Dem 48
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GOP 52
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New polls:  
Dem pickups vs. 2012: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2012: (None)

U.S. Military Confirms that North Korea Fired Missile

The U.S. Pacific Command has confirmed that North Korea successfully fired an intermediate range ballistic missile that landed in the Sea of Japan, just as North Korea claimed. The missile could not have reached the U.S. mainland, but as North Korean technology improves, their range will no doubt increase. Donald Trump tweeted about the launch, saying:

Right now, Trump can just huff and puff and threaten to blow Kim Jong-un's house down. But if North Korea ever gets to the point of having a missile that can actually strike the U.S. mainland, there could be trouble ahead. Hawaii is the closest densely populated target and although it is a very blue state that Trump doesn't care about, an attack there would bring up memories of another attack, one that occurred on Dec. 7, 1941, before Hawaii was even a state. Trump would have a hard time shrugging it off, since the comparison of his actions and those of Franklin Delano Roosevelt would be devastating.

If that were to pass, Trump would have few options, all of them bad. China is the only country that can put real pressure on North Korea (by cutting off close to 100% of its oil supply). But China doesn't want North Korea to collapse because it is afraid that if that happens, thousands of refugees will start pouring over the 500-mile border the two countries share. Short of a nuclear attack on North Korea, there is not a lot Trump could do, then. What he could do now is try diplomacy instead of tweeting, but he has essentially already ruled that out. Or maybe he could help China build a 500-mile long border wall and get North Korea to pay for it. (V)

Democrats Get a Mulligan--in Greater Sammamish

The Democrats are batting .200 in special elections so far, having won only one of the five House elections this year, and that one was easy since it pitted one Democrat against another in California after a jungle primary.

When Washington state senator Andy Hill (R) died late last year, it triggered a special election in state senate district WA-45, which covers Sammamish, Duval, Kirkland, and Redmond, WA. Not only is this a chance for Democrats to finally win a competitive race, but it has major implications for Washington state politics. The Democrats control the lower chamber of the state legislature and the governor's mansion. If they can take Hill's seat, they will also control the state senate. At that point they will pass a spate of long-blocked bills on carbon emissions, voting rights, and birth control, among other topics. It will also give the Democrats trifectas along the West Coast from Canada to Mexico.

Both parties have settled on a preferred candidate. The Democrats are for 42-year-old Manka Dhingra, a King County prosecutor. The Republicans are for 33-year-old Jinyoung Lee Englund, a businesswoman and former staffer for Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA). Money is already pouring into the state for the November election. It is estimated that as much as $10 million could be spent in this race, an unheard of amount for a state senate race. Dhingra is favored because the district leans Democratic; In 2016, Hillary Clinton got 48,000 votes in WA-45 to Donald Trump's 21,000. In any event, the winner is very likely to be a minority woman. (V)

Kansas Gubernatorial Race Forces Democrats to Make a Choice

Gov. Sam Brownback (R-KS) isn't the least popular governor in the country. That honor firmly belongs to Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ). Nevertheless, Brownback is so unpopular that Democrats actually have a chance to reclaim the governor's mansion in the Sunflower State in 2018. The idea is not totally crazy. Democrat Kathleen Sebelius was twice elected governor in the 2000s.

The Democrats' biggest problem isn't the Republicans. It is other Democrats. The Party's strongest candidate is a charismatic 37-year-old state representative named Josh Svaty, whose family has been farming in Kansas for 150 years. The problem is that Svaty is pro-life, which is anathema to much of the national Democratic Party. Svaty says that it is very, very hard for anyone supporting abortion to get elected in Kansas, but to many Democrats, including DNC Chairman Tom Perez, the issue of women's reproductive rights is not negotiable. Svaty has repeatedly said: "A Democrat in Baileyville, Kansas is not the same as a Democrat in Brooklyn, New York."

The issue of abortion also came up in the mayoral election in Omaha in 2016, when a moderate pro-life Democrat, Heath Mello, was rejected by the national Democrats and ended up losing by 6 points. If the national Party had supported him, he might have won, since Omaha leans Democratic. Barack Obama even won one electoral vote in the Omaha congressional district in 2008.

Both the Svaty and Mello races expose a huge problem for the Democrats. In many red states, Democrats who support a progressive agenda on economic issues (inequality, minimum wage, taxes, unions, etc.) but a conservative agenda on cultural issues (guns, religion, abortion, transgender rights, etc.) can actually get elected. Living examples include Democrats Brian Schweitzer and Steve Bullock, who together have won the last four gubernatorial elections in deep-red Montana. If every cultural issue is a litmus test that every candidate must pass, Democrats are going to continue to be a coastal party, not a national one. If they are willing to accept pro-life, pro-gun Democrats in red states, they can get their economic agenda passed in those states. If they reject these candidates, they get nothing.

Republicans understand this better than Democrats. They are willing to support moderate pro-choice candidates like Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) when that is needed to win elections. The national Republicans don't support same-sex marriage, but they are not about to boot Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), who does support it, out of the party. In part as a consequence of the Democrats requiring a litmus test and the Republicans not requiring it, Republicans control the Senate, House, 33 governor's mansions, and 67 of the 98 partisan state legislative chambers. Henry Clay once said: "I'd rather be right than be president." He got his wish: He was never president. (V)

Kamala Harris Is Raising Lots of Money for Senate Democrats

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), considered to be a rising star in the Democratic Party, is using her stardom to raise lots of money for Democratic senators up in 2018. Just coincidentally, it also raises her national profile in case she decides in 2020 that she would prefer being president to being a senator. She has pulled in $600,000 so far, of which $365,000 comes from small online donations. Among other senators benefiting from her largesse are Jon Tester (MT), Claire McCaskill (MO), and Elizabeth Warren (MA)—not that Warren needs it.

Harris came to national attention during the hearings of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. During these hearings, she was shushed by her male colleagues, which raised her profile on social media enormously.

During the 2018 campaign, she is likely to hit the road for Democratic Senate candidates, both speaking with them and raising money for them. If she decides to run in 2020, some of them might be grateful enough to endorse her. You never know. (V)

Trump and the Psychology of Cyberbullying

Regular, old-fashioned bullying requires that the bully be either physically or socially stronger than the victim. Cyberbullying changes the rules, since a weak, friendless coward can easily post "Sally is fat" or "Mary is a slut" anonymously to social media, just to see how everyone reacts.

A number of experts on the subject have examined Donald Trump's relationship with cyberbullying. Like traditional bullies, he usually picks on people less powerful than himself, often women, such as Megan Kelly and Mika Brzezinski. He never picks on people who are equals in some sense, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) or Chief Justice John Roberts.

Emily Bazelon, a cyberbullying expert and author of Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy, said it is not up to the victim to fight back. It is up to the community to make it clear that bullying is not acceptable. Nicolle Wallace, who formerly worked for George W. Bush, has taken a different approach to Trump's bullying. She has called on the women in the administration, including Dina Powell, Elaine Chao, and Betsy DeVos, to work behind the scenes to educate Trump not to bully women. If they have done so, it hasn't had much effect so far. In fact, Melania Trump's spokeswoman has said: "When her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder." Justin Patchin, co-director of the CyberBullying Research Center at the University of Wisconsin, has asked: "What are our children supposed to glean from this? If someone bullies you, bully them worse?" (V)

Democrats Trust CNN; Republicans Trust Trump

A Survey Monkey online poll has found that truth is partisan. A full 89% of Republicans trust Donald Trump more than they trust CNN, while 91% of Democrats trust CNN more than they trust Trump. Among independents, 55% go with CNN and 40% go with Trump. With numbers like this, it is very clear that when Trump lies, he knows Republicans will believe what he says while Democrats won't, and that is fine with him.

The poll also discovered some other interesting facts (if such things as facts even exist any more). For example, 33% of all Republicans get their news only from Fox News. The words used to describe Trump's tweets are: undignified (47%), mean (34%), entertaining (26%), and presidential (7%). While Trump's Republican base laps up everything he says, describing his tweets as truthful and entertaining, among pure independents, the top three words used to describe them are: undignified, mean, and dishonest.

The Survey Monkey poll comes only a day after a NPR/PBS Marist College poll showing that 37% of all Americans have faith in the Trump administration and only 30% have faith in the media. (V)

A Tale of Two Retractions

Recently, both CNN and Fox News have found themselves in hot water over their reporting of a specific story. In CNN's case, it was a piece asserting that Trump campaign official Anthony Scaramucci met with Russian bankers. In Fox's case, the story was about murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich, and how he might have been rubbed out due to leaking Democratic emails to Wikileaks.

Both stories have been withdrawn, but the manner in which the retractions were handled was both very different and highly instructive. In CNN's case, shortly after they got wind that their story might not pass the smell test, they began to look into the matter. The story was pulled from their website later that day, and replaced by an apology, which is still publicly available. Once CNN's investigation was concluded, three employees resigned, and the organization's policies and procedures were amended to add an extra layer of scrutiny, in order to keep an error of this sort from happening again.

Fox played things very differently, to say the least. When it became clear that their source was speaking from something other than his mouth, they did nothing. Actually, it's not correct to say they did nothing—what they did was beat the story to death, harping on it day-in and day-out for over a week, even as the chorus of critical voices grew deafening. Eventually, several days after a plea from the dead man's family, Fox surreptitiously removed the story from their website. No apology was posted, nor was any offered over the airwaves. There was no internal review, by all evidences, and no employees were sanctioned. In fact, Fox News' biggest star, Sean Hannity, continues to promote the story on his website and his radio show.

At any journalism school in America, CNN's handling of the matter would be lauded. Mistakes happen in the news business, sometimes very big ones. This being the case, the key is how those mistakes are handled once they have been made, and CNN did everything within their power to rectify the error. By contrast, Fox did the bare minimum, and only then it was kicking and screaming, and motivated primarily by a desire to protect its bottom line. Indeed, their handling of the matter bears a striking resemblance to how they dealt with Bill O'Reilly's serial sexual harassment.

And this brings us to a broader point. Quite often the flaws of CNN (or MSNBC) are used in order to justify the bad behavior of Fox News. CNN is politically slanted, goes one line of argument, so it's ok if Fox is politically slanted in the other direction. CNN makes sloppy mistakes, goes another, so it's ok if Fox does the same. What this all overlooks, of course, is the degree of the behaviors. By any objective measure, Fox holds itself to lower journalistic standards than do its competitors. Their sourcing is shakier, the line between news and commentary is blurrier, and their efforts to be even-handed are far flimsier. So, we should probably avoid drawing these ultimately false equivalencies. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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