Tag: democracy
Joe Biden

In The Most Accurate Form Of 'Polling,' Biden Is Beating Trump

Don't you love those polls that have pundits racing to the news channels bucked up with hyper confidence? When you have one like the recent New York Times/Siena College poll saying that Donald Trump was leading Joe Biden in five out of six battleground states, the click-baiting headlines virtually write themselves.

But do the "early data points" say much about what will really happen a year from now? The pundits doing the hard-sell on their powers of divination say yes. After all, if the polls don't mean anything, who needs their interpretations?

On Election Day, Democrats did far better than expected in an actual vote. Possibly good news for Biden, no? But to many who make a living off polls, good news for Biden can't be real if it somehow clashes with their numbers.

"The contradiction between Democrats' success at the ballot box and their struggles in surveys seems to suggest the polling can't be right," political analyst Nate Cohn wrote in The New York Times. "It's an understandable response," he adds sympathetically, "but it's probably wrong." So don't think for a minute that the electoral results change the outlook for Biden in 2024.

But there happen to be better numbers than the ones Cohn and his prophesizing colleagues are citing. And they show Biden well ahead. The prediction markets for elections — essentially investors putting money on candidates — has a Biden win trading at 43 cents, which implies a 43 percent chance of victory, according to the Financial Times. Trump is trailing at 37 cents, while the other candidates are long shots.

What might make these markets a better indication of the candidates' prospects than those political polls? For one thing, they have a better record of accurately predicting the winner.

PredictIt is currently the biggest legal site for political-prediction trading in this country. A smaller political predictions market is Iowa Electronic Markets, at the University of Iowa. Like PredictIt, the Iowa market operates under the academic exception made by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. PredictIt works in a nonprofit arrangement with Victoria University in New Zealand.

The Financial Times sets forth the argument made by PredictIt founder John Aristotle Phillips that "prediction markets are a truth generator, powered by the invisible hand. ... If you trade based on fake news or half-baked punditry, you're going to lose your money."

Last summer, six U.S. senators wrote to the CFTC, calling political prediction markets "a clear threat to our democracy." Concern is warranted, but big money is already riding on electoral results, not the least of which are zillions in government contracts.

Wagering on presidential elections has been around since George Washington. Formal markets were organized around the time of Abraham Lincoln. Major newspapers would carry daily reports of their latest prices. These markets went into eclipse with the invention of scientific polling and the growth of other forms of betting, such as on horse races.

As the Financial Times reports, scholars who have studied political prediction markets found that "their collective forecasts were more accurate than even the most careful aggregations of polls." That seems the case especially for elections that are months off — like now.

Defenders of these markets further argue that letting the public put money on the line encourages civic literacy. As Kevin Clarke, a PredictIt trader, said, "It provides checks on how to interpret media, how to not just go by a soundbite, how to not allow a headline to take on a life of its own."

Undeterred by such criticism, mainstream punditry continues to place enormous importance on that Times/Siena poll "finding" that Biden is in trouble. Both legal political prediction markets, PredictIt and Iowa, say it's quite the contrary.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Ben Carson

Ben Carson Isn't Worried That Trump Would 'Terminate' The Constitution (VIDEO)

Ben Carson, who achieved outsized fame in the ‘80s as the first brain surgeon in history to accidentally leave a pair of forceps in his own head, is back on television. Whether he knows it or not is an open question, but he is saying things. Weird things. Outrageous things. Things that only Ben Carson could—or would—say.

Carson endorsed Donald Trump at a speech in Iowa on Sunday (for president, in case you were wondering), and CNN’s Abby Phillip invited him on air this week to explain himself. It was eye-opening for everyone but Carson, who nearly always looks like someone who’s gotten up in the middle of the night to pee and is only marginally aware of where the toilet is.

Carson served as Trump’s Housing and Urban Development secretary for four years and left on good terms with his boss, which is just one indication of how incompetent he was. Another clue is the four years previous to that, when he was “doing” his “job.”

At one point during the interview, Phillip asked how supporting Trump, who tried to overthrow democracy and has called for terminating portions of the Constitution so he can be reinstated as president/dictator-for-life, was compatible with defending democracy. It didn’t go great.


PHILLIP: “I also just want to raise to you, you know, former President Trump has openly mused on his social media platform about terminating the Constitution. How does that factor into defending American democracy?”

CARSON: “Well, I think you have to look at the context of what things were said, how they were said, and which parts of the Constitution are you talking about.”

PHILLIP: [Visibly surprised] “Are there any parts of the Constitution that should be terminated?”

CARSON: “There are no parts of it that should be terminated, but they need to be well interpreted. They need to be looked at in the right way. For instance, you have people who are trying to take away people’s right to bear arms. They say that part should be terminated. That’s not true. But, you know, you can make strong arguments. But the key thing that we have to do as a nation at this point, we have some very major differences. We have one group of individuals who feels that our country should be people-centric, and we have another who feels that it should be government-centric. They need to be able to sit down at the table, put the facts in the middle of the table, and resolve their differences by discussing the facts and how they can both use those things in an appropriate way.”

Yes, people do need to sit down at a table to discuss how our country needs to be more people-centric and less government-centric, but only if the government bought that table for one of Trump’s cronies with $31,000 in taxpayer money.

Also, conservatives have been misinterpreting the Second Amendment for decades now. Quite deliberately, it seems. In fact, way back in 1991, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger, a Nixon appointee, said conservatives have made the amendment “the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”

That said, it’s one thing to disagree over how the Constitution should be interpreted. It’s quite another to claim parts of it should be unilaterally tossed in the rubbish so we can get our wannabe strongman dictator back. Something tells me Ben hasn’t thought this through. Give him a few minutes while the Plinko chips settle in his head. He’ll get there. Eventually. Maybe.

Or maybe not, judging by this exchange from the same interview:

PHILLIP: “The question really is why aren’t there more people like you who actually worked with, served under Donald Trump, who are willing to actually endorse him? I want to read for you some quotes from your former colleagues. John Kelly says ‘God help us’ at the thought of another Trump term. Mark Milley: ‘We don’t take an oath to a wannabe dictator.’ Mark Esper: ‘Unfit for office.’ Dan Coats: ‘To him, a lie is not a lie.’ Gina Haspel: ‘A 6-year-old with a tantrum’ is how she described her former boss. What are they seeing that you’re not seeing?”

CARSON: “I think the better question is what are they not seeing? And they are not seeing the big picture. If, as I said, we allow our Justice Department to be weaponized, we will have lost something very precious and important. We will become like a banana republic, and that is incredibly important. We would have lost the republic that Benjamin Franklin talked about.”

PHILLIP: “But what evidence do you have, Dr. Carson, that the Justice Department has been weaponized, against Trump specifically? There’s no evidence of that.”

CARSON: “Well, let’s put it this way. Al Capone, who was a notorious killer, had one indictment, and Donald Trump has four indictments. That would tell you something right there ...”

PHILLIP: “I don’t think that’s evidence of anything except that Donald Trump allegedly has committed conduct that has resulted in indictments.”

CARSON: “It’s evidence that you have a group of people, a system, that is out to get this president, and they feel that he’s an existential threat to their existence. America was designed for the people, it wasn't designed for the government.”

Got that? Because Donald Trump has been indicted four times as often as Al Capone, he must be innocent. It’s just common sense. Just because two of the prosecutors who’ve indicted him have nothing to do with the U.S. Department of Justice doesn’t mean it’s not the DOJ doing all the weaponizing! Also, why are you asking these questions? They never ask these questions on Fox News. It takes Ben days to come up with these rehearsed answers! Don’t be rude.

Then again, maybe Republicans should at least consider the possibility that Trump has been indicted four times because he’s a criminal who commits lots of crimes. Maybe that’s occurred to Dr. Carson, maybe not.

Let’s just hope Ben finally gets some sleep. After all, tomorrow will be another long day of trying to wake up in the morning.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Ben Wikler

'Near Fatal': Republicans Strike Blows Against Democracy In The States

From Alabama Republicans' blatantly discriminatory congressional map, to the Wisconsin GOP's ousting of a the states' top election official and attempt to impeach a liberal Supreme Court justice, to North Carolina's decision to allow the majority-Republican legislature to appoint state and local election board members, News from the States reports these anti-democratic moves have all recently "generated national headlines" and stoked fears ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

"If they can impeach someone successfully to stop them from ruling in a way they don't like, what will they do after the 2024 election?" Ben Wikler, the chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party told the news outlet, referring to state Republicans' "threat to impeach" state Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz. "It was one vote in our state Supreme Court that prevented the 2020 election from being overturned in Wisconsin. And they know who the justices were, so they could just suspend them. This would open the door to monsters that I don't think they'd be able to control."

News from the States points out other states like Ohio and Florida, which are also pushing anti-democratic legislation, have "flown further under the radar."

According to the report, "In Ohio, the Supreme Court has ruled five times that the state's current legislative maps are unconstitutional gerrymanders favoring Republicans. But the bipartisan commission that's supposed to draw fair maps hasn't met since May 2022."

Furthermore, "Lawmakers' goal appears to be to run out the clock and ram through skewed maps with little public scrutiny. Because the Supreme Court now has a conservative majority, it's expected to green-light whatever lawmakers come up with."

In the Sunshine State, "Acting on a request from the speaker of the House, the state Supreme Court last month created a commission to study changing the way prosecutors and judges are elected," the news outlet notes, which one advocate warned "would almost certainly be a near-fatal blow against the reform prosecutor movement in the state."

The report notes while these types of "power grabs" within state legislatures are not new, "advocates say, these efforts are even more dangerous for democracy. That's because, by giving lawmakers more power over elections or over their state's judicial system, many of these schemes strengthen and reinforce the ultimate threat of outright election subversion."

Joanna Lydgate, Chief Executive Officer of pro-democracy group States United Action emphasized, "We should call this what it is: an effort to lay the groundwork to subvert the will of the voters in future elections. While the focus is often on the national picture, our elections are run by the states. That means we need to keep shining a light on state-level efforts that undermine our democracy. It's the only way to shut it down."

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Donald Trump

Trump Faces The Trial Of The Century -- And So Does Our Democracy

The frame of the 2024 election is now clear: It’s democracy versus autocracy — straight up. It’s the stakes — not the horse race — that should dominate the media coverage and the approach of the Democratic Party.

Unfortunately, there’s a move afoot among some Democrats to re-use the successful 2018 playbook that helped them retake the House that year: Stay focused on other issues (in 2018 it was health care) and let the anti-Trump forces mobilize on their own. This is fighting not the last war but the war of three cycles ago. In the last war — 2022 — democracy was a potent, brand-building issue for Democrats.

So while I get why Joe Biden isn’t commenting on the Trump prosecutions, no other Democrat should follow suit. They should be raising the alarm and shivving Trump (metaphorically) for the duration.

Yes, it makes sense to run an A,B,C,D campaign — abortion, Bidenomics, climate, and democracy. But the last of these should often come first. That way, the basic structure of the race — democrats versus autocrats — stays firmly in place.

By the way, if you don’t believe that a reelected Trump will, quite literally, end our system as we know it, you have not been paying attention.

“We will demolish the deep state,” Trump said at the rally in Michigan. “We will expel the warmongers from our government. We will drive out the globalists. We will cast out the communists, Marxists and fascists. And we will throw off the sick political class that hates our country.”

If this was just more Trump demagoguery, the kind we became inured to in the eight years since he came down the escalator, we wouldn’t have to worry so much. But it’s not. It’s the campaign trail version of a plot to end our nearly 250-year-old experiment in self-government.

If you missed this lead story from The New York Times on July 17, please take the time to read it: Trump and Allies Forge Plans to Increase Presidential Power in 2025 (no subscription required). It will scare the crap out of you. The piece chronicles the detailed plans underway to dramatically expand the president’s authority so that Trump can assume near-dictatorial powers.

One thing almost all aspiring dictators have in common is that they announce what they’ll do if they get power. The Fuhrer certainly did, as Trump knows well. His first wife, Ivana, now deceased, told her lawyer in the 1980s that Trump kept a collection of Hitler’s speeches, My New Order, beside his bed. In those early speeches, and in Mein Kampf, Hitler lays it all out in language very similar to Trump’s.

As bad as Trump’s language was when he was president, it was shocking in March when he told supporters in Waco, Texas, “I am your retribution.” That location was chosen for his announcement speech as part of his plot to slime and discredit the FBI (which did not cover itself in glory in its attack on the Branch Davidian compound there in 1993) so he can rebuild it into his personal police force and instrument of “retribution.” Or recall how in 2019 Trump declared:

“I have an Article 2 [the part of the Constitution that establishes the presidency], where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.”

And if someone tries to stop him? He will, he said, “terminate the Constitution.”

The Times story explains Trump’s plans to eliminate the independence of the Department of Justice. This wasn’t news. We all understand, of course, that if reelected he will immediately pardon January 6th insurrectionists and himself. But he also plans to fully politicize the Federal Reserve (wonderful for the economy!) and bring all independent regulatory agencies under his thumb. And he will sign an executive order on his first day that implements “Schedule F” — a politicizing of the civil service that will fill the government with incompetent Trump hacks hired for their loyalty, not competence.

What’s really scary is that this power grab will be attempted under any Republican president elected in the foreseeable future. The GOP now stands for autocracy. For years, conservative lawyers have pushed what they call a “unitary executive” theory of presidential power that claims the Constitution gives presidents power over the sprawling federal bureaucracy, which, if you include military personnel, includes about 4.3 million people. In a notorious dissent in Morrison v. Olson (1988), Justice Antonin Scalia wrote, “this does not mean some of the executive power, but all of the executive power.” Scalia’s view now has at least four votes on the Supreme Court.

“What we’re trying to do is identify the pockets of independence and seize them,” Russell T. Vought, the director of the Office of Management and Budget under Trump, told the Times. Vought, the founder of the Center for Renewing America, is drafting a blueprint for how to make the entire federal government bend to Trump’s will.

Let’s pause for a second on that word “seize.” That’s what dictators do. They seize power. As Ruth Ben-Ghiat, author of Strongmen, explained on MSNBC.com:

Those plans are consistent with a 21st century playbook for authoritarians: Tell the public how you will set up an authoritarian state well before you get into office. Frame your intended expansion of executive powers as a mere streamlining of government. Don’t forget to repeatedly praise dictators as “brilliant” and “top of the line” people so there’ll be no surprises when you act in a similar manner. [This is what Trump has consistently done with China’s Xi Jinping, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Hungary’s Viktor Orban and several other authoritarian leaders], And whet your followers’ appetites for destruction of existing norms by advertising how you will purge [liberal critics].

Trump will be using this roadmap all the way to the election. The good news is that at least three large boulders now stand in the way. The several civil suits won’t slow Trump down; he doesn’t have to appear in court during the trials and the cases—even if they lead to significant monetary damages— mostly just make him more popular with his base. But next year he will face three daunting criminal trials. In all of them, the odds favor conviction.

On March 25, Trump is scheduled to go on trial in the Stormy Daniels case. He’s facing New York State charges that are less serious than in the two federal cases, but with his abominable sexual and financial behavior on full display — disqualifying for any other candidate — he’ll likely lose support from independent voters, even if he’s acquitted.

On May 20, the Mar-a-Lago classified documents trial is scheduled open in rural Florida under Trump-friendly Judge Aileen Cannon, who on July 21 resisted Trump’s pressure to delay the trial until after the election. Trump’s lawyers may yet convince Judge Cannon that the volume of documents and complexities of handling classified information require delaying the trial until after the election. But if they fail to do so, the evidence is so damning that the defendant will likely be in trouble even in the heart of Trump country. In federal trials, jurors almost always set aside their politics and decide on the evidence. It’s a good bet that at least a couple of them will tell reporters after the verdict that they voted twice for Trump but convicted him anyway. And Trump’s lavish praise of Judge Cannon will deal a blow to his “witch hunt” charge.

Finally, there’s the Big Show — the January 6th trial. Given the absence of classified documents and the speedy trial views of federal judges in Washington, D.C., it may take place before the Mar-a-Lago trial. Whatever the specifics of the upcoming indictment, this case goes to the heart of our system — the peaceful transfer of power and the rule of law. The Stormy Daniels case isn’t unprecedented; we had Monica Lewinsky and plenty of campaign finance prosecutions. Before Trump stole classified documents, former national security adviser Sandy Berger and former General David Petraeus did so. But no president in American history has ever tried to cling to power after he lost.

That’s why this will be the trial not just of the century but of any century — bigger even than the Trial of Socrates, when Athenian democracy didn’t hang in the balance in quite the same way.

It makes me queasy to mention Trump and Socrates in the same breath, so let me offer three other possible comparisons to the Orange Menace:

Lucius Sergius Catilina — better known as Catiline — was a first century B.C.E. scoundrel who had sex with vestal virgins and tried to stage a bloody coup against the Roman Republic. Benito Mussolini, whose smug strut on the platform anticipated Trump’s, was a fascist innovator with lots of support before World War II, not just in Italy but the United States. John Gotti became an anti-hero in his Brooklyn neighborhood, where he sponsored festivals and fireworks, before entering folklore. Americans love seeing the bad boy get away with it — at least for a while.

All three were eventually brought to justice. Even if Trump somehow escapes again, the pursuit of him will have been worth it on principle. We are, after all, a nation built on a principle— the rule of law— and, as Lincoln said at Gettysburg, on a proposition — equality and freedom. We’ll know in 15 months whether a nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.

Jonathan Alter is a bestselling author, Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker, and a contributing correspondent and political analyst for NBC News and MSNBC. His Substack newsletter is OLD GOATS: Ruminating with Friends.

Reprinted with permission from OLD GOATS.