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The 2016 presidential primary situation has media types in a bit of tizzy because it doesn’t seem to echo their favorite cliché: Democrats fall in love, and Republicans fall in line.

With about a year and a half until the election, Republicans are only getting in line to run for president, with Ohio’s John Kasich and Michigan’s Rick Snyder now edging toward joining more than a dozen grasping, preening, bumbling GOP candidates in telling Clinton roast jokes that Jay Leno would have rejected in 1998. (STYLE GUIDE TIP: 14 Republican candidates for president shall be known as an “embarrassment.”)

Meanwhile, the political press refuses to believe that the reason Hillary Clinton has cleared the field of her strongest competitors and is holding a presidential incumbent-like lead over the others could be that Democrats actually are quite fond of her. Possibly even “in love.”

The woman who would likely have been the 2008 Democratic nominee had she not faced the extraordinary political talent and ninja-like caucus-targeting strategy of the Obama campaign has skipped exploratory theatrics — and launched a campaign that makes more news with its lunch orders than most Republicans make by announcing their candidacy or threatening to bomb Iran.

And though she was blasted for not including an “issues” page on the website for the launch of her campaign last Sunday, Clinton has checked off an array of stands this week that put her directly in line with the progressive mainstream. She came out for a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United, backed driver’s licenses for the undocumented, backed a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, supported the president’s action to delay deportations of those brought here as children and family members of citizens, and — perhaps, most importantly — named Gary Gensler, the “scourge of the big banks,” as her campaign’s chief financial officer.

Now these actions and even her support for the Iran nuclear negotiations will probably not be enough to assuage liberal critics who still fault Clinton for her early support of the Iraq War and PATRIOT Act. For those critics, the numerous progressive victories of Bill Clinton’s administration — reversing trickle-down economics while passing the Motor Voter Act, Family and Medical Leave Act, the Children’s Health Insurance Program — are marred by its triangulating, not-progressive approach to the drug war, welfare reform, same-sex marriage, and deregulation of financial markets. For this 19 or so percent of the party, there is likely nothing she can do, barring going back in time and reversing these policies or never marrying her husband, will ever win them over.

But Clinton faces a larger challenge when it comes to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The labor movement is summoning all its power to stop Congress from granting the president the “fast track” negotiation power he wants, which will make the already-secretive process even more disconnected from the public. Republicans’ sudden willingness to grant a president they often accuse of tyranny more executive power, worries the left, which counts NAFTA as one of the Clinton administration and the American economy’s worst open sores.

Last Friday, Clinton’s spokesman laid down a few careful markers on the TPP that left room for the candidate to be attacked from the left. And she will surely be forced to take a stand on the negotiations soon.

On most every issue that matters, Clinton has aligned herself with Obama. Defending his legacy on health care, climate change, and LGBTQ rights, along with the prospect that the next president could appoint up to four Supreme Court Justices, helped to lay the foundation for massive Democratic support for her candidacy. Whether she ends up supporting him or opposing him on the TPP, however, she will pay a political cost.

It would be nearly unprecedented for Mrs. Clinton to conquer the primaries without any serious opposition. But until or unless a viable opponent arises, most of the debate that happens in a primary will take place inside her campaign. Even if they cannot win on every issue, progressives can still influence that process by making clear, realistic demands. If they’re loud enough, Clinton will be forced to fight for their approval.

Here are five popular progressive policies that Clinton could support to signal that both she and progressives can win together.

1. A clear vision for sustaining and continuing financial reform.
In a short piece for Time, Mrs. Clinton praised Elizabeth Warren for keeping the feet of the powerful (including “presidential aspirants”) to the fire. The senior senator from Massachusetts would be Clinton’s most serious primary competition. But Warren appears much more interested in influencing the debate from the Senate. Her four-step plan to secure and continue the work of financial reform intends to flip the script on Republicans, arguing that to allow the big banks to write their own rules is fundamentally anti-market. Clinton’s embrace of Gary Gensler cheered reformers. But those who are worried by Wall Street’s unfettered embrace of another Clinton candidacy need a checklist of policies that back up the rhetoric obviously designed to reassure them. She also needs to remind them that any Republican will roll back the achievements of Dodd-Frank, and again leave America vulnerable to the kind of financial shock that cost us trillions in wealth and millions of jobs.

2. Champion preserving and strengthening Social Security.
Clinton says she wants to be a champion of working people—and they really need a champion when it comes to protecting Social Security. Chris Christie decided that he’s so unpopular that he can risk running for the GOP nomination by attacking the most popular thing the government does: provide a humane retirement for all Americans. His plan punishes the most vulnerable by raising the retirement age and punishes middle-class families who have planned for their retirement with a massive tax increase. Jeb Bush hopped on board, agreeing that we should raise the retirement age.

There is a real risk that attacking this fundamental achievement of the New Deal will become politically acceptable.

As a progressive champion, Clinton should stare down this challenge by guaranteeing that she will preserve the benefits of Social Security as is. President Obama reportedly was willing to raise the retirement age and back a “chained CPI” method of inflation adjustments that would shrink benefits. Clinton could get to Obama’s left and embrace a position that has been backed by three-fourths of Americans, simply by saying she will preserve Social Security forever by raising the cap on payroll tax and keeping that cap tied to inflation. And she would thrill progressives by taking a step further to call for expanding the program for those who need it most.

This issue would also give Clinton an easy rebuttal to questions about her age: “So Republicans think I’m too old to be president but not old enough for Social Security.”

3. A plan to save or improve Obamacare with a role for a public option.
The Supreme Court may do Democrats a huge favor — and the American people a huge disservice — by gutting the tax breaks in the law. Suddenly the benefits of the law to the middle class will be extremely clear. Running on restoration of those tax breaks, which drive down the premiums of all Americans, will be simple for Clinton. But it won’t be enough. Obamacare is the most successful expansion of government since Medicare, bringing coverage to over 11 million Americans while the predicted costs of health spending have been cut by $2.4 trillion. But our system was so screwed, one law could never fix it.

The most pressing problem for the American economy is the lack of wage growth, made worse by the rising cost of medical care. Obamacare didn’t reverse the trend of high deductibles siphoning away wage gains from families. There are a lot of little fixes that need to be made to the law, but the biggest one needs to be a hedge against high medical costs. The law already has provisions for a “basic plan,” which allows states to start a sort of public option for Americans who earn less than twice the poverty level. New York just became the second state to do this. A national basic plan or public option should be available to all residents in any state where insurers don’t set out-of-pocket costs below a reasonable level. This appeals to a sense of competition and Americans’ biggest need: more money in their pockets.

4. Back worker organizing as a civil right.
Progressives who are really worried about Clinton’s economic ideals should read the Report of the Commission on Inclusive Prosperity. Prepared by the Center for American Progress as a foundational approach to reducing the rapid accumulation of wealth by the richest, it includes a catalog of important approaches, including greater worker representation in the workplace, reforming executive compensation, raising the minimum wage, and increasing infrastructure spending. The report also suggests improvements to the U.S. National Labor Relations Act to strengthen the right to organize. But progressives should demand even more and embrace an idea cited in the report’s footnotes: making the right to organize a civil right. This would fundamentally transform workers’ capacity to negotiate on their own behalf and help reverse the corrosive shift of power from capital back to labor.

5. Propose national decriminalization of marijuana.
This isn’t just a simple way for Clinton to demonstrate that she won’t be the drug warrior Bill Clinton was. It’s also a wedge issue that could really help in the general election. While 59 percent of Democrats and 58 percent of independents support legalization, only 39 percent of Republicans do, as shown in a recent PEW poll. Legalization is probably a leap too far for a national candidate, but decriminalization just makes sense. Letting states flout federal law because we all know a policy that is outdated is bad for the rule of law, and will lead to the sort of unequal prosecution that has defined the drug war. With this one simple stand, Clinton can stake her claim as a candidate of the future by saying, “I trust the states to decide this one.”

Franklin Roosevelt once told activists of his era, “I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it.” With Democrats having won the popular vote in five of the past six presidential elections, now is the time for Democratic leaders to meet the Democratic base at the new progressive center.

No one champion can save the middle class. The millions of voters who lean Democratic but stay home on Election Day need to be convinced that they can help transform America. The Democratic nominee — whoever she may be — can play a crucial role in doing that.

By reaching out to the left, Clinton won’t just grow her support, she’ll boost turnout and help to build an enduring progressive majority.

Photo: Alexander Wrege via Flickr



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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

Tina Peters

YouTube Screenshot

A right-wing conspiracy theorist who was indicted in March on criminal charges of tampering with voting machines to try to prove former President Donald Trump's lies of a stolen 2020 presidential election on Tuesday lost the Republican primary to run for secretary of state of Colorado, the person who oversees its elections.

With 95 percent of the vote counted, Tina Peters, the clerk and recorder of Mesa County, Colorado, was in third place, trailing the winner, fellow Republican Pam Anderson, 43.2 percent to 28.3 percent.

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