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Campaign 2018: A Tidal Wave Of Democratic Women Is Building

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

Politics in the Trump era often seems like a hall of mirrors and mirages. But something significant and undeniable is happening across the country that goes deeper than the White House’s daily distortions or whether dealing with Trump is like negotiating with Jell-O.

Across the country, the first big political wave of 2018 isn’t voters—it’s candidates lining up for Democratic primaries up and down the ladder in unprecedented volumes. And just as many mainstream media outlets underreported the flood of women who marched last weekend (it wasn’t thousands, it was millions), this flood of candidates is led by progressive women.

“To date, 390 women are planning to run for the House of Representatives, a figure that’s higher than at any point in American history,” wrote Rebecca Traister, for New York magazine’s January 23 issue. “Twenty-two of them are non-incumbent black women — for scale, there are only 18 black women in the House right now. Meanwhile, 49 women are likely to be running for the Senate, more than 68 percent higher than the number who’d announced at the same point in 2014.”

“A year ago, when millions of women stormed the streets in women’s marches to proclaim their outrage and despair at the inauguration of Donald T. Trump, no one knew whether it was a moment or a movement,” wrote the New York Times’ Susan Chira on Sunday. “Now the answer is coming into focus.”

It’s clearly a movement. But it’s one that remains largely under the political media’s radar. And it’s also a movement that has not been helped by the Democratic Party’s campaign committees, which haven’t lined up behind many newcomers, just as endorsements by leading progressive groups don’t reflect their numbers.

“Across the country, the DCCC [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee], its allied groups, or leaders within the Democratic Party are working hard against some of these new candidates for Congress, publicly backing their more established opponents, according to interviews with more than 50 candidates, party operatives, and members of Congress,” wrote Ryan Grimm and Lee Fang in a detailed report in The Intercept. “Winning the support of Washington heavyweights, including the DCCC — implicit or explicit — is critical for endorsements back home and a boost to fundraising. In general, it can give a candidate a tremendous advantage over opponents in a Democratic primary.”

Anyone paying attention to national politics knows that 2018 is shaping up to be a wave election year. Recent elections are showing that Democrats voters are turning out in record numbers, while Republican voters are unenthused or staying home. But that doesn’t mean that the national Democratic Party operatives or the capital-based media grasp what’s unfolding in the hinterlands.

Take last weekend’s marches. The Tea Party protests in early 2010 never came close to 400 events in one day like last Saturday’s women’s marches, which drew between 1.9 million and 2.6 million participants, according to a nationwide compilation of more than 400 events by the University of Denver’s Erica Chenoweth and the University of Connecticut’s Jeremy Pressman.

Those who participated were buoyant and optimistic about carrying their momentum forward. “Leave it to women to get the job done! Those protesters will each bring 10 friends to the polls in 2018 and 2020!” tweeted Rita Solnet, president of Parents Across Florida.

Solnet’s enthusiasm for women candidates and a women-led turnout wave this year is echoed in the comments from experts who have studied women in electoral politics, traced their runs, and noted that 2018 is shaping up to be different from the past.

Of the women running for the House, Chira reported, “314 are Democrats and 184 of them are running for seats held by Republicans. Nineteen Democratic women are challenging incumbents in their own party in primaries. That fervor extends beyond the federal level: 79 women say they are running for governor… [Debbie] Walsh [director of the Rutgers Center for American Women and Politics] thinks it’s possible that 15 women, a record, could withstand primaries and run for governor in general elections.”

Nonetheless, these historic numbers and upbeat assessments have not been in the forefront of mainstream coverage. A nationwide poll by the Washington Post/ABC TV taken days before the marches found support for generic Democratic candidates was far ahead of generic Republicans (a measure for party-line voters). The poll asked about Trump, the economy, Russian collusion in 2016, immigration and the federal shutdown, but nothing on the cultural issues surrounding male power and the #MeToo movement.

This missing the obvious also extends to women running for office. The candidate endorsements from the leading progressive political organizations are relatively thin, compared to the surge tallied by the Rutgers Center for American Women and Politics.

Last Friday, the Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC announced 11 endorsements for House races, six men and five women. Our Revolution, which grew out of Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential bid, only has one House primary endorsement on its website, Iowa’s Pete D’Alessandro. Democracy for Americahas 15 House endorsements, including six women. Progressive Democrats of America has 26 endorsements, including 10 women. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee has 13 endorsements, including six women.

To be fair, these mostly seasoned political outfits know how hard it is to propel newcomers to federal election victories. But there’s something that’s out of sync, which the Intercept documented in listing a half-dozen promising progressive candidates who were rejected by the DCCC because they couldn’t raise six figures, as opposed to looking at their grassroots support as the key metric.

That old-school frame, which elevates candidates with ties to big money or personal wealth, has been rejected by new groups like Run for Something, which urges millennials to seek local office as part of “building a Democratic bench,” and last week announced 61 new endorsements for 2018. “Many of our endorsed candidates running in competitive primaries; many others are running in elections that Democrats haven’t contested in literally decades,” the press release said. “They’re all running strong campaigns focused on voter contact, local issues, and authentic connections to their communities.”

What’s jarring are the glimpses of candidates who have been rejected by the DCCC in favor of handpicked insiders, compared to the ones lauded in glowing sketches that suggest there is plenty of new blood waiting to invigorate the Democratic Party. The more optimistic side of this ledger can be seen in Traister’s sketches of candidates for New York magazine:

“To name-check just a fraction of these newly hatched politicians, there’s Vietnam-born Mai Khanh Tran, a California pediatrician and two-time cancer survivor vying for a House seat that’s been held by Republican Ed Royce for 13 terms. There’s military wife Tatiana Matta, who’s one of two Democrats trying to oust House Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Mikie Sherrill, a former Navy pilot and federal prosecutor, who hopes to show [12-term] New Jersey representative Rodney Frelinghuysen the door…

“And Democratic women aren’t leaving the men of their own party undisturbed. In Minnesota, former FBI analyst Leah Phifer is challenging incumbent Democratic representative Rick Nolan; Sameena Mustafa, a tenant advocate and founder of the comedy troupe Simmer Brown, is primarying Democrat Mike Quigley in Illinois’s Fifth District. And Chelsea Manning, former Army intelligence analyst and whistle-blower, announced recently that she’s going after Ben Cardin, the 74-year-old who has held one of Maryland’s Senate seats for 11 years and served in the House for 20 years before that.”

But if there’s energy and excitement about the newest wave of candidates, there’s also the reality that the Democratic Party’s campaign infrastructure has been slow to get behind the wave of candidates seeking to run under their banner, she notes.

“The DCCC’s [spokeswoman] Meredith Kelly points out that half of the 18 House races that have so far earned the organization’s ‘Red to Blue’ designation — a signal to donors to invest — feature women,” writes Traister. “But that’s nine out of the 390 women running for the House; there are still a hell of a lot of highly motivated novices struggling to stay afloat against guys with more cash, experience, and connections. ‘Not throwing every dollar behind the exciting new women candidates, especially women of color,’ [Erin] Vilardi [who runs VoteRunLead and trains candidates] says, ‘is missing the political moment if I ever did see it.’”

There’s no shortage of recent examples of Washington-based Democrats missing the moment. But this early in the 2018 cycle, months before the first primaries start in March, gives motivated grassroots progressives an opening to assist campaigns that need help. Now is the time in political cycles when candidates are the most accessible, when political relationships that will endure can be forged, and when seemingly small individual efforts in the lowest-turnout elections, primaries, can make the biggest difference.

The millions of woman marching this past weekend know they are onto something. The vast majority of phone calls to Congress last year protesting the GOP’s attacks on Obamacare were made by women. As John Cassidy wrote last Monday for The New Yorker, where he also noted that mainstream media coverage overplayed the latest federal shutdown and underplayed the women’s marches: “This emerging constituency, which believes the Trump presidency represents a national emergency, isn’t going anywhere, except to the next protest or political meeting.”

“Just as the Tea Party provided the Republican Party of 2010 with the organizers and doorbell-ringers that are so important in off-year elections, many of the attendees at this weekend’s women’s marches will be working from now until November to turn Trump into a lame duck,” he continued. “Their attitude, defiant and determined, was summed up by a pair of signs held by two marchers in Washington, D.C. The signs said: ‘GRAB ’EM BY THE MIDTERMS.’”

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s democracy and voting rights. He is the author of several books on elections and the co-author of Who Controls Our Schools: How Billionaire-Sponsored Privatization Is Destroying Democracy and the Charter School Industry (AlterNet eBook, 2016).

Sanders Must Level With His Young Voters

What happened in the South Carolina primary? Bernie Sanders was asked. “We got decimated, that’s what happened,” he responded.

Here was Sanders at his best. Brutally honest. Averse to spin. Though the independent from Vermont vows to fight on, his lopsided loss in pivotal South Carolina makes his prospects for winning the Democratic nomination increasingly slim.

The question for progressives is: What happens to his passionate followers in the event he leaves the race? Or more to the point: Is there a way to keep his ardent fans ardent about participating in the electoral politics? Will they keep voting when the candidates are less charismatic, when the election’s not in a big-deal presidential year, when the solutions are muddied in the reality of two-party politics?

Sanders’ feat in electrifying younger voters has been extraordinary. And that extends to his success with many young Latinos and African-Americans, whose elders went overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton.

But the fickleness of the youth vote has been the bane of progressive politics. It is why the right wing controls Congress.

In 2008, a political rock star named Barack Obama energized the young electorate with talk of radical transformation. The voters’ idealistic fervor helped sweep him into office and expanded the Democratic majority in Congress.

The economy was in free fall. But in the first two years of his presidency, Obama helped steer America from the precipice of another Great Depression — plus he pushed the passage of the Affordable Care Act, bringing health coverage to millions of uninsured Americans. It was hard work, not magic, that accomplished these remarkable things.

Many of his younger voters, led to believe in Technicolor miracles, were unimpressed. The 2010 midterms came around, and they stayed home. Not so the older tea party Republicans, who despised much of what Obama stood for.

Here’s the thing about these right-leaning activists: Sometimes they have a candidate they adore. Sometimes they don’t. But they vote. They vote in presidential years and in non-presidential years, when the public isn’t paying much attention. They vote for the state legislators who usually end up creating districts that favor their party’s candidates.

So as older conservatives marched to the polls, many young liberals did a vanishing act. Having represented 18 percent of the electorate in 2008, voters under the age of 30 accounted for only 11 percent in 2010, their poorest performance in two decades.

Democrats suffered devastating losses, and progressive priorities went into the deep freeze.

It’s true that younger Americans tend to move more often, and that complicates the process of registering to vote and finding the polling place. But still. The youth turnout in the 2014 midterm was even more dismal than in 2010 — actually, the lowest in 40 years.

It is the nature of liberal politics to be cerebral, and with that comes the “critique.” Rather than marvel that near-universal coverage happened at all, prominent voices on the left attacked the reforms as a surrender to business interests. They bashed Obama for not slapping more cuffs on the Wall Street operators.

These complaints were not without merit, but politics is always a work in progress. One keeps plugging away.

Sanders is a no-excuses type of guy. He’s in an especially strong position to do some truth-telling to the young electorate that has rallied to his cause. If they think that the economy is rigged against them, they have to vote out the politicians who have done the rigging. They must play the long game.

One politician’s magnetism isn’t going to do it. Just ask President Obama.

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 Web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2016 CREATORS.COM

Photo: The crowd cheers as Bernie Sanders speaks at a campaign rally in Fort Collins, Colorado February 28, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder      TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY     

Study: Political Ads Dwarfed News Stories About Actual Political Issues In 2014

By David Knowles, Bloomberg News (TNS)

Politics has become all about the ads.

A new study by Philly Political Media Watch finds that during evening newscasts leading up to the 2014 midterm elections the airtime given to political ads dwarfed stories about political issues by a ratio of 45:1.

The study — paid for, in part, by the Democracy Fund and the Rita Allen Foundation, and with analysis provided by the Sunlight Foundation — examined newscasts in the Philadelphia viewing area for the last two months of the 2014 campaign and found that the vast majority of political advertising aired during local nightly news programs. But while those broadcasts may have been packed with political ads, the news segments were largely devoid of political issues.

“In the final eight weeks before Election Day 2014, six broadcast television stations that serve the Philadelphia metro area benefited from a $14.4 million bonanza in political ads. Over that same period those stations aired fewer than 19 minutes of substantive political stories — those devoted to actual campaign issues as opposed to news of candidate appearances,” the study’s authors wrote in their executive summary.

The Philadelphia market dominates three regions: Pennsylvania, Delaware and southern New Jersey, and the study found that even in non-competitive races in that area, candidates continued to spend heavily throughout the course of the last few weeks of the campaign. The big winner of this trend? The companies that own the television stations.

“The Gannett Company controls 46 stations and its political advertising revenue was over $92 million in the fourth quarter of 2014, part of an 117 percent increase in broadcast revenue (Fox, 2015),” the authors said in their conclusion. “Sinclair is the largest local television station group. It owns, or controls through service agreements, 167 stations in 79 different media markets. In the fourth quarter of 2014 its political ad revenue reached over $80 million as part of its $130 million political ad revenue in 2014. To put that into perspective, its political ad revenue in 2006 was $30 million. The 2014 revenue represented a 433 percent increase (Fox, 2015).”

While reaping the financial benefit from a flood of advertising dollars, however, the stations did not feel the need to substantially increase the political content of their news programs.

“This study reveals that when people watch local news broadcasts prior to an election, they are being exposed to far more political advertising during the commercial breaks than political journalism during the news programs themselves,” Travis N. Ridout, a professor of government and public policy at Washington State University, said in a press release. “And little of the news about political campaigns is focused on policy issues. These findings should make us rethink the role of local news in today’s campaigns.”

Screenshot: YouTube

10 Films To Make You Feel Better After The Elections

Groucho in Monkey Business

For progressives, it’s been a depressing week.  Of course, we will rise to fight harder and win bigger. But for now, slip on your Slanket, dig into a tub of mint chocolate chip, curl up on the couch, and enjoy these films and TV shows that will warm your heart, comfort you, show you how others triumph over troubles, and even make you laugh.  All are available on disc, streaming, or YouTube.

Sherlock, Jr. (1924)

Sherlock Jr 1924

If you’re wowed by today’s 3D, computer-generated motion picture prestidigitation, look at what Buster Keaton was able to accomplish 90 years ago with just sets, celluloid, and the finest comedy mind in silent film. Buster is a poor movie theater projectionist in love with a girl who prefers the attention of a handsome cad. While running a picture, Buster daydreams: His dream-self leaves the booth, walks down the theater aisle and climbs up into the action on screen. Suddenly the movie’s original actors are replaced with Buster, the girl he wants, and other characters from his life, and the scenes behind the onscreen Buster shift wildly and dangerously from one locale to another. The special effects are seamless and astonishing, Keaton’s physical grace in stunts is ethereal, and the laughs are huge.  This inspired Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo.

Monkey Business (1931)

Monkey Business 1931

In their first film made in Hollywood, The Four Marx Brothers are stowaways on a ship —and from the beginning, logic takes a back seat to laughs. S.J. Perelman co-wrote the script, and Groucho’s dialogue is filled with his sophisticated wordplay (“Look at me: I’ve worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty”).

Don’t worry about the plot: It has something to do with gangsters. Just enjoy the boys getting past U.S. Customs by pretending to be Maurice Chevalier and performing one of his songs (wait till you see how the silent Harpo solves that problem), the references to Boris Thomashefsky and the House of David semi-pro baseball team, and Chico’s barrage of excruciating puns that make Groucho address the audience in exasperation.

It Happened One Night (1934)

it-happened-one-night-1934

Movie firsts are always tough to pinpoint, but historians agree this is where screwball comedy begins: highly attractive romantic stars doing nutty things for laughs. In screwball there is often an heiress and a reporter; here the runaway heiress is Claudette Colbert, fleeing her family to marry a weaselly aviator. Trying to remain anonymous, she takes a Greyhound bus from Florida to New York; her seatmate is newspaperman Clark Gable. She’s snooty, he’s down to Earth, and together they have a perilous, comic, and erotic trip on and off the bus.

In one famous scene, Gable and a reluctant Colbert are sharing a motel cabin. When Gable undressed, America saw that he didn’t wear an undershirt and sales of that garment plummeted.  Then there’s the hitchhiking scene, wherein Colbert shows Gable how a smart woman brings a male motorist to a screeching halt (she doesn’t use her thumb). The film was directed by Frank Capra.

I Love To Singa (1936)

I Love To Singa

Stipulated: Warner Bros. cartoons are funnier, sassier, and more inventive than Disney’s; this one directed by the genius Tex Avery is on any list of the most beloved Merrie Melodies. The star is a young owl in a dapper red jacket and a bowtie who defies his music-teacher father by singing pop songs on an animal version of an amateur-hour radio show.  Yes, it’s a parody of The Jazz Singer and yes, the little owl is named Owl Jolson, and yes, you will have the real Al Jolson hit song I Love to Singa playing in your brain for the next week.  You will also smile.

Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)

Goodbye Mr. Chips

Schooldays nostalgia, rampant Anglophilia, and a performance by Robert Donat that beat out Clark Gable’s Rhett Butler for the Oscar combine for a schmaltzy, genuinely moving package. This fond look at the life of a shy teacher at a British public school between the 1870s and the 1930s is about the resilience of the British through changing times and war. Sure, it softens all the nasty class stuff, but what makes this work is the sincere affection for the better aspects of the British system and character, and Donat’s beautifully-modulated performance as an awkward young master who blooms first because of the love of a spirited woman, and then because of the love of his students. You will cry at least twice during this film, but it’s the good kind of crying.

Sullivan’s Travels (1942)

Sullivans Travels 1941

Sunset Blvd. aside, this is the greatest, truest movie about Hollywood. Written and directed by Preston Sturges, the era’s madcap genius, it stars Joel McCrea as a self-serious Hollywood director tired of making fluff hits; he wants to make an adaptation of the “deep-dish” novel about poverty, Sinclair Beckstein’s O Brother, Where Art Thou? (This is where the Coen brothers got the title.) To experience poverty firsthand, he sets out from his Beverly Hills mansion dressed as a hobo — with a luxurious tour bus trailing him at the studio’s insistence.

Sturges’ lightning-fast dialogue goes into hilarious verbal curlicues, the satirical spears at mainstream moviemaking remain sharp, and the film’s biggest innovation — its sudden turn in the last half-hour from goofy comedy to very black drama — still surprises audiences.

Meet Me In St. Louis (1944)

Meet Me In St. Louis 1944

Family. Technicolor. Simpler times — specifically, St. Louis in 1904, a wartime look back at peacetime. Judy Garland. “The Trolley Song” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” And not wanting to leave home. This HAS to make you feel good.

Based on Sally Benson’s autobiographical sketches in The New Yorker, Meet Me In St. Louis is full of charm, music, gentle laughs, romance, and the warm embrace of loved ones. It also has a star-making performance by the child actor Margaret O’Brien as a talkative, rambunctious little girl who enjoys burying dolls; critic James Agee was so taken with O’Brien that his review in The Nation doesn’t mention Garland. Directed by Garland’s husband-to-be Vincente Minnelli; this is how they met.

Panic In The Sky (1953)

Panic In The Sky

This was the 12th episode of season two of TV’s Adventures of Superman. It features George Reeves, the only real Superman for those who grew up at a certain time. A B-movie actor who trained at the Pasadena Playhouse, he has presence, nobility, a rich voice, and humor. He is genuinely heroic. Unusually, he doesn’t play Clark Kent as a nebbish: The message is that ordinary guys can be pretty heroic, too.

In this episode, the Man of Steel has to save the world from a collision with an asteroid.  His first try is only partially successful, but the effort gravely injures him.  Will Earth — and Superman — survive?  The special effects range from nice try to pretty darn good, and the script has real suspense.  This is Superman super-fan Jerry Seinfeld’s favorite episode.

The Nairobi Trio (c. 1956 to 1961)

The Nairobi Trio

This recurring sketch from comedian Ernie Kovacs’ many series divides people: they either get the joke of The Nairobi Trio or they don’t, and if you do and they don’t, relationships may crumble. You cannot explain why it’s funny.

In a brief vignette, three figures in rubber gorilla masks, wigs, overcoats, and bowler hats robotically mime playing the novelty tune “Solfreggio” we hear on the soundtrack. A cigar-smoking gorilla conducts with a banana or a cigar, a female gorilla plays the piano, and a third gorilla raises and lowers timpani mallets. Throughout the number, the timpani player uses his mallets to do drumrolls on the conductor’s head; at the end, the conductor tries to exact revenge — that’s the punchline. That’s it. It’s funny.

The conductor is always Kovacs; over the years the other gorillas were secretly played by Jack Lemmon, Frank Sinatra, Barbara Loden, Jolene Brand, and Kovacs’ wife Edie Adams, among others.

You can watch the famous clip here:

Lost In America (1985)

Lost In America

Albert Brooks writes and directs too few movies, but this is one of his best: a snide road-movie satire of yuppies in Reagan’s America. Brooks is the creative director of an LA ad agency who doesn’t get the promotion he wants. The big baby throws a tantrum at the office, gets fired, and cons his wife, Julie Hagerty, into quitting her job, selling their home and setting out to see America and “touch Indians.” His model is Easy Rider — except that the couple travel in a fully-equipped Winnebago.

The classic scenes are numerous: Hagerty losing their financial “nest egg” in Vegas; Brooks’ crazed lecture about the “nest egg”; his attempt to get a job in a small Arizona town where the guy at the local employment agency has no idea what a creative director is.  This nearly-30-year-old film about marital and career dissatisfaction and selfishness holds up impeccably.