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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Things Are Looking Good for Hill Democrats in 2018


An unprecedented wave of well-funded Democrats have launched campaigns against Republican members of Congress this year, setting the stage for a true battle for control of the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm election. Animated by opposition to President Donald Trump and Republicans’ congressional majorities, at least 162 Democrats in 82 GOP-held districts have raised over $100,000 so far this year, according to a POLITICO analysis of FEC data. ... The Democrats’ fundraising success, especially from a glut of candidates who have never run for office before, has set off alarm bells for GOP strategists watching the House landscape develop. 'That’s something that should get every Republican’s attention in Washington,' said Jason Roe, a Republican strategist who works on House races. 'These first-timers are printing money.'"
Also at Politico, Rachel Bade reports on GOP retirements and resignations:
Rep. Pat Tiberi, a loyal ally of Ryan, is the latest departure. The Ohio Republican announced Thursday that he will resign by the end of January to take a job in the private sector. House GOP leaders had hoped the senior Ways and Means Committee member would lead the powerful tax panel in the coming years, House GOP sources told POLITICO. But Tiberi, a longtime tax reform proponent, made other plans just as tax talks are kicking off in earnest.
Tiberi will hardly be the last to leave, multiple House GOP sources say.
Lawmakers have grown increasingly frustrated with Trump’s penchant for drama and inability to focus on the legislative agenda, numerous House GOP lawmakers and staffers said. While Trump and most Republican voters blame Congress for nothing substantial getting done, GOP lawmakers are privately exasperated that they don’t have a coherent leader who can help them deliver. 
Jennifer Agresta reports on a new CNN poll:
Amid that Republican divide, the poll also finds Democrats holding a lead in the generic congressional ballot -- 51% to 37% overall, driven by a unified base of Democrats. Nearly all self-identified Democrats (98%) say they prefer the Democratic candidate in their congressional district, compared to 88% of Republicans who prefer the GOP candidate in their district. Among independents, Democrats have an edge of just four points, within the margin of sampling error for that group.
Jennifer Duffy at Cook Political Report:
Senate Republicans started the cycle with a good electoral map that gave them some hope that they could gain seats, even in a mid-term election when history strongly suggests that they should lose them. But, a growing schism in the Republican Party is threatening to erode many of the advantages Senate Republicans have, and is beginning to jeopardize their ability to gain seats as they are forced to fight multiple primaries that have the potential to provide Democrats with opportunities that didn’t exist just a month ago.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

"Russia Loaded the Gun. The Trump Team Fired"

 In  Defying the Oddswe discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

Craig Timberg, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Adam Entous at WP:
Russian operatives used a fake Twitter account that claimed to speak for Tennessee Republicans to persuade American politicians, celebrities and journalists to share select content with their own massive lists of followers, two people familiar with the matter said.
The list of prominent people who tweeted out links from the account, @Ten_GOP, which Twitter shut down in August, includes political figures such as Michael Flynn and Roger Stone, celebrities such as Nicki Minaj and James Woods, and media personalities such as Ann Coulter and Chris Hayes.
There is no evidence that any of them knew the account was run by Russians.
Independent researchers had suspected the account was Russian, and their work was confirmed Wednesday by two people familiar with the investigations into the Kremlin’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.
Betsy Woodruff & colleagues at The Daily Beast:
Former FBI counterterrorism agent Clint Watts, who testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Russian cyberattacks, told The Daily Beast that this is “exactly what I was talking about” in his testimony in March.
“If what you said is true, I’d say, ‘My job is done,’” said Watts. “If this account is definitely an (Internet Research Agency) account, it proved Russian Active Measures (like the 2016 propaganda campaign) works, because Americans will use it against other Americans.”
Watts said the content of these pages is “made to look organic” so that “Americans will use it against their political enemies.”
“If you take rumors, false information, plants, and just repeat them, you’re doing the job of a foreign country. They are seeding out information or narratives they know candidates or partisans will use. They were so effective, they had the very top people in the campaign using it,” said Watts.
“Basically, Russia loaded the gun. The Trump team fired.”

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Polarization and Views of Media

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's relationship to the media.

Steven Shepard at Politico:
Nearly half of voters, 46 percent, believe the news media fabricate news stories about President Donald Trump and his administration, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll.
Just 37 percent of voters think the media do not fabricate stories, the poll shows, while the remaining 17 percent are undecided.

More than three-quarters of Republican voters, 76 percent, think the news media invent stories about Trump and his administration, compared with only 11 percent who don’t think so. Among Democrats, one-in-five think the media make up stories, but a 65 percent majority think they do not. Forty-four percent of independent voters think the media make up stories about Trump, and 31 percent think they do not.
Among the voters who strongly approve of Trump’s job performance in the poll, 85 percent believe the media fabricate stories about the president and his administration.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Democrats and Republicans Like to Live in Different Places

In Defying the Odds, we discuss congressional elections as well as the presidential race.

One reason for GOP control of the House is deliberate gerrymandering.  Another is partisan clustering, that is, the tendency of Democrats to huddle up in cities, where they create huge margins for their party, which means wasted votes.

A new Pew poll confirms that Democrats and Republicans like to live in different kinds of places.
Our studies of political polarization and partisan antipathy both found that the disagreements between Republicans and Democrats go far beyond political values and issues. They also have markedly different preferences about where they would like to live. Most Republicans (65%) say they would rather live in a community where houses are larger and farther apart and where schools and shopping are not nearby. A majority of Democrats (61%) prefer smaller houses within walking distance of schools and shopping.

Monday, October 16, 2017

New Details on Russia's War Against American Democracy

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

Paul Manafort, a former campaign manager for President Donald Trump, has much stronger financial ties to a Russian oligarch than have been previously reported.

An NBC News investigation reveals that $26 million changed hands in the form of a loan between a company linked to Manafort and the oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, a billionaire with close ties to the Kremlin.

The loan brings the total of their known business dealings to around $60 million over the past decade, according to financial documents filed in Cyprus and the Cayman Islands.
The Russians who worked for a notorious St. Petersburg “troll factory” that was part of Vladimir Putin’s campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election were required to watch the “House of Cards” television series to help them craft messages to “set up the Americans against their own government,” according to an interview broadcast Sunday (in Russian) with a former member of the troll factory’s elite English language department.
The interview, broadcast by the independent Russian TV station Rain, provides new insight into how the troll factory formerly known as the Internet Research Agency targeted U.S. audiences in part by posting provocative “comments” pretending to be from Americans on newspaper articles that appeared on the websites of the New York Times and Washington Post.
A central theme of this messaging was demonizing Hillary Clinton by playing up the past scandals of her husband’s administration, her wealth and her use of a private email server, according to the interview with the agency worker, identified only as “Maksim,” with his face concealed.
“Maksim” says he worked for the agency during 2015, the year before the election, when it was already focusing its attention on Clinton.
“The main message is: Are not you, my American brothers, tired of the Clintons? How many have they already been?” Maksim says, adding that he and his colleagues were told to emphasize the Clintons’ past “corruption scandals.”
But more broadly, the instructions given to employees of the English language department were to stoke discontent about the U.S. government and the Obama administration in particular. “We had a goal to set up the Americans against their own government,” he says. “To cause unrest, cause discontent [and] lower [President] Obama’s rating.”

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Redistricting: A 1990 RNC Pamphlet

In Defying the Odds, we discuss congressional elections as well as the presidential race.

There has been much discussion of the role of gerrymandering in House races. Democrats blame unfair districts for GOP control.  Although they may stretch the argument and overlook the role of natural clustering ("unintentional gerrymandering'), there is little doubt that deliberate gerrymandering by GOP state lawmakers pads the party's majorities in the House and the state legislatures.

During the 1980s and 1990s, roles were reversed, as Democrats controlled most legislatures.  During this period, Republicans complained about gerrymandering. In 1990, the Republican National Committee issued a pamphlet about the topic.  "The gerrymander is unfair to voters," it said.  "`Packing' wastes votes while `cracking' makes them ineffectual. With a predetermined outcome, people have little reason to vote."

I am familiar with this pamphlet.  As an RNC staffer at the time, I wrote it.

I have embedded it below.  (Sorry for the light copy.)

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Sinister Agendas and Anti-Constitutional Impulses

In Defying the Odds, we explain that Trump has renounced the conservatism of Ronald Reagan.
He usually dismissed high ideals by reducing them to crude material terms. Consider for instance, America’s foundational proposition that all men are created equal. “The world is not fair,” Trump said in a 2006 video. [here] “You know they come with this statement `all men are created equal.’ Well, it sounds beautiful, and it was written by some very wonderful people and brilliant people, but it's not true because all people and all men [laughter] aren't created [equal] … you have to be born and blessed with something up here [pointing to his head]. On the assumption you are, you can become very rich.” Similarly, Trump did not think of “American exceptionalism” as a way of thinking about the nation’s role as a beacon for equality and liberty. As he said in 2015 [here] , it was all about the Benjamins.
I want to take everything back from the world that we’ve given them. We’ve given them so much. On top of taking it back, I don’t want to say, “We’re exceptional, we’re more exceptional.” Because essentially we’re saying, “We’re more outstanding than you. By the way, you’ve been eating our lunch for the last 20 years, but we’re more exceptional than you.” I don’t like the term. I never liked it.
Trump’s disdain for these ideas put him at odds with a major strain of conservative thought that revered the Declaration. It surely set him apart from conservatives who loved to quote Reagan’s rhetoric of a “shining city on a hill” and who faulted President Obama for seeming to belittle American exceptionalism. Trump just did not care very much for conservative ideology. In May of 2016, he said: “This is called the Republican Party. It’s not called the Conservative Party.” Trump pollster Tony Fabrizio told a post-election conference: “One of the problems is many people tried to look at the Donald Trump phenomenon through the ideological lenses which had defined previous Republican presidential nominating contests. Donald Trump is post ideological. His movement transcends ideology.”
With Trump turning and turning in a widening gyre, his crusade to make America great again is increasingly dominated by people who explicitly repudiate America’s premises. The faux nationalists of the “alt-right” and their fellow travelers such as Stephen K. Bannon, although fixated on protecting the United States from imported goods, have imported the blood-and-soil ethno-tribalism that stains the continental European right. In “Answering the Alt-Right” in National Affairs quarterly, Ramon Lopez, a University of Chicago PhD candidate in political philosophy, demonstrates how Trump’s election has brought back to the public stage ideas that a post-Lincoln America had slowly but determinedly expunged. They were rejected because they are incompatible with an open society that takes its bearing from the Declaration of Independence’s doctrine of natural rights.
...
Trump is, of course, innocent of this (or any other) systemic thinking. However, within the ambit of his vast, brutish carelessness are some people with sinister agendas and anti-constitutional impulses. Stephen Miller, Bannon’s White House residue and Trump’s enfant terrible, recently said that “in sending our [tax reform] proposal to the tax-writing committees, we will include instructions to ensure all low- and middle-income households are protected.” So, Congress will be instructed by Trump’s 32-year-old acolyte who also says the president’s national security powers “will not be questioned.” We await the response of congressional Republicans, who did so little to stop Trump’s ascent and then so much to normalize him.