Saturday, October 1, 2016

Editorial: No Time to Let Up

Hillary Clinton mopped the floor with Donald Trump during the first presidential debate on Sept. 26, but it would be dangerous to think this will open up the race for Clinton.

Trump appeared to be doing well for the first 15 minutes of the debate, when he was criticizing American trade policy and talking about job losses as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement and other trade pacts that have encouraged manufacturers to move their factories to take advantage of low-wage workers across the southern border and overseas. (Trump, of course, has low-cost foreign workers making ties and other items in his apparel line.)

Then Clinton started to score on Trump, calling his tax plan “Trumped-up trickle down,” which would cut taxes on the wealthy, in a replay of the Bush-Cheney economic policy that sent the US into the worst financial crisis since the 1930s. She noted that Trump rooted for the housing collapse because he could make money off it, and he interjected, “That’s called business, by the way.” She noted that Trump said climate change was a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, which he denied. Of course, he did tweet on Nov. 6, 2012, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.”

She also poked Trump about the millions of dollars his dad loaned him to set him up in business. Trump replied that it wasn’t that much. Soon Trump was yelling at Clinton and interrupting her as well as moderator Lester Holt.

About a half hour into the debate, Clinton was wondering what Trump was concealing with his refusal to release his tax returns, Trump was sniffling and rambling, and Republican strategist Frank Luntz tweeted, “Even Trump-leaners agree with Hillary. They want to see his taxes.”

Later, Luntz tweeted, “Hillary Clinton has learned how to bait Trump. He doesn’t know how to not take it. Her attacks work. His defenses don’t.”

As Markos Moulitsas Zúniga noted at DailyKos, “That Luntz tweet is quite remarkable. Luntz is the conservative message guru who gave us ‘death tax,’ ‘job-killing,’ ‘health care rationing’ and ‘job creator.’ And here he is, with one of his focus groups, admitting that Clinton is winning the debate.”

As the debate neared the end, Luntz noted that a Republican friend of his had tweeted, “She just comes across as my bitchy wife/mother.” Luntz replied, “I’m sorry, Congressman, but tonight Hillary is coming across as presidential.” In his focus group, Luntz noted, six people said Trump won and 16 said Clinton. Post-debate polls confirmed that Clinton won by a large margin.

Hillary Clinton has a structural advantage in the presidential race. Trump has alienated women, blacks, Latino and Muslim voters and Nate Silver on Sept. 22 noted that Clinton is leading in exactly the states she needs to win the 270 electoral votes. But that assumes she wins Colorado, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where the race is currently close enough to vie for the role of “tipping point state.” Senate races in all four of those states add to the drama, and Democrats would gain three of the four seats they need to regain a Senate majority if they sweep those states. If Clinton can win Florida, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio, it would pad her electoral lead and possibly swing at least a couple other Senate seats to the Democratic side.

Clinton cannot afford to lose disgruntled former Bernie Sanders supporters to Libertarian Gary Johnson or Green candidate Jill Stein — nor should she. Johnson is basically a right-wing Republican who wants to legalize marijuana, but Kevin Drum noted at that among other things Johnson also supports is the Trans-Pacific Partnership and fracking, while he opposes any federal programs to make college more affordable or reduce student debt — in fact, Johnson wants to abolish student loans entirely, and he thinks the Citizens United court decision that relaxed controls on money in politics is great.

Stein is a progressive candidate who has never held elective office higher than her town council and she simply can’t get elected. And Stein isn’t that far left of Clinton after the Democratic nominee adopted 90% of Sanders’ agenda — including raising taxes on the wealthy, with a 65% tax on estates valued at $1 billion or more per couple, up from the current 40% maximim. That would pay for investments in infrastructure and programs to benefit the working class, including financial assistance for college students. Trump wants to cut income taxes, repeal the estate tax and cut aid for college students. Clinton wants to promote solar panels and sustainable energy. Trump doesn’t believe in climate change and loves fossil fuels.

Those are among the reasons Sanders asked his supporters to work for Clinton’s election. “This is not the time for a protest vote, in terms of a presidential campaign,” he said at a Sept. 16 rally in New Paltz, N.Y., for progressive Democratic congressional candidate Zephyr Teachout. “I ran as a third-party candidate. I’m the longest-serving independent in the history of the United States Congress. I know more about third-party politics than anyone else in the Congress, okay? And if people want to run as third-party candidates, God bless them! Run for Congress. Run for governor. Run for state legislature. When we’re talking about president of the United States, in my own personal view, this is not time for a protest vote. This is time to elect Hillary Clinton and then work after the election to mobilize millions of people to make sure she can be the most progressive president she can be.”

One of the hallmarks of Trump’s campaign is his practice of accusing his opponents of abuses that Trump himself has engaged in. While he has accused his opponents of lying, nonpartisan PolitiFact has found his statements to be the most at variance with the facts of any candidate in the Democratic or Republican primaries. Yet Trump insists that Clinton can’t be trusted.

Trump has criticized Hillary Clinton’s activities related to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, which Trump said was “the most corrupt enterprise in political history.” But no cases have been uncovered of foundation donors receiving official favors from Mrs. Clinton, and the Clinton foundation spent $242 million in 2014, with about 88% of its budget spent on programs worldwide, CharityWatch reported in April, as it gave the foundation an “A” grade.

In comparison, David Farenthold of the Washington Post reported that Trump, who hasn’t donated to his own Donald J. Trump Foundation since 2008, has used money donated to the foundation to buy a six-foot painting of himself in 2007; sports memorabilia in 2012; and $25,000 to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi in 2013, when Biondi’s office was considering whether to launch an investigation into allegations of fraud by Trump University. Biondi did not pursue the investigation.

Trump also has accused Mrs. Clinton of being a “gun grabber” who would repeal the Second Amendment, when she has called for expanded background checks on all gun buyers to keep weapons out of the hands of domestic abusers, other violent criminals and the severely mentally ill. However, Trump has called for reimposition of “stop and frisk” practices in urban centers, which amount to random police shakedowns of “suspicious-looking” black and brown men in a search for guns and drugs. So Trump actually is the “gun grabber” who wants to set aside civil liberties.

In perhaps the most ominous charge of all, Trump has insisted that the elections will be rigged. Republicans around the country have been enacting rules to suppress working-class and minority voters. Like Bernie Sanders said, this is not the election to cast a protest vote. — JMC

From The Progressive Populist, October 15, 2016

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