Saturday, December 3, 2016

EDITORIAL Get Back into the Fight

Democrats were in shock after Hillary Clinton apparently was defeated by voters who would believe anything bad they heard about the former first lady, senator and secretary of state, but those same voters seemed to discount everything bad that was reported about Donald Trump, a real estate developer and reality TV star with no government experience but plenty of unanswered questions about his personal life and his businesses.

Democrats can take some solace in the fact that Clinton actually was the people’s choice by a margin of more than 2.5 million votes over Trump, even if a relative handful of 80,000 votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin swung the Electoral College tally toward Trump.

Clinton drew some criticism for joining Green presidential candidate Jill Stein in seeking a recount in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, but there are reasons to be suspicious of the results in at least those three states won by Trump where exit polls indicated that Clinton should have won.

In Pennsylvania, exit polls showed Trump winning by 4.4 points but the official results showed Trump winning by 1.2 points. In Wisconsin, exit polls showed Clinton winning by 3.9 points but Trump was declared winner by 1.2 points. Michigan exit polls showed a deadlock while Trump was declared winner by 0.3%. Also, Florida exit polls showed Clinton winning by 1.3 points while Trump was declared the winner by 1.2 points. North Carolina exit polls showed Clinton winning by 2.1 points but Trump was declared the winner by 3.8 points.

Those discrepancies might be explained by the emphasis on early voting, which is hard to poll. But there also is evidence that Russian hackers tried to interfere in the election on Trump’s behalf, along with complaints that Republican officials and Trump supporters were working to suppress and harass Democratic voters. And anomalies were spotted in Wisconsin between results in counties that used paper ballots and counties that used computer voting. With all those questions, it is worthwhile to verify the results.

Trump leads in the Electoral College count, 306-232, or 36 more than he needs to win the White House. It’s unlikely that the recount will make up the 10,700 votes in Michigan, 22,200 in Wisconsin and 46,800 in Pennsylvania, which together have 46 Electoral votes. But if the recount finds evidence of ballot tampering, it could be explosive and provide more arguments, along with Trump’s erratic behavior since the election, for Electors to overrule the popular vote in their states, as the Constitution allows.

However, there is not much likelihood that Republican “faithless electors” would vote for Clinton, and if neither candidate gets 270 votes the election will be decided by the Republican House, selecting from the three candidates who received the most electoral votes, with each state delegation receiving one vote.

Regardless of how the Electoral College votes on Dec. 19, Democrats need to face the fact that even a center-left candidate such as Clinton can be successfully slimed by the right-wing echo machine, abetted by the corporate media. Clinton’s use of a private server to handle government emails was never more than a relatively minor transgression, particularly since her Republican predecessor as secretary of state, Colin Powell, also had used private email service, as did key members of the George W. Bush White House staff, who ran their emails through the Republican National Committee with little accountability, and millions of Bush administration emails went missing. But the corporate media went along for the ride with Trump’s outrageous claims that Clinton belonged in prison for using a private email server. From Jan. 1 through Nov. 4 of this year, Media Matters noted, the three broadcast evening news shows spent 125 minutes on Clinton’s emails and only 35 minutes on in-depth policy discussions on issues such as terrorism, immigration and policing. And there were no in-depth policy discussions of climate change, drugs, poverty, guns, infrastructure, social injustice or the deficit.

The Democratic National Committee needs an overhaul, and future party chairs should be prohibited from getting involved in party primary races. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, has the support of Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) as well as outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). We think the party chair should be a full-time job, but one can make the argument that a congressman in the House minority has plenty of time on his hands.

Some Democrats also are calling for change in the House leadership. Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi will be 77 next year, her deputy, Steny Hoyer will be 78 and the third-ranking Democrat, Jim Clyburn will be 77. Pelosi has been blamed for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee misplaying the election, and gaining only six seats. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), 43, is challenging Pelosi, but he says he doesn’t really have any policy differences with her. He would like to see more emphasis on populist economics. So do we, but we don’t think Pelosi is the problem. She did a great job as House speaker passing progressive bills in the first two years under Obama, but most of those bills died in the Senate. When Dems failed to get out the vote in 2010, Republicans swept statehouses as well as Congress. Then, in the 2011 redistricting, the GOP engaged in a ruthless series of gerrymanders that locked Democrats out of legislative and congressional majorities at least until the next round of redistricting in 2021. [Update: Pelosi was re-elected House speaker by the Democratic caucus on Nov. 30.]

As David Daley notes on page 12,  gerrymandering can keep Democrats in the minority even when they get a majority of votes. Democratic statehouse candidates earned more votes than Republicans in Michigan this November, but Republicans kept their 63-47 hold on the Michigan House. In Wisconsin, the two parties split the overall vote but Republicans took two-thirds of the assembly seats. And those artificial majorities enact right-wing agendas.

The pattern also holds for congressional districts. Democrats made gains in Florida and Virginia congressional seats largely because federal judges ruled that the GOP gerrymander had gone too far. Congressional incumbents in other states were pretty safe.

Progressives need to get over their post-election depression and recriminations and start organizing for 2017 and 2018, when 38 governors will be up for election. Republicans defend 27 seats, including 14 that will be open. Democratic governors in states such as Ohio, Florida and Michigan could be a major check on gerrymandered legislatures when redistricting comes around again.

Remember, you can’t rely on Facebook for your news, but the corporate media — particularly the cable infotainment channels — won’t give progressives a break, either. So renew your subscription to The Progressive Populist and help us get the word out.

Fidel’s Last Laugh

Fidel Castro survived the Cold War and 10 Presidents of the United States who were unable to make him budge as Cuba’s communist dictator. He ruled 47 years before failing health finally forced him to step aside as maximum leader in 2006. The 11th US President, Barack Obama, moved to restore relations with the communist island nation in 2016 — over the objections of Castro as well as some of his implacable enemies in Miami. But Castro lived just long enough to see the US apparently elect a wealthy grifter as its next president.

Trump has suggested that he would re-sever relations with Cuba unless Fidel’s younger brother, Raul, 85, the new maximum leader, offers the US a “better deal for the Cuban people.” Ironically, Fidel would be pleased. — JMC

From The Progressive Populist, December 15, 2016

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