We thought it could never happen. That’s what happened.

I’m listening to Hillary Clinton’s book on my commute. Its publication brings back the usual debates about how Donald Trump was able to win the Presidency, given his obvious, comprehensive unfitness for the position.

How did that happen? When I was asked to give odds before Election Day, I always quoted Nate Silver’s estimates. I said there was a one in six chance Trump could win.*** In my bones, I never really believed the risk was that great. Most people I knew–with the notable exception of Keith Humphreys–felt the same way. That’s how it happened.

The biggest single factor in President Trump’s upset election victory was the collective sense that Hillary Clinton couldn’t possibly lose. That conviction in our bones–that the unthinkable outcome was really impossible–freed everyone, across the political spectrum from doing their part to prevent the national catastrophe that actually ensued.

That complacency freed unenthusiastic voters who despised Trump to stay home or cast protest votes. It freed Clinton and her team to run a less-urgent, less-effective campaign than they might have been. It freed Bernie Sanders not to do everything he might have done to rally his supporters on Clinton’s behalf.

It freed the media to cover her as the presumptive President, to ridiculously over-hype the email scandal, to treat Trump as a clownish and entertaining side-show, to give him free air time, to hire dishonest Trump spokesmen as cable news talent, to take refuge in bromides about the two-party duopoly and both-siderism. Hillary Clinton deserved criticism and scrutiny on many fronts, particularly her decisions regarding the lucrative speeches. She is absolutely, absolutely correct to lambaste the New York Times, Matt Lauer, and other media outlets for terrible and consequentially biased campaign reporting.

That same complacency freed folk on the left to snipe at her without worrying that this would influence the contest. It freed many in the political right and center to avoid mobilizing around Hillary although they knew perfectly well that Trump was a threat to the nation. It freed President Obama to be less aggressive than he might have been in addressing Russian interference in the election. It freed FBI Director Comey to behave as he did, excessively upbraiding Hillary Clinton even as he (perhaps appropriately) shielded much more serious investigations of the Trump team from public view. It freed all of us to be more passive and not to do as much as we might have done to help her when things got close.

As it turned out, most of us overestimated the impact of Trump’s comprehensive unworthiness to impeach him among key Republican-leaning voters. We underestimated the impact of Trump’s racism, sexism, and other bigotries to specifically validate him within another key group of Republican-leaning voters that was larger than many of us expected.

That left a hole, not as deep as a well nor so wide as a church-door, but enough.

***Dina Pomerantz reminds me over Twitter that Nate Silver on Election Day had given Donald Trump an almost-thirty-percent chance of winning. Indeed Silver and the Atlantic’s Ron Brownstein anticipated with great insight precisely the dangers Clinton faced in the battleground states. I would tell people one-sixth because I believed the hype that Clinton’s campaign possessed superior analytics and a better ground-game. Ah, those were the days. 

The absolute norm of nonviolence in American politics

As details emerge regarding today’s awful shooting, the incident provides a timely reminder. There are many unbalanced people out there, in every faction across the country. Especially in this awful and contentious time, we need to reinforce the absolute norm of nonviolence on all sides in American politics. We yell. We hold up obnoxious signs. Maybe we engage in civil disobedience. But we never put an unkind hand on any political adversary. We never incite violence. We don’t promote stupid memes that blur the lines like the punch-a-Nazi thing.

The fact that President Trump and others violate these norms does not weaken our own obligation. Indeed it strengthens it.

Montana mess

The compounded misbehavior in Bozeman yesterday has to appall any decent observer, a complete breakdown of order and decency.  We should note first the only participant who comes out of it with his reputation intact, Greg Gianforte, a Trump soldier who knows how to stay on message and follow his orders both specific (“Beat the s__t out of them!”) and general: hurt the weak [GG appears to have about a foot and twenty pounds on Jacobs], beat the press, and so on. If he gets to Washington he can surely be trusted to bravely smite the sick and the poor when the time comes.

Everything goes to pieces after that, though. A Fox News crew was present and truculently went completely insubordinate, telling the truth both in their dispatches and to the authorities with no consideration of the damage it would do to a notable Republican. With minions like this, Fox’s whole mission is at risk.

Then there’s the sheriff, who had everything he needed to arrest Jacobs for armed [a recording device attested by all witnesses, and a direct question to a candidate] assault with intent to cause great political harm.  Gianforte’s flack Scanlon spelled it out for him right away, with the magic words “liberal reporter.” But does he? He does not; he treacherously cites Gianforte, to whose campaign he had donated! No, it doesn’t redeem him that he smoothed out felony assault and battery into a misdemeanor.

Poor Gianforte; three Montana papers have unendorsed him. He followed the code of the West (“do unto others before they can do unto you“) and everyone walked away from him, just like the  craven citizens in High Noon. 

A long-overdue letter to the editors of the New York Times

I wrote this today in response to an editorial decrying “Two Presidential Candidates Stuck in the Past.”

Thank you so much for continuing the Times’s pattern of false equivalence between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton which did so much to elect the former and besmirch the latter. Trump’s pathological need to tell whoppers at campaign rallies instead of governing is not at all the same as Clinton’s factual answers to a reporter’s questions. There is no doubt that James Comey’s October surprise re-opening of the e-mail investigation damaged her election prospects, nor is there any doubt that Russia interfered on her opponent’s behalf, though direct complicity by the Trump campaign has yet to be proven.

The editors’ instruction to Clinton to stop talking about the election sounds a lot like, “Women should be seen and not heard.” I look forward to your issuing a similarly stern warning to Bernie Sanders, who continues to peddle his fraudulent claim that Clinton “stole” the primaries by defeating him. Until you do, I’d be grateful if you’d stop pretending that Clinton’s telling the truth is somehow the same as Trump’s lying.

Wish I’d Written This

A post from a friend, John Watters:

Imagine this scenario:

Hillary Clinton is president. It’s learned that she has deep ties to Putin and the Russian spy agency. She puts unqualified billionaires in cabinet posts. She pursues public policies that benefit her and her billionaire friends. She puts her daughter Chelsea in a position of influence in the West Wing, gives her her own office and allows her to use that position to forward her own business interests. And Chelsea’s husband is her chief advisor. The private business trips taken by Chelsea and her husband are paid for by the taxpayers.

She refuses to release any tax returns, she blocks access to the visitor logs in the White House and Bill refuses to live in the White House so our tax dollars are spent keeping him safe in Chappaqua. Hillary spends almost every weekend lounging in her own, privately-held resort. Her private resort gets reimbursed for any and all “official” government functions (including security) because she chooses to conduct all her “business” and personal functions there. She and her family live in three White Houses at the same time.

In an interview, she names the wrong country she bombed while bragging about the chocolate cake she was eating while she ordered said bombing. I could go on and on. The point is that the outrage, the outcries, the screaming by Republicans would be heard around the world and impeachment proceedings would already be underway.

By the way, this is not about political party affiliation. Let’s face it, if Hillary – or any woman or minority candidate – had five children from three partners s/he would never have survived the primary.

And I [MM] would add: this is not just about party affiliation, which it certainly is. This description is the embodiment of white male privilege.

“What do you think—our country’s so innocent?”

Some things speak for themselves.

O’Reilly: “Putin’s a killer”

Trump: “There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think—our country’s so innocent?”

 

Here’s what these things are they saying: President Trump’s odd comments and behavior regarding Russia merit a rigorous, bipartisan investigation of the President’s personal finances and his links to Russia.

Cold war liberals at the Chicago Women’s March

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Obamacare is not “Toast.”

“Obamacare is toast,” read one tweet, reflecting the hive-mind-consensus election night. Two months later, the Affordable Care Act may indeed be headed for destruction. I’m betting not.

This is an odd political moment. The range of plausible outcomes ranges from 20 million people losing their health insurance all the way to ACA surviving surprisingly intact. The only solid prediction I will give is that there will be a $346 billion tax-cut for Americans with incomes exceeding $200,000 per year….

More here, by me at healthinsurance.org.

We’re on a scary walk over thin ice.

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Full circle: Dispatches from President Obama’s farewell address

We all feel that way, sweetie

I and several thousand other people are here early in McCormick Center, waiting for President Obama. We’re listening the warm-up act of Eddie Vedder and the Chicago Children’s Choir, followed by BJ the Chicago Kid with the national anthem. They all rocked the house—though in fairness it wasn’t the toughest crowd I’ve ever seen….

I am sitting in the press pen, sneaking into a spot nominally reserved for NBC News. I’m about 25 feet from Anderson Cooper. A gentleman, Mr. Cooper graciously let me take his picture. At least he would have, had I not nervously screwed up my fancy camera. He has a better seat. Still, I’m here with my White House press pass, my three cameras, a laptop. A tripod I don’t have permission to set up. I’ve hit the big time.

This is a poignant moment, the end of a sweet journey for many here. My own journey began 9 ½ years ago, when a friend invited me to a small Chicago party on behalf of Senator Barack Obama’s unlikely presidential campaign…. A man I hadn’t heard of, David Plouffe, was the headliner of this small party. He was there to talk campaign strategy. He got hard questions from a skeptical small crowd. Senator Obama was thirty points down in the polls. He was way behind in money. and in name recognition. He was a black guy with a…well you know the list…

I don’t for a moment believe President Obama has been the perfect president or the perfect steward of the Democratic Party. He was still very good. With virtually zero Republican help, his policies pulled our nation out of the deepest recession in generations. He rescued the auto industry. He brought health insurance to twenty million people. His soldiers killed bin Laden. He avoided war with Iran. He did many less noticeable things, too, such as building a Justice Department we can be proud of for its work on civil rights and disability.

He is one of the most worthy men ever to assume the presidency. The Obamas represent our country with such grace, humanity, and integrity. The contrast between President Obama and the grifting demagogue who will replace him defies belief.

President Obama has been the best and the classiest President of my lifetime. I’ve never regretted for one second the thousands of hours I’ve spent supporting his efforts.

Like millions of others, I just ache to see him go.

More here, from my piece at the Huffington Post.

Continue reading “Full circle: Dispatches from President Obama’s farewell address”