Trump

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: Trump's Worrisome Embrace of Global Petro-Politics

US News and World Report has published Simon's eighth column, " The Pernicious Politics of Oil - On Trump's embrace of petro-politics," in his weekly Op-Ed series that will every Thursday or Friday through the end of the year.

Be sure to also read his recent column, "Rediscovering the Democrats' North Star," in which Simon offers some thoughts on the arduous path ahead for Democrats.  He calls for a focus on four issues now: prosperity, security, political reform and being for everyone.  

An Excerpt from "The Pernicious Politics of Oil - On Trump's Embrace of Petro-Politics"

For all the sense of fear and dread about the state of the world today, America and its allies do not have a significant global ideological rival as we did with Communism and Fascism in the 20th century. Most of the world is in the American-led global trading system; most of the world has signed on to the Paris climate accords; most of the world still works through the forum of the United Nations to at least discuss and debate contemporary issues.

Yes, this system is fraying. It isn't perfect, and there are outliers and insurgencies, like the Islamic State group. But there is one looming threat that if not contained could continue to grow into something existential and truly threatening – the pernicious politics of oil.

There are three parts to this rising threat. First, climate change. In addition to the promise of the Paris climate accords and the many other steps large and small governments and communities are taking around the world, clean energy investments appear to be hitting an early critical mass, suggesting private sector innovation will play an ever more meaningful, and perhaps historic, role in addressing the challenge. More must be done here, of course, and rapidly, but the Obama years have created a global momentum that I think is unstoppable. Or so I hope. (Note I am an advocate for more domestic fossil fuel production and a supporter of fracking, but also believe in the necessity to accelerate our transition to more sustainable and distributed sources of energy. See this terrific new Atlantic piece from Ron Brownstein on the role fossil fuel production played in the 2016 presidential election.)

Second, the oil curse. What the world has learned is that far too often countries with large oil and gas holdings fall prey to authoritarianism and oligarchical capitalism. There is a traditional political economy reason for this: The revenues generated for the government through oil production frees politicians from their dependence on taxpayer dollars and thus voters themselves. The wealth created through traditional free market capitalism, innovation and bottom up entrepreneurship isn't needed to generate the wealth of the nation or an unaccountable small ruling class. In the process, the state becomes much more powerful vis a vis its own people, and democratic institutions and norms are weakened or struggle to develop. Think of Russia, Iran, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia as prime examples.

These petro-economies are in the most extreme a different form of societal organization – maybe a rival? – than free market democracies. They are oligarchical and "command and control" in structure, the opposite of the bottom up, people-led vision of a good society imagined by our Founding Fathers and championed globally by the West since World War II. These countries are less invested in the instruments of the modern free market system, and while they make money off of it, the more it becomes a global success the more of an ideological threat it becomes to their control over their own people – particularly in an age when it is far harder to control the information to which their people have access to.

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

Trouble Ahead: 4 Scandals That Could Rock The Trump Presidency

US News and World Report has published Simon's sixth column, "Trouble Ahead," in his weekly Op-Ed series that will every Thursday or Friday through the end of the year.

Be sure to also read his recent column, "The West Is On the Ballot," in which 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.

An Excerpt from "Trouble Ahead"

Democrats just spent an entire election cycle worrying that a lingering scandal could at any moment do significant, crippling damage to their presidential candidate. And in the end, we were right to be worried.

As someone who just went through this on the Democratic side, I have a message for my buoyant Republicans friends: You have far more to be worried about with President-elect Donald Trump than we ever did with Hillary Clinton. Consider that in just the few weeks since the election, Trump payed $25 million in a legal settlement to thousands of Americans whom he scammed and ripped off; he admitted to illegally using his foundation, which is subsidized by American taxpayers, for personal gain; he appeared to use discussions with foreign leaders to advance his business interests (here and here); and his newly-opened luxury hotel in Washington has rapidly become a potent symbol of the unprecedented legal and ethical challenges the president-elect's global business interests will present.

I'm pretty sure we've ever seen anything like this in modern American history.

But this is just the beginning, and there is certainly more to come. It is my take that there are at least four potential game-changing set of scandals that could alter the course of the Trump Presidency.

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

The Russian Intervention In The US Election Matters

The rise of Trump certainly gives our community much to be concerned about. But as I sit here in DC thinking about what NDN can and should do in the months ahead, I keep coming back to one thing – the Russian intervention in our election. Our government simply owes the American people a clear explanation for what happened, or at least a more transparent process to help us get one, soon.

A new, alarming Washington Post piece from over the break reminded us how extensive the Russian operation was, and how seemingly ill-equipped we were to counter it. There are so many pieces to put together here – the extent of the penetration into the Democratic Party and Clinton campaign; the many ties of the Trump campaign to Russia, something that the FBI is reportedly investigating; the active encouragement of the Russian actions by the GOP nominee and the Republican Party itself, and the precedent setting decision by Party leadership to actively use the questionable material in the campaign; the question of whether there was any actual tampering with our elections process, and the coming to terms with the massive, successful disinformation efforts by the Russians that are now well documented.

For some I am sure this all sounds like a bad James Bond movie. But it is clear now that a foreign hostile power played a major role in a US election, one significant enough to have potentially influenced the outcome. All of our leaders in Washington should be asked to step up here and work together to come to an understanding about what happened, and take concrete, publicly understood steps to ensure it never happens again. This is particularly true, as I wrote in a recent US News column, because the intervention here is part of a wide ranging Russian campaign to weaken the West and a global politics that resists authoritarianism.

It is possible the Russian intervention in our election this year was one of the most significant events in modern American history. While there are many things our leaders can and should be focusing on in the coming year, getting to a better understanding of what happened here has to be at the top of the list. It won’t be easy, and hard conversations will have to be had. The new governing party’s resistance is likely to be fierce. On this one, however, we need to be Americans and patriots first, partisans second. Our leaders need to lead and help America, and the world, understand what happened and to offer clear concrete steps to ensure it never happens again.

Related Materials

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.

A New Generation Of Democrats Will Have To Rise

As background, NDN produced a post-election memo in 2014, “A Wake Up Call For Democrats” which covers some of the ground in the memo below. The original version of this memo was published on the Wednesday after the election, and has been updated.  You can also find our thoughts in a series of post-election articles in Time, TNR, the Washington Post and others sources, and in this new US News op-ed, "Rediscovering the Democrats' North Star."

Clinton wins more votes, Dems gain in Senate and House – Yes, a bit spinny given the outcome, but true. Trump has won the Presidency, getting fewer votes than Clinton and winning his big 4 states - FL, MI, PA, WI - by less than 1.5%.  What is remarkable is that Democrats have now won more votes in 6 of past 7 Presidential elections, one of the best runs for a political party in US history and yet have very little to show for it.  In the exits last night Democrats had meaningful advantages in Party ID and favorability, and Barack Obama had a 53/45 approval rating. A plurality of voters even said they were better off than they were four years ago.

The GOP, a party that has won more votes in a national election only once since 1988, amazingly has more power today in Washington than any time since 1928.  That our system could produce this outcome is one of the things that makes America exceptional.

The exits confirm that last night was not a repudiation of the Democratic Party’s agenda, or a significant affirmation of the direction Trump wants to take the country:

-48% said Obamacare was just right or didn’t go far enough, 47% said too far
-70% said illegal immigrants should stay, 25% said deport
-41% approve of building the wall, 54% say no
-48% said criminal justice system treats blacks unfairly, 43% fairly
-31% say they are better off today, 27% worse off, 49% same

Even on the issue of global trade, 42% said trade takes away jobs, 38% said creates jobs.

So what this means in practical terms is that it is hard for Trump and the Republicans to claim a clear mandate. They have only won one more votes in a national election once since 1988, and will have to work hard in the coming months to build majority support for their agenda.

Dems Need A Big Discussion About Turnout, Our Coalition – Democrats need to have a robust debate about why we’ve had such a hard time replicating Obama’s success with the majority coalition he built in 2010, 2014 and again in 2016. No doubt that the Trump campaign impressively outperformed expectations in most national polls. But an early and quick read on the data suggests that once again the Democrats did not meet their targets with their own voters – and in this race resources were not an issue. More on this issue in future memos.

Younger Americans Are Much More Democratic – Using the national exit polls, voters under 45 went for Clinton 53% to 39%, and those 45 and over went for Trump 52% to 44%. 56% of the electorate was 45 and over, 44% under 45. Maximizing the under 45 vote – people who came of age after Reagan’s Presidency – remains one of the highest demographic priorities for Democrats. Not sure what it means yet, but the 4 states that cost Clinton the election last night – FL, MI, PA, WI – have very low %s of Millennials compared to other states.

For more on Millennials and the youth vote, see our new report on Millennials, this excellent post-election report from Tufts/Tisch/CIRCLE, and Democracy Corp's election night survey showing the Millennial share of the electorate grew from 19% in 2012 to a remarkable 29% in 2016. 

Huge Mistakes By Clinton Campaign - It is hard to escape the conclusion that the Clinton campaign both badly misread the election in the final months, and made terrible decisions about the allocation of its campaign resources and candidate time.  This new article by Sam Stein in the Huffington Post captures the failures in Michigan and Wisconsin.  But it goes deeper than just those two states. Discussions have to be had about huge overinvestments in IA, NC and OH, and whether AZ should have been a prime target general election target from June on.  As of 11/20, Clinton's margin in AZ is only 3.6%, better than the Democratic performance in IA, NC and OH (see our new memo on AZ, and the strong showing for Dems in CA and TX too).  Politico just published a new report on how the Clinton campaign blew Michigan - and it is tough reading.  And then there is the question of Trump's far more aggressive general election campaign schedule, something that no doubt made a difference in a very close race. 

Given the financial advantages and unified party behind the campaign, the team running Clintonworld will have to explain to the rest of us about what appears to be fatal misjudgements in the general election. 

Thanks Comey! – According to the exits, of the 26% of people who made up their minds in the last month, Trump won them 49%-39% (yes during the period of the debates, the Access Hollywood video). Of the 73% who made up their minds before the last month, Clinton won 51%-46%. Very hard to not conclude from this data that the Comey intervention in the election was consequential.

Not sure all of us have yet processed the unprecedented intervention of a foreign government and the FBI in this election. With Rs in charge of Congress and the White House, will be hard to have this conversation next year but it is a conversation that needs having. 

Political Reform – Given the obvious concerns about a “rigged” system that no longer works for everyday people, why Hillary Clinton never developed a serious conversation around reforming our politics remains one of the great mysteries of the 2016 election. See my piece from December, 2012 about why political reform had to become central to the politics of the center-left in the years ahead. 

A New Generation of Democrats Will Have to Lead Now – The Obama Presidency and the 24 years of leadership provided by Bill and Hillary Clinton will now yield to a new era for the Democratic Party. Surveying the landscape – Schumer, Kaine, Booker, Sanders, Warren, Becerra, Michael Bennett, Kamala Harris, Gavin Newsom, Joe Kennedy, the Castros, Tulsi Gabbard, etc – Democrats have a very promising set of leaders capable of carrying the Party forward.

Democrats will also have to become far more purposeful about preparing for the generational handoff from Boomer generation politicians to younger ones. The Democratic Party is a young, diverse and growing party. Its future success will depend on advancing leaders who can connect with and excite these voters. 

Big questions now about what the Obamas do, and the role they play in what comes next.

Folks Should Be Careful About Calling This A Change Election – While there is clear evidence “change” was something people sought, the country is neither as angry or disquieted as some have been suggesting. Let’s go through some data here. Incomes have been going up for four years. 2015 saw the largest income gains for American workers in the recorded economic history of the United States. The unemployment rate is under 5%. Violent crime, the killings of Americans by terrorists and the killing of police are all at rates far lower than during the Bush Administration. The uninsured rate is at historic lows. Heath inflation, the biggest driver of the deficit, has been lower this decade than in a generation. Energy prices are low, America has become a net energy exporter, and the growth of renewables is exploding. The net flow of unauthorized immigrants into the US has gone from 400,000 a year under Bush to zero today, while trade with Mexico has more than doubled.

And public opinion confirms this. In a recent Gallup poll 62% of Americans said things are getting better. 53% of Americans report that things are good in a recent CNN poll. President Obama’s approval rating is in the mid to high 50s, the highest mark of his second term and higher than President Reagan at the end of his Presidency. A recent Bloomberg poll found only 28% of Americans saying that since Obama’s election they are worse off, with 21% saying things are the same and 49% better. While the exits last night found fewer people saying better off, the number saying worse off was about the same – 27%.  And in the exits, 37% said the next generation will be better off, 34% said worse.  This simply isn't rebellion level numbers folks. 

The exits also asked a direct question – which candidate quality mattered most? 39% said “can bring change,” and they went 83% to 14% for Trump. This is a plurality, not a majority. 

This is not to say that we don’t have challenges, or that that there isn’t disquiet in the American electorate. But it is not a majority sentiment of the public at large, and was not even close to being a majority sentiment of those who voted last night. But it is a majority sentiment of Republican voters as this party break out of recent CNN data suggests:

Source: CNN/ORC poll data from September 1-4, 2016. According to this CNN/ORC poll, 53 percent of Americans believe economic conditions in the US are good. The question asked in the survey was: “How would you rate the economic conditions in the country today -- as very good, somewhat good, somewhat poor, or very poor?” See our recent report, “America Is Better Off And Safer Today” for citations for the data in this section.

Memo: A New Generation of Democrats Will Have To Rise – Our 2016 Post Election Memo

As background, NDN produced a post-election memo in 2014, “A Wake Up Call For Democrats” which covers some of the ground in the memo below. This memo was written quickly, and we intend to update it in the coming days.

Clinton wins more votes, Dems gain in Senate and House – Yes, a bit spinny given the outcome, but true. What is remarkable is that Democrats have now won more votes in 6 of past 7 Presidential elections, one of the best runs for a political party in US history. In the exits last night Democrats had meaningful advantages in Party ID and favorability, and Barack Obama had a 53/45 approval rating. A plurality of voters even said they were better off than they were four years ago. What remains exceptional about America today is that we are the only country in the world where if you win more votes you don’t necessarily gain control over the government and legislature. The GOP, a party that has won more votes in a national election only once since 1988 remarkably has more power today in Washington than any time since 1928.

The exits confirm that last night was not a repudiation of the Democratic Party’s agenda, or a significant affirmation of the direction Trump wants to take the country:

-48% said Obamacare was just right or didn’t go far enough, 47% said too far
-70% said illegal immigrants should stay, 25% said deport
-41% approve of building the wall, 54% say no
-48% said criminal justice system treats blacks unfairly, 43% fairly
-31% say they are better off today, 27% worse off, 49% same
-37% say next generation will be better off, 34% said worse

Even on the issue of global trade, 42% said trade takes away jobs, 38% said creates jobs.

So what this means in practical terms is that it is hard for Trump and the Republicans to claim a clear mandate. They have only won one more votes in a national election once since 1988, and will have to work hard in the coming months to build majority support for their agenda.

Dems Need A Big Discussion About Turnout, Our Coalition – Democrats need to have a robust debate about why we’ve had such a hard time replicating Obama’s success with the majority coalition he built in 2010, 2014 and again in 2016. No doubt that the Trump campaign impressively outperformed expectations in most national polls. But an early and quick read on the data suggests that once again the Democrats did not meet their targets with their own voters – and in this race resources were not an issue. More on this issue in future memos.

Younger Americans Are Much More Democratic – Using the exits, voters under 45 went for Clinton 52% to 40%, and those 45 and over went for Trump 53% to 44%. 56% of the electorate was 45 and over, 44% under 45. Maximizing the under 45 vote – people who came of age after Reagan’s Presidency – remains one of the highest demographic priorities for Democrats. Not sure what it means yet, but the 4 states that cost Clinton the election last night – FL, MI, PA, WI – have very low %s of Millennials compared to other states.

A New Generation of Democrats Will Have to Lead Now – The Obama Presidency and the 24 years of leadership provided by Bill and Hillary Clinton will now yield to a new era for the Democratic Party. Surveying the landscape – Schumer, Kaine, Booker, Sanders, Warren, Becerra, Michael Bennett, Kamala Harris, Gavin Newsom, the Castros, Tulsi Gabbard, etc – Democrats have a very promising set of leaders capable of carrying the Party forward.

Democrats will also have to become far more purposeful about preparing for the generational handoff from Boomer generation politicians to younger ones. The Democratic Party is a young, diverse and growing party. Its future success will depend on advancing leaders who can connect with and excite these voters.
Big questions now about what the Obamas do, and the role they play in what comes next.

Thanks Comey! – According to the exits, of the 26% of people who made up their minds in the last month, Trump won them 49%-39% (yes during the period of the debates, the Access Hollywood video). Of the 73% who made up their minds before the last month, Clinton won 51%-46%. Very hard to not conclude from this data that the Comey intervention in the election was consequential.

Not sure all of us have yet processed the unprecedented intervention of a foreign government and the FBI in this election. With Rs in charge of Congress and the White House, will be hard to have this conversation next year but it is a conversation that needs having.

Political Reform – Given the obvious concerns about a “rigged” system that no longer works for everyday people, why Hillary Clinton never developed a serious conversation around reforming our politics remains one of the great mysteries of the 2016 election.

Folks Should Be Careful About Calling This A Change Election – While there is clear evidence “change” was something people sought, the country is neither as angry or disquieted as some have been suggesting. Let’s go through some data here. Incomes have been going up for four years. 2015 saw the largest income gains for American workers in the recorded economic history of the United States. The unemployment rate is under 5%. Violent crime, the killings of Americans by terrorists and the killing of police are all at rates far lower than during the Bush Administration. The uninsured rate is at historic lows. Heath inflation, the biggest driver of the deficit, has been lower this decade than in a generation. Energy prices are low, America has become a net energy exporter, and the growth of renewables is exploding. The net flow of unauthorized immigrants into the US has gone from 400,000 a year under Bush to zero today, while trade with Mexico has more than doubled.

And public opinion confirms this. In a recent Gallup poll 62% of Americans said things are getting better. 53% of Americans report that things are good in a recent CNN poll. President Obama’s approval rating is in the mid to high 50s, the highest mark of his second term and higher than President Reagan at the end of his Presidency. A recent Bloomberg poll found only 28% of Americans since Obama’s election they are worse off, with 21% saying things are the same and 49% better. While the exits last night found fewer people saying better off, the number saying worse off was about the same – 27%.

The exits also asked a direct question – which candidate quality mattered most? 39% said “can bring change,” and they went 83% to 14% for Trump. This is a plurality, not a majority.

This is not to say that we don’t have challenges, or that that there isn’t disquiet in the American electorate. But it is not a majority sentiment of the public at large, and was not even close to being a majority sentiment of those who voted last night. But it is a majority sentiment of Republican voters as this party break out of recent CNN data suggests:

Source: CNN/ORC poll data from September 1-4, 2016. According to this CNN/ORC poll, 53 percent of Americans believe economic conditions in the US are good. The question asked in the survey was: “How would you rate the economic conditions in the country today -- as very good, somewhat good, somewhat poor, or very poor?” See our recent report, “America Is Better Off And Safer Today” for citations for the data in this section.

My 2016 Predictions

Each year The Hill newspaper invites some of us to make our predictions.  Here is what I just sent to them this morning: 

Presidential - Clinton wins 50-45, 334-204 in the Electoral College.  Our next President wins all the battleground states except GA, IA and OH. 

Senate - Democrats win the Senate, 50-50. 

House - Democrats pick up 15 seats in the House.

Short Analysis - W/2016 win, Dems will have won more votes in 6 of past 7 Presidential elections, among strongest showings by US political party in history.  Strength, success, achievement of modern Democratic Party underappreciated.  Problems with emerging electorate, esp. Hispanics and Millennials, so significant now they represent possible existential threat to GOP.  Watch Texas Tuesday night – higher % of Millennials & Hispanics than CA.  With Clinton’s convincing win and gridlock fatigue, will be hard for GOP to repeated Obama era level of obstruction.   Big conversation needed about Russian intervention in election, ways to prevent in future. 

Am honored to be the only two time winner of the Hill contest.  With HRC's strong showing, could be a threepeat!

Column: Thoughts on the New Democratic Coalition (esp Hispanics/Millennials)

“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".

Column: Clinton Expands The Map, Trump's Worrisome Embrace of Putin

“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.

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