The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}


It Was Brave Bureaucrats Who Blocked Trump’s Worst Acts

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Bureaucrats get a bad rap. A good deal of the responsibility for this falls on Republicans, who love to place the adjective "unelected" right in front while slamming them. Democrats more typically think of such folks as "public servants." During the Trump administration, there were a number of officials serving in the executive branch whose service to the public went above and beyond.

Read Now Show less

How Trump’s Criminality Harkens Back To The Violence Of The Confederacy

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Donald Trump broke new ground as the first president—the first American, period—to be impeached twice. However, thinking of him solely in those terms fails by a long shot to capture how truly historic his crimes were. Forget the number of impeachments—and certainly don't be distracted by pathetic, partisan scoundrels voting to acquit—The Man Who Lost The Popular Vote (Twice) is the only president to incite a violent insurrection aimed at overthrowing our democracy—and get away with it.

But reading those words doesn't fully and accurately describe the vile nature of what Trump wrought on Jan. 6. In this case, to paraphrase the woman who should've been the 45th president, it takes a video.

Although it's difficult, I encourage anyone who hasn't yet done so to watch the compilation of footage the House managers presented on the first day of the impeachment trial. It left me shaking with rage. Those thugs wanted not just to defile a building, but to defile our Constitution. They sought to overturn an election in which many hadn't even botheredthemselves to vote.

What was their purpose? In their own words, as they screamed while storming the Capitol: "Fight for Trump! Fight for Trump!" Those were the exact same words they had chanted shortly beforehand during the speech their leader gave at the Ellipse. He told them to fight for him, and they told him they would. And then they did.

Many of those fighting for Trump were motivated by a white Christian nationalist ideology of hate—hatred of liberals, Jews, African Americans, and other people of color. Most of that Trumpist mob standsdiametrically opposed to the ideals that really do make America great—particularly the simple notion laid down in the Declaration of Independence that, after nearly 250 years, we've still yet to fully realize: All of us are created equal. The Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol was but another battle in our country's long-running race war.

As Rev. William Barber explained just a few days ago: "White supremacy, though it may be targeted at Black people, is ultimately against democracy itself." He added: "This kind of mob violence, in reaction to Black, brown, and white people coming together and voting to move the nation forward in progressive ways, has always been the backlash."

Barber is right on all counts. White supremacy's centuries-long opposition to true democracy in America is also the through-line that connects what Trump has done since Election Day and on Jan. 6 to his true historical forebears in our history. Not the other impeached presidents, whose crimes—some more serious than others—differed from those of Trump not merely by a matter of degree, but in their very nature. Even Richard Nixon, as dangerous to the rule of law as his actions were, didn't encourage a violent coup. That's how execrable Trump is; Tricky Dick comes out ahead by comparison.

Instead, Trump's true forebears are the violent white supremacists who rejected our democracy to preserve their perverted racial hierarchy: the Southern Confederates. It's no coincidence that on Jan. 6 we saw a good number of Confederate flags unfurled at the Capitol on behalf of the Insurrectionist-in-Chief. As many, including Penn State history professor emeritus William Blair, have noted: "The Confederate flag made it deeper into Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, than it did during the Civil War."

As for that blood-soaked, intra-American conflict—after Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860, 11 Southern states refused to accept the results because they feared it would lead to the end of slavery. They seceded from the Union and backed that action with violence. Led by their president, Jefferson Davis, they aimed to achieve through the shedding of blood what they could not at the ballot box: to protect their vision of a white-dominated society in which African Americans were nothing more than property.

Some, of course, will insist the Civil War began for other reasons, like "states' rights," choosing to skip right past the words uttered, just after President Lincoln's inauguration, by Alexander Stephens, who would soon be elected vice president of the Confederacy. Stephens describedthe government created by secessionists thusly: "Its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth."

In the speech he gave at his 1861 inauguration, Lincoln accurately diagnosed secession as standing in direct opposition to democracy.

Plainly the central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy. A majority held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations, and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejects it does of necessity fly to anarchy or to despotism. Unanimity is impossible. The rule of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, is wholly inadmissible; so that, rejecting the majority principle, anarchy or despotism in some form is all that is left.

Davis, Stephens, and the rest of the Confederates spent four long years in rebellion against democracy and racial equality. In 1865, Lincoln was sworn in for a second term. On the ballot the previous year had been his vision, laid out at Gettysburg, of a war fought so that our country might become what it had long claimed to be, namely a nation built on the promise of liberty and equality for every American. Lincoln's vision won the election. He planned to lead the Union to final victory and, hopefully, bring that vision to life. Instead, John Wilkes Booth shot the 16th president to death.

Why did Booth commit that violent act, one that sought to remove a democratically elected president? Look at his own written words: "This country was formed for the white, not for the black man. And looking upon African Slavery from the same stand-point held by the noble framers of our constitution. I for one, have ever considered (it) one of the greatest blessings (both for themselves and us,) that God has ever bestowed upon a favored nation."

As author and Washington College historian Adam Goodheart explains, Booth was "motivated by politics and he was especially motivated by racism, by Lincoln's actions to emancipate the slaves and, more immediately, by some of Lincoln's statements that he took as meaning African Americans would get full citizenship." When Booth opened fire, his gun was aimed at not just one man, but at the notion of a multiracial, egalitarian democracy itself.

Trump may not have pulled a trigger, bashed a window, or attacked any police officers while wearing a flag cape, but he shares the same ideology, motive, and mindset as his anti-democratic, white supremacist forebears. They didn't like the result of an election, and were ready and willing to use violence to undo it. Secession, assassination, insurrection. These are three sides of a single triangle.

I hope, for the sake of our country and the world, we never have another president like Donald Trump. I hope we as a people—or at least enough of us—have learned that we cannot elect an unprincipled demagogue as our leader.

A person without principle will never respect, let alone cherish, the Constitution or the democratic process. A person without principle can only see those things as a means to gain or maintain a hold on power. A person without principle believes the end always justifies the means.

That's who Trump is: a person without principle. That's why he lied for two months after Election Day, why he called for his MAGA minions to come to Washington on the day Joe Biden's victory was to be formally certified in Congress, and why he incited an insurrection on that day to prevent that certification from taking place. His forces sought nothing less than the destruction of American democracy.

For those crimes, Trump was impeached, yes. But those crimes are far worse than those committed by any other president. Regardless of the verdict, those crimes will appear in the first sentence of his obituary. They are what he will be remembered for, despite the cowardice of his GOP enablers. Forever.

Ian Reifowitz is the author of The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh's Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump (Foreword by Markos Moulitsas)

New Poll Shows Jewish Voters Sticking With Biden, Democrats

So Trump thinks Jews should vote for him, huh? That's what he has said on multiple occasions, including on August 20, 2019, when, as part of a comment about Israel, he smeared Jews with the old canard of dual loyalty: "I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty [to Israel]." Riiiiight. Because why wouldn't we love someone who proclaimed that there were "very fine people on both sides" of a rally where one of the sides consisted of neo-Nazis chanting "Jews will not replace us?" But hey, a creamsicle-colored guy can dream, right? Looks like that's one more of Trump's dreams—delusions? self-deceptions?—that will never come true.

Read Now Show less

How The Impeachment Process Helped Joe Biden

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Impeaching The Man Who Lost The Popular Vote was incredibly important, and not only because it was the right thing to do. Yes, he committed crimes and abused the power of his office, and yes he deserved to be impeached and removed from that office—the record of every Republican Senator other than Mitt Romney will be forever stained by their votes to acquit. History will remember their cowardice.

Read Now Show less

Running America ‘Like A Business’ Is A Road To Ruin

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

The coronavirus pandemic has changed much about American politics and society—but not everything. One constant is that Republicans believe a lot of stupid things about how to run a country. Correction: Who knows what they actually believe. Is it better if they're lying rather than deluded? Either way, Republicans definitely say a lot of stupid things.

One of their longest-standing vapidities is the hoary, cockeyed notion that government should be run like a business. Trump has said this, as has his supremely unqualified son-in-law Jared Kushner, and so did Mitt Romney during his 2012 presidential run, just to name a few.

Read Now Show less

GOP Used Pandemic To Lavish Billions On The One Percent — Including Trump And Kushner

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Which of the following statements do you think are true?

1) Republicans used the massive coronavirus relief package passed in late March (the CARES Act) to slip, at the last minute, more than $100 billion over a decade to households earning more than $1 million per year.

Read Now Show less

‘Weaponizing An Epidemic’ Is How Limbaugh Attacked Obama

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

"It looks like the coronavirus is being weaponized as yet another element to bring down Donald Trump," Rush Limbaugh, February 26, 2020

The Man Who Lost The Popular Vote has said much the same, accusing Democrats of "politicizing the coronavirus," which he characterized as "their new hoax." Fox News and others in the rightwing media fell right into line as well.

Let's deal with the substance of this in the manner in which it deserves. First, Limbaugh is a stone-cold liar (and so is Trump)—although we knew that simply by the fact that his lips were moving. Second, and I'll try not to spit as I scream this: Limbaugh and his shamelessly hypocritical buddies on the right weaponized Ebola to (try and) defeat Barack Obama. There, I feel a little better. And here's the evidence, which I gathered researching my new book on how Limbaugh paved the way for Trump by spending eight years deploying the worst kind of hateful, racist rhetoric against President Obama.

After having spent several shows in July and August 2014 using the outbreak of the Ebola virus—which, counting only documented cases, killed over 11,000 Africans and one American—as a reason to "close the border," on Sept. 8, the host pondered whether the enterovirus D68 outbreak that ultimately infected people in all but one state, and which may have killed fourteen (they tested positive but their deaths could not be definitively linked to EV-D68) was connected to the unaccompanied minors from Central America, and noted that "some people" believe it could be. Limbaugh also wondered whether the White House was covering up such a connection. Talk about weaponizing illness.

In October, the Ebola story began to dominate the media. Republicans, including Limbaugh, hyped fears about the virus and used it to depict Obama as incompetent leading up to the midterm elections. More specifically, the host linked Ebola and immigration and/or border security on nine out of his first thirteen October broadcasts, and on two other occasions later in the month. In addition, Limbaugh talked up the Ebola scare on six other occasions in October as well. On Oct. 16, Limbaugh revisited EV-D68 and the unaccompanied minors.

After Election Day, Ebola suddenly dropped off the radar screen for Limbaugh and the right in general, making clear the political nature of their previous focus on the issue. Journalist Elise Viebeck called it the "2014 October surprise." Talking about Ebola and, in particular, connecting it to border security, had served its purpose, however, as Democrats lost 13 House seats and, more importantly, nine Senate seats—which ended their eight-year run as the majority party in that chamber. David Axelrod rightly termed what Limbaugh and Co. did "panic peddling."

David Axelrod✔@davidaxelrodThree weeks ago, it was a media and political frenzy. Today, not one person in U.S. is being treated for Ebola. #panicpeddling
5009:15 PM - Nov 11, 2014Twitter Ads info and privacy
1,154 people are talking about this

That's a slightly revised version of the summary I offered in the book. This post offers the opportunity to look at what Limbaugh said in much greater depth, starting with his remarks of August 1, 2014.

After two American missionaries who contracted Ebola while caring for other Ebola patients were brought back to the U.S. for treatment, Limbaugh started right in with the weaponizing.

So we're going to import the crisis. Right. (interruption) Well, if that's what you think, if you think that because Rahm Emanuel said that no crisis is too great to waste and they're somehow political — you've learned that from me. I know you have, because I have properly said that every event that attracts mass attention is going to be converted into advancing a Democrat Party agenda. Right? Every time we give them the benefit of the doubt we're proven wrong.
So how about this? How about just as it's not fair that the Israelis are the only ones that have the Iron Dome, could it be that, hey, it's not fair that Ebola has not broken out in America and it does in Africa and all these other poor countries, it's not fair. You can't possibly believe that they would import two cases of Ebola just for that reason. Anyway, that is happening, and I just, cutting edge, I'm going to tell you there are going to be people questioning why. And the people who question why are going to be tagged as heartless, cold, mean-spirited, uncaring, whatever. And I think just the very act of bringing those two Americans here, that is where the credit and the advancement of the Democrat agenda will be attached, with just the act of bringing them here.

That's far from the only example. On Sept. 16, Limbaugh even weaponized Ebola to attack Obama on terrorism: "We're sending 3,000 soldiers to fight Ebola. We are sending more soldiers to fight Ebola than we are sending to fight ISIS or other Muslim terrorists."

Additionally, Limbaugh attacked Obama for supposedly underselling the seriousness of Ebola. Bear in mind that Limbaugh recently proclaimed that the coronavirus was pretty much the same as the "common cold." But Obama's the one who undersold an epidemic? Sheesh. On Oct. 1, the host went hard after Obama.

Now, wait a minute. I thought it was very hard to catch Ebola, especially in the United States. We were told that by the president.
Do you think he knows Ebola from eshmola? Really, we haven't had somebody as unqualified serve in this office as this guy in a long time. But yet here he comes: "In the unlikely event somebody with Ebola does reach our shores," after saying it couldn't happen, "we've taken new measures so that we're prepared here at home." What new measures? He just goes out and says stuff, just go say it, that's all, just say it, make a speech, give some remarks, that will make people feel better.

The next day, Limbaugh charged Obama with making Americans sick because he's a liberal. I'm not kidding.

I'm gonna take you back to 2010, the archives of USA Today: "Obama Administration Scraps Quarantine Regulations." This story will explain to you why Obama isn't doing anything to stop flights to and from countries where Ebola has broken out or why he's not doing anything to stop people with diseases from pouring into the country. It's largely because the ACLU and Obama think such measures are unfair.
Now, how many times did the administration and the news media make fun of or mock people for suggesting that somebody might come across the border with Ebola? Ever since the Ebola outbreak occurred, coupled with our open borders, there have been people warning, are we doing anything? Are we being vigilant? Are we making sure that this disease is going to be kept out of the country?
Oh, yeah. Oh, there's nothing to worry about. Obama goes out, "It isn't gonna happen." It's a hard disease to get, the CDC guy said, it isn't gonna happen. And everybody who worried about it was mocked and made fun of and there were intimations that we were listening to racists and bigots. That's what it means. If you want steps to be taken to protect your country and the population of your country, and yourself and your family, you're bigot. You are not behaving properly according to the tenets of political correctness.

The day after that, Limbaugh slammed the Obama Administration's Ebola policy and connected it to the policy on immigration—while adding a side of fear-mongering about undocumented Latino immigrants.

The Obama response to this, given how relativity limited the Ebola problem was — given all the warnings Obama had, given the fact that nobody's trying to stop the Regime from helping — and still it's being treated and dealt with in the most irresponsible, incompetent manner I can think of.
Open borders.
He can't close the borders. It's all political. This is my never-ending point. The reason he's not gonna stop the flights from Africa or anywhere else Ebola happens to be is because he's gonna do amnesty down the road. He promised the Hispanics yesterday it's gonna happen. He was bragging about the fact that he rode to the Hispanic speech with a couple of illegals. He's bragging about it, and he's promising 'em it's gonna happen.
Well, you can't shut down flights from Africa. You can't you can't close the border. Not if you later plan on using the open border for amnesty.

Trump also weaponized Ebola against President Obama. Here's just one example.

It was good to see at least some in the media—well done as usual, Paul Krugman!—call out this blatant hypocrisy from Limbaugh, Trump, and their ilk. But even the main news article in Krugman's own paper—the illustrious New York Times—which detailed the rightwing lies about the coronavirus being weaponized, and rightly characterized one of Limbaugh's statements as "a baseless claim", failed to highlight that the right-wing did exactly that to Obama on Ebola.

The hypocrisy—not to mention the projection from right-wingers here—isn't a matter of opinion, and it shouldn't be limited to the op-ed pages. The job of journalists is supposed to be to tell the whole story.

Ian Reifowitz is the author of The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh's Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump (Foreword by Markos Moulitsas). Some of the material in this post is excerpted (in some cases with slight alterations) from the book, with full permission.

Why Pelosi Should Appoint Former GOP Rep. Amash To Impeachment Team

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Let’s start with this: Screw Jeff Van Drew (nothing like a little rhyme to inaugurate a post, right?). But seriously, the primary argument being deployed by The Man Who Lost The Popular Vote and his Republican sycophants is that the whole impeachment thing is just about partisanship. Here’s a tweet from a Trump campaign mouthpiece:

Rep. Van Drew of New Jersey, as anyone who has dug into the matter knows, abandoned the Democrats for the Republicans just after voting no on impeachment because, as recent polling showed, he had no chance of being reelected as a Democrat. Either way, it gave Trump more cover for his impeachment narrative. CNN’s Chris Cillizza called it a “godsend” for him.

As Eric Boehlert has been expertly pointing out for quite some time, the media coverage of impeachment (not to mention Trump’s entire time in office) has, to say the least, left something to be desired. Unfortunately, though, too many people hear, even from mainstream news articles, that impeachment is purely about partisan politics, and thus they dismiss it. That is the single most dangerous narrative those who believe Trump should not be president have to combat on this front.

We must continue to hold Trump accountable, first of all, because it is important to vigorously defend the integrity of our elections against a president who would use the power of his office to blackmail and bribe a foreign government into damaging an opponent by announcing an investigation into supposed corruption (and all Trump cared about was the announcement and its political value), for which, mind you, there remains no actual evidence.

But we must also do so because people who tune out the Senate trial (and don’t listen to what Trump actually did because they’ve decided that impeachment really was just about Democratic hatred of the guy who beat them in 2016) are going to hold it against Democrats in 2020 for putting the country through the whole thing. We cannot allow impeachment to redound to his benefit and help him get reelected.

That’s where Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan comes in.

I’ve praised Amash before, after he became the first House Republican to support impeaching Trump—a position he declared in May, as a result of the Mueller report. Then, on July 4, Amash announced he was leaving the Republican Party. Unlike Van Drew, he wasn’t joining the other party, with whom he agrees on very few policy issues. Amash wanted to stand alone, as an independent. He voted yes on both articles of impeachment this past week, which means that—despite the way the media presented the vote—not every conservative in the House stood with Trump.

Beyond this speech, Amash has been highly active in the public debate over impeachment:

On December 13, Amash jabbed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for saying he would coordinate with the White House to acquit Trump rather than remain impartial. He also lambasted Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey O. Graham (R-SC) for telling CNN in an interview that “I’m not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here.”

“Senator Graham has chosen to violate his oath to support and defend the Constitution, his oath to do impartial justice in an impeachment trial, and his duty to represent all the people of his state, not just those who share his political views or desire a particular outcome,” Amash wrote.

And that brings me to the argument I mentioned in the headline of this post, an argument I am far from the first person to be making. At least 33 freshman Democratic House members have been quietly but strongly urging Speaker Nancy Pelosi to appoint Amash to serve as one of the impeachment trial managers who will make the case on behalf of the House. Leading the push is Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota, who noted that the effort includes Democrats from the progressive left to the moderate center. He noted that Pelosi is aware of it, and mentioned that he and Amash have spoken about it as well. Here’s Phillips making his case:

Amash “took a courageous position early on,” Phillips told CBS News, describing Amash’s decision earlier this year to leave the Republican Party after saying he believed Mr. Trump had committed impeachable acts. “He’s an attorney, he’s a constitutionalist [and] has framed the issues as clearly and concisely as any congressman,” Phillips said.

[snip] It’s “all about pragmatism … He can make a case thoughtfully” in a way that will articulate Mr. Trump’s conduct to a broad cross section of Americans, Phillips said.

Phillips also stated: “To the extent that this can be bipartisan, it should, and I think including Representative Amash amongst the impeachment managers is a smart move both for the country, for the substance and for the optics.”

Some might argue we should reward only loyal Democrats with such a high-profile opportunity. However, such considerations cannot be allowed to override the primary objective of defeating Trump. Amash can aid that effort in a unique way, one no Democrat can match. We need him on the front lines of this battle.

New York Times columnist David Leonhardt endorsed tapping Amash, and cited a number of other prominent voices as well:

  • Susan Hennessey, Lawfare: “This would be a very shrewd choice. Not only is Amash a conservative, he is a very effective questioner and has a gift for rooting his analysis in core constitutional concerns.”
  • Jamil SmithRolling Stone: “Mollifying disingenuous, intellectually bereft criticism from Republicans about fairness shouldn’t be a concern. But @justinamash has been articulating the strategy for impeachment better than most, regardless of party. That is the best argument for this.”
  • Marcy Wheeler, a national security journalist:

I’m a constituent of Justin Amash … And I’m solidly in support of the idea — floated by thirty freshman Democrats — for Amash to be among the Impeachment Managers presenting the case in the Senate. I think Amash brings several things this impeachment effort could badly use. …

It is critical to have a voice making the conservative case for upholding the Constitution. … Well before queasy Democrats in swing districts came around to the necessity of impeaching President Trump, Amash left his party and took a stand to defend the Constitution.

He’s a hard-line fiscal conservative who left the Republican Party in July, becoming an independent, after backlash against his May conclusion that the conduct outlined in Robert Mueller’s special counsel report was “impeachable.” His existence is a reminder that, for all the chin-stroking Beltway media takes about impeachment being an example of “partisan polarization,” the case for removing Trump does not require one to hold a left-of-center belief system and is, in fact, supported by many non-Democrats. There’s no better answer to the Republican talking point about how zero Republicans support impeaching Trump than to draw attention to a person who would still be a prominent Republican if the party didn’t have a Trump loyalty requirement.

Others have also spoken out in favor:

“As others have suggested, Rep. Amash should be one of the impeachment managers for the Senate trial,” Kevin Kruse, a historian of American History, said on Twitter. Michelle Goldberg, a New York Times columnist that leans significantly to the left of most of her colleagues, said on Twitter: “Democrats should choose Amash as one of their impeachment managers.” And Charlie Sykes, editor of the conservative (but Never-Trump website) The Bulwarkcalled the suggestion a “Good idea.”

Putting front and center, as an impeachment manager, a conservative who left the Republican Party specifically because he believed Trump committed impeachable offenses is the single most effective tactic Speaker Pelosi can deploy in the service of getting more persuadable independents and Republican-leaning voters to judge the case against President Individual 1 with an open mind. Justin Amash can speak to some of those voters with a specific authority that, like it or not, Adam Schiff, Jerry Nadler, and any other House Democrat do not possess. If you don’t believe me, or any of the people cited above, listen to how two of Amash’s Republican supporters responded after hearing him explain his position at a May town hall in his district:

“I was surprised to hear there was anything negative in the Mueller report at all about President Trump. I hadn’t heard that before,” [Cathy Granaat] said. “I’ve mainly listened to conservative news and I hadn’t heard anything negative about that report and President Trump has been exonerated.”

Cheryl Wanless, a Republican who has supported Amash, said she was confused by his position but after hearing him speak, doesn’t “have a problem proceeding with” impeachment.

“Though in the back of my mind, I know it is not going to pass the Senate most likely,” she said. “But if the process has to go this far, I think that’s fine — go ahead.”

In a democracy, politics is persuasion. In our democracy, too many people are stuck in a media bubble where they simply cannot hear information that comes from a voice outside the circle they trust. It takes someone who has already earned that trust, who is inside the circle, to penetrate the echo chamber. Rep. Amash can be that person for some right-of-center voters. Not allowing him to do so only helps Donald Trump.

The struggle over impeachment is a political knife fight. Victory will be measured not by whether this man is removed from the Oval Office—there are nowhere near enough principled Republicans who will put our country and our Constitution above their craven, Death Eater-ish worship of their lord and master for that righteous result to occur—but instead by how many voters are moved one way or the other in 2020. Democrats must understand the stakes, and take any and every measure available to them to maximize success as measured in those terms.

No matter what verdict Senate Republicans cast, the broader jury includes the whole of the American people. Anyone listening with a truly open mind will surely recognize that Donald Trump is a threat to our Constitution, to the rule of law, and to our democracy, and is therefore unfit to serve as our president. The more people who come to that realization between now and Election Day in 2020, the better the chances of saving the country we love.

Ian Reifowitz is the author of The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh’s Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump (Foreword by Markos Moulitsas)

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

It Would Suck If Next Democratic Debate Is All White, But…

Let’s start by acknowledging what a real loss it is that Sen. Kamala Harris decided last week to suspend her presidential campaign. Thankfully, she will not be going anywhere, and will instead continue to fight for the vitally important priorities she identified, and for those whose perspectives “have not been heard or too often ignored.” As she wrote (and I encourage you to read her entire post):

I will keep fighting every day for what this campaign has been about. Justice for The People. All the people….We will keep up that fight.

[snip] Our campaign uniquely spoke to the experiences of Black women and people of color — and their importance to the success and future of this party. Our campaign demanded no one should be taken for granted by any political party. We will keep up that fight because no one should be made to fight alone.

[snip] Although I am no longer running for President, I will do everything in my power to defeat Donald Trump and fight for the future of our country and the best of who we are.

Understandably, Harris’ withdrawal most deeply pains those who hoped she would become the first woman of color (she is both black and Indian) to win the presidency—something that looked like a distinct possibility when she placed second in an Iowa state poll as well as two national polls (one of which showed her only 2 points behind Vice President Biden) just after the June debate. Moreover, the end of her campaign leaves the Democratic field for president far less representative of our voting coalition. Harris’ presence on the debate stage brought something profound to the discussion, as her exchange with Biden at that June debate over busing and segregation made crystal clear.

Many analysts, pundits, and political figures have offered commentary regarding why Harris’ campaign came to an end. Among other sources, our own site has posted pieces by Marissa HigginsAnoa Changa, and, on the front page earlier today, Denise Oliver-Velez, that offer valuable insight. And this tweet, from the author of the new, thought-provoking book How to Be An Antiracist resonated with me.

Even in her exit, Sen. Harris reminded voters of her wit and her toughness. She knows how mix it up in the political arena, which is just one reason she has a long and bright future ahead of her as a leader of national stature.

I’m not going to address the varied reasons why Sen. Harris fell out of the top tier of candidates and decided to leave the race. For full disclosure, I’m on record as being a supporter of Sen. Elizabeth Warren this cycle (I supported Barack Obama in the 2008 primary, and Sen. Bernie Sanders in 2016). It is important to note that while many analyses have correctly mentioned the extra hurdles Harris faced as a woman of color, none that I saw ignored the missteps her campaign made, or pretended that she ran a perfect race. In other words, no serious commentator said that Harris didn’t win only because she’s a woman of color. Anyone who claims otherwise is not only incorrect, they are being deliberately divisive, and trying to drive a wedge between supporters of Harris and the remaining Democratic candidates.

Moving forward, the most visible, immediate impact of Harris’ departure will be seen in the upcoming Democratic debate on Dec. 19, for which she had qualified but which is now in danger of lacking any candidates of color, and will almost certainly not have any black or Latino candidates. Former HUD secretary and 2020 Democratic candidate Julián Castro stated: “What we’re staring at is a DNC debate stage with no people of color on it. That does not reflect the diversity of our party or our country. We need to do better than that.”

Sen. Cory Booker made an important point in an MSNBC interview:

Booker also showed some emotion in another comment: “I’m a little angry, I have to say, that we started with one of the most diverse fields in our history, giving people pride. And it’s a damn shame now that the only African American woman in this race, who has been speaking to issues that need to be brought up, is now no longer in it. And we’re spiraling towards a debate stage that potentially, we’re still trying to get in it, but could have six people with no diversity whatsoever.”

With all due respect to Sen. Booker, that’s not completely accurate. Certainly, we should respect the anger and frustration around this topic—notwithstanding the fact that it is still reasonably likely that Andrew Yang will qualify for the debate, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard might as well (both need to hit 4 percent in only one more DNC-sanctioned poll, with Yang having already hit 3 percent in 11 of them). But even if the debate stage doesn’t end up 100 percent fitting the #DebatesSoWhite hashtag, the point made by Booker, Castro, and plenty of others remains highly relevant.

I want to reiterate that it is a real loss that candidates like Booker and Castro didn’t qualify for this next debate, and that Harris decided to suspend her campaign and thus not participate. Individually and collectively, they brought a vital and important perspective along with the visual representation of the black and Latino communities that will presumably no longer be on the debate stage in this race. The debates would be that much richer with their continued presence. Nevertheless, even if it lacks candidates of color, the next Democratic debate stage will nonetheless continue to demonstrate significant, historic levels of diversity.

That debate will include the first ever openly gay candidate for president, it will also include a Jewish candidate, as well as multiple women. There has never been a president of the United States from any of those groups, and there has been only one woman nominated by a major party. She beat Donald Trump by 3 million votes, in case anyone forgot.

Yes, even Joe Biden represents a form of diversity, as he would become only the second Catholic president if he won (the first was John F. Kennedy). To say it another way, there have been as many black presidents as there have been Catholic ones. Catholics have constituted 25 percent of the U.S. population throughout the post-World War II era, approximately twice the percentage of black Americans.

Obviously, I don’t mean to equate the struggles Catholic Americans, or women, Jews, or LGBTQ Americans have faced with the unique oppression—historic as well as ongoing, not to mention structural in nature—faced by African Americans. The point is simply that, in terms of representation, a second Catholic president would be much more of a barrier-breaker than another white, male Protestant. Democrats will almost certainly not nominate a white, straight, Protestant, male, and that’s (as far as we know) what all but two of our previous presidents have been.


Finally, even though there may not be a black face on the debate stage in Los Angeles, the No. 1 choice of black voters will be. Joe Biden has consistently polled far stronger with African Americans than any other candidate. A recent Quinnipiac poll from South Carolina showed Biden at 44 percent among black voters (Sanders got 10 percent, Warren got 8 percent, Harris got 6 percent, and Booker got 2 percent).

Likewise, although no Latino candidates will be on stage for the next debate, the apparent No. 1 choice of Latino voters will be. That’s Sanders, aka “Tio Bernie”—as he was dubbed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez during her remarks endorsing him. In a recent poll Sanders earned the support of 39 percent of Latino respondents, compared to 21 percent for Biden, 9 percent for Harris, 6 percent for South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and 5 percent for Warren. Sanders is probably also the No. 1 choice of young voters of color, considering that he leads among young voters overall and that Biden’s support is much stronger among older African Americans. Whether or not there are black or brown faces among the candidates at the next debate, the preferences of black and brown voters are carrying the day in defining the front-runners.

So even as we rightfully lament and, yes, mourn the real loss that is the end of Kamala Harris’ campaign, and even as we bemoan the fact that none of the four remaining front-runners are people of color, let me leave you with one simple fact:

No American born after Nov. 3, 1986, has ever cast a ballot in an election where the Democratic nominee for president was white and male. Without question, we’ve got a long way to go, but that is a tangible sign that the Democratic Party has made significant progress when it comes to the diversity of the people we nominate to be the next leader of the country we love. And that is something to be proud of.

Ian Reifowitz is the author of The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh’s Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump (Foreword by