Renewing Our Democracy

Column: Why the Return of WikiLeaks Is a Problem for Trump

In his new US News column,“Why the Return of WikiLeaks Is a Problem for Trump,” Simon argues that the new WikiLeaks release reminds us the campaign Russia is waging against the West and the US is an ongoing effort, not something that happened in the past.

An excerpt from "Why the Return of WikiLeaks Is a Problem for Trump" 

"The new Wikileaks release of sensitive CIA documents about its cyber capabilities is many things, but perhaps most importantly it is a reminder that the campaign Russia is waging against the West and the United States is an ongoing effort, not something that happened in the past.

Not only does this new release involve Wikileaks, the main outlet for Russia's stolen materials from the Clinton campaign and the DNC, but a big part of the new dump provides previously undisclosed information about the CIA's Center for Cyber Intelligence, the unit assigned by President Obama to respond to Russia's interference in our politics last summer.

In a normal time, Russia's re-emergence would be considered the greatest security threat to America and our traditional allies. But the Trump administration has been remarkably silent on the issue. Despite tweeting on issues ranging from the ratings of his old television show to Ivanka's businesses, the new president has not once gone to Twitter to condemn any of these Russian aggressions. Nor has he even acknowledged that Russia intervened in our politics last year (let alone condemned it) or authorized a collective response to its ongoing efforts to disrupt the politics of our most important allies in Europe.

Consider that not only has Russia taken unprecedented aggression in the homeland of the United States, but it is, right now, waging similar cyber/disinformation campaigns inside of many of our most important European allies. It has escalated its activities in Eastern Ukraine. It has broken a 30-year-old nuclear treaty with the United States, deploying new offensive nuclear capacity that threatens Europe. It has propped up the Assad regime in Syria, helping prolong the civil war there and keeping the destabilizing flow of refugees into Europe. And it is even expanding its activities in places like Afghanistan and Libya."

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can Simon's previous US News columns here.
 

Column: A Strategy for Confronting Trump, Restoring Democratic Norms

In his new column for US News, "Drawing the Line with Trump," Simon argues that Democrats need to abandon traditional responses to the Trump Presidency, and set new rules of engagement. Trump’s early, repeated trampling of democratic norms must be confronted head on now. Friday’s decision to strip legal residents of the US of their liberties without debate or consultation is the act of an autocrat or dictator, not an American President. No further evidence of his intentions are needed now.

In his piece Simon lays out four conditions for continued Democratic cooperation:

1) Stop the Executive Orders
2) Debate Your Proposals In Congress
3) Divest or Disclose
4) Honor Decorum

Trump has historically low levels of public support; voters already have grave concerns about his secret holdings and the potential for corruption; and regular people are already taking unprecedented steps to protest his early Presidency. Democrats have a great deal of running room to take a dramatic and principled stand not against Trump but in favor of the rule of law and our democratic system itself.

Column: An Independent Audit of Trump's Companies Is Now Necessary

US News and World Report has published Simon's ninth column, "An Independent Audit of Trump's Companies Is Now Necessary," in his weekly Op-Ed series that will every Thursday or Friday.

Be sure to also read his recent column, "The Pernicious Politics of Oil - On Trump's embrace of petro-politics," in which Simon does a deep dive on why Trump 's embrace of plutocratic petro-politics should be worrisome to liberals everywhere.

An Excerpt from "An Independent Audit of Trump's Companies Is Now Necessary"

This week, President-elect Donald Trump thumbed his nose at the government agency that oversees ethics in the Executive Branch by announcing he intends to keep all of his far flung holdings as president. Whether this unprecedented and arrogant act is illegal and unconstitutional and not just unethical will be at the center of what is sure to be a vigorous debate in the coming months.

But the worry about his arrangement is far greater than the issue of propriety and legality. Let me offer a few examples:

It establishes new far weaker norms. Perhaps inspired by Trump's example, we've already seen House Republicans vote to gut their own ethics regime; the Senate GOP is holding hearings on Cabinet nominees without either their FBI background check or ethics clearance completed; challenging anti-nepotism laws, Trump is bringing his son in law, who is also not divesting from all his holdings, into the White House; and Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson refuse to recuse himself from overseeing decisions affecting his lifelong employer, Exxon Mobil. In these early days, the new GOP has made it clear it intends to weaken or ignore good government policies put into place decades ago – the very opposite of draining the swamp.

It encourages public corruption. Remarkably, Trump not only refused to adopt the many suggestions outside counsel had for how to ethically manage his holdings, he actually walked back a commitment for the Trump Organization to do no new deals while he is president. In his Wednesday press conference, Trump said the business will in fact be able to do "domestic" deals. This is a clear signal from our next president that investors/courtiers, and one would assume U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies, should begin lining up at Trump Tower to begin talks on domestic U.S. projects. The benefit of these deals would go directly to the benefit of the Trump family, and since he has not divested, Trump himself. As all of his business dealings are essentially secret, the public would have no way of knowing who was entering into business with the family of the sitting president. The opportunity for public corruption here is perhaps unprecedented in all of American history.

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can Simon's previous US News columns here.

Backgrounder: Countering Russia's Insurgency Against The West

This has been an area of concern for the NDN team for some time. Below is some of our most important recent work:

Democrats should put Russia, corruption, and tax returns on agenda w/Trump, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 4/20/17. In the coming negotiations with President Trump on a wide variety of issues, Democrats should add three more important issues to the agenda.

The RNC's Russia Problem, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 4/14/17. The RNC helped Russia interfere in our elections. It should now take the lead in making sure it never happens again.

Tillerson failed to make Russian interference in US elections central to his mtgs w/Lavrov, Putin, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 4/12/17. Failure by Tillerson to make this far-ranging interference campaign central to these talks and to publicly condemn Russia for their aggressive actions here and in Europe is a tacit sign of approval of these efforts by the Trump Administration.

The End of Innocence: Trump's Fantasy World Crashes Hard Into The Real One, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 4/7/17. On Russia, Syria, health care, immigration and even jobs Trump's fantasy world is crashing into the real one.  And the results haven't been pretty for him, or for the nation. 

NDN Calls on WH/DHS to Release Their Plans for Protecting US Elections from Foreign Interference, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 4/5/17. It is time for the White House to come forward with its plan to make sure the kind of attack Russia made on the US in 2016 never happens again.

GOP and House Intelligence Hearing, Simon Rosenberg, Twitter Thread, 3/20/17. GOP used the hearing to lay predicate for a purge of IC, another Russian objective, and sent clear signal they care more abt protecting Trump than understanding what Russia has done in our countries and others.

Why the Return of WikiLeaks Is a Problem for Trump, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 3/9/17. Simon argues that the new WikiLeaks release reminds us the campaign Russia is waging against the West and the US is an ongoing effort, not something that happened in the past.

Corruption of Trump by Russia (Part 2), Simon Rosenberg, Twitter Thread, 3/4/17. Simon's take on what we are learning - that the Russia scandal is ongoing, not something that happened last year.

Corruption of Trump by Russia (Part 1), Simon Rosenberg, Twitter Thread, 3/3/17. Simon's take on what we are learning - that the Russia scandal is ongoing, not something that happened last year.

On Flynn, Pence and Russia, Simon Rosenberg, Twitter Thread, 2/9/17. Simon does a deep dive on the news Mike Flynn lied about his contacts with Russia, and renewed his calls for his suspension or removal.

NDN Calls on Trump, Congress to Respond to Russian Aggression in Europe, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 2/9/17. NDN calls on the Trump Administration and Congress to respond to and counter Russia's aggression and preserve the West.

On The Difference Between The US and Russia, Simon Rosenberg, Twitter Thread, 2/5/17. In response to Donald Trump's comments in the O'Reilly Superbowl interview, Simon reminds us that Russia has done more to spread oppression and human misery than any other country in the world over the past 100 years. 

NDN Calls on President Trump to Demand Russia Honor Ukranian Ceasefire, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 2/1/17. NDN calls on the Trump Administration to forcefully defend the Minsk agreement and demand Russia and its forces in Ukraine to stand down.

NDN Calls on President to Delay Decisions on Russia Policy until Investigations, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 1/27/17. Simon calls for President Trump should refrain from making any significant changes in our policy towards Russia until these investigations are complete, and Congress and the American people have an opportunity to weigh in on their findings.

The End of Pax Americana?, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 1/26/17. Donald Trump is taking radical steps that is weakening the global order America imagined and built after World War II.  Before he does more harm to our interests, Congress must force a big debate about his vision, and challenge him if necessary.  

The Pernicious Politics of Oil – On Trump's embrace of petro-politics, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 12/16/16. In his recent column, Simon does a deep dive on why Trump's embrace of plutocratic petro-politics should be worrisome to liberals everywhere.

Trouble Ahead – 4 Scandals That Could Alter the Trump Presidency, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 12/1/16. In this recent column, Simon looks at four looming scandals that could alter the trajectory of the Trump Presidency – unprecedented levels of public corruption, collusion with Russia to alter the outcome of the election, the FBI’s late intervention and Melania’s immigration troubles.

The Russian Intervention In The US Election Matters, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 11/28/16. Our government must explain what happened with Russia's successful intervention in our election, and what steps it plans to take to prevent it from ever happening again.

Prior to 2016 Election

The West Is On The Ballot, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 11/4/16. In the column, Simon argues that Trump isn't running just against Clinton, he's also running against what America has become and the world it has built.

Calling all Patriots, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 10/13/16. While in a reflective mood about the future, their nominee and party, Simon suggests two other activities Republicans should swiftly denounce and distance themselves from.

Trump's Worrisome Embrace of Putin, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 9/12/16. In this column Simon does a deep dive on Trumpland’s embrace of Russia’s Putin, and why their admiration for his “strength” is a betrayal of our values.

Voting Machines Should Be Seen As Critical Democracy Infrastructure, Greg Miller, The Hill, 8/22/16. Our friends at the Open Source Election Technology Foundation (OSET) penned this thoughtful piece to provide a plan to protect our elections systems from disruption, foreign or domestic.

Fighting to Keep the Internet Open and Free, Simon Rosenberg and Jonathan Spalter, The Hill, 10/22/14. Simon and Jonathan Spalter offer up a whole of government approach to keeping the Internet open and free in the years ahead.

Column: A Call For Rs to Find Inner Patriot, Strengthen US Democracy

Simon has signed up with US News and World Report to 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. 

Simon released a related statement on Monday, October 17th. 

Excerpt from the article:

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 US News articles here.

NDN in the News: Print/Digital Media Roundup

Simon's analysis has been recently featured in several national and international media outlets. Be sure to check out full articles by clicking on the links. (Updated on Friday 6/23/17)

Media Appearance and Citations

'Meaness at the core:' Obama jumps back into the political fray to slam Trump, GOP on health care, David Nakamura, The Washington Post, 6/22/17.

Simon Rosenberg weighs in on Comey firing, Fernand Amandi, Amandi on Air, Newsradio WIOD, 5/10/17.

'Disarray' Is Preface to Power for Democrats, Francis Wilkinson, Bloomberg View, 4/24/17.

Democrats begin to wonder: When do we win? Gabriel Debenedetti, Politico, 4/19/17.

Obama said there was never a better time to be alive. Trump thinks a 'nasty' world offers nothing but problems, David Nakamura, The Washington Post, 4/13/17.

Ethics Watchdog Pushes Back on White House View of Rules, Kate Ackley, Roll Call, 3/9/17.

Trump's Budget Proposal Threatens Democratic and Republican Ambitions, Ron Brownstein, The Atlantic, 2/28/17.

Happy Hour Roundup, Paul Waldman, The Washington Post, 2/21/17.

The Democrats' Immigration Party, Thomas Edsall, The New York Times, 2/16/17.

The GOP's silencing of Elizabeth Warren is a brutal reality check for Democrats, Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, 2/8/17.

Trump vowed, "I alone can fix it." But he discovers power has limits, Karen Tumulty and David Nakamura, The Washington Post, 2/6/17.

Frenetic beginnings of Trump presidency has Democrats, Republicans fumbling to respond, Adam Smith, Tampa Bay Times, 2/2/17.

DNC candidates spend big on chair's race, Daniel Strauss, Politico, 1/27/17.

As Obama accomplished policy goals, his party floundered, Lisa Lerer, Associated Press, 12/24/16.

Democrats Hope Trump's Cabinet Picks Will Stand in Their Own Way, Alex Seitz-Wald, NBC News, 12/11/16.

Don't get distracted. Trump and Republicans are set to inflict radical, disruptive change, Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, 12/2/16. 

Democrats Should Dump Pelosi, Abandon Ellison for DNC, A.B. Stoddard, Real Clear Politics, 11/21/16.

How the Left Created Trump, Rob Hoffman, Politico Magazine, 11/20/16.

Democrats Over-Learning the Lessons of Trump's Victory, Alex Shephard, The New Republic, 11/17/16.

What has gone wrong for the Democratic Party, BBC Newshour, 11/15/16.

Democrats' First Big Decision Since the Election: Choosing a New Leader, Sam Frizell, TIME, 11/14/16.

Democrats Hoping 'Trump Effect' Would Drive Latino Turnout Neglected Engagement Work, Roque Planas, Huffington Post, 11/12/16.

Fight erupts among Democrats for control of party in crisis, Gabriel Debenedetti, Politico, 11/11/16.

Donald Trump in charge: The considerable clout of the president-elect, Susan Page, USA Today, 11/10/16.

Shocked Democrats look to next generation of party leaders for relief, Carla Marinucci, Politico, 11/9/16.

Democratic Party in Crisis, Gabriel Debenedetti, Politico, 11/9/16.

"Melania Turmp, through a lawyer, details immigration history," Ben Schreckinger and Gabriel Debenedetti, Politico, 9/14/16.

"How Donald Trump Lost His Mojo," Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone, 9/6/16.

"Stop getting played by Trump's scam job on immigration," Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, 8/30/16.

"Trump's new ad inadvertently reveals the core absurdity of his whole campaign," Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, 8/19/16.

"Convention revealed what really drives Hillary," Roger Simon, Chicago Sun Times, 7/29/16

"In tight Obama-Clinton alliance, the merging of two political machines," Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post, 7/26/16.

"On Day One, Democrats ruthlessly exposed a core Trump weakness," Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, 7/26/16.

"End the anti-democratic superdelegate system," Joe Trippi and Simon Rosenberg, Philly.com, 7/23/16.

"Can the Trumpster Fire Be Contained," Robert Schlesinger, US News & World Report, 7/8/16.

"Paul Ryan Among the Ruins," Francis Wilkinson, Bloomberg, 6/30/18.

"GOP shifting to become the anti-trade party," Nicholas Riccardi, Associated Press, 6/29/16.

"A brutal week for Obama and his liberal vision of an interconnected world," Greg Jaffe and David Nakamura, The Washington Post, 6/25/16.

"Clinton's hard-won nomination comes after learning the lessons of 2008," Sabrina Siddiqui, The Guardian, 6/7/16.

"A Primary That Pitted Democrats Against Independents," Ronald Brownstein, The Atlantic, 6/6/15.

"Sanders sticks it to the Democratic Party," Daniel Strauss, Politico, 5/17/16.

"Clinton faces conundrum as Trump shoots from the hip," Demetri Sevastopulo and Sam Fleming, Financial Times, 5/10/16.

"The GOP awakens to a Trump nightmare come true," Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, 5/4/16.

"Can Hill thrill after you've felt the Bern," Courtney Weaver and Demetri Sevastopulo, Financial Times, 4/28/16.

"Will young Sanders backers stay and steer the Democrats leftward," John Wildermuth and Joe Garofoli, San Francisco Chronicle, 4/28/18.

"Obama, who once stood as party outsider, now works to strengthen Democrats," Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post, 4/25/16.

"Supreme Court showdown to begin over Obama's moves to block deporation," David Nakamura, The Washington Post, 4/17/16.

"Here's one way the Clinton-Sanders brawl could end well," Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, 4/11/16.

"Bernie surges toward New York showdown," Gabriel Debenedetti, Politico, 4/6/16.

"For Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, a Debate Over More Debates Brews," Colleen McCain Nelson, The Wall Street Journal, 3/25/16.

"Sander scrambles to keep pace with Clinton," Gabriel Debenedetti, Politico, 3/23/16.

"Why Sanders Trails Clinton Among Minority Voters," Noam Schieber, The New York Times, 3/21/16.

"The Great Divide: Clinton, Sanders, and the future of the Democratic Party," Ryan Lizza, The New Yorker, March 21, 2016 Issue

"Why trade matters in the Rust Belt," Alex Seitz-Wald, MSNBC, 3/12/16.

"Trump's Path to Victory: Both Parties' Working-Class Whites," Nicholas Riccardi, Associated Press, 3/7/16.

"Democrats are taking the Trump threat very, very seriously. They're right," Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, 3/1/16.

"Pay close attention to what Chris Christie just said about Trump, Democrats," Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, 2/26/16.

"Obama's plan to visit Cuba is reminiscent of opening to Burma," David Nakamura, The Washington Post, 2/18/16.

"Hillary's debate desire: DNC rolls over now that she wants more Bernie bashing," Howard Kurtz, Fox News, 2/12/16.

"Bernie Sanders has already succeeded in a huge way (even if he loses)," Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, 2/11/16

"Democrats to Clinton: Fix your messaging," Gabriel Debenedetti, Politico, 2/10/16.

"Hillary Clinton's Recurring Struggle to Connect With Young Voters," Ronald Brownstein, The Atlantic, 2/4/16.

"Trade deal to be signed, but presidential politics could doom passage," Doug Palmer, Politico, 2/3/16.

"Clinton may have won Iowa, but she's got a lot of problems," Joe Garofoli, San Franscisco Chronicle, 2/2/16.

"America's Agitator: Donald Trump Is the World's Most Dangerous Man," Markus Feldenkirchen, Veit Medick, and Holger Stark, Der Spiegel, 2/1/16.

"MSNBC, NH newspaper to hold unsanctioned Dem debate," Ben Kamisar and Rebecca Savransky, The Hill, 1/26/16.

"Sanders battle with DNC overshadows Dem Debate," Ben Kamisar, The Hill, 12/19/15.

"The 'astounding' levels of campaign ads are just getting started," Nik DeCosta-Kipa, Boston.com, 11/17/15.

"So far, the Republican debates are way more popular than the Democratic debates," Alving Chang, Vox, 11/16/15.

"CBS Democratic debate draws lowest ratings," Hadas Gold, Politico, 11/15/15.

"Saturday nights with Hillary, Bernie and Martin," Hadas Gold, Politico, 11/13/15. 

"Democrats Eye More National Events As Anger Over Debate Schedule Grows," Sam Frizell, TIME, 10/16/15.

Voting Machines As Critical Democracy Infrastructure

Our friends at the Open Source Election Technology Foundation (OSET) penned this thoughtful piece in The Hill as a response to the news reports of foreign interference in our elections process. 

Some key passages:

"Part of the problem is that by design, our nation’s voting infrastructure is a balkanized system comprised of a small number of vendors’ machinery, combined with a variety of ways of casting and counting ballots. While a large-scale national attack is highly unlikely, such would be unnecessary to derail a general election. In fact, it only requires a targeted attack of a few machines in a key county of a swing State."

"While candidates on the left and the right use the new four-letter word “rigged” and call for election observers, we need to understand that elections officials work hard to make sure the charges of people voting multiple times and other illegal activity doesn’t occur. There are straightforward, low-tech things we can do today to improve the integrity of our elections."

"Longer term, we need careful consideration of what it would mean to designate America’s voting systems as “critical (democracy) infrastructure.” The U.S. Department of Homeland Security cannot do this in a vacuum. They must proactively collaborate with States’ election professionals, and engage with all relevant parties to ensure a long-term sustainable and scalable approach."

"And digital innovation must be a part of that discussion, because the casting and counting of 120 million+ ballots in time for orderly transfer of Presidential powers can no longer be done in time by hand. And we need to think through the continuing challenges of our fellow Americans needing to cast ballots remotely, especially our military from overseas. Meager and finite budgets are forcing vulnerabilities into the systems — emailing or uploading a cast ballot is not secure." 

You can learn more about OSET and the organization's great work here.

A Summer of Opportunity and Challenge for Hillary Clinton

Trump's Mo' Appears to Have Stalled – Two weeks ago we found movement in the weekly tracking polls for Trump that soon became an official “Trump bump.” The race closed from an 8-10 point Clinton lead to something smaller, somewhere in the 2-4 point range. The tracks this week suggest that this Trumpian surge has ended, however, with no track showing gains for Trump in the past week. And one, the GOP pollster Rasmussen, found a significant shift towards Clinton. The Huffington Post rolling average has Clinton up 4.3 points today. This is bad news for Donald Trump.

Why? For when Clinton clinches the nomination next week she is likely to get a “bump” of 2-4 points, as Trump did. This would put her ahead by 6-8 points, a formidable lead in a Presidential race (see this MSNBC piece for what the race looks like w/o Sanders).  So while Trump has made the race far closer in recent weeks, his gains were not sufficient to fundamentally change the nature of the race, or to suggest he is truly competitive at this point. As I wrote a few weeks ago, the 2016 playing field leans towards the Democrats. To review the top lines:

- President Obama hit a 2nd term high in job approval last week, coming in at 53 approve/43 disapprove in the Gallup daily track. This suggests that there are very practical political limits to the “discontent” much discussed this cycle.

- In the Huffington Post aggregate, the Democratic Party holds a huge advantage in favorability, coming in at 46/46 approval while the GOP is 29/60, a net negative of an astonishing 31 points (Trump is only 20 points net negative this week). Both Trump and Clinton, as unpopular as they are, are far more popular than Reince Priebus’s GOP as a whole.

- The Democrats have a very powerful and popular set of surrogates they can unleash in the fall – the Obamas, Sanders, the Bidens – to support Secretary Clinton and her VP. The contrast between a popular set of Democrats barnstorming the country, together, touting the success of two consecutive Democratic Administrations, versus the isolated and angry Trump advocating for an agenda of national decline will become a powerful and material development this fall.

- The economy continues to perform well, and there is even a growing body of evidence that after more than a decade of stagnation or decline, wages have begun to rise (here and here).

- An unusual electoral map this year means that the Senate and House results will be disproportionately influenced by the outcome of the contested Presidential states. Clinton could have unusually long and powerful coattails this year.  

- Democrats are least a generation ahead in campaign organization and technology, and are far ahead in developing their brass tacks campaign this cycle.  

So, in what is an important development in the race, Trump’s momentum has slowed, and the race appears to be settling down as many analysts expected – with Clinton holding a small but consequential lead.

A Summer of Opportunity and Challenge for the Clinton Campaign – For the Democrats, one gets the sense the election will be won or lost between now and the Convention. It is shaping up to be an extraordinary next eight weeks – the wrapping up of the nomination battle, the coming together of the party, the picking of the VP, managing a successful Convention and the running of the gauntlet of the various investigations going on into Clinton’s time as Secretary of State. These next eight weeks may be the most important of Hillary Clinton’s career, representing an enormous test of leadership for the experienced and talented candidate.

If Clinton can leave Philadelphia will these eight weeks having been successful, she should be in very strong shape for the fall election. She will have been heavily tested, and triumphed, offering the public a window into how she would indeed handle similar challenges in the White House. While our Presidential races are long and grueling, they are perhaps appropriate in scale and difficulty to the job itself, the hardest in the world today.  It is this through this grueling process and the tests it provides that one can be transformed from candidate to President. 

The State Department’s IG Report - Put me in the camp that I think the investigations going on into Secretary Clinton are serious, and require a far more direct response from the candidate and her campaign than we have seen to date. Given the timing of the various investigations and court cases, it is likely that total exoneration of the Secretary prior to the November election is not on the table. Questions and doubts will linger, and be a material part of the fall conversation. There are many things the Clinton camp can do to begin to address these concerns head on – commit to establishing an independent commission to recommend far better management of US government records in this new digital age of governing; join Bernie Sanders in a true partnership to improve our politics though an aggressive effort throughout her Presidency to reform our electoral system, make structural changes in the day to day ways of Washington and modernize the Democratic Party itself; suspend fundraising for the Clinton Foundation; forgo speaking fees for all Clinton family members during her Presidency – the list goes on. Whatever the comprehensive response is, it needs to be far more aggressive than what we’ve seen from the campaign to date.

To me one antidote to all this toxicity in our system today would be for Hillary Clinton to not just position herself as one who can make this unwieldy system in Washington work better for everyday people, but to authentically commit, as one who has seen the ugliness of our system up close, to leave behind a far better and more representative politics for coming generations of Americans. She has the opportunity in the coming together with Bernie, with his help and guidance, to move these  issues from the margins of her candidacy as they are now, to its core. Doing the nation, and her candidacy, a lot of good along the way. 

More on the 2016 Election – Be sure to review our deep dive on the 2016 map and the opportunities it offers Democrats; our tally of the Presidential primary debates audiences which finds the GOP far outperforming the Dems; the Democratic bench is stronger than it appears; Clinton should become a champion of political and electoral reform; thoughts on the "children of Reagan;" my in-depth interview with conservative author Matt Lewis on what the GOP can learn from a generation of reform and success on the center-left; my long form magazine piece on the descent of the GOP into a reactionary mess, anticipating the rise of Trump; Rob Shapiro on Trump's economic plan and the crackup of the GOP. 

"Monday Musings" is a new column which looks at the national political landscape and is published most Mondays here on the NDN site. You can find previous columns here. It also appears each week on the London-based progressive site, Left Foot Forward

Full disclosure: I am supporting Hillary Clinton for President, and have given the maximum contribution to her campaign. I am not, however, a consultant to, or paid by, any campaign or party committee.  

Report: Presidential Primary Debate Audiences

This memo looks at the audiences the Presidential Primary debates received in 2016 and 2008.  The Republicans have completed their full 12 debate schedule for the 2015-2016 cycle.  We now have the final numbers for the debate audiences for the Democrats and Republicans.  The top line analysis can be found below, and tables of the audiences of each debate which received ratings in both 2016 and 2008 can be found on pages 4 and 5 of the full memo, attached (at bottom).  More information about the debate over the 2016 debates can be found in our backgrounder (Updated on Wednesday 5/25/16).  

Summary 

2016, Republicans – 12 debates, 186.3m total viewers, 15.53m viewers per debate.   

2016, Democrats – 9 debates, 72.03m total viewers, 8m viewers per debate. 

2008, Republicans – 14 debates, 42.87m total viewers, 3.07m viewers per debate.

2008, Democrats – 16 debates, 75.22m total viewers, 4.7m viewers per debate (Dems had another 10 debates which were not rated, so total viewership was higher than 75.22m).

Key Findings

GOP Dramatically Outperforms Dems in 2016 and Rs in 2008 – In 2008, the 16 Democratic debates outperformed the 14 GOP debates by more than 53% per debate (4.7m per debate vs 3.07m).  In 2016, the 12 GOP debates have outperformed the 9 Democratic debates by a much larger margin, over 94% per debate (15.53m vs 8m).  It is a dramatic reversal. 

The 12 GOP debates have produced more than 5 times the audience per debate than their 14 debates produced in 2008, and almost 5 times the total audience.  The 9 DNC debates produced almost twice the audience per debate that the 2008 debates produced, but, in aggregate, produced a total audience 3 million less than the 2008 debates produced.  

Democratic Debate Schedule Struggles to Match 2008 – Despite very large audiences for the debates this cycle, the smaller number of Democratic debates (9 compared to 12 GOP in 2016 and 26 in 2008) means that the total audience of the Democratic debates in 2016 was 3 million less than the 2008 Democratic total, and 114m less than the 2016 GOP total.

DNC’s Original Debate Schedule Audience – The DNC’s original six debate schedule produced an audience of 48.4m.  After requests from many, including the Clinton and Sanders campaigns, the DNC added four debates on February 3rd.  The DNC also smartly brought in CNN to augment its PBS and Univision debates.  These improvements in the schedule brought an additional 24m viewers, 8m from the CNN re-broadcasts and 16m from the three additional debates conducted so far.  Augmenting the original schedule increased the overall Democratic debate audience by 50%. 

The Townhalls – While the audiences for the CNN town halls were not significant, the formats were.  Each of these programs gave viewers a window into the candidate the more rigid debate formats have not.  They have been an important innovation this cycle by the DNC, and in coming years should be given more prominence.  Our guess is if adequately promoted with more time, viewership for these town halls could be far more significant.  

 

Audience Per Debate

              

 

Total Audience

 

A Year of Opportunity for Democrats - Looking Ahead to the Fall Elections

Last week we took a deep dive on what Clinton and Trump have to do to put their parties back together after contentious primaries.  This week I look further forward, and offer an early take on what the landscape might be for this fall's election in an admittedly unpredictable year: 

Current Polls (all data from the Huffington Post Pollster aggregate) -

Party – Dems lead in Party ID 36/28, and in favorability 46/47 (minus 1) to the GOP’s 31/60 (minus 29), a substantial margin. Congress, which is controlled by the GOP, has a historically low approval rating of 14 (14/72).

The President/Party Leaders – President Obama’s job approval is 49/47, and his overall approval is 48/46. Vice President Biden’s approval is 47/37, and Bernie Sander is 51/40. On the other hand, there are no major GOP political figures with net positive approval ratings – Ryan is 32/39, Kasich is 36/39 and McConnell is 17/43.

Trump vs. Clinton – In the latest Huff Po aggregate, Clinton leads by 7 in direct head to heads with Trump, 47/40. Her approval rating, while low, is far better than Trump’s, 41/55 (minus 14) to 33/62 (minus 29).

The Issue Landscape – There isn’t an obvious opening on domestic issues for the Republicans this cycle. The economy is vastly improved from where it was, and should continue to do well through the fall. Annual deficits are a 1/3 of what they were. Health inflation has slowed, and tens of millions have insurance who didn’t have it before. Energy prices are low, and the US is making real progress is transitioning to a better energy future. On immigration, one of Mr. Trump’s signature issues, the country is with the Democrats, and not him. The basket of issues around “security” remain the GOP’s one obvious opening, with Obama at 39/48 in his handling of foreign policy, and the Secretary having some lingering issues from her time as Secretary of State. Expect a tremendous level of engagement from the GOP on “security” issues this year.

The Map – As we covered in previous posts (here and here), the map is particularly advantageous for Democrats this year. The significant overlap among the states/districts Democrats need to win for the President, Senate and House both allow Democrats to maximize a Presidential state advantage, and use efficiencies gained through coordinated efforts to go on offense in states like Arizona, California, Georgia, New York and North Carolina, Additionally, Trump’s hard line immigration approach will make Democratic success in states with heavily Hispanic populations like Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Virginia and perhaps even North Carolina more likely.

Expanding the map to more states and voters is also important for Democrats to not only ensure that they win, but that they can govern effectively. Due to low turnout and only a small number of targeted Presidential states, only about one in three of eligible voters cast their ballot for President Obama in 2012. By expanding the map, Democrats could get that number up, creating more buy-in from the American people, or the “consent of the governed” our founders intended. This extra level of support could make become meaningful in a closely divided Congress next year.

The Choice of Vice President – For Donald Trump there seems to be one really good pick – John Kasich – and lots of less helpful ones. Kasich brings delegates to wrap up the nomination quickly, has as good a favorable rating as any GOPer in the country, has deep governing experience to complement Trump’s inexperience, hails from the region of the country where Trump must win, and is the Governor of the state where the GOP Convention is taking place. Kasich’s standing inside the Party will grow for “taking one for the team” by joining the ticket. I just don’t see how this doesn’t happen.

As for the Democrats, my money is still on Tim Kaine of Virginia. He is a former Party chair, governor and is deeply respected by people on both sides of the aisle. He hails from a swing state, speaks fluent Spanish, is Catholic (Rustbelt, Hispanics) and reinforces the “steady hand on the rudder” sensibility that will likely be a core Democratic offering this year. There are other good choices out there – Cory Booker, Julian Castro, Mark Warner, Elizabeth Warren, etc – but I think Kaine just feels like the right choice for this race at this time.

Looking Ahead – Six months out, signs point to this being a year of significant opportunity for the Democrats. The playing field leans Democratic right now, and the map is particularly advantageous to Democrats this year. The Party’s leaders are well liked, and it has a strong track record of success in each of the last two Presidencies and in winning national elections. Taken together, all of this gives the Democrats a formidable advantage against an unpopular GOP without well regarded leaders and very little to show for their time in power over the past generation.

While the basic structure of the race favors Secretary Clinton, Trump is only 7 points behind at this point. Clinton’s high negatives will give Trump an opportunity to make his case. His even higher negatives and lack of a true campaign at this stage of the race are enormous liabilities for him, ones that will make it very hard for him to turn this into a competitive race in the months ahead. But expect very aggressive attacks around the “security” theme (note 1st major policy speech was on foreign policy), and on her honesty and overall leadership capabilities. Also expect the GOP to come together rapidly around Trump in the months to come, as on may of the major issues – tax cuts, climate denial, Obamacare repeal, hard line immigration policies, interventionist/jingoistic foreign policy – is very much a mainstream Republican.  While Trump appears weak today, he has been over-performing expectations for almost a year now, and cannot be written off.

While perhaps playing defense on “security” issues and her own record, there is a real opportunity for the Secretary to go on offense as the next CEO of a party with well liked leaders and a strong track record of success now in two Presidencies. It would be wise for the Clinton campaign to spend the time through the July Convention leading a national effort to tell the story of Democratic governing success (jobs, deficit, health care, energy/climate, equal opportunity for all, political reform, safer world), establishing the basic contrast of D progress/R decline prior to rolling out her closing argument and shifting the focus to her candidacy at the Convention itself.  Helping the Democrats understand and own their own success will make every Democrat stronger up no matter where they are on the ticket.

It will also be remarkable to see a very popular set of Democratic leaders – Biden, Bill Clinton, both Obamas, Sanders, the VP – standing alongside and campaigning with Secretary Clinton in the months ahead. That image of a powerful team lead by an experienced leader (and first woman!) will not be easily answered by an unpopular, isolated Trump and a deeply unpopular Party without a single national leader with net positive favorability ratings. An unprecedented “Democratic Team” that includes two former Presidents could end up being an extraordinary advantage for her this fall.

To address her weakness with Millennials, Clinton would be wise to do two things: 1) showcase younger, compelling leaders like Cory Booker, Tulsi Gabbard, Kamala Harris, Gavin Newsom, Joe Kennedy at the Convention, giving them outsized and very public roles, and showcasing them thru post-broadcast media and forums; 2) adopt a far reaching plan to renew our democracy and reform our politics, along the lines of something I published last week. Whatever the Clinton plan is for bringing along the Sanders world, particularly Millennials, it must be an aggressive and serious effort, and should begin right away.

Conclusion – All signs point to it being a year of opportunity for Democrats.  Though Trump should not be underestimated, the hole he and his party have dug for themselves is very deep.  It remains to seen if they can make the fall election competitive. 

More on the 2016 Election - Be sure to review our deep dive on the 2016 map and the opportunities it offers Democrats; our tally of the Presidential primary debates audiences which finds the GOP far outperforming the Dems; the Democratic bench is stronger than it appears; Clinton should become a champion of political and electoral reform; thoughts on the "children of Reagan;" my in-depth interview with conservative author Matt Lewis on what the GOP can learn from a generation of reform and success on the center-left; my long form magazine piece on the descent of the GOP into a reactionary mess, anticipating the rise of Trump; Rob Shapiro on Trump's economic plan and the crackup of the GOP. 

"Monday Musings" is a new column which looks at the national political landscape and is published most Mondays here on the NDN site. You can find previous columns here. It also appears each week on the London-based progressive site, Left Foot Forward

Full disclosure: I am supporting Hillary Clinton for President, and have given the maximum contribution to her campaign. I am not, however, a consultant to, or paid by, any campaign or party committee.

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