Sunshine in a Storm

How can the rest of us express the depth of our appreciation for the folks of all hues and genders who turned out in great numbers yesterday to take a stand against the madness into which the Republic has been dragged? These electoral victories, built from the bottom up and across political divides, set the stage for more to come, if we stay the course.

Virginia is a Preview of 2018

Ed Gillespie, routinely described by decent Republicans as one of their own who now has devolved through his campaign advertising into a nasty baiter of the fear-and-resentment vote in Virginia, is running a gubernatorial bid that should be recognized as the template for GOP candidacies in November 2018.

Democrats who think the most important fight now is between the Bernie and Hillary wings of their own party are dangerously mistaken. The most important fight now is the fight to rescue the republic from the domination of the GOP, because the GOP isn’t going to do anything to rid the country of Trump.

I’ve read tweets asserting that the Republicans are doomed in 2018 if they pass the tax cut bill, because the bill helps the billionaires of their donor class, but hurts ordinary Americans. This is naive. The GOP strategy for decades now has been to kowtow to the donor class, thereby opening the spigot for millions in campaign contributions then used to run low-road campaigns to get the fear-and-resentment vote to the polls to crush the party of the Others. I see no reason to conclude that this won’t work again, the Trump wildcard notwithstanding.

Feuding While the Republic Totters

So the Democratic Party continues the Hatfields-and-McCoys internal feuding in the crucial runup to the November 2018 election. Liberals and progressives are behaving as if one or the other of the philosophies will win in 2018, and the only question is which one. Wrong!

The GOP strategy of using millions donated by high rollers to finance low-road campaigns stoking the fear and resentment of the white working class is likely to be just as potent as it has been for the past few decades, the Trump wildcard notwithstanding. The Democrats, at least, would be fools not to presume this and to prepare for it.

The stakes, of course, are far higher now than at any time in the past few decades. The GOP shows no inclination whatsoever to remove the boil on the Presidency, despite ever more dangerous words and actions by the Dear Leader. To rid the country of Trump, the Republic needs a slew of Democratic wins across the board in 2018.

The party must do three things pronto: 1. Develop a fundraising strategy not beholden to billionaires. 2. Craft a platform with solid proposals to improve the lives and prospects of America’s diverse working class. 3. Recruit and support candidates with real public presence and genuine enthusiasm for the platform.

A List! I Must Have a List!

It’s in the interest of Trump’s critics to exaggerate the role of George Papadopoulos in the Trump “campaign.” It’s in the interest of Trump and his defenders to minimize the role of Papadopoulos in the “campaign.” But there never really was a Trump campaign in the conventional sense. Trump got up in the morning, flew to some rally or other, flew back, and slept in Manhattan. That pretty much was the campaign, except for the tweets and the widespread willy-nilly dissemination of the tweets and the interviews on TV.

Papadopoulos entered the picture only when Trump, like a Queen of Hearts, demanded from his hangers-on a List. I must have a List! Of Foreign Policy Advisers! To show to the failing New York Times and the rest of the MSM, who think I need a List!

Of course, the movers and shakers in the actual world of foreign policy were already making clear they wanted no part of Trump, so what was the “campaign” to do? What was Sam Clovis to do? Somehow, Clovis cobbled together a List of people who’d been out of the country or dreamed of being out of the country on important business. Papadopoulos, who was barely out of diapers professionally and was something of a self-promoter, like Trump himself and so many in Trump’s orbit, made the List.

Papadopoulos then commenced to doing whatever wheeling and dealing anyone would do with him to justify his inclusion on the List. Enter Boris and Natasha. And voila! The road to perdition.

I remain convinced that the Russia story that scares the bejesus out of Trump is a story of financial shenanigans and not whatever fire there is causing the current smoke.

Memo to DNC: Eyes on the Prize

It’s natural enough for the Clinton Brigades to defend her when she’s attacked, and she is being attacked again now for “rigging” the primaries against Bernie. Likewise, it’s natural for Bernie fans to bristle at this pushback from the Clinton Brigades.

The job for the DNC going forward, however, is to move on from this feud, focusing instead on building a party that is seen clearly by the electorate as the go-to alternative to the party owned by the Koch brothers and the Trumpians. The strongest possible showing in 2018 is not merely a party imperative, but a national imperative.

The DNC, then, must get its financial house in order pronto, bringing in whoever is necessary to ensure an effective system for appealing to small donors. The DNC must be a party of clear and compelling ideas focused on the interests of the country’s working stiffs of all colors, genders, and backgrounds. And the DNC must be about the business of recruiting a new generation of candidates who have the qualifications, public presence, and enthusiasm to bring folks to the polls.

Is the GOP Tax Bill Bad Politics?

Plenty of pundits have raised questions today about the political judgment of the Hill GOP in embracing a tax bill that benefits the wealthy, balloons the deficit, and offers less-than-overwhelming benefits to the working class. I’m not persuaded, however, that passing the bill will hurt GOP chances that much in 2018. The modern GOP formula for electoral success has been to raise campaign money from high-rollers, then use the contributions to run gloves-off campaigns appealing to the party’s white identity base, the most recent example of this being Gillespie’s low-road gubernatorial campaign in Virginia. I don’t see why the formula can’t work again in 2018. The tax legislation opens the spigots of the Koch brothers and the others in the donor class. Then the candidates move right, going all in with Trump.

The Trump “Campaign” and Papadopolous

What campaign? Trump never had a political campaign in the conventional sense, unless I’m missing something. Mostly, he got up in the morning in Manhattan, tweeted, watched some Fox, took his jet to some rally to juice his white-identity base, hustled back to his jet, flew back to Manhattan, watched some Fox, maybe tweeted, and went to bed.

During the “campaign,” reporters pressed Trump to provide the names of folks advising him on foreign policy. So he came up with a list in March of last year. A Politico story on the list carried the headline “Trump’s foreign policy team baffles GOP experts” and the subhead “Republicans can’t figure out the mogul’s quirky mix of advisers.”

George Papadopolous, who now has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is thought to have been wearing a wire recently to aid the Mueller investigation, was one of the names on the list. The Politico story described Papadopolous as “a 2009 college graduate and an international energy lawyer” who previously had advised Ben Carson’s campaign. The publication resorted to Papadopolous’s LinkedIn page to flesh out the rest of his thin résumé.

Given what we know now, all too well, about Trump’s Modus Operandi, it’s plausible at least that he ordered somebody to gin up a list of foreign policy advisors so he’d have something to hand out, that he knew little or nothing about Papadopolous, and that he considered the list a prop in his act rather than a serious document.

The questions I have at this point include (1) who put the list together, (2) how did this person know Papadopolous, (3) why was Papadopolous included on the list, and (4) what was the precise nature of Papadopolous’s involvement as a foreign policy advisor after his name appeared on the list, beyond what we already know?

On the question of who put the list together, we have this:

According to two knowledgeable Team Trump sources, the insurgent GOP campaign was scrambling to compile a legitimate list of foreign policy advisers to Trump in early 2016, when people in media and political circles kept pressuring the campaign to release one. [Sam] Clovis, then a top Trump policy adviser, slapped together a roster that Trump could read in an attempt to “at least shut up” the critics, according to one Trump campaign veteran.

— Lachlan Markay, Asawin Suebsaeng, and Sam Stein, The Rise of a Trump Adviser Who May Kill Trump’s Presidency, Daily Beast, November 1, 2017.

The Papadopoulis Plea

A professor with close ties to the Russian government told an adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in April 2016 that Moscow had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails,” according to court documents unsealed Monday.

The adviser, George Papadopoulos, has pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. about that conversation. The plea represents the most explicit evidence connecting the Trump campaign to the Russian government’s meddling in last year’s election.

New York Times, October 30, 2017.

“Russia” is Not a Partisan Issue

A Fox News op-ed headline today reads “Hillary Clinton and Democrats Lose the High Ground on Russia.” Let’s review: Hillary Clinton is not President. “Russia” is the question of the extent to which a foreign adversary, acting in secret, influenced the outcome of a national election, including the question of whether elements of the Trump campaign cooperated in the influence operation. This should not be a partisan issue.

How to Vote in 2018

As a lifelong Democrat and the son and grandson of Democrats, I would vote ordinarily in the Democratic primary for the candidate I thought closest to me politically. And I think it’s almost always a terrible idea to vote in the opposing party’s primary for a “weak” candidate you think your candidate can beat.

But in 2018, if the opportunity presents itself, I stand ready to vote in the Republican primary to boost the fortunes of any moderate candidates who come out squarely against the inevitable Trump-Bannon candidates. And I would encourage any Republicans to vote in the Democratic primary for candidates who can attract the votes of moderate Republicans and independents against these Trump-Bannon Republicans in the general election.

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.