Dem 49
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GOP 51
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New polls:  
Dem pickups vs. 2012: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2012: (None)

Coats: The Russians Are Coming

Actually, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats didn't say the Russians are coming. He said yesterday that they are already here, working hard to disrupt the midterms any way they can. They are not closet Republicans. Their goal is to sow discord and weaken America—for example, by undermining faith in elections. DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said that the entire system of U.S. democracy is in the Russian crosshairs. Their comments came after weeks of both parties criticizing Donald Trump for his refusal to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin and to attack him point blank for interfering in the 2016 election. Trump's absence from the briefing room where Coats and Nielsen spoke further emphasizes that Trump does not think Russian attacks on America are a problem (more below).

The message from the officials was that Trump notwithstanding, other government leaders were aware of the problem and trying to do their best to combat it. Among other things, Coats said: "Our focus here today is simply to tell the American people we acknowledge the threat, it is real, it is continuing and we are doing everything we can to have a legitimate election that the American people can have trust in." He didn't say: "Of course, if the president and Congress were helping, our job would be a lot easier," but he was no doubt thinking that. Coats also noted that Russia is not the only hostile player. Other countries are also working to subvert the elections. He didn't name any, but China, Iran, and North Korea are probably high on his internal list. (V)

The Trumps and the Nazis, Part I: Don Jr.

When one is teaching a history class, or writing political analysis, or participating in a discussion, or the like, one must be very careful about invoking the Nazis and/or Adolf Hitler. That move is, in most cases, the ultimate intellectual cheap shot. As the Nazis are the embodiment of pure evil in Western culture, drawing a comparison to them is all-but-guaranteed to bring the useful portion of the discussion to an end. This is known as Reductio ad Hitlerum, a term coined in 1951, by which point the phenomenon was already noticeable. In the context of Internet discussions, the same concept is known as Godwin's Law.

With that said, there are a few circumstances where it is apropos to explore comparisons to the Nazis. After all, as Holocaust historians have regularly observed, we cannot hope to avoid repeating the mistakes of that era if we can never draw legitimate parallels to the events of the 1930s. And it's even easier to discuss the subject when someone kicks the door open for you. Like, say, the outspoken son of a prominent politician. On Thursday, Donald Trump Jr. did an interview with Jack Posobiec, a (former?) white supremacist and conspiracy theorist best known for essentially creating the Pizzagate "conspiracy" (that Democrats were running a child sex ring from a pizza parlor in Washington) out of whole cloth. Anyhow, egged on by Posobiec, Trump Jr. decided that the time had come to share his true feelings about the Democrats:

I've been out hearing the left talking about all these things, fascism, Nazism on the right. And when you look at the actual history of how these things evolved, and when you actually look at that platform versus the platform of the modern left, you say wait a minute, those two are really heavily aligned and, frankly, contrary to the right...You see the Nazi platform in the early 1930s and what was actually put out there...and you look at it compared to like the DNC platform of today, and you're saying, man, those things are awfully similar, to a point where it's actually scary.

The interview took place, incidentally, at the premiere of Dinesh D'Souza's new film Death of a Nation: Can We Save America a Second Time?, which also draws a Democrat-Nazi parallel, while at the same time presenting Donald Trump as a modern Abraham Lincoln. So, delusional thinking was clearly in the air.

It is...unlikely, shall we say, that young Trump has made a careful study of pre-World War II Europe and the circumstances that gave rise to Nazism and other forms of fascism. Nonetheless, let us consider his thesis. When people allude to the "platform" of the Nazi party, what they mean is the one the Party produced in 1933. That one was the culmination of several years' platforms (dating back to 1920), and was effectively the "last" platform, as Hitler would seize power as dictator soon thereafter, bringing an end to democratic elections.

The 1933 platform is here, and includes 25 declarations. Examining it, there are a handful of major themes:

  • Xenophobia: It hardly even needs to be said that the Nazis disliked anyone who was not ethnically German. Jews, of course, but also blacks, and immigrants of all stripes, and Roma, and non-Germanic whites. The platform specifically proposes that only "only Nationals can be Citizens of the State" and "only persons of German blood can be Nationals" (#4). Foreigners are allowed to remain as guests (#5), and may not vote or claim any sort of civil rights (#6). If there are not enough jobs for everyone, foreigners are to be deported (#7). And no new foreigners are to be allowed into the country, under any circumstances (#8).

  • Populism: The Nazis wanted to tear down big businesses so as to create jobs and opportunities for blue-collar workers (#12, #13, #14, and #16). It should be noted that they wanted to do it directly, by nationalizing most industries, and not indirectly through things like, say, tariffs.

  • Anti-Internationalism: The Nazis disdained participation in the "materialistic World Order" (#19) and preferred to adhere only to German law, and to pursue German ends. They also favored withdrawal from international treaties (#2).

  • Anti-Press: The Nazis weren't anti-press, per se, they were just opposed to any media whom they viewed as perpetrating "deliberate political lies." Such newspapers were to be banned (#23).

  • Religious "Freedom": The Nazis wanted everyone to be able to practice their religion as they saw fit. As long as that religion was, of course, some form of Christianity. "The Party as such stands for positive Christianity, without associating itself with any particular denomination," (#24).

  • Pro-military: The platform also calls for vigorous promotion of and spending on the German military (#22).

Now, let us imagine that we wanted to make Trump Jr.'s argument for him: That there are strong parallels between the Nazi program and the current program of the Democrats. The only way to get there is to conflate National socialism (which is actual socialism) with Democratic socialism (which isn't). The Nazis, as noted above, favored nationalizing many industries and businesses. That included department stores (#16), corporations (#13), and other large enterprises (#14). This is socialism, as it was understood in Hitler's time, and as it is still understood in some of Europe today.

In present-day America, by contrast, Democrats/Democratic socialists favor government involvement in some aspects of the economy, like setting a higher minimum wage, and possibly setting a national minimum income. Many even favor single-payer healthcare which, while it could theoretically be socialist (the government owns and runs everything, as in Britain), is not generally conceived as such in the United States. In nearly all American single-payer proposals, most hospitals and medical practices would remain privately-held (besides the VA), and the government would merely set standards and pay the bills (which is how Medicare and Medicaid already work). And there is certainly no left-wing American politician, not even Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has come within a country mile of calling for the nationalization of corporations and stores. And so, the socialism of the Nazis and that of the present-day Democratic Party are really apples and oranges.

That said, there is one plank in the Nazi platform that clearly mirrors Democratic thinking. Plank #15 says, "We demand the large-scale development of old-age pension schemes." In the U.S., the Social Security Act was indeed the work of a Democratic president and Congress, and it remains one of the bedrocks of the party's political program. So, Trump Jr.'s got the blue team on that one. However, Social Security is also one of the most popular government programs extant, maybe the most popular program. And beyond old age pensions, and a clumsy equivalency between two different things that both happen to be called "socialism," there's nothing else. So, Trump Jr's (and Dinesh D'Souza's) argument simply doesn't hold water. As the list above suggests, there may just be a modern-day American political party whose program bears some resemblance to that of the Nazis, but it ain't the Democrats. (Z)

The Trumps and the Nazis, Part II: Don Sr. (and His Base)

As long as the Nazi can of worms is already open, let's talk a little bit about the political style of Donald Trump, Sr. One of the keys to Adolf Hitler's rise, as many readers will know, was lying. And not just little white lies, but what he called the "Big Lie." A lie, as Hitler explains in Mein Kampf, that is so "colossal" that nobody "could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously." While Hitler accused Jews (and others) of the offense, he was himself a skilled practitioner. As the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (now known as the CIA) reported:

His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.

Perhaps this description seems vaguely familiar.

In any event, it is now well established that the President is an inveterate liar, a lesson first learned during his decades as a businessman and reality star, then re-affirmed during his presidential campaign, and then reiterated once again with his inauguration, starting with his Big Lie about the size of the crowd on that day. At the moment, Trump's favorite lie is that the whole Russia situation is a hoax. Indeed, on Thursday evening, just hours after high-ranking members of his administration confirmed that Russia is meddling (and has meddled) in U.S. elections, Trump made this declaration before a rally crowd in Pennsylvania:

In Helsinki, I had a great meeting with Putin. We discussed everything...We got along really well. By the way, that's a good thing, not a bad thing. Now we're being hindered by the Russian hoax -- it's a hoax, OK?

Needless to say, the crowd ate it up. And clearly, with the base, the Trumpian version of events has taken hold. Every poll shows that roughly 30% of Americans think that election meddling, the Mueller investigation, and everything else Russia-related is a scam and a lie. And the success the President is having only emboldens him to tell more (and probably bigger) lies. It took him over a year to reach 2,500 lies on the Washington Post's lie tracker. Now that his daily lie rate has more than doubled, he's going to pile up the second 2,500 in about six months.

Moving on, and as noted above, Hitler was also very unhappy with "deliberate political lies" being told by the press. And to Hitler, that meant "things I disagree with." After all, the viciously anti-Semitic Der Stürmer was literally nothing but "deliberate political lies," and Hitler loved it. As you may have heard, Donald Trump holds similar views about the media. And, as with the Donald's lies, the base has warmly embraced his philosophy on the press. For example, at the President's rally in Tampa (on Wednesday), CNN's Jim Acosta was jeered, threatened, spat upon, and targeted by a few hundred obscene gestures:

Of course, prominent Republicans with media backgrounds rushed to Acosta's defense, and warned that this is wrong and undemocratic, right? Maybe not so much. Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer:

Implicit in Fleischer's argument is the Trumpian idea that the press is made up entirely of partisans, and so reporters and actual political partisans are entirely equivalent to one another.

One last commonality that we will note, beyond the Big Lies and the press hatred, is conspiratorial thinking. Mein Kampf is, in essence, one big conspiracy theory. Most famously, it falsely blames Jewish bankers for stabbing Germany in the back at the end of the World War I, and attributes the nation's woes in the 1920s to them. However, it actually gets much wilder in the later chapters, as the cast of villains is expanded to include not only Jews, but also communists, and various liberal groups, and the press (naturally), and black Jazz musicians, and modernist artists and architects, and a host of others. The Führer didn't just dislike these "degenerates," however, he was persuaded that they were all actively working together against the German people.

Donald Trump's political career emerged, of course, from a conspiracy, namely Obama birtherism. He's regularly dabbled in conspiratorial thinking since his election, most obviously the notion that everything bad that befalls him is the work of a "deep state" network of unfriendly people working in secret to undermine him. The base has taken this cue and run with it. Viewing the Acosta video linked above, one can see a number of signs and t-shirts alluding to "Q." For example:

We are Q

It's not the Star Trek protagonist or the James Bond character, unfortunately. In fact, it's a reference to a conspiracy theory that's all the rage in some right-wing circles these days. Q is an anonymous fellow (or maybe several fellows) who releases little bits of information on the web community reddit every once in a while that are designed to shed light on the so-called "storm" that is gathering in response to Trump's heroic efforts to fight the globalists, the media elite, the deep state, etc. The storyline, and its cast of evil-doers, are pretty far out there, and evolve on a daily basis. But included on the list of bad guys (and gals) are the Jews (of course), the Illuminati, Hollywood filmmakers (many of them alleged to be pedophiles), the Rothschilds, banks in general, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Barack Obama (naturally), Hillary Clinton and Huma Abedin (also naturally), and George Soros (another obvious inclusion). In short, it's basically a mash-up of Pizzagate, Mein Kampf, and The Da Vinci Code. Donald Trump has not openly endorsed the theory, but Sean Hannity has, which probably means Trump is not far behind. There would be much irony, of course, if "Q" is actually the Russians, since that would mean that many Trump followers would be thinking that the truth about the Russians is a hoax, while the hoax from the Russians is the truth.

Now, with all of this said, while much of what we're seeing today is very concerning, there are some significant differences between today's political climate and what happened in the 1930s. Perhaps most obviously, those of us who are alive today have the 1930s to use as a guide to troublesome warning signs. And, unlike Hitler or Benito Mussolini or Francisco Franco, Trump does not command a military force that is loyal only to him. So, it would be rather difficult for him to act on his worst impulses in the way those three did. Still, if one insists on making modern-day, American comparisons to the Nazis, it's at least somewhat doable. (Z)

Not Many Surprises in Tennessee Primary

Eschewing the usual Tuesday scheduling, Tennesseeans headed to the polls on Thursday for their primaries. Overall, the results were pretty anticlimactic, as nearly all of the big races were settled by huge margins.

To the extent there was drama on the statewide ballot, it was in the Republican gubernatorial primary, where four candidates jockeyed for position as the #1 Trump fan. The winner was Bill Lee, an outsider entrepreneur (he owns a plumbing business), who dispatched outsider entrepreneur Randy Boyd (he sells dog fences), and establishment candidate Rep. Diane Black by 12 and 13 points, respectively. That was actually a barnburner compared to the Democratic side of the contest, where moderate former Nashville mayor Karl Dean handily defeated the much more progressive State Rep. Craig Fitzhugh. Fitzhugh ran an impressive, and high-energy, campaign that got some lefties' hopes up, but it wasn't enough, as he lost by 45 points.

When it comes to the Senate, things are expected to get interesting in the general election, when Tennesseans pick a replacement for Bob Corker (R). On Thursday, however, they were as dull as dishwater, as former governor Phil Bredesen trounced his nearest competitor by a staggering 86 points, while Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R) trounced hers by 69. Bredesen is leading in the polls, but has to be at least a little bit worried that less than 380,000 Democrats showed up to vote for him last night, compared to more than 715,000 for Blackburn.

Many of the House races, by contrast, actually were competitive on Thursday. But, in the inverse of the situation with the Senate seat, the drama is now over. Hillary Clinton won the two districts represented by Democrats right now by 57 and 18 points, and Trump won the seven districts represented by Republicans right now by 57, 49, 41, 36, 36, and 35 points. The upshot is that the retiring Rep. John Duncan (R) will be replaced by Tim Burchett (R), the tried-for-governor-and-failed Black will be replaced by John Rose (R), the running-for-Senate Blackburn will be replaced by Mark Green (R), and the Tennesse House delegation will otherwise remain exactly the same.

Next up, on Tuesday: A special election in Ohio (see below), and primaries in Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington. (Z)

Last Bellwether Election Is Next Tuesday

OK, we're jumping the gun a bit, but it's important. The last real test of Democratic energy is on Tuesday in Ohio. Former representative Pat Tiberi got fed up with being in Congress and decided he didn't even want to finish out his term, so he quit cold turkey. The special election to replace him in OH-12 is on Tuesday. The winner will get to serve for 3 months at best, but probably less, since Congress might adjourn in October so that members can get out on the trail. Nevertheless, the Democrat, Danny O'Connor, and the Republican, Troy Balderson, are locked in a pitched battle in the district, which is north and east of Columbus. It has been in Republican hands since 1920, except for an 8-year-stretch during the Depression and 4 years in the 1980s. It is an R+7 district Donald Trump won by 11 points. And by all measures, both parties think it is tied right now.

When Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA) won a deep red district in Pennsylvania earlier this year, Republicans took a deep breath. If O'Connor wins this one, in a district and state Trump won easily, there will be outright panic in the GOP, so Republicans are throwing everything they have got into pulling this one out of the fire.

Many Republicans see the OH-12 as a true bellwether of what will happen in suburban/exurban districts around the country in November, especially in swing states. If suburban women decide they have had it with Trump and show it by switching sides and voting for a Democrat for a change, it could be a harbinger of bad news for the red team in 3 months. O'Connor is keenly aware of how Lamb won in a similar district and is following his playbook closely, even to his rejection of Nancy Pelosi as speaker if the Democrats capture the House.

The most recent poll, from Monmouth University, has Balderson leading 44% to 43%, but the bad news for him is that a month ago he had an 11-point lead. (V)

Why Has Congress Ceded All Its Power to Trump?

Historically, Congress has not sheepishly ceded all its power to the president, even when the same party controls everything. Former Sen. Robert Byrd (D) fought with Bill Clinton all the time, for example. According to Doug Sosnik, who was a senior adviser to Clinton, the real reason that Congress now operates like a wholly-owned subsidiary of the executive branch is that there are no more Byrds around. There used to be senators and representatives whose primary loyalty was to the institution of Congress, rather than to their party. They are no more.

Much of the problem can be attributed to the enormous turnover in Congress in recent years. In the next Congress, there will be at most 45 senators who were in office in 2010. In the House, only a third of the members were there before the 2010 midterms. With Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) retiring, if the Republicans hold the House, the GOP will have its third speaker in 6 years. There are no more Sam Rayburns, who serve 17 years. In addition, 10 of the 21 House committee chairmen will not be back next year. When no one is in the place more than a few years, it is not surprising that there is little loyalty to the institution itself.

In addition, partisanship is at an all-time high. It used to be that ticket-splitters were a large and powerful group. Many voters used to say: "I vote for the best candidate, regardless of party." That is almost inconceivable today. In 1989, 53 senators came from states that voted for the other party in the 1988 election. In 1992, 100 House members were in districts won by the opposing presidential candidate. In contrast, in 2016, only 35 representatives are in districts the other party's presidential candidate won. The consequence is that, in place of loyalty to the institution of Congress, almost everyone's loyalty is to his or her party, so Republicans are scared stiff of opposing a Republican president. If the Democrats capture Congress and the White House in 2020, expect a similar effect. (V)

RNC Tells Donors to Drop the Koch Network

It would have been inconceivable even 4 years ago, but the RNC is now instructing GOP donors not to give to the Koch brothers' network. Maybe this is a reaction to the retreat the Kochs held in Colorado last weekend, in which Charles Koch criticized the Trump administration and said he and his team would not fund the Republicans in key Senate races, including North Dakota and Nevada. Maybe it is because the Koch network is now so powerful that it rivals the Republican party itself. Whatever it may be, RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel wrote a memo yesterday saying: "Some groups who claim to support conservatives forgo their commitment when they decide their business interests are more important than those of the country or Party." Guess who she meant? What she wants is blind loyalty to anyone with an (R) after his or her name.

The Kochs have pledged to spend $400 million to buy the midterms, but McDaniel is hoping to cut them off at the pass by convincing big donors not to donate. If she succeeds (and especially if those donors give their money to the RNC instead), she will have successfully neutered an alternative power center that is not aligned with the RNC on trade, immigration, the deficit, and some other big issues. However, it remains to be seen if the donors just hop off the Koch bus and onto the McDaniel bus. Presumably there is a reason why they have been giving to the Kochs all this time, and one memo from McDaniel doesn't change that. (V)

The Democrats Are Having an Identity Crisis at an Inconvenient Moment

Election analyst Thomas Edsall has a fascinating piece in the New York Times about the Democrats' dilemma. In short, the Democratic Party is two things. It is a normal political party, whose goal is to win as many elections as it can. It is also an engine for social change and a representative of formerly powerless constituencies such as blacks, women, gay people, Latinos, etc. This split is the root of the Democrats' problems.

No party can be all things to all people. FDR was a strong advocate of rural Americans, unions, and working-class people generally. Ending economic inequality was a main driving force in his Party. Starting with the civil rights movement in the 1950s, Democrats became more focused on race and identity than on economics. Thus began the shift of white people away from the Democrats. If the Democrats had said (like the Republicans): "To hell with social justice, we want to win elections," they wouldn't have gone all out for civil rights, which resulted in the solid (Democratic) South becoming the solid (Republican) South. Nowadays, civil rights have moved to the back burner, but when Democrats support the right of anyone to use whatever bathroom they want to, they are again discovering that fighting for social justice and winning elections don't always go together.

Another factor that is causing the Democrats grief is the rise of the affluent urban professional as a key part of the Democratic Party. These people have different priorities than the average voter, according to the Voter Study Group's survey of 8,000 Americans in 2016 and also in 2011-2012. The Democratic elite has as its top priorities gay rights (61%, vs. 34% for the average voter), gender equality (69% vs. 35%), and racial equality (66% to 39%). In other words, the Party's social goals put it at odds with many voters, who have different priorities.

What are those priorities? They are terrorism (58% for all voters vs. 12% for the elites), crime (57% vs. 18%), taxes (57% vs. 19%), the budget deficit (51% vs. 5%), religious liberty (48% vs. 22%), and immigration (46% vs. 17%). So if the Democrats would just forget about gay rights, gender equality, and racial equality and focus on terrorism, crime, and taxes, they would do better. Of course, then they would be Republicans, who, by and large, have no social goals and will support whatever position gets them the most votes. This year, however, the Democrats are starting to put more emphasis on winning elections than on who uses which bathroom, with Conor Lamb being the poster child for this shift. Of course, come 2020, the old split is likely to emerge again. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug02 Trump Demands that Sessions Fire Mueller Right Now
Aug02 The Manafort Trial: Day 2
Aug02 Manafort Is Facing Long Odds
Aug02 Senate Rejects Proposal to Beef Up Election Security
Aug02 Trump Continues to Chip Away at Obamacare
Aug02 Cruz Could Be in Real Trouble
Aug02 Koch Network Pushes Back Against Turning Point USA
Aug01 Facebook Shuts Down Disinformation Campaign
Aug01 Manafort's Trial Gets Underway
Aug01 Trump Wants to Give a Tax Cut to the Rich
Aug01 Trump Attacks the Koch Brothers
Aug01 Trump's Former Right-hand Woman Says Trump Knew about Meeting with Russians
Aug01 Giuliani Keeps Shooting His Client in the Foot
Aug01 Kelly Will Remain Chief of Staff until 2020
Aug01 Cuomo Leads Nixon by 30 Points in New York Democratic Gubernatorial Primary
Jul31 Giuliani: Colluding with Russia Is Not a Crime
Jul31 North Korea Situation Deteriorates; Trump Likes His Chances with Iran, Though
Jul31 Rand Paul Supports Kavanaugh
Jul31 Manafort's Trial Begins Today
Jul31 Koch Brothers Will Not Oppose Heitkamp
Jul31 Kelly Is a COSINO
Jul31 Sessions Announces "Religious Liberty Task Force"
Jul31 Trump to Get the "All the President's Men" Treatment
Jul30 Trump Tweets, Part I: Government Shutdown
Jul30 Trump Tweets, Part II: Robert Mueller
Jul30 Trump Tweets, Part III: The Press
Jul30 States Struggling with Election Security
Jul30 Johnson May Mount Senate Bid
Jul30 Ginsburg: Five More Years
Jul30 Avenatti Says Trump Should Take an Intelligence Test
Jul29 Trump Wages War Against the Fourth Estate
Jul29 Judge Says Lawsuit Over Citizenship Question on Census Can Go Forward
Jul29 The Problems with Trump's Collusion Story
Jul29 Who's Going to Win the Midterms? Television Broadcasters
Jul29 Some Bad News for the GOP, Part I: The Kochs
Jul29 Some Bad News for the GOP, Part II: The Polls
Jul29 Trump Campaign Denies their Flags Are Made in China
Jul28 Trump Revs Up War on Cohen
Jul28 Trump Organization CFO Has Been Subpoenaed
Jul28 Trump Touts Economic Growth
Jul28 Trump Will Try to Save Barletta
Jul28 More Skeletons Emerge from Rep. Jason Lewis' Closet
Jul28 Rich White People Have Become Democrats
Jul28 How Five Key Demographics Regard Trump
Jul28 What Will Young Voters' Turnout Look Like in 2018?
Jul27 Trump Punts on Three Major Goals until after the Midterms
Jul27 Trump Administration May Be Getting Ready to Bomb Iran
Jul27 Mueller is Following the Tweets
Jul27 Administration Misses Deadline to Reunite Families
Jul27 Democrats Up by Double Digits in Generic House Poll