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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Copyright © 2016 The Progressive PopulistPO Box 819, Manchaca TX 78652

Selections from the December 15, 2016 issue

COVER/Hal Crowther
Accept it, like Hell!

Get back into the fight; Fidel’s last laugh


Self-inflicted wounds of the Democratic Party

RURAL ROUTES/Margot McMillen
Don’t let fear and hate win

Trump stumbles toward inauguration;
Ethics lawyers: Electoral College should reject Trump unless he sells businesses;
Repubs will push Medicare privatization;
Minimum wage isn’t living wage anywhere;
Judge suspends OT expansion;
Hate incidents up since Trump win;
Minorities buying guns since Trump election;
Fidel wasn't our kind of murderous dictator ...

Dems didn’t ask for rural vote

Building a new populism in the era of Trump

Sorry, I can’t give Trump a chance

We’re all Zapatistas now

Beyond Beltway, Dems even worse off

Treating white males with kindness, respect and inclusion

Un-rigging our democracy

We cannot be discouraged; Let’s keep building our movement

HEALTH CARE/Joan Retsinas
A Christmas gift: Trumpkids

Fools, damn fools and democrats

Neoliberalism on the rocks?

Has SNL finally joined the fray?

BOOK REVIEW/Seth Sandronsky
Rethinking empires

How the white Catholic vote helped Trump

Netflix offers bingeworthy shows

Abolishing Miscegenation: Virginia is for Lovings

and more ...

Going Where the Denial Is Thickest--in the News Media


As a rape survivor myself*, I believe Juanita Broaddrick. I listened to Ms. Broaddrick when she was interviewed on Dateline NBC back in 1999. I listened carefully to everything she said, and--as a lifelong registered Democrat myself--I believe her with all my heart. Her accusation was that Bill Clinton assaulted her, in Arkansas, years earlier. This was a rape allegation--different in degree from the several sexual harassment allegations also leveled against Clinton, and very different from Clinton's compulsive philandering. Broaddrick accused Clinton of forcible rape, on national television--network, not cable--credibly, with detail, not concealing or denying her own errors or her anger at Clinton. Yet after the Clintons left the White House, Broaddrick's name was scarcely mentioned in what are usually called the “elite” media. As the highly respected late columnist William Blackberry commented, it was mystifying that a credible accusation of such magnitude could be passed over. This while the Washington Post deemed that President Clinton's affair with an intern warranted a special pull-out section titled "Presidency in Crisis," temporarily, and Republicans in the House were voting to impeach Clinton. 

It is an unanswered question, now, how many people even know who Juanita Broaddrick is. Many younger people who voted in 2016 would not have recognized her name in 2015. The fact that she has now become part of the public discourse largely through some rightwing outlets and Donald Trump's presidential campaign is a source of regret for me personally. 

The Democrats who should have acknowledged her story dropped the ball. So did the GOP, of course--neither major party moved constructively to address the issue of rape, in the 1990s or under the George W. Bush administration. President Obama and Vice President Biden have done more than any previous White House, addressing sexual assault on college campuses and problems such as the backlog of unprocessed rape kits in the criminal justice system. But much remains to be done.

Our top media outlets did little to nothing. Millions of words have been written about the 2016 election, hundreds of opinion polls were taken, countless models have predicted the outcome--wrongly, in case you didn't notice--but so far as I know, no major media outlet polled the public on awareness of Juanita Broaddrick's accusation against Clinton, or even on recognition of her name.

A couple of points here. First, rape is a difficult topic, grim and painful, and difficulties by definition are harder to deal with than easy things. Fewer people will deal well with something difficult than with something easy, including people in the news media. Second, few people in the large media outlets tried to deal with the Broaddrick story well. This gap is not consistent with a belief in Clinton's innocence, which would have emphasized accuracy. It sweeps an issue under the rug instead of addressing it.  

Third, the media focus continues to be politics rather than issues. Thus if Broaddrick's name was mentioned at all, it was usually through the prism of possible effect on the campaign of Hillary Clinton for president. Those media personalities are now consumed with the question of 'what went wrong' with the 2016 election, and what went wrong with their predictions.

'What went wrong' is that the wife of a rapist ran for the White House. 

Unthinkable? One would think so. But it wasn't. There was no one to advise the Clintons, effectively, that Clinton should not run.  A deadly simple timeline resulted. The Clinton team decided to try the run and accumulated all the money not going to the GOP. Meanwhile, Republicans salivating at the prospect of running against 'Hillary' lined up, and money or no money, the GOP field was self-destructively large. Trump was the cue ball. Wham. He broke the racked-up set of balls. And while Trump was breaking things open on the Republican side, the Clintons and their media allies were shutting out every better candidate on the Democratic side--Vice President Biden first, before the primary season even began; then Senator Bernie Sanders in the primaries.

So on one hand Trump benefited from the arithmetic of the field, and on the other Clinton, with no essential constituency or platform except narrow self-interest, shut out the field. 

Net result: A small cadre of Democratic insiders decided to paste in a nominee before any votes were cast, and picked the worst possible candidate. The Clintons with their greed problem, their treatment-of-women problem, their ties to Wall Street, etc, were the worst possible choice to run against Donald Trump. Not that they knew enough to take Trump seriously, any more than they knew enough to take Sanders seriously. So much for the high-paid expertise with which they theoretically surrounded themselves. Back to politics, I believe that even the quiet Lincoln Chafee would have done better than Clinton. Joe Biden would have crushed Trump. So would Bernie Sanders.

By this past weekend, I was wondering about the much-touted “landslide.” I was not very surprised at the outcome but am disappointed that Russ Feingold lost the Wisconsin senate race. Knowing the Clintons, Feingold's appeal is probably one of the reasons they neglected Wisconsin. Much of their joint public career for forty years has been playing keep-away, and they appeal to media insiders who play keep-away. No wonder they were so surprised: they shut out the very people they should have been listening to.

For now, I hope we don't have to listen to self-serving commentators, for several weeks, mutually confirming their nonexistent moral superiority to the unwashed masses. Largely these are the people who went along with Bush's invasion of Iraq. As with sexual assault, it saddens me to see Iraq swept under the rug. On top of the loss of blood and treasure, in all that (temporary) emphasis on sexual assault during the campaign, no one mentioned that rape follows war. 

*This was a childhood incident. I was in elementary school at the time, an undersized fifth-grader walking alone through a big park in Houston, to a Brownies meeting. The perpetrator was not someone I knew, and the police never caught him.

Margie Burns is a Texas native who now writes from Washington, D.C. Email See her blog at