Can This Governor Teach Democrats How to Win in the South? – Jack Shafer September 02, 2017

John Bel Edwards might be pro-life and pro-gun, but he’s also notched some real progressive wins.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

“Half of Louisiana is under indictment,” the old saw goes, “and the other half is under water.” Louisiana politicians haven’t been keeping up with their end of the bargain lately. No major political figures are under indictment or in prison today. The devastating storms haven’t abated one bit, however, and that’s why Gov. John Bel Edwards in early August was in the suburban town of Youngsville, where two days of non-stop rains a year earlier had flooded 300 homes.

One of them belongs to Paul Hebert, a 29-year-old operations director at an equipment manufacturer. With federal and state aid, he and his pregnant wife have settled back into their refurbished home on Flanders Ridge Drive. “Wow!” the governor exclaimed while Hebert showed him photos of 14 inches of water covering the floor. “We had to replace everything but the washer and dryer,” Hebert explained.

As Edwards headed out to his next event, a man in a T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops buttonholed him on the street. Ryan Fontenot, a neighbor of the Heberts, badgered the governor about his inability to qualify for more federal recovery funds.(Louisiana has received $1.6 billion so far to assist homeowners and is seeking another $2 billion for them and to fix damaged infrastructure.) “The Republicans in Washington don’t want to help you because you’re a Democratic governor in the South,” Fontenot, a high school civics teacher, told him.

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Dems pivot to offering ObamaCare improvements – BY MIKE LILLIS – 07/29/17 04:25 PM EDT

House Democrats are poised to advance a flood of proposals designed to address the problems dogging President Obama’s signature healthcare law –– a move that puts pressure on Republican and Democratic leaders alike.

The strategy marks a pivot for the Democrats, as party leaders have throughout the year discouraged members from offering improvements to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), fearing they would highlight problems with the law and divert attention from the Republicans’ months-long struggle to repeal and replace it.

But rank-and-file Democrats are getting restless, with some saying they can no longer tell constituents they oppose the Republicans’ repeal bills without offering solutions of their own.

“When I go back to the district, they want to know what you’re going to do,” said Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.).

“Resisting is no longer just enough, they want to see what your plan is.”

Following the early-morning failure of the Senate Republicans’ ObamaCare repeal bill on Friday, the Democrats –– leaders and rank-and-file members alike –– ramped up the pressure on GOP leaders to reach across the aisle and work on bipartisan ACA fixes.

“We can go right to the committees and have a discussion on how we keep America healthy,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters in the Capitol.

The bipartisan approach has been floated by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), but House GOP leaders don’t appear ready to move beyond their repeal effort. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Friday urged Senate Republicans not to abandon the fight.

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Dems to unveil ‘better deal’ messaging campaign Monday – BY MIKE LILLIS – 07/24/17 06:00 AM EDT

Dems to unveil ‘better deal’ messaging campaign Monday
© Greg Nash

Democrats in both chambers will gather in rural Virginia on Monday to unveil a new national messaging campaign aimed at easing the economic strain on working-class Americans –– and propelling their party back to power in order to check an unpopular president in Donald Trump.

Behind Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the Democrats are hoping their latest messaging pitch will prove an effective contrast to the Republicans’ policy agenda and pull voters to their side in next year’s midterm elections.

Trump soared to power last year on a simple promise to “make America great again,” and the Democrats have pulled a page from that strategy with a no-frills slogan vowing to provide “a better deal” for a middle class that’s struggled to keep pace with globalization and the march of technology. Like Trump’s campaign, the Democrats’ message suggests both that the status quo is failing working Americans and that the other party is to blame.In its first phase, released Monday morning, the Democrats’ campaign focuses on three broad areas: creating new jobs; lowering prescription drug costs; and restraining the power of corporations. Notably absent from the agenda are the social issues –– things like reproductive rights, immigration reform and gun control –– that have, at times, defined the party.

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Ralph Nader: The Democrats Are Unable to Defend the U.S. from the “Most Vicious” Republican Party in History – Jon Schwarz June 25 2017

The Democratic Party is at its lowest ebb in the memory of everyone now alive. It’s lost the White House and both houses of Congress. On the state level it’s weaker than at any time since 1920. And so far in 2017 Democrats have gone 0 for 4 in special elections to replace Republican members of Congress who joined the Trump administration.

How did it come to this? One person the Democratic Party is not going to ask, but perhaps should, is legendary consumer advocate and three-time presidential candidate Ralph Nader.

Nader, who’s now 83 and has been been based in Washington, D.C. for over fifty years, has had a front row seat to the Democrats’ slow collapse. After his bombshell exposé of the U.S. car industry, Unsafe at Any Speed, he and his organizations collaborated with congressional Democrats to pass a flurry of landmark laws protecting the environment, consumers and whistleblowers. Journalist William Greider described him as one of America’s three top models for small-d democratic activism, together with Saul Alinsky and Martin Luther King, Jr. Meanwhile, the 1971 “Powell Memo,” which laid the groundwork for the resurgence of the corporate right, named him as a key enemy of “the system,” calling him “the single most effective antagonist of American business.”

But of course Nader has been persona non grata with the Democratic Party since his 2000 Green Party candidacy for president. George W. Bush officially beat Al Gore in Florida by 537 votes, with the state’s electoral votes putting Bush in the White House even though he lost the national popular vote. (In reality, a comprehensive, little-noticed study released soon after 9/11 found that Gore would have won Florida if all disputed ballots had been recounted.)

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a special election loss shows Democrats could use a substantive agenda Updated by Matthew Yglesias Jun 20, 2017, 10:07pm EDT

Jon Ossoff’s narrow loss in the Georgia House special election seat will come as a crushing emotional blow to Democrats even though it hardly dooms their hopes to take back Congress next year.

To gain a majority, Democrats need to find a way to win races in districts like this one — traditional Republican bastions endangered by Donald Trump’s weakness with college graduates — but they don’t need to sweep them all by any means. Ossoff was the best recruit Democrats had available in the district, but a guy with no elective experience whose house lies just outside the district boundaries is hardly an ideal candidate.

To win in 2018, Democrats will have to find opportunities to do better, but it’s certainly an achievable goal. The fact that the district was competitive is a sign that the GOP majority is at risk; the question is simply what can Democrats do to put themselves over the top?

One thing they might want to try is developing a substantive policy agenda to run on. They came close this time, and they’ll just need to put forth an attractive package for voters in the 2018 midterms.

Ossoff lost over nonsense

Ossoff, like so many losing Democratic candidates over the years, was brought down fundamentally by arguments grounded in identity politics.

Karen Handel didn’t argue that the Republican Party’s health care bill is a good idea (it’s very unpopular) or that tax cuts for millionaires should be the country’s top economic priority (another policy that polls dismally). Instead, her campaign and its allies buried Ossoff under a pile of what basically amounts to nonsense — stuff about Kathy Griffin, stuff about Samuel L. Jackson, stuff about his home being just over the district line, stuff about him having raised money from out of state — lumped together under the broad heading that he’s an “outsider.”

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Democrats are falling for fake news about Russia – Zack Beauchamp May 19, 2017, 8:30am EDT

Why liberal conspiracy theories are flourishing in the age of Trump.

President Donald Trump is about to resign as a result of the Russia scandal. Bernie Sanders and Sean Hannity are Russian agents. The Russians have paid off House Oversight Chair Jason Chaffetz to the tune of $10 million, using Trump as a go-between. Paul Ryan is a traitor for refusing to investigate Trump’s Russia ties. Libertarian heroine Ayn Rand was a secret Russian agent charged with discrediting the American conservative movement.

These are all claims you can find made on a new and growing sector of the internet that functions as a fake news bubble for liberals, something I’ve dubbed the Russiasphere. The mirror image of Breitbart and InfoWars on the right, it focuses nearly exclusively on real and imagined connections between Trump and Russia. The tone is breathless: full of unnamed intelligence sources, certainty that Trump will soon be imprisoned, and fever dream factual assertions that no reputable media outlet has managed to confirm.

Twitter is the Russiasphere’s native habitat. Louise Mensch, a former right-wing British parliamentarian and romance novelist, spreads the newest, punchiest, and often most unfounded Russia gossip to her 283,000 followers on Twitter. Mensch is backed up by a handful of allies, including former NSA spook John Schindler (226,000 followers) and DC-area photographer Claude Taylor (159,000 followers).

There’s also a handful of websites, like Palmer Report, that seem devoted nearly exclusively to spreading bizarre assertions like the theory that Ryan and Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell funneled Russian money to Trump — a story that spread widely among the site’s 70,000 Facebook fans.

Beyond the numbers, the unfounded left-wing claims, like those on the right, are already seeping into the mainstream discourse. In March, the New York Timespublished an op-ed by Mensch instructing members of Congress as to how they should proceed with the Russia investigation (“I have some relevant experience,” she wrote). Two months prior to that, Mensch had penned a lengthy letter to Vladimir Putin titled “Dear Mr. Putin, Let’s Play Chess” — in which she claims to have discovered that Edward Snowden was part of a years-in-the-making Russian plot to discredit Hillary Clinton.

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Georgia Dems normally raise $10,000 for this House seat. This April they’ll have $3 million. – Updated by Jeff Stein Mar 27, 2017, 9:00am EDT

The resistance movement is about to get its first big electoral test.

ROSWELL, Georgia — On a sunny Sunday in mid-February, Karley Barber, 54, spends her morning and afternoon going door to door for Jon Ossoff, the leading Democrat running for the Georgia House seat vacated by former Rep. Tom Price, Donald Trump’s health and human services secretary.

Clipboard in hand, she laughs nervously as she marches up the steep gravel path to the first house on her list. She raps twice on the wood door frame, and shivers with a nervous jitter as someone inside approaches.

“I’ve never done this! What if they slam the door in my face?” says Barber, a government contractor with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than 7,000 people have already volunteered for Ossoff’s campaign, and he has raised more than $3 million — unprecedented numbers for the congressional district.

The April 18 special election in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District is Democrats’ first chance to eat into Republicans’ House majority — and potentially preview the 2018 midterm elections. “Normally, a Democrat running for Price’s seat would be lucky to raise $10,000 to $20,000,” says Phil Lunney, legislative liaison for the Fulton County Democrats. “There’s been nothing like it here, at least in the 21st century.”

But the race, held in a deeply conservative district long dominated by Republicans, will also be a test of something equally vital: whether the grassroots anti-Trump activism can be translated into electoral success. Ossoff’s race is offering a test run for whether the outpouring of energy in the streets can be harnessed by the Democratic Party, or if it will prove beyond the grasp of its politicians.

Barber’s very presence gives Democrats reason for optimism. This isn’t just her first time going canvassing for a candidate: She’s never even voted in a midterm election before. Her husband is a fervent Donald Trump supporter. Most of her friends in suburban Atlanta’s East Cobb neighborhood are Republicans. “I’d hang out with other women, and most of the time I’d keep my mouth shut because they’d just go on and on and on about how much they hate Clinton and Obama,” Barber said.

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Code Blue Nation – Calling All Dems: VICE News Tonight on HBO – Published on Mar 2, 2017

Normally, state senate races don’t get much attention. But on Tuesday, there was an outpouring of interest, donations and volunteers for Greg Cava’s local campaign for the special election.

Many of those donations were small and out of state thanks to California startup Cold Blue Nation. VICE News looks at the startups launching to help campaign for local elections across the country to get democrats in power on every level.

Read the full article on the anti-Trump movement’s first big election test here:


Democrats’ role for Mattis: The anti-Trump – By AUSTIN WRIGHT and JEREMY HERB 01/12/17 02:27 PM EST

They sought assurances he will stand behind the Iranian nuclear deal and offer ‘frank advice’ to the new president.

James Mattis is pictured. | Getty
James Mattis sailed through his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, fielding mostly gentle questions and easily sidestepping the few attempts by senators to trip him up. | Getty

James Mattis is the one Donald Trump Cabinet pick whom Democrats could unilaterally block. Instead, they made clear Thursday their resounding support for the retired Marine Corps general, touting him as their best hope for reining in a president-elect who has unorthodox views on matters of war and peace.

Mattis sailed through his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, fielding mostly gentle questions and easily sidestepping the few attempts by senators to trip him up.

Immediately after the session, which lasted just over three hours, the panel voted to exempt Mattis from a law barring military officers from serving as defense secretary until they’ve been out of uniform seven years.

The full House and Senate are expected to approve the measure — which will require 60 votes in the Senate, meaning Mattis will need Democratic support — by week’s end. This all but assures Mattis will be quickly and easily confirmed as Pentagon chief soon after Trump’s inauguration.

Here are some takeaways from a smooth confirmation hearing in which Mattis showcased why many lawmakers — Democrats and Republicans alike — consider him one of Trump’s strongest Cabinet selections:

Senators are counting on him as a check on Trump

Democrats — and even some Republicans — made clear to Mattis they expect him to be a check on Trump and his White House national security team.

“Does your belief in the importance of frank advice extend to the relationship between the defense secretary and the president’s other national security advisers?” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) asked Trump.

“Absolutely, senator. I would not have taken this nomination if I didn’t have that belief,” Mattis responded.

“And what about the president himself?” Warren continued in her line of questioning. “Under what circumstances will you advocate for your views forcefully and frankly?”

“On every circumstance, senator,” Mattis said.

Democrats also tried to pin down Mattis on issues where they’re concerned the Trump administration will roll back Obama-era policies.

Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) brought up Mattis’ past statements that the Iranian nuclear deal should not be ripped up, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) pressed Mattis on keeping the Obama administration’s move to open up all combat positions to women.

Republicans weren’t as explicit in calling on Mattis to push back against Trump, but it was implicit in many exchanges.

Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) spent a chunk of his opening statement laying out why Trump’s overtures to Russia were mistaken, and then pushed Mattis to state his support for a permanent U.S. military presence in the Baltics.

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How slavery birthed the electoral college – By MYRA ADAMS • 10/12/16 12:04 AM

Lost in U.S. history was how the Electoral College resulted from a compromise between northern and southern states over the divisive issue of slavery. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Take a moment to step back from the latest debate, Trump’s tape debacle, and new WikiLeaks revelations to think about a larger institutional issue plaguing the election of our next president.

Foreigners observing the presidential campaign based on the travel schedules of Trump and Clinton could easily conclude that we are the Nine States of America encompassing only Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada and New Hampshire.

And who could blame them?

After all, our quadrennial contest for commander in chief has reduced our nation to only two categories of states: “battleground” and “safe.” The former garner all the candidates’ time, attention, energy and resources while the latter are virtually ignored. (Except as campaign cash ATMs in the cases of California, Texas, and New York.)

There are 41 safe states all politically color-coded either Republican “red” or Democrat “blue.” The color “purple” is reserved for the wobbly nine battleground states. That is until Election Day, when, after a state converts to “red” or “blue,” one of the candidates wins at least 270 electoral votes and is awarded the keys to the White House.

The red/blue division is a phenomenon introduced into the lexicon by the mediaduring the contested 2000 election between then-Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush. Later the concept of “purple states” became prevalent.

One could point to the great ideological, cultural and social schisms brewing since the late 1960s as the foundation of today’s extreme political polarization mirrored by this widely accepted almost semi-official red/blue state divide. A divide that causes millions of voters tremendous dissatisfaction.

Just ask a Republican from “blue” Oregon, a Democrat who resides in “red” Nebraska or any permanently mismatched red/blue state voters. You will hear earfuls of complaints not only how presidential candidates in the general election by-pass their states but worse, the pervasive belief that “my vote does not count.”

The culprit of course is the Electoral College.

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