reflects the true experience of the American economy, nor the perception of American workers themselves. This is particularly true for Democrats, 78% of whom said economic conditions were good (in this same poll the # was 28% for Republicans – a 50 point difference).
For more on this discussion review the Op-Ed below, a series of recent pieces from NDN, and this excellent set of analyses and essays from Dr. Rob Shapiro.
"One of the more important questions in this long presidential election asks whether this new age of globalization has worked and is working for everyday Americans. We've heard many charges – decades of middle class decline, years of no income growth and lots and lots of anger at elites. Given how central this discussion has been to 2016, it deserves a closer look."
"Here at home the data suggests a more complicated picture than what we've heard on the campaign trail. While median income is only $3,000 higher today than in 1989, it has not moved on a straight line. As the graph below shows, it fell under President George H.W. Bush, rose steadily under President Bill Clinton, flatlined and then dropped under the second Bush, then declined as a result of the Great Recession and is now steadily rising again under President Barack Obama. By the end of this year incomes are likely to be 10 percent higher than they were at their recent nadir in 2012, and grew more in 2015 than in any single year of the modern era."
"Other economic data from this period follow similar trend lines – the annual deficit grew under both Bushes, and dramatically improved under Clinton and Obama. The unemployment rate rose under both Bushes, and fell during Clinton and Obama. The stock market had a modest rise under the first Bush, fell under the second and had explosive growth under Clinton and Obama. Three million net new jobs were created in the two Bush presidencies. Thirty million were created under Clinton and Obama."
"So a fairer characterization of this new global economic age isn't one of relentless decline; it is one that acknowledges workers have been able to prosper and make gains, but that two recessions – one the second worst in the past century – wiped out many of those gains. Or to put it another way, when the right policies and team were in place, Americans have been able to prosper in this new age. And the opposite has been true as well. So perhaps it isn't globalization or bad trade deals that have caused the struggle of far too many of late, but policies and leaders not capable of navigating a vastly changed economic, demographic, technological and geopolitical landscape."
"Which is why the choice Americans are about to make for their president matters. The last two presidents who argued for aggressive military action abroad and regressive economic policies at home brought us recession, income losses and larger annual deficits. Those who argued for investment at home, an embrace of this new global age and its opportunities and a restrained multilateralism abroad saw long, sustained periods of growth, lower annual deficits and rising incomes. We've tried this four times now since the wall fell, and we have real data to guide us going forward. Americans have prospered and succeeded in this new age, and can do so again – but only if we follow policies that look far more like Hillary Clinton's than Donald Trump's."
The next President faces consequential choices about what to do in the Middle East. Simple solutions have defied American leaders for generations now, and the American people deserve a full and robust discussion of the choices ahead in the final two Presidential debates.
It is particularly important given that it is reasonable to conclude from the remarks of the Donald Trump and Mike Pence in recent weeks that if elected they plan to go to war in both Iraq and Syria without much delay. “Safe zones,” “no fly zones,” striking Russian allied Syrian regime targets, wiping out ISIS can only be done with a dramatic escalation of military involvement in the region requiring ground troops, substantial air power and the holding of territory in foreign countries potentially against the will of regional governments. Whatever words they may be use what they are describing is America going to war not just in Iraq, again, but in Syria too.
Like George W. Bush before them, Trump and Pence offer no plans for the political settlements that will have to achieved to cement in place any military gains that may be made. It is all about war, and nothing about how we achieve a lasting and sustained peace in the region. It is this kind of tactical approach to the region that failed the United States so utterly in the Bush era. The hard fought gains in Iraq Mike Pence described last night weren’t lost due to America not continuing to wage war in Iraq, but due to the Bush Administration’s failure to craft a workable post-war approach to keep the peace. ISIS grew in Iraq from the failure of peace making, not war making. We cannot afford to make these elemental mistakes all over again but this time in two countries, not one.
Given how central these matters have become for America, those managing the final two debates must do a better job at allowing a sustained and intelligent conversation about how we got here, and where we need to go. I am no foreign policy expert, but what I am hearing from Trump and Pence is alarming, and deserves far more in-depth discussion in the days ahead.
2016 Overview – Trump’s poor performance in the 1st debate, Clinton’s relatively strong showing, and his terrible week that has followed appear to created what may have become a decisive moment in the 2016 election. It will probably take another week or two to fully understand the impact this week has had, but early polling suggests dramatic movement in the race. Fresh out this morning is a Politico/Morning Consult track that now has Clinton up 6. It was plus one for Trump a week ago. 7 of the 8 polls that included the debate night in their polling have Clinton up 4 points or more, and in the new Huffington Post Pollster track she is now up 5 points, outside the margin of error. Even the Friday Fox News poll had it 49/44, with Clinton winning the debate by 61/21 (mon eve update - 10 of 11 polls have it 4 or more).
Other data points to a Democratic structural advantage emerging now. Dems lead the Congressional Generic, 45-41. Party favs/unfavs are 44/48 for the Ds, 31/58 for the Rs. Dems lead Party ID by 6, 37/31. Obama’s approval is holding near 2nd term highs, in the low to mid 50s depending on the poll. In the Huff Po data, he is now in positive territory on the economy, and we know from other data, there has been a sharp improvement in how the public sees the economy over the past few months in particular. Trump’s unsteadiness makes it unlikely for him to make gains if there is violent act of some kind before the election, and given how well the economy is doing, there just isn’t going to be a lot he can do to gain meaningful advantage here. If the new tax story starts to eat into his over performing numbers on economic stewardship, you could begin to see movement in the race towards the Democrats that could start to really impact down ballot races.
It is important to remember that Obama won by 7 and 4 points in his two campaigns. The electorate was going to be perhaps 2% points more Democratic this time, given the increase of minorities and Millennials since 2012. So a 4-6 point victory by Clinton was always the a possible outcome of this election assuming the GOP nominee could not break the demographic advantage Democrats have had of late. And we know that hasn’t happened in 2016 – in fact, the Democratic Presidential advantage may have actually increased this year. Trump is campaigning today in Arizona, a state Mitt Romney won by 9, that appears to be a true toss up today (see my recent piece on Dems expanding the map).
If the structure of the race is settling into a 4-6 point Democratic advantage, it will take a few weeks for us to see how/if this impacting the down ballot races, particularly Senate and House. Real Clear Politics has its Senate “no toss ups” map moving from 51/49 R to 50/50 this week – a sign that things have moved there a bit. Clinton’s new intense focus on Millennials and Hispanics, two groups with a lot of newer and thus more episodic voters, could have its biggest impact on close down ballot races who just don’t have the bandwith or expertise to reach these voters.
The Millennial opportunity for Democrats this cycle cannot be overstated. 20m new Millennials have entered the electorate since 2012. If even just half of them vote, and vote 2:1 Democratic (may be conservative), this is an additional 3.5m votes for Democrats. Obama’s margin of victory in 2012 was 5m votes. So this Millennial thing ain’t beanbag, and the Clinton campaign is right to be pouring energy and resources into this opportunity this cycle.
So, yes, lots of caveats - but early indications are this has been a potentially decisive week in the Presidential election.
Update 10/3 7pm - CBS's new poll has the race going from 42/42 to 45/41 for Clinton; new CNN/ORC has the race going from 45/43 Trump to 47/42 Clinton. Along with Morning Consult, these are swings of 7, 7 and 4 points. Game change!
Debate season starts tonight, and many are writing about the questions they would like to see answered by the candidates. Here are the three I hope to see Donald Trump asked tonight, and put to other Republicans and their surrogates in the days ahead:
1. The Economy. You say things are worse today because of President Obama. Yet the employment rate and annual deficits are way down, the stock market is at record highs, the number of American without health insurance is at the lowest level ever recorded, and even median income is higher today than when Obama took office. Are Americans really worse off today?
2. Safety. You say Americans are less safe today. But compared to President Bush’s Presidency, only hundreds have been killed by terrorists not thousands; only thousands of Americans have been killed and wounded in war compared to tens of thousands; crime rates and the number of police killed in action are far below what we saw in the Bush years; and the net number of unauthorized immigrants coming into the country annually has plummeted from 400,000 a year to zero. What statistics can back up your claim that America isn’t safer today than during the Bush years?
3. Syria. Candidate Trump has blamed President Obama and Secretary for the Syrian civil war. Can you tell us how the war started, and what your plan is to end it? Feel free to discuss the role of Russia and Iran, and the regional sectarian struggle between Sunni and Shi’a, in your response.
So, yes, inferring from these questions I believe America is both better off and safer today. I am also anxious to hear GOPers continue to blame America for a war started and waged by Assad and his Russian allies, and for how they plan on bringing it to an end. No more secret plans please.
“Monday Musings” is a new column looking at the 2016 elections published most Mondays. You can find previous editions here.
2016 Overview – Using our regular polling aggregator, Clinton leads this week 46/42. The race is clearly tightening, both across the country and in the 13 battleground states. This of course was to be suspected. Trump had been struggling for months to consolidate the Republican electorate, and is slowly, slowly doing so now. One should expect him to continue to do so until he is regularly polling at 45%. The question begs – can Clinton answer, regain some of the standing she’s lost in recent weeks, and put the race away?
To do so Clinton is now functionally running against three candidates – Trump, Johnson and Stein. Simply, if Clinton performs well at the debates, spends her time, particularly in the 1st debate, making her case, laying out her plans, conveying her optimism and can do spirit, she should be able to pull voters who’ve wandered over to Johnson and Stein. But the campaign would be wise now to start kicking around ways to create more excitement about this race for Democratic voters – inspirational videos, more Michelle Obama and Cory Booker, things that provide a lift and resist the deeply negative environment that I worry is indirectly suppressing our voters. We need more “for” to complement the very well articulated with hundreds of millions of dollars of the “against.” And count me in on the idea of having aging politicians lecturing voters why the vote for a Clinton alternative is “youthful” or a “waste” is itself a waste of time. Time now to focus on making our case. And as I wrote last week, we have a compelling case to make indeed.
On the new Democratic Coalition and turnout – In the last week we’ve seen a stream of stories about how Democratic voters are less enthusiastic about voting than Republicans, and emerging weaknesses with two of the pillars of the muscular new Democratic coalition, Hispanics and Millennials. Whether this is true or not is a bit hard to tell, but that is in some ways the point. Given how important this new electorate is to 2016 and the future of the Democratic Party, there shouldn’t be any confusion about what is going on with these voters at this point in the election cycle.
A decade ago NDN was among a handful of organizations and researchers who pointed out that American politics was in the process of going through a huge demographic transformation, one driven by the explosion of two emergent groups, Hispanics and Millennials. Perhaps more than any other organization in American politics NDN focused on these two groups in particular, capped by the major magazine piece Pete Leyden and I penned for Mother Jones in 2007 (yes prior to Obama winning in 2008). In our piece, and in the hundreds of presentations we’ve done on the subject, we argued that these demographic changes represented a big “opportunity” for Democrats if their politics could adapt to the sensibilities and the far different media consumption habits of these new potential voters. We do not and have never believed demography was destiny. It was an opportunity to be seized, and never guaranteed (Bush showed us this in 2000 and 2004).
In the last few elections we’ve seen the opportunity this emerging electorate offers, and the perils for Democrats in not getting it right. In part by surfing this demographic wave, Barack Obama received 53 and 51 percent of the vote in his two elections, the best showing for Democrats in back to back elections since 1940 and 1944. But at the same time, during this same period of historic success, we had two disastrous midterm elections. In a series of essays (here and here) and a major poll we did in the spring of 2010, NDN warned that these new voters were far less committed to voting in mid-terms and that left unaddressed we could see a very bad election ahead. My own view since 2010 has been simple: as Tip O’Neill said, we cannot expect someone’s vote unless we ask for it, and we just weren’t asking for the votes of this new electorate with the money and strategic intent we were with the rest of the electorate. This was a bit of an “old dogs new tricks problem,” and as Harry Reid says in today’s Washington Post, it is also expensive (and I would add hard, complicated and requiring the reinvention of the traditional 20th century campaign model).
So heading into 2016 it was conventional wisdom that a great deal of the Democratic Party’s success would ride on the ability to get this new Democratic Coalition (it is not Obama’s coalition, and I will leave that for another day) to be actively engaged in the election. This was particularly important, for given the growth of both Hispanics and Millennials, the electorate this year was projected to be about 2 percentage points more favorable to the Democratic nominee. Getting this part right, holding all other things equal, would make success far more likely.
Which was why I became loudly opposed to the Democratic debate schedule when it was first announced last summer. It was in many ways it was the exact opposite of what was required by the Party to address this strategic opportunity/challenge. Nothing was built in to appeal to Millennials, the Hispanic/Spanish part was TBD, and the choice of old school broadcast networks on the weekends was seemingly designed to create as few impressions with all voters as possible. Given the success of the Party and its 26 debates and highly competitive primary in 2008, it was hard to justify a big change in the debate strategy; it was impossible to justify the schedule the DNC committed to last summer. Look at the results: the GOP’s debates were seen by over 100m more people than the Democrats, an impression gap worth literally hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars. And we did nothing to address this core strategic challenge that we need to design and learn new ways to reach new audiences that are far more open to hearing from us than them.
The burden of re-inventing the 20th century broadcast model of American politics falls far more heavily on the Democrats, as our coalition is younger and has far more rapidly left the reach of a traditional 30 second spot. The DNC should have used these debates to have experimented with the model, bringing in new partners and models, showcased younger more diverse leaders, etc. Lots of things could have been tried, but instead we relied on media partners from the predigital age (incl PBS!!!!!!!!!!!) of media and few people watched. No Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, Snapchat, Twitch, Vice. Our clear message to this emerging electorate who remain episodic voters – our party is not speaking to you. It was one of the greatest mistakes by a major American political party in my lifetime.
Given the fear Democrats should have had about this new coalition not adequately showing up in 2016 literally everything the Party should have done these past two years should have been designed to engage these new audiences in new ways. And that’s why reading these articles – Spanish language ads starting 10 days ago (In May in 2012, March in 2004), the Millennial effort beginning today, no clear evidence of major Hispanic strategy at the DSCC – you just have to sit back and say WTF guys. Given both the promise and very real challenges of engaging the new electorate the only justifiable strategy would have been to spend more money and to have created more impressions (asking for their vote) than ever before.There is no strategic logic for less, particularly when there are as many as 20 million more Millennials and 4m more Hispanics in the electorate than in 2012.
In my mind, the Democratic Party had one truly significant strategic challenge this cycle – to have ensured that we had a tested, true and funded national strategy to ensure this emerging electorate did not underperform again. Sitting where I sit today, it is clear that we are not there yet. Democrats are still likely to win this year but man is it long past time for there to be a big national conversation about how are going to finally once and for all become the party of the digital age and this new electorate that offers us so much promise and opportunity.
P.S. Simon wrote about these matters extensively in his 2014 post-election memo, "A Wake Up Call For Democrats".
Simon Rosenberg's statement on Melania Trump's immigration letter:
“Without producing the actual visas or green card application this letter resolves nothing. If they have all the documents, then release them. It is the only way we can answer the fundamental question here which is whether Melania Trump followed immigration law. Failure to release them suggests that they are indeed hiding something, or the narrative they spelled out today is false. It also would have been far easier and quicker to release the actual documents then to have created an outside review. This letter is another case of “believe me” - which is clearly insufficient given that we are talking about possible criminal behavior by the potential First Lady of the United States.
There are additional problems with the letter:
Extraordinary Ability - The claim to have gotten an “extraordinary ability” green card seems improbable given this particular green card's requirements. They are intended for Nobel Laureates or others whose achievements are widely recognized as extraordinary in their field, not middling models. And the most important question remains unanswered by the letter– if she claimed to have a double degree from a university in her green card application she committed fraud, a crime against the United States Government which would put her entire green card/citizenship path becomes in doubt.
It should be noted that the lawyer who produced the letter today is also the one who said on the record in a recorded interview she received her green card through marriage. So one assumes he has recanted his previous public statement about her immigration path into the US.
Questions about the H1B - The reporting by Julia Ioffe and others that she had no regular employer and infrequent work in the late 1990s is again inconsistent with her having been granted a series of H1B visas, or suggests that there were misrepresentations and/or fraud in her applications. It is also not traditionally necessary to return to the home country to renew an H1B, once again calling into question her own recollection of how she lived and worked in the US in the late 1990s.
Finally, the claim that she was never in the US until Aug 1996 has obviously been contradicted by several different eyewitnesses and news accounts.
So, where are we? The letter was well executed and smart. But it resolves nothing. The only way to clear up the question of whether Melania Trump followed immigration law is by releasing her work visas, green card application and green card. Her refusal to do this implies guilt, and this whole episode should be treated as seriously as the Donald Trump’s coming appearance with Dr. Oz."
Additional Resources: Be sure to review Simon's tweets on the topic: here, here, and here as well as his piece, "4 Questions About Melania's Immigration Path Which Still Need Answers".
“Monday Musings” is a new column looking at the 2016 elections published most Mondays. You can find previous editions here.
2016 Overview – With fewer than 60 days to Election Day, according to our polling aggregate Clinton continues to hold a substantial 5 point lead in the race, 46-41. A few things to also note: 1) While Clinton retains this 5 point lead, a majority of public polls now have the race within 2 points. 2) Trump is still struggling to get out of the low 40s, and is only above 42% in a handful of either national or battleground state polls. 3) Clinton has successfully expanded the battleground to three new states – AZ, GA and NC. New polls from NBC this weekend should both AZ and GA to be a dead heat, and she leads in most North Carolina polls.
This last point is significant. A larger battleground allows the Clinton financial and organizational advantage to become magnified, as her resources – including powerful surrogates – are being deployed in more than just 10 states (the core battleground - CO, FL, IA, NV, PA, MI, NH, OH, WI, VA). This not only puts much more pressure on the under-resourced Trump operation, but it will mean more wins for Democrats down ballot in these additional states. For the Republican Party who has struggled so much at the national level in recent elections this expansion of the map is a very ominous development.
The move of Arizona into a pure toss up (two good polls out this week have the race dead even, Romney won by 9 pts in 2012) is one that should be particularly worrisome for the national GOP. For it means that soon Texas will start to be in play for Democrats, and not just statewide – Hispanics make up more than 15% of eligible voters in fully 15 Congressional seats held by Republicans in Texas, and 5 of those have more than 25% share. Dedicated, funded campaigns designed to get Hispanic turnout up in those districts could have a significant impact on the balance of power in the House in coming years. The last two public polls of Texas have Clinton up 1, and Trump up 6. Even assuming a 6 point spread, this is way way too close for the GOP to feel good about.
For those wondering about the state of play in the House, this Politico piece is well worth reading.
Trump and Putin – While Trump’s apparent admiration for Vladimir Putin has gotten a lot of attention of late, it is his embrace of Putin’s worldview that should be most alarming to Americans and to his fellow Republicans. Trump and his top supporters, including Governor Pence, have repeatedly praised Putin’s “strength,” admiring of his ability to prosecute his agenda on the world stage particularly in the Middlle East. But let’s look at that agenda a bit, and question whether it deserves praise and admiration.
In the Middle East, Putin is funding and protecting Syria's Assad, and is thus directly complicit in mass slaughter of civilians, the lengthening of the Civil War, and the massive refugee crisis in Europe that is doing so much to weaken establishment parties in Europe right now. Putin has also for years been Iran’s primary backer on the global stage, including at the UN. The ISIS insurgency is primarily a fight against the Iran/Shi’a aligned regimes in both Syrian and Iraq, and thus one could argue that it has been Russia more than any other global power who has been responsible for creating the conditions that have led to both the rise of Iran as a regional power and ISIS itself - something Trump blames Hillary Clinton for daily.
The distance between Putin's approach to the Middle East and the very public demonization of Iran we've heard from the GOP over the past few years could not be greater.
His “strength” has also led Putin to invade and occupy portions of a foreign neighbor, and like Trump, support Brexit, weakening of both Europe and NATO (see this piece for a longer discussion of this). His “strength” has also put him right in the middle of both the greatest sport cheating scandal in history, the FIFA scandal, and now the greatest Olympic cheating scandal in history. The level of cheating and corruption practiced by Russia on the global sports stage has no historic parallel, and is another sign of Putin’s utter contempt for a rules-based, international system.
Third, Putin is a leader of what has become the most pernicious political economy of the 21st century – the petro state. There is perhaps no system more antithetical to the American creed than petro states – unaccountable dictatorships, systems whose wealth and power is derived from mass pollution of the planet and the threat of global instability (which keeps oil prices high) rather than a commitment to the current global system.
Which brings me to my final point – that Trump, like Putin, has denigrated institutions and conventions which keep our democracy strong. He has broken from time honored bi-partisan tradition and refused to release his tax returns and his medical records, and has even failed to produce Melania’s basic immigration documents that he promised weeks ago.. He has refused to allow press to travel on his plane, and ended the traditiona of the “protective pool” that would travel with him at all times of day. He already said the election will be rigged and thus illegitimate, has encouraged the hacking of a major political party in the US by a foreign power to help disrupt our election and constantly calls the media and political elites dishonest and corrupt. He has questioned the efficacy of NATO and the European project, praised Brexit, and has said he will rip up trade agreements we have with other nations, violating international law and weakening the global trading system that has done so much to advance democratic capitalism around the world.
It would be one thing to praise Putin’s charm, but to praise his leadership and “strength” is praising a man who gets up every day fighting against time worn American values and the modern world we helped build. This is the very opposite of patriotism, and to me is the single most troubling manifestation of the new politics of Trump.
“Monday Musings” is a new column looking at the 2016 elections published most Mondays. You can find previous editions here.
2016 Overview – Sticking with the poll average we’ve used all election, Clinton heads into the home stretch up 48.1/42.5 over Trump. The Real Clear Politics “No Toss Ups” Electoral College map has it 340/198 for Clinton. While the race has tightened a bit, and the CNN poll shows Trump up today, I will stick with the data in front of us – Clinton holds a firm lead on Labor Day. It was always inevitable that Trump would claw his way back to the mid 40s from the historically low place he has been in recent months. Part of what we are seeing is the slow, painful “coming home” of Rs who are holding their noses and deciding to vote for Trump. My expectation is that heading into the 1st debate on September 26th Clinton will hold a 3-4 point lead.
The Real Clear Senate “No Toss Ups” has it 50/50, which would give control to the Democrats if Clinton wins. Any way you look at this election right now, we should expect it to be competitive across the board. The ace in the hole for Democrats is their huge financial and organization advantage, which could make a significant difference in close states either for President or Senate. More on the House next week.
We Are Better Off Today – One of the most significant sets of data in the 2016 revolves around the perception of the performance of President Obama. As I’ve said for years now, if folks don’t believe that Democrats did a good job these last eight years there won’t be any reason for them to vote for them in 2016. We know that President Obama’s various approval ratings hover in the high 40s, low 50s, and in some polls are the highest they’ve been in his second term. We know that the employment rate is below 5%; median incomes have been rising in the US since 2011; there is direct evidence now that wages have alos been rising since 2013; the stock market is at historic highs; the annual deficit is less than half of what it was when Obama took office; 20m have health insurance today who didn’t have it and the growth health care costs are slowing: despite dystopian rhetoric from Donald Trump, crime rates in the US have plummeted over the past generation and investment in our cities has soared; energy costs are lower today, domestic production is up and we’ve begun to make the transition to a cleaner energy future in earnest.
To me it is clear and evident that things are better today than when Obama took office.
Helping fill in this picture a bit comes a brand new study from Gallup. We include the key graphs from the study but this shows is that simply isn’t a high level of discontent in the country right now. 80% of Americans say they are satisfied with their current standard of living, and 50% say things are getting better for them. Take a look:
Democrats need to do a better job owning the success of their past two Presidents. Both have left the country far better than they found it. The same cannot be said of the last two Republican Presidents. If Democrats were to move one single message as a party in the final two months of the election it would be this – when they are in power, things better. When the Rs are in power, things get worse. This is both true, and germane to the debate we are having in America right now.
We end with a chart that Jared Bernstein used in a recent Washington Post piece, It shows that median income has been rising since 2011.