Monday Morning Open Thread: Once More Unto the Breach

Any readers in the DC area know about this?

Apart from #Resisting, what’s on the agenda as we start the new week?
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Open Thread: It’s A Million-to-One Chance, But It Just Might Work!

But srsly, Alex Pareene’s got an eye for the Next Big Trend, which gives me hope:

The American right is awash in money. A huge amount of right-wing donor money—much more than many reputable liberal activist and advocacy groups ever see—goes to grifters solely out to enrich themselves, and the movement still always has more than enough left over to fund campaigns at every level of government. The right has more money to spend on electing conservatives than it can efficiently spend. You don’t raise and spend thousands of dollars on college student government campaigns unless you don’t have a more urgent use for that money…

Here’s a fun question to ask the internet if you want to start an endless argument: What should we want Hillary Clinton to do with herself now, exactly? Regardless of whether you voted for her enthusiastically, reluctantly, or not at all, we must all acknowledge that she will continue to exist in this world for the foreseeable future, and, hence, will have do do something.

One thing rich people love to do is give the Clintons money. Rich people enjoy giving the Clintons money almost as much as they enjoy eating expensive versions of traditional street foods, and causing measles outbreaks. The liberal donor class and the not-that-liberal-but-likes-to-donate class love writing checks to Bill and Hillary Clinton, and increasingly also Chelsea too. The Clinton Foundation was the ultimate proof of that fact.

The good news is, this seems to be what Hillary Clinton has decided to do. Last month, she launched “Onward Together,” her new political nonprofit that will reportedly act not as a launching pad for a future Clinton campaign but as a group dedicated to aiding existing activist groups. The Politico reported just prior to the group’s launch: “The new organization is not expected to have a large staff, but will instead focus on sending money to other organizations at a time that Democratic donors are largely unsure about how they should be spending their cash.”

If accurate, this is exactly what we (pretty broadly defined) should want from Clinton in the Trump era.

The Clintons are a safe “brand” for wealthy donors who don’t want to get their hands dirty doing liberal politics. Donors who do want to do liberal politics are frequently attracted to big shiny races—the presidency, Virginia governor—and neglect state legislatures, House races in far-flung districts, and groups doing on-the-ground organizing throughout the country. A Clinton organization that can act as a clearinghouse for big donor money, and that distributes that money to organizations doing good work, is an eminently sensible idea. With the exception of a handful of mega-donors who determine the course of the movement, conservatives largely have experienced political operatives steer their donors’ money wherever it’s most needed (while taking a hefty cut for themselves and their friends, obviously). It has been, as we can all see, a successful model…

The nice thing is, letting rich donors give their money to the Clintons, to give away as they see fit, doesn’t have to come with any downside for anyone. It does not preclude other fundraising strategies: There is room for the individual, small donor-funded grassroots campaign as well as the giant hose of dark money aimed at every conceivably winnable race. The Democrats will clearly need both…



Saturday Morning Open Thread: Restore the Vote

On the eve of the four-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down key parts of the VRA, Rep. Terri Sewell, D-AL, told a crowd of voting rights advocates and supporters gathered on Capitol Hill that it is time to “restore the promise of voter equality.”

“Today, I’m introducing the Voting Rights Advancement Act because I believe that the right to vote is one of the most fundamental rights in our democracy,” Sewell said. “As state after state create new barriers to the polls, our work to prevent discrimination and protect the rights of all voters has taken on a new urgency. The time to restore the vote is now.”

The Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA) aims to modernize Section 4 of the VRA that the Supreme Court ruled in Shelby County v. Holder was outdated on June 25, 2013. Under the new act, local and state governments with a history of voter discrimination from the past 25 years would have to obtain federal approval before making changes to voting policies or procedures.

These states would include: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

The bill has 180 Democratic co-sponsors, but has yet to garner support from across the aisle. Without it, the bill cannot forward in the Republican-controlled chamber.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, while calling on her GOP colleagues to make it a bipartisan measure, said the bill “will be introduced on the very first day” Democrats regain control of the House in 2018.

“We want people to understand they have the right to vote and their vote will be counted and counted as cast. Many people sacrificed so much for the right to vote in our country,” Pelosi said. “You have our commitment that this will become the law when we become the majority and we want it to become the law even before then.”….

Apart from fighting onward, what’s on the agenda for the day?



Paul Ryan Has A Challenger: Randy “Ironstache” Bryce

DougJ shared Bryce’s now-famous campaign ad earlier this week, though not in a prime time slot. There’s been a rash of news reports since then, but the best I’ve seen is from Mike Elk’s Payday Report:

RACINE, WISCONSIN – Despite his 6’2 frame, the half-Mexican, half-Polish Army veteran known as the “@IronStache” on Twitter is the epitome of a gentle giant. Holding a beef brisket sandwich in his hand, he hugs, back slaps, and laughs his way through the crowd at the Juneteenth parade on the lakefront of Racine.

“I’m running for Congress against Paul Ryan,” ironworker Randy Bryce struggles to tell an African American woman over the noise of a gospel choir singing on the stage behind them.

Ryan, the Speaker of the House and a former vice presidential candidate, has more than $8 million in the bank for his re-election bid. By contrast, Bryce is a rank and file ironworker activist who has built some of Southeast Wisconsin’s best-known landmarks, including Milwaukee’s Miller Park and the landmark Northwestern Mutual Building.

However, it’s not an entirely uphill battle. Ryan’s district includes the pro-union bastions of Racine and Kenosha, as well as the suburban Milwaukee Republican stronghold of Waukesha. According to the Cook Political Report, the district is only 5 points more Republican than Democratic. If 2018 turns out to be a wave election year, some think Ryan could be defeated by a candidate like Bryce in such a marginal swing district…

“People know that the system is rigged and something has to be done, and Donald Trump took advantage of that,” says SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin’s Bruce Coburn, who serves as the union’s Vice President for Politics and Growth. “Randy, though, is someone who really believes in people and has shown it in all the years he has been in the labor movement.”

I first got to know Randy through the #wiunion hashtag during the Occupation of Wisconsin Capitol in 2011, and since then we have become personal friends. Bryce was part of the tens of thousands who occupied the Capitol in order to stop Scott Walker’s anti-union agenda.

Bryce sips Limeaid in the living room of his small two bedroom apartment outside of Racine as he recalls that battle.

“Walker’s strategy was to divide and conquer,” Bryce says. “His strategy was pointing out people and saying they are being the reason that the others didn’t have it as good as they possibly could. Now that’s being taken to the national level with Donald Trump.”…

If elected to Congress, he sees his role there as being more of a shop steward than a politician, and that he aims to run a campaign that amplifies the voices of others. “For an African American woman, there is no possible way that I can put myself into that woman’s frame of mind, the struggles she faces on a daily basis,” Bryce says. “I could do something to pretend, but I can’t experience it myself, so I need to rely on other people.”…



Wednesday Morning Open Thread: Happy Solstice!

Summer solstice, for most Balloon-Juice readers. Today’s Google doodle will strike a chord for all of us who’ve ever resented the extrovert’s Such a lovely day — put down that book and come outside to enjoy it! (Those of you in the Southern Hemisphere get a different version of your own.)

Thoughts & prayers (seriously) to those of you in the Southwest bearing the triple-digit brunt of that “scientific hoax” known as climate change!

Apart from that, what’s on the agenda for the day?

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Couple quick notes on last night’s GA-6 race. Josh Marshall, at TPM:

This is a big disappointment. But remember, by any objective measure these races show a Democratic party resurgent and a GOP on the ropes. These seats came open because they were vacated by people Trump picked for cabinet appointments. They got those picks because they came from safe seats. They are by no means a cross section of House seats. The thing to do is learn what we can from coming up just short and move on to the next fight. No one should expect any of this to be easy. If you do, bow out of civic questions and just watch movies and TV. We need people with more endurance.

Ed Kilgore, in NYMag:

Democrats searching for a silver lining in the Georgia race don’t have to look too far. This is the third consecutive special election (the fourth if you count South Carolina) in a historically Republican district where the Democratic percentage of the vote jumped sharply. Democrats will surely retake the House if the swing in their direction is similarly strong in 2018. In retrospect, ironically, tonight’s results may inspire new respect for Hillary Clinton’s performance–when she came within a point of Donald Trump in this district last November — and provide some new data points for doing well in GOP-leaning districts that resemble GA-06 with its highly educated population.

As a long-time Georgian, I would add that in my experience Georgia Democrats don’t much show up to vote in special elections, or runoffs, much less special election runoffs. That so many did in this election was a minor miracle…



Tuesday Evening Open Thread: No Pressure, Though, Mr. Ossoff…

Here’s the thing, though: Sometimes dumb things matter if everyone agrees that they matter. Congressional Republicans could use a signal of any kind right now to coordinate their strategy around two vexing issues: first, their health care bill, and second, their behavior toward President Trump and the investigations surrounding him. Whatever direction Republicans take on these questions, they will find some degree of strength in numbers. Republicans would probably be less afraid of publicly rebuking Trump, for instance — and becoming the subject of a @realDonaldTrump tweetstorm or Trump-backed primary challenge — if other GOPers were doing the same.

The Georgia 6 outcome might trigger some herd behavior among Republicans, therefore, changing the political environment in the weeks and months ahead. A loss for Handel would probably be interpreted by the GOP as a sign that the status quo wasn’t working. If even a few members of Congress began taking the exit ramp on Trump and the American Health Care Act, a number of others might follow. A win, conversely, would have a morale-boosting effect; Republicans would probably tell themselves that they could preserve their congressional majorities by turning out their base, even if some swing voters had abandoned them…

In either case, the narrative that emerges from the Georgia 6 runoff will lack nuance and will oversimplify complex evidence. While special elections overall are a reasonably useful indicator in forecasting upcoming midterms, their power comes in numbers. A half-dozen special elections taken together are a useful sign; any one of them is less so. But we’re at a moment when Republicans have a lot of decisions to make now, and the story they tell themselves about the political environment matters as much as the reality of it. The narrative will probably be dumb, but it might matter all the same.

Gonna be a long night for the results-watchers, regardless.

Apart from that, what’s on the agenda for the evening?



David Brooks Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

One sentence from today’s column that captures the pure, distilled essence of the alt-hack that is our BoBo:

And yet it has to be confessed that, at least so far, the Whitewater scandal was far more substantive than the Russia-collusion scandal now gripping Washington.

It’s all there.

The disembodied passive voice to give pulled-from-the-ass opinion the aura of ex-cathedra authority:  “it has to be confessed…” Oh yeah? Says who?

The careful weasel phrase, a scurrying for plausible deniability when this infallible dictum falls prey to fact:  “at least so far…”

The statement, presented as general consensus, that is, in fact, false:  “Whitewater…was far more substantial than…’ anything at all is simply false, and Brooks himself was both a driver of that falsehood and was and is perfectly positioned to know better than what he writes here.

The Whitewater “scandal,” as just about every non-interested party now knows, was a steaming heap of bullshit, ginned up by Republican operatives (Ted Olson!) in an attempt to damage the Clintons and the Democratic Party.

Brooks reminds his reader that he was the op-ed editor of The Wall Street Journal at the time his page was running piece after piece about the scandal that he claims was substantive — and yet, in (again) classic BoBo self-protective weasel writing, now writes “I confess I couldn’t follow all the actual allegations made in those essays…”

In other words, don’t blame him if his paper and his page retailed great steaming heaps of bullshit that as he now writes, “in retrospect Whitewater seems overblown….” (Note again the tactical use of the grammar that evades responsibility, that subjunctive “seems.”  Translation: my paper on my watch spread bullshit for partisan ends, and but all that can be said (see what I did there) is that the outcome of our work “seems” … not so great.  Nice obfuscation if you can get (away with) it.) (Yes. I like parentheses. Sue me.)

Where was I?  Oh yeah:  don’t contemn Brooks for that overblown false scandal, but take his word for it that that steaming heap of bullshit was nonetheless more real than the Russian allegations.

Oh?

No.

I don’t think I have to go into detail for this crowd about the depth and range of the Trump-Russia nexus. It may be that Brooks is trying to be clever here, and define the scandal purely as a question of whether Trump himself (and or his campaign) directly conspired with agents of Putin’s government to affect the election.

That would make that sentence yet more carefully parsed to give him cover as things like money laundering and influence peddling details accumulate.  In that, we may be seeing a preview of the approach Republican opinion-framers will attempt later on: Trump’s corrupt, but not a traitor.  But even allowing for such fine dissection of the growing scandal, there’s plenty of confirmed evidence of interaction between Trump’s campaign and significant Russian folks (see, e.g., Sessions and Kislyak).  In other words: Whitewater ended as it began with no evidence of Clinton wrongdoing.  Trump-Russia already has on public record significant and troubling revelations.

There’s a pattern here. The New York Times has given prime opinion acreage to now two partisan hack/WSJ refugees in Brooks and Bret Stephens. Both employ a more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger voice to construct in the language of rueful reason narratives that directly bolster Republican positions and personalities. Both use that seeming reasonableness, the above-the-fray tone of impartial and unchallenged judgment, to say things that are clearly not true.  Those lies directly undercut reporting happening within the Grey Lady’s newsroom put out.  Op-ed editor Bennett, executive editor Baquet and publisher Sulzberger are all OK with that, it seems.

David Brooks tells plausible falsehoods in defense of some of the worst people in the history of American politics. The Times lets him; more, it has done so for decades promoting a career hack/flack to a position of influence far beyond anything his lack of rigor and intellectual dishonesty should ever have earned.

This is a big problem.

Update: I just trashed a comment on how Brook’ wife  should interact with his wife. Using the term the comment did for a woman one may dislike or disapprove of is unacceptable, for all the obvious reasons.  No banhammer yet, but a repeat will earn a time out.

Update 2: Charles Pierce, on much the same passage, with much the same reaction, only more so.

Image: Frits van den Berghe, The Idiot By The Pond1926