Saturday, December 17, 2016

Editorial: Carnies vs. Rubes

There are two kinds of people in Donald Trump’s America: carnies and rubes. Trump ran for president as an economic populist who would protect American manufacturing jobs, despite his own history of ducking debts to contractors and outsourcing manufacturing. Now he is filling his Cabinet with plutocratic billionaires who are committed to doing away with public schools, environmental protection and workers’ rights while Republican congressional leaders plan to privatize Medicare, cut Social Security benefits and open up our public lands for more oil and gas drilling.

As of Dec. 9, Trump’s proposed Cabinet had a combined wealth of more than $14.5 billion, plus three generals and at least one nominee who has twice sued the agency he’s now poised to run, Tessa Stuart noted at As we go to press, Trump has settled on Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, which will increase the Cabinet’s net worth by another $287 million.

The working-class Americans who voted for The Donald and other Republican carnies in November had better figure out which side they are on. The education will start Jan. 20 and it’s likely to be a crash course.

More people are coming to realize Trump is dangerously unfit to be president. The volatile real estate wheeler-dealer and reality TV star said he wanted to Make America Great Again, but he has refused to release his tax returns or speak candidly about his complex business dealings, including financial interests in at least 25 foreign countries. It appears that his first priority is to make his bank account great again. Josh Marshall of suggested that Trump might not be able to divest his far-flung business enterprises because he’s too “underwater” to do so, or he’s too dependent on current and expanding cash flow to divest or even turn the reins over to someone else. He apparently is more interested in keeping his title as executive producer of The Apprentice, now starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, than he is in attending intelligence briefings. Instead, Trump has delegated the intel details to the vice president-elect, Mike Pence.

Trump has been evasive about how he came to be the beneficiary of the leak of documents from Democratic officials, which US intelligence agencies believe were stolen by Russian hackers and passed on to Wikileaks to damage Hillary Clinton. Trump also was helped by FBI Director James Comey’s release of a letter 10 days before the election that said the agency was resuming its investigation of Clinton’s emails, which reversed her momentum in polls before Comey followed up with “never mind” a few days before the election.

If the Electoral College really was designed to give electors a chance to disregard the votes in their respective states when that state’s voters fall for a charlatan’s bait-and-switch, this would be a good case to test that proposition. But the electors are chosen from partisans who have pledged to support their party’s nominee and they would face tremendous pressure if they wavered. As we write this, a week before the electors are to cast their ballots, only one of 306 Republican electors has said he would not vote for Trump. Another 36 Republican “faithless electors” are needed to deny Trump the presidency. And that likely would just send the election back to the Big Top, to be decided by House Republicans.

Hold the Line on Court Vacancy

Some on the left believe Senate Democrats should attempt to confirm Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court in an extraordinary session during the brief period on Jan. 3 when the terms of 34 members of the Senate have expired, but before the new and re-elected senators are sworn in. At that point, David Waldman suggested at (Dec. 6), the terms of the Senate’s Class III come to an end, leaving 66 currently sworn and serving senators, 34 of whom will be Democrats and 30 who are Republicans.

If Vice President Joe Biden recognized the sitting Democrats as the majority, they theoretically could move to confirm Garland. However, Sean Davis argued at (Dec. 7) “it requires one to completely ignore the Constitution, the Standing Rules of the Senate, Senate precedent, and basic common sense.”

For one thing, noted Davis, a Republican former Senate staffer, the 20th Amendment states that “the terms of Senators and Representatives [shall end] at noon on the 3d day of January … and the terms of their successors shall then begin,” no matter what the outgoing vice president thinks.

As much as we hate to see Republicans get away with their refusal to consider Obama’s choice of Garland, the chief judge on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, it might not be a good idea for Senate Democrats to set the precedent of doing away with all the standing rules and Senate precedents in order to cast one vote, when Republicans will end up in control of the Senate a few minutes later, and they’ll keep that majority at least for the next two years — with the precedent set by the Democrats that the majority, however narrow, can ignore rules whenever they wish.

A better course, if Democrats want to play hardball, would be for President Obama to withdraw the Garland nomination and, during the recess between sessions, name Harvard constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe (or some other eminent liberal jurist) as an interim justice.

Republicans have held pro-forma sessions in which no business is conducted at least every three days so the Senate is not technically in recess to prevent such appointments. They would appeal to the D.C. Court of Appeals, which upheld the pro-forma sessions to prevent recess appointments in 2013. But since then, the appeals court has gained four Obama appointees and now, with a 7-4 Democratic majority, the court might revisit the question.

In any case, Senate Democrats should block any Trump appointee to the Supreme Court who does not have moderate bona fides because, as Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell explained last year when he ruled out any hearings on the Garland nomination, the Senate should wait for the people to choose a new president before it fills the vacancy on the Supreme Court. And the people chose Hillary Clinton by a margin of more than 2.8 million votes. Trump will technically be president but he does not have the consent of a majority of the governed. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has noted that there are precedents for the Supreme Court to operate with fewer than nine justices. If Trump wishes to negotiate with Democrats over nominations, that might resolve the matter.

Meanwhile, Democrats still have a popular majority on most core issues, such as establishing the minimum wage as a living wage, protecting Social Security and Medicare, moving toward universal access to health care and public education from pre-kindergarten through college, rebuilding infrastructure, protecting air and water and taking action to reverse climate change. The problem is that people either don’t believe the Republicans really are a threat to their interests, or they don’t believe Democrats will stand up for them.

Democrats have two years to convince working people they will fight for them. The odds are stacked against them in the House, which is gerrymandered in enough states to keep Democrats in the minority at least through 2020. In the Senate, Democrats will be defending 23 seats in 2018, Dem-leaning independents defend two seats and only eight Republicans will be up for election. But as Trump reveals himself to be a charlatan whose campaign promises no longer are operative, the opportunities for Democrats should improve.

Ambitious Dems who are interested in stepping up for a possible White House run in 2020 also have two years to show they are an effective antagonist to the plutocrats and robber barons who run Trump and the Republican Party. Let the games begin! — JMC

From The Progressive Populist, January 1-15, 2017

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

Selections from the January 1-15, 2017 issue

COVER/Dave Johnson
Tea leaves forecast assault on working people

Carnies vs. rubes; Hold the line on court vacancy


Falwell Jr. staying put

RURAL ROUTES/Margot McMillen 
Acceptance doesn’t mean surrender

Hoosier daddy? The man who really delivered jobs in Indiana;
Trump wages war on US unions;
How did Trump win? FBI & Russians;
Republicans unveil plan to cut Social Security;
Trump keeps up lying pace;
Maybe Trump is too indebted to divest ...

Why we still need feminism

The populist and his crew of billionaires

Trump’s puppeteers

Teamster aims to organize communities across Iowa

Ike’s rich vs. Trump’s rich: no contest.

Jive turkey

Will Trump bring the robot apocalypse?

HEALTH CARE/Joan Retsinas
Filling the swamp: MBAs to the rescue

BOOK REVIEW/Heather Seggel
Getting back to the garden

Trump and blue-collar jobs

The looming infrastructure scam

Democrats and the white working class

Should Democrats become the party of no?

Flotsam from the Trump thought stream

Need a revolution

‘Hamilton’ vs. Trump: Free-speech duels go on from Broadway to L.A.

and more ...