Archive for the ‘Democrats’ Category

Democrats stayed up all night fighting to expand unconstitutional Bush-era powers

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

Originally published at Rare

I’m months from my thirtieth year on this earth, and starting to feel old.

Before you get offended by this, consider that when I was in college, Democrats were the anti-war party. I mean a let’s-reject-Hillary-for-Obama-because-he’s-anti-war kind of party. Code Pink was essentially mainstream on the left a decade ago. George W. Bush-era surveillance was markedly beyond the pale. The Patriot Act? Sedition? The TSA? Absurd.

Enter the left, circa 2016. What do today’s protests look like? A Civil Rights era-style sit-in. This is noteworthy given the historical implications of such an act. For a spectacle this extensive—in which Democrats have been literally sitting on the House floor holding up the works—the objective had to be worthy.

So what’s led Democrats to this extreme behavior? Their goal is to use Bush’s no-fly list as a means to deny you your basic constitutional rights.

It’s true: In the wake of the Orlando mass shooting, Democrats are promoting a vast expansion of war on terror-era powers that strip innocent people of their second, fourth, and fifth amendment rights. They’re pushing the use of a secret government list, in which the people on it, often arbitrarily assigned as a terrorists, have no means to combat the designation.

Essentially, what Democrats spent hours demanding, into the thick of the night and into Thursday morning upending regular legislative order for, is the expansion of broadly defined national security powers not long ago opposed by their party and in most cases, them specifically.

Interestingly, House Democrats have both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on their side. And though they’ve dwindled in numbers, a few vestiges of the principled left remain in opposition to this attempt, in concert with libertarians and conservatives.

The ACLU, for example, opposes using the no fly list as a means to deny gun rights. And not because they’re particularly pro-second amendment, but due to an understanding that secret government lists aren’t a metric citizens should accept as a replacement for our traditional “innocent until proven guilty” standard.

Libertarian-leaning Republican Congressman Justin Amash summed the scene up well by tweeting a relevant family anecdote.

This is a matter our friends on the left ought to consider. Particularly those who crow about how Trump is “literally Hitler.” Do liberals really trust a man like him with the kind of power they’re seeking to expand? A man who suggested that putting Muslims in internment camps might not be such a bad idea since, after all, FDR did the same to the Japanese?

It’s easy to sit on the House floor and create a spectacle, demanding a vote on gun control legislation that wouldn’t have even prevented the terrorist attack they’re politicizing. It’s less easy to admit that the answer isn’t a new law made in haste, but a hard look at our national security and intelligence apparatuses.

After all, Orlando terrorist Omar Mateen was investigated by the FBI twice, reported again to the FBI for suspicious behavior just days prior to his attack, and no follow up was initiated.

There are unfortunately no easy answers to the question of how to prevent lone wolf terror attacks, no matter how understandably desperate many are to find them.

To the Democrats sitting on the House floor so they can feel good about “doing something,” I’d suggest that denying innocent Americans their basic due process rights is no solution.

Bernie Sanders vs. The Superdelegates?

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

Originally published at EveryJoe

If the 2016 presidential primaries have been united by one theme, it would be dissatisfaction with politics as usual. On both the Republican and Democratic sides, disillusioned voters have put their faith in perceived outsiders Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. And given that these candidates’ supporters aren’t party regulars, they’re learning the hard way about the arcane obstacles surrounding delegate acquisition and convention preparation.

There’s no easy way to summarize how the processes work on either the Republican or Democratic side. Delegate allocation and the procedures around voting for them vary from state to state. Some require multi-layered convection processes that span months. But the Democrats have an arguably un-democratic tradition the Republicans don’t: Superdelegates. And nearly all of them are in the tank for Hillary Clinton.

Given the contentious nature of the Clinton-Sanders race – in which 33% of his voters say they won’t support her in a general election – many people are asking, what is a superdelegate? And will they make a difference at the Democratic National Convention if Clinton and Sanders are still locked in a close battle? The answer: It depends.

As the New York times recently described them, superdelegates are, “[M]ajor Democratic elected officials like governors and members of Congress; national and state party leaders; and notable party figures like former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.” Presently, 469 of them support Clinton, and only 31 are backing Sanders.

Naturally, this has drawn the ire of Bernie Sanders supporters, who back him precisely because they feel the system – on both an economic and political level – is rigged to favor elites. Given the pervasiveness of corporate welfare and the fact that the rich are getting richer as middle class wages stagnate, they aren’t wrong in diagnosing the problem. Sanders supporters are, understandably, sick of politics as usual – and nothing could be a better manifestation of their anxiety than the superdelegate count; especially as Sanders has swept Clinton in the last 7 contests.

This led an eager Sanders supporter to create a “Superdelegate Hit List,” filled with the names and contact information of the unelected party elites. Liberal website America Blog chronicled this effort, with writer John Aravosis noting that the list “[I]ncludes the apparent home addresses of several superdelegates, including at least one woman.” Aravosis also said, “[The creator] is urging fellow Sanders supporters to ‘harass’ Hillary Clinton’s superdelegates, in order to get them to change their vote to Bernie Sanders.”

Questionable tactics aside – because “harassing” a superdelegate isn’t likely to change his or her mind – this effort embodies the angst felt by many Sanders supporters. (A feeling shared by Trump’s backers as Cruz out-organizes him on the delegate-collection front.) And while Sanders supporters have every right to question the undemocratic nature of superdelegates in a party that prides itself on promoting democracy, the truth is that Clinton is still ahead – at least for now – with or without these party bigwigs.

As Philip Bump pointed out at the Washington Post, “[B]y every possible democratic measure, Clinton is winning. She’s winning in states (and territories) won, which isn’t a meaningful margin of victory anyway. She’s winning in the popular vote by 2.4 million votes — more than a third more than Sanders has in total. In part that’s because Sanders is winning lower-turnout caucuses, but it’s mostly because he’s winning smaller states. And she’s winning with both types of delegates.”

This does make sense, because not all states are equal in terms of voting population – and in turn, delegate allocation. “Sanders won Oklahoma by 10 points; Clinton won North Carolina by about 13. But Clinton won 14 more delegates than Sanders in North Carolina. He won 4 more than her in Oklahoma,” wrote Bump. As he noted, Oklahoma is a smaller state than North Carolina, and of course as a deep red state, has fewer Democrats. “Where Clinton has won big, there have often been a lot of pledged delegates at stake. Where Sanders has won big, there often haven’t,” concluded Bump.

So yes, it is likely that Clinton will win the Democratic nomination, although it won’t be the drama-free coronation she’d hoped for. But Bump does concede that, “In Clinton’s case, she probably won’t get [to the nomination] without superdelegates tilting her way.” And it’s easy to see why this upsets Sanders supporters. But the fact remains, from a purely democratic standpoint, that she does have the backing of more voters than he does – to the tune of millions. If superdelegates didn’t exist and Clinton did have to fight on the convention floor, it’s nearly impossible to imagine a scenario where she wouldn’t still come out on top.

Ultimately, while Sanders is putting up an admirable fight, it doesn’t look like he’ll be able to oust the woman that, quite frankly, most political observers originally thought would be the president 8 years ago. The New York primary will be held on April 19th, and Clinton, the former U.S. Senator from the state, is favored to win – by a 53-37 point margin per a recent Fox News poll – despite the fact that Sanders originally hails from Brooklyn. A total of 291 delegates are at stake – 44 of which are superdelegates.

While Sanders and his supporters have legitimate points about rigged systems, and it’s true that the convention processes for both the Republicans and Democrats aren’t the most democratic in the world, there are always two sides to a story. Sometimes, people forget that political parties are technically private clubs. That’s why they get to make their own rules as far as the nominating process goes.

Typically, those rules and the democratic process aren’t in conflict. But insofar as they are, the system is built to work through those kinks. To the extent that the outcomes favor the party elites, yes, Sanders and Trump supporters have a right to be upset. As things stand on the Democratic side however, Clinton has a majority, and likely will continue to. If Democrats are in fact concerned with democracy, then majority rules; and Sanders’ supporters are out of luck this time.

Sorry libertarians, Trump won’t “blow up the GOP,” he’ll just govern like a Democrat

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

Originally published at Rare

There’s a theory floating around in understandably frustrated libertarian circles. Since Donald Trump is mounting what looks like a hostile takeover of the Republican Party, we should lend him our support even if we totally disagree with him, because the GOP deserves to be punished for decades of well-documented misdeeds.

This notion, combined with the fact that Trump often seems less interventionist (though in no way libertarian) on foreign policy than other candidates, has led some libertarians into supporting an authoritarian with a lifelong record of funding both parties’ establishments.

Make no mistake: Donald Trump as president will not usher in some kind of radical change. He will govern as he’s running: A left-wing narcissist with a disturbing record of racist and misogynistic commentary.

I understand the temptation to tell the GOP to go screw itself. I often hear from those who were delegates for Ron Paul at the Republican National Convention in 2012, or those at least the drama and rules changes, how unfairly libertarians were treated. I too was at the convention, and there’s no doubt in my mind that Republican officials engaged in backroom trickery.

But voting for a presidential candidate who is demonstrably to the left of even the worst establishment Republican won’t actually punish the party, nor do I expect it to lead to the kind of fracturing that would usher in an era of smaller government, as some libertarians seem to hope.

If Trump were to be the Republican nominee, or God forbid become president, we would simply have two Democratic parties: One focused on big government and identity politics for people of color and women, the other, on big government and identity politics for angry, white working class men. The policy differences would ultimately be few and far between. Less even than now.

Donald Trump would basically be Hillary Clinton with an even bigger ego. Not to mention Trump’s fringe white nationalist supporters, who mimic their leader’s penchant for insulting anyone who dares to dissent, would be emboldened.

Is dragging the Republican Party further to the left than it already is and adding more than a small tinge of racism really supposed to make way for some kind of libertarian future?

Forgive me, but I just don’t see it.

Some say that with Trump as the Republican nominee, a third party, perhaps the Libertarian Party, could become a viable option. As good as that might be for our politics, I don’t foresee that happening either. More than likely, a significant portion of the Republican base will look at Trump and decide even if they aren’t fans, he’s better than Hillary. Partisan instincts are almost always stronger than policy, especially in general elections.

Then what? We’ll have a Republican National Committee forced to defend Trump’s far-left positions on the economy, abortion, and scope of government issues, mixed in with terrible views on civil liberties, and no record of respect for constitutional governance. This isn’t a step in the right direction away from the disastrous Bush years, it’s a regression of epic proportions.

To think this disaster will yield libertarianism, or even an opportunity for it, rather than overt authoritarianism, is in my view, dangerously naive.

In saying that libertarians shouldn’t expect the kind of radical political fracturing they’re hoping Trump to cause, I’m not suggesting that Rubio, or even Cruz and Kasich, are necessarily better alternatives. Do I think they’d do less damage to down ballot Republicans whereas Trump may very well cause us to lose the House and Senate? Yes. But that’s not an endorsement of their policy agendas.

Call me crazy, but I’d rather see our liberty Republicans keep gaining influence in Congress and throughout state legislatures without the GOP’s brand being potentially irreparably damaged by a leftist demagogue. If you think the Bush-redux neoconservatism of Rubio is bad, which I do, what Trump will bring in the form of his terrifying narcissism and thin-skinned, childish approach to dealing with his detractors, not to mention his massive plans for government expansion, will be even worse.

In my view, if we’re regressing, let’s try to do the least amount of it possible. Trump is an authoritarian, and his views are definitionally as anti-liberty as humanly possible. He would turn the GOP into a party of Bernie Sanders’ economics and David Duke’s cultural views; quite literally my worst nightmare as a libertarian.

You won’t be “sticking it to the GOP” by supporting Trump; you’ll be forcing the GOP to become more like him – screwing yourself, and the country, for decades to come.

A federal judge just gave Hillary Clinton some really bad news

Friday, February 12th, 2016

Originally published at Rare

Voters already distrust Hillary Clinton. And given what just happened in a federal court, the former secretary of state isn’t likely to improve her standing anytime soon.

The Obama State Department has conveniently delayed the release of controversial emails sent on Clinton’s private server. Now a federal judge is working to put a stop to those protective measures.

As the Washington Examiner reported:

In a court order entered Thursday, Judge Rudolph Contreras of the U.S. District Court told State Department officials to publish 550 of Clinton’s emails by Saturday, another batch by Feb. 19, a third batch by Feb. 26 and a final batch by Feb. 29.

The order represents a victory for Jason Leopold, the Vice News reporter who filed the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit for Clinton’s emails last year.

The State Department attempted last month to stall the final Clinton email release until after the primary contests in February and until hours before the spate of “Super Tuesday” elections.

Leopold’s legal team has argued that the State Department’s refusal to release the emails until after the majority of the Democratic primary contests amounts to suppressing information pertinent to voters making an informed decision.

As Rare’s Natalie McKee recently wrote, “Remember, last week we learned there were 22 emails on Clinton’s server that were too damaging to release, in any form, to the public. Yet these emails nonchalantly passed hands throughout the State Department—and across an unsecured world wide web.”

All of this drama, especially in the wake of Clinton’s epic loss to Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire, makes one wonder if Joe Biden regrets his decision not to enter the presidential race. Meanwhile, Michael Bloomberg is floating rumors that he might jump in as an independent.

Amidst it all, Donald Trump decisively won in New Hampshire. Talk about shaking up the system.

Obama’s State of Delusion

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

Originally published at Every Joe

Two themes have permeated Obama’s presidency: Hope and cynicism. He famously invoked the former during his 2008 run that captured the imagination of an eager electorate. And when the realities of governing failed to match his lofty rhetoric, he has consistently blamed the latter; attributing it, of course, to his ideological foes, bent on curbing progress.

Obama’s hope versus cynicism dichotomy reared its head once again in his last State of the Union address. “What I’m asking for is hard. It’s easier to be cynical; to accept that change isn’t possible, and politics is hopeless, and to believe that our voices and actions don’t matter,” he said, almost sounding as though he was trying to convince himself of this more than his fellow Americans.

Observing the president at the end of his term, it almost seems as if he still hasn’t quite processed that he is, in fact, the leader of the free world. His State of the Union felt like a warmed-over attempt at an eight-year-old campaign speech precisely because he seems pathologically incapable of dispensing with his emotionally satisfying “good versus evil” worldview.

The president may rely on “hope versus cynicism” rhetorically, but what he’s invoking is nothing short of the world’s oldest literary device: Obama is Good. His enemies are Evil. But the trouble is the specter of George W. Bush is no longer as useful from a blame-assigning standpoint, and it makes his attempts at moral grandstanding a bit trickier than they were when he was the alternative: the Great Hope.

Obama seems aware of this, to an extent. “It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency — that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better,” he said. But he stopped short of accepting blame for this even though rancor and suspicion are the lifeblood of his campaign outfit, Organizing For Action. “Call out the climate change deniers,” reads a data-mining petition on OFA’s website.

This is Obama’s mode of operation. He said during his State of the Union address that we should stop assuming those we disagree with politically are “motivated by malice” or “unpatriotic,” yet he has been at the forefront of doing just that throughout the duration of his presidency. In fact, I lay what I’ve long chronicled as the highly disturbing rise of Donald Trump at Obama’s feet.

Ben Domenech writing at The Federalist is right: Donald Trump is in fact the candidate of white identity politics. And why is this happening? Because many whites, especially working class men, are sick of being demonized, precisely in the manner Obama said should never occur during his State of the Union. “As frustration grows, there will be voices urging us to fall back into tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don’t look like us, or pray like us, or vote like we do, or share the same background,” said the president, quite obviously, and justifiably hitting Trump.

But has he ever stopped to ask himself why there are “voices” doing this? Is the president not aware that he has actively encouraged just those kinds of tribal politics among his own supporters? The blind hatred often seen on the left toward those they disagree with has undoubtedly been fostered and encouraged by Obama’s colleagues, and his own “community organizing” group. Not to mention the fact that Obama and his ilk constantly attack members of congress for not bowing to his will whenever he demands it. The representatives people elected specifically to stop his agenda are maligned as unproductive barriers to progress. Because in Obama’s mind, he is the beacon, and those who oppose him are the cynics.

It never seems to cross the president’s mind that perhaps the people who disagree with him aren’t simply cynical opponents of progress. The real world is far more complicated than the easy dichotomy he repeatedly invokes. Many of us are just as optimistic about average Americans as he is. In fact, Obama reserved a large portion of his speech to shower praise on the everyday people who keep America moving.

“When I no longer hold this office, I’ll be right there with you as a citizen — inspired by those voices of fairness and vision, of grit and good humor and kindness that have helped America travel so far,” said Obama. “Voices that help us see ourselves not first and foremost as black or white or Asian or Latino, not as gay or straight, immigrant or native born; not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans first, bound by a common creed.”

These are beautiful words but they ring flat when they’re accompanied by constant calls for government-centric solutions – as if social progress can be measured by how much money is extracted from the productive sector and thrown into the black hole that is the federal bureaucracy. “Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future,” says the president, once again couching progress as government-run.

Many of us feel quite the opposite; that government is the barrier to progress. That the red tape strangling our economy has discouraged entrepreneurs. That Federal Reserve policy has robbed low-income households of prosperity. That reliance on the American people requires empowering individuals, not politicians. That doesn’t make us “cynics.”

Unfortunately, Hillary Clinton has given us reason to expect more of the same divisiveness. During the first Democratic debate, Clinton was asked, “which enemy that you made during your political career are you the most proud of?” Her answer? “Republicans.” This is precisely the “rancor and suspicion” Obama claims to oppose in action. He has fostered and nurtured it, and the Democrats will continue apace as they always do. Conservatives are no doubt equally culpable for the division we see in our politics, but the fundamental problem here isn’t differences of opinion – it’s the size of government.

If you want less political divisiveness, stop making everything political. When the vast majority of major societal decisions are made by politicians, bureaucrats and their special interest buddies instead of being decided on an individual level in a marketplace, expect “rancor and suspicion.” Obama’s growth of government and demonization of his enemies has yielded that. Clinton – and Trump – very much desire to continue it. Obama might label me a cynic who has “given up on our democracy” for this viewpoint. But I’d label him hopelessly naive, even as his presidency comes to an end, for still believing that an activist government yields anything but the major political divides that he defined as the “biggest regret of his presidency.”