Can the Democrats Win the House in 2018?

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democrats house 2018

Can the Democrats Win the House in 2018?

Donald Trump’s potential impeach hinges on whether the Democrats win the House of Representatives in 2018.  Earning a majority would enable the Democrats to seize the committee chairmanships that could then schedule impeachment hearings and, with a majority on the judiciary committee, recommend to the House as a whole that it consider articles of impeachment.

Even considering impeachment would be disastrous for Donald Trump.  Such happenings would dominate news coverage for months on end and the hearings would likely dredge up improprieties Trump and his crew would rather keep hidden.  If the House passes articles of impeachment – again, a rather likely occurrence should the Democrats win it – then Trump would face removal from office, a prospect which, unlikely because of the large majority needed to convict in the Senate, would lead to more disastrous news coverage and a likely hemorrhage of support from moderates that could cripple his reelection prospects.

But can the Democrats actually win the House in 2018?

They currently have a large lead in the generic Congress poll, a leading indicator of how a party will perform in the next midterm election.  But even a large lead there might not be enough for Democrats to win the House and that’s because of two unfortunate phenomenon, one inadvertent and the other malicious: Natural geographic sorting and gerrymandering.

Geographic sorting simply means that Democrats have an inefficient electoral coalition.  Liberals tend to crowd together in large cities, whose politics they dominate.  However, since they tend to live altogether, there aren’t enough of them spread out through the rest of the state (eg, downstate Illinois) to make those congressional districts competitive.  As such, Democrats win urban districts by large majorities, but can’t compete in other districts.  This means Democrats may win the House popular vote while still falling well short of the House majority.

Gerrymandering, of course, also hurts Democrats.  The Republican wave year in 2010 allowed them to control redistricting across numerous states, gerrymandering districts to cluster Democrats, minorities, and favor Republicans.  Congressional districts in Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin showcase clear efforts to benefit Republicans.  While gerrymandering hasn’t had too much of an effect in the past because Democrats do it too, many analysts expect it to play an important role in 2018.

Between geographic sorting and gerrymandering, Democrats likely need to win the House popular vote by between 5.5 and 8.5 points.  In 2016, the median House district – that is, the 218th, the one needed for a majority – tilted Republican by 5.5 points.  Other political scientists tend to think that Democrats will need to win the House popular vote by 8.5 points for a chance to win the majority.

Can they do this?

Maybe.  According to generic House vote forecasts, Democrats are up by around 10 points, which would be enough give them the House.  Of course, with 14 months to go until election day, that could change, in either direction.  An economic slowdown would hurt the Republicans; continued economic growth and a more temperate president could help Republicans.

But as it stands now, a leading 2018 House forecast sees the Democrats as the favorites to win the chamber.  Let’s hope that happens so we can finally impeach Trump.


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trump and domestic emoluments

Donald Trump and the Domestic Emoluments Clause

Foreign and Domestic Emoluments

A lot has been written about the Foreign Emoluments Clause and Donald Trump’s likely violations thereof, and rightfully so.  While the clause prevents conflicts of interest that could potentially the president’s financial interests against those of the country he represents, Trump maintains a financial stake in his sprawling businesses that attract thousands of dollars from foreign government (see, eg, his Manhattan tower that houses a Chinese state corporation).  But there’s another emoluments clause Trump’s clearly violating: The Domestic Emoluments Clause  (Article 2, Section 2, Clause 7).

The clause states that the “President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be encreased [sic] nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.”  That means the president’s compensation for his duties will not exceed that already in place ($400,000 a year).

Presidents cannot receive any other emoluments from the US government, thus preventing government officials at the federal and state level from using local treasuries to gain the president’s favor, potentially leading the president to favor various locales or states over others.  Yet Trump’s DC hotel, from which he still profits, houses members of his administration.  Government officials with salaries paid to them by the government — ie, taxpayers — end up in Trump’s pockets; this is an emolument from the United States and a clear violation of the Domestic Emoluments Clause.

How Donald Trump Violates the Domestic Emoluments Clause

Steven Mnuchin (the Secretary of the Treasury), Linda McMahon (of the Small Business Administration), and Gary Cohn (Trump’s economic adviser and one-time favorite to replace Janet Yellen at the Federal Reserve) all live in the Trump DC Hotel during the week.  Obviously, all three earn money from the government; naturally, they pay to live in Trump’s hotel; Trump profits from hotel revenue.  It follows that Trump’s DC hotel, and so Trump, receives money from the US Treasury.

Paying “fair market rates,” as the administration members claim they do, does not alleviate constitutional concerns.  Emoluments, as understood at the time of the Constitution’s writing, exist regardless of a transaction fair market value.  An emolument covers every single financial transaction between two or more parties.

Basic logic makes clear this constitutional violation from a borderline kleptocratic administration from which Donald Trump seeks to profit, enormously.  By failing to divest from his business interests, a truly unprecedented step, Trump will profit — has profited — from his presidency.  Pocketing money from foreign governments and those staying in his property to support him or say they support generates innumerable conflicts of interest.

That Donald Trump ignores the Domestic Emoluments Clause, another effort to disgrace the letter and spirit of the Constitution, is yet another reason to urge impeachment.


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Which Democrats Will Run in 2020?

There’s a power vacuum in the Democratic Party.  Whereas the primaries in both 2008 and 2016 had clear frontrunners — though the 2008 frontrunner (Hillary Clinton) didn’t win the nomination — 2020 approaches without one.

Bernie Sanders has gained a large following within the party and clearly pushed it to the left, but his age and lasting animosity among the primary electorate may well stop him from winning the nomination should he run.

One politician, John DeLaney, a congressman from Maryland, has already declared his candidacy, making him the earliest declaree in history.  His campaign is, of course, a long-shot which he hoped to propel by declaring first and earning media coverage (that hasn’t really worked).

Which other Democrats will run in 2020 in hopes of seizing a more or less wide open nomination?

Governors

  1. Jerry Brown
  2. Terry McAuliffe
  3. Andrew Cuomo
  4. John Hickenlooper
  5. Jay Inslee
  6. John Bel Edwards
  7. Tom Wolf
  8. Steve Bullock
  9. Dan Malloy
  10. Mark Dayton
  11. Jack Markell

Senators

  1. Elizabeth Warren
  2. Bernie Sanders
  3. Cory Booker
  4. Kirsten Gillibrand
  5. Tim Kaine
  6. Sherrod Brown
  7. Kamala Harris
  8. Mark Warner
  9. Michael Bennet
  10. Amy Klobuchar
  11. Chris Murphy
  12. Al Franken
  13. Brian Schatz
  14. Chris van Hollen

Representatives

  1. Seth Moulton (MA)
  2. Keith Ellison (MN)
  3. Joaquin Castro (TX)
  4. Tim Ryan (OH)
  5. Tulsi Gabbard (HI)

Party Leaders and Mayors

  1. Joe Biden
  2. Jason Kander
  3. Gavin Newsom
  4. Martin O’Malley
  5. Xavier Becerra
  6. Deval Patrick
  7. Thomas Perez
  8. Antonio Villaraigosa
  9. Julian Castro
  10. Eric Garvetti
  11. Mitch Landrieu
  12. Jay Nixon
  13. Alan Grayson

Other

  1. Mark Cuban
  2. Oprah Winfrey
  3. Tom Steyer
  4. Mark Zuckerberg
  5. Howard Schultz
  6. Sheryl Sandberg
  7. George Clooney
  8. Carolina Kennedy
  9. Jamie Dimon

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The Spineless Vichy Republicans

Vichy Republicans Gave Us an Incompetent Administration

Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State, received the Russia Federation’s highest award possible for a foreign national. He opposes sanctions on the belligerent and repressive Russian state. For some reason, he refuses to call Vladimir Putin — who assisted Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo’s massacre and destruction — a war criminal. But Vichy Republicans made him the nation’s top diplomat.

Our intelligence agencies — the same ones Donald Trump decry as being akin to Nazi Germany — agree that Russian operatives aided the Trump campaign through email hacks, leaks to Julian Assange.  Trump condemns, and his administration is complicit in condemning, such stories as “fake news.”  Putin’s puppet sits in the Oval Office and Putin’s buddy serves a few blocks over in Foggy Bottom.

Senators all recognize Russia’s threat and they decry Putin’s attempts to sway our election and undermine faith in democratic institutions across the globe. They know Putin wants a neo-imperial Russian Empire that reclaims lands lost in Europe and the Caucasus. The legislators realize that through leaks portrayed as sinister and fake news that encourages ignorance while delegitimizing elected governments help elect far-right authoritarian administrations amenable and not threatening to Putin’s increasingly dictatorial state.

Vichy Republicans Won’t Stand Up to Trump

And yet, despite all that, Vichy Republican senators supported Tillerson’s Secretary of State nomination. The likes of John McCain and Lindsey Graham — two Russia hawks — expressed fear about Tillerson’s Russia connections and his refusal to support actions that might challenge new Russian aggression, but voted for him, saying they wanted to give Trump the “benefit of the doubt” even as they refused to say they had confidence in Donald. McCain is obviously no longer a Maverick; Graham seems hell-bent on losing the respect some of bestowed upon him for his outspoken criticism of Donald Trump. Once they fold here, on one of their dearest issues, why should we believe they and their likes will oppose Trump on any grounds?

It’s not just McCain and Graham. All 52 Republicans, knowing quite well the extent of Russian influence on our election, voted for Putin’s friend, adding to the Trump administration’s already worrisome Russophilia. This only continues the shameful Vichy Republican streak of refusing to steadfastly condemn or stand up to Donald Trump since the fateful day he came down Trump Tower’s escalator to begin a campaign of ignorance and division.

Vichy Republicans will not stand up to Trump. They will offer no opposition even when they realize it is warranted and necessary. These unprincipled lawmakers — by no means statesmen and women — fear only his wrath and resultant electoral retribution. Sadly, they are not motivated by the country’s interests, just their own. Do not expect responsible acting — do expect to hold them responsible in 2018, 2020, and 2024.


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Sandy Hook: Three Years Later

 

[The following is an excerpt from my thesis, which finds poignancy on this day.]

In Newtown, Connecticut, the fourteenth day of December, 2012, dawned like any other: frigid winter air latent with holiday spirit greeted those who awoke with the sun.  Students throughout the town prepared for school, willing the day’s passage so the weekend could be just a step away.  Around seven hundred young students buttoned their coats, zipped up their boots, and donned their hats, ready for another day at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The peaceful Thursday morning in the picturesque New England town did not last long.  Shortly after 9:30 am, when the doors to Sandy Hook Elementary locked, Adam Lanza used an assault rifle to shoot his way into the school.  Gunfire echoed through the hallways; teachers ushered students into bathrooms and closets.  Lanza focused his ire on two classrooms – one contained kindergartners and the other, first-graders.  He shot without discrimination and without regard to the sanctity of life.  Twenty students, aged 6 and 7, and six adults died in the massacre, which quickly become one of the bloodiest mass shootings in American history.  As follows many acts of such cowardice, Lanza took his own life when law enforcement approached him.  In a matter of minutes, a specter had been cast over the peaceful town, one that left deep scars whose pain – though numbed – lasts time indefinite.

Unsurprisingly, the tragedy had a deep impact on the American public.  A Quinnipiac University poll taken a month after the shooting found that 92 percent of Americans supported universal background checks for firearm purchases.  Ninety-one percent of gun owners also favored that policy (Quinnipiac University 2013).  Political scientists often contend that there is no such thing as “public opinion” because viewpoints are fractured or incomplete (owing to weak ideological preferences or a lack of information; Converse 1964).  A 92 percent majority, though, represents a strong public will.  Lawmakers reflective to the wants the national public ought to have passed legislation expanding the gun background check system.

That opportunity arose with the Manchin-Toomey amendment, bipartisan legislation aimed at closing background check loopholes.  With Joe Biden presiding over the Senate and a survivor of the Tucson mass shooting watching from the gallery, 46 Senators voted against invoking cloture.  The amendment failed, 54-46, despite having overwhelming public support.  In the wake of the second largest mass shooting in American history, the United States Senate acted contrary to the will of the public and opted to make no legislative fixes designed to prevent future calamities.

Post-mass shooting America is defined by inaction.  Politicians tweet their thoughts and their prayers; citizens watch, aghast with horror, as the news unfurls.  Fear skyrockets.  Gun sales and stocks surge in the coming days.  No laws ever get passed.  In fact, states tend to loosen gun laws in the years after horrendous mass shootings – a perverse act whose logic defies universal physics.  It’s a dance, steps known by all, choreographed to absolute perfection.  Move in sympathy, rhetorically twirl support and calls to action, leap around the issue, blaming everything from mental health to Islamic radicalization, but always step around the real issues: guns in America.

The politics of fear almost always trumps that of logic.  Political leaders tell us that we need more guns to keep ourselves safe; the NRA runs dark ads warning us our liberty is being threatened.  They say we need good guys with guns to stop the bad guys with guns.  Because what we all need most during a time of complete terror, fear, and panic – to name but a few emotions present during a mass shooting – is more guns and more bullets wielded by (well-meaning but) ill-trained amateurs.  Adding killer force to a darkened movie theatre, as in Aurora, does not fix the problem.  Arming every teacher in America mocks the idea of school safety.  Putting guns in the hands of all in malls, permitting – urging – them to shoot at a suspect when there are hundreds of innocent bystanders around, so easily hit with a stray bullet from an inexperienced marksman.  You don’t solve chaos by introducing more disorder to the system.  You prevent the chaos from happening in the first place.  You do that by restricting access to guns.

It’s now been three years since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  In those three years, mass shootings have become a daily occurrence; we’ve become almost immune to the hashtags, the President’s heartfelt messages, the editorial boards desperately calling for legislative action.  And still, we, as a country, continue to do nothing, content to let 300+ million firearms work their way around the country, satisfied with hopes and prayers that one doesn’t fall into the hands of someone committed to violence.  We don’t have a solution – we have a “hold your breath and hope the next mass shooting doesn’t happen for a while” approach.  It’s insanity – actual insanity – to believe the problem will be fixed after continuing to change no variables in the equation.  We’re letting people die because we choose fear over answers.

It’s been three years since 20 young students and 6 Sandy Hook employees saw their lives – brimming with promise, shining with prospects eternal – cut short because of America’s insistence that all have access to deadly force.  Their blood, and that of all who have died since, is on our hands because our hands are too scared to write and pass legislation that addresses the root problem: guns.


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softbank donald trump

The Truth About SoftBank’s Investment

On December 6, Donald Trump announced that SoftBank would be investing $50 billion in America, a proclaimed deal for which Trump immediately — and erroneously — took credit, tweeting the following:

Of course, such self-congratulatory language misses, as it always does, nuance and simply lacks truth.

SoftBank announced in October that, in conjunction with the Saudi Arabian government, it would raise $100 billion to invest in technological startups to become the “biggest investor in the…sector.” The United States, home to the likes of Facebook, Google, Uber, and Apple, would obviously attract substantial investment. Startups are a dime a dozen in Silicon Valley and they’re always looking for more capital. It would be shocking if SoftBank forewent American investment.

The notion that SoftBank decided to invest $50 billion after an hour long meeting is simply ridiculous. This may shock Trump, but successful businesses don’t spontaneously throw billions of dollars at an idea after a short talk with someone who refers to tech as “the cyber.” The bank knew it would invest in America — there really is no better home for technological startup funds than our country — but waited until after the election to make its announcement in hopes of gaining favor with the incumbent, whoever it may have been.

By giving Trump credit for a massive investment though he is owed none, SoftBank hopes to curry favor with the incoming administration so its longstanding goal, merging Sprint and T-Mobile, will be completed. SoftBank bought Sprint in 2013 and, a year later, pursued T-Mobile in hopes of creating a cellular behemoth to challenge Verizon and AT&T for industry dominance. The Obama administration turned down the request because it would have significantly decreased market competition, hurting consumers. This has hurt SoftBank as Sprint lost value and laid off thousands during restructuring.

Donald Trump bends over backwards for those who compliment him. See, for instance, his admiration of tyrant and eliminator-of-dissent Vladimir Putin, upon whom Trump has lavished praise after Putin called Trump a “genius.” You compliment Trump or otherwise give him credit for happenings in which he had no influence and you will receive favors. SoftBank, of course, realizes this and plans to use Trump’s vanity to its advantage.

Trump understands the favor game and is willing to play. That, of course, is a huge risk as it raises the possibility of the administration playing clear favorites with certain businesses (at its worst, this could lead to rent-creation the specifically benefits supporters and targets opponents). SoftBank’s investment isn’t about Trump’s business genius, it’s about the ease of manipulating him. If SoftBank gets what it wants, consumers will suffer and Trump won’t bat an eye.


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free trade

Free Trade is a Benevolent Force Whose Discontents Can Be Managed

Donald Trump’s economic populism and nationalism helped propel him to an unlikely victory on November 8. But like most populist appeals, Trump’s attacks on economic cornerstones such as free trade fall well short of facts and reality and offered few — if any — actual solutions to globalization’s discontents. Democrats have increasingly become the party of free trade; however, as the party begins its trek through the wilderness, resurgent leftist populism risks following Trump down the path of ignorance.

Free trade is, by all accounts, a benevolent force. I write this on a Macbook (not domestically produced), glancing occasionally at my Samsung phone (imported), wearing clothes made abroad, and sitting in a non-American chair. Thanks to trade, I can afford all of these items. Returning production to America would price me out of these consumer goods on which I rely to do my job. Anyone railing against free trade and speaking solely of its evils is a hypocrite if they do so from a machine not made in America.

Utilitarianism also demands that we embrace free trade. If policy seeks the greatest good for the greatest number, then we should strive for free trade when and wherever possible. Yes, there are downsides to free trade and it is their concentration that helped elect a demagogic president, but the dispersed cost-saving benefits far outweigh income losses. There’s irony in watching individuals on the one hand decry the influence of special interests in politics while on the other demanding national policy be changed to hurt the nation and benefit those upset about special interests. They forget that they themselves are a special interest group with outsized electoral sway.

Anger at a changing economy no longer understood by many pushed Rust Belt voters into the hands of Trump, whose grand promises of resurgent manufacturing are but the fantastic tales of an old man reminiscing of how things used to be. Today, the microchip is the primary culprit in a low-labor intensive manufacturing sector. All the tariffs in the world and renunciations of free trade agreements will not rollback machinery. Trump’s plans offer false promises that will likely plunge the country into recession without ever having a realistic chance of returning to our shores factories that moved abroad.

Those disaffected by trade need real help, not fables. Democrats need to give them solutions. A very simple and yet quite effective policy is job retraining. Empowering local nonprofits to assist displaced workers in acquiring the skills sought by new producers results in higher employment and higher wages. Workers are also decreasingly mobile. This creates problems as economic theory dictates that when jobs leave one region, workers will move to areas experiencing economic growth. Part of the setback stems from the high cost of living in booming areas — few low-skilled workers can afford to move to San Francisco. Encouraging housing growth in those areas will drive down rent. Similarly, investments in public transport such as commuter rails will decrease commute time and allow individuals to live far from expensive cities while still being able to work where the economy is hot. A simple trade displacement voucher would allow workers to choose job retraining or mobility.

Trade’s discontents are not a death knell. They’re an opportunity to help transition the economy into the 21st Century. Democrats would do well to embrace the competition and innovation spurred by free trade. Cowering in electoral fear and chasing Trump down the rabbit’s hole of ignorance hurts workers and the country as whole. The party ought to embrace globalization and deliver a strong message of how to deal with its repercussions. To do otherwise would be to follow Trump’s playbook: Lie to Americans with impunity.


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trump kleptocracy

Vengeance from the Oval Office

“When someone intentionally harms you or your reputation, how do you react? I strike back, doing the same thing to them only ten times worse.”

So Donald Trump wrote in Think Big and Kick Ass. This single sentence best describes the biggest threat a Trump presidency poses: Retribution.

And we’ve already seen him begin to do this. After a dozen women accused him of sexual assault, Trump, during a closing-stretch rally, vowed to sue them after the election. His campaign said they would sue the New York Times after its publication of stories alleging sexual assault (no such suit has materialized). Trump has verbally attacked reporters and even increased the risk of someone assassinating Hillary Clinton with his “Second Amendment people” statement, a form of stochastic terrorism.

Undoubtedly, his baseless and childish attacks on perceived insulters discourage forthcoming behavior. What women would want to accuse Trump (or someone in his administration, inner circle, etc) of sexual assault when Trump would threaten legal action and rally millions into hatred?

He did all that as a candidate. Now, Trump can pursue his vengeance with the full force of the United States government. It really isn’t difficult to see a Trump administration upset at a newspaper’s coverage ban that outlet from White House briefings or other presidential events. They could even go a step further and bring frivolous legal action against the source. Though any such lawsuit would surely be tossed, many small outlets, already pressured by falling subscription rates, might be bankrupted by legal action. They would naturally become less inclined to write negative stories about Trump, even when warranted and necessary to inform the public.

Organizations such as Planned Parenthood might be punished by Trump for their opposition. Congressional Republican, acting on behalf of Trump could silence such criticisms by cutting off federal funding. Universities whose professors in any way oppose Trump — be it through research, op-eds, or signing letters warning of Trump’s risk to democratic institutions — could see their federal grants dry up. Any form of criticism or opposition could be muzzled by threatening the livelihood of those who stand up to Trump.

Moreover, as Vox’s Matt Yglesias pointed out, Trump’s administration might be rent-creating. It could reward loyalists throughout the business community while directing puppet administrative appointees to harass dissidents through regulations and investigations. Supporters continue business as normal while opponents tangle with the federal government — de facto rent creation.

It’s incredibly dangerous to have a think-skinned president. He could respond to any slight by foreign leaders with military power or political sanctions while rewarding complimenters (he’s already been smitten by Putin and seems ready to appease his expansionist desires). How easy it could become to manipulate the leader of the free world! Such manipulation will only benefit our enemies.

Trump’s vindictiveness is not a presidential trait. It risks corruption and the end of a small-l liberal society in which opposition and peaceful dissidence ought to be hailed as a democratic strength. It risks rent-creation and foreign policy blunders. It risks creating the very type of systemically oppressive regime against which we rebelled some 240 years ago.


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November 9: The Way Forward

Tuesday delivered unto our democracy a stunning blow. A divided nation somehow elected the very type of man our Founders feared would undermine and potentially destroy our cherished institutions. Donald J. Trump, a man of near infinite ignorance, somehow will be president despite his utter cluelessness about policies, his constant flip-flopping on every imaginable issue, his mocking the disabled, his attacks on veterans and Gold Star veterans, his sexual assault allegations, and his unconstitutional proposals.

I know many of you feel disheartened and devastated. I certainly do. But we must channel what now feels like despair into productive activity to ensure that Trump’s bigotry is defeated and that the next demagogue who runs a tribal campaign is retired to the dustbin of history.

Progressives for Prosperity is committed to restoring American values across the country. We will fight day and night for unity and love and for policies that will better the country for one and for all. In two years, we will have a crucial midterm election; in four years, the chance to right the executive branch. Organizing for those events starts now.

Our grand goal is to move online the traditional campaign elements of voter outreach and engagement. We seek to create a digital machine that offers sound, research-backed policy arguments and then mobilizes voters in support of candidates who subscribe to those beliefs. To accomplish this, we need to build a strong social network across a variety of platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and Reddit. The voter today lives online and if we become a part of his or her life, we can advance our arguments and encourage political participation.

This can only be accomplished with help from all of our followers. Now is a time of activism. Your likes, shares, and retweets spread our message to thousands of people. Your generous contributions allow us to target advertisements across the nation and acquire the data necessary to forming and mobilizing winning coalitions. We need each of you to continue sharing, interacting, and giving so we continue building our organization.

Here are some of our immediate goals:
1. Build a robust email list to share new articles and thoughts
2. Expand our Facebook reach
3. Expand our Twitter base
4. Raise $1,000 to purchase voter data from select swing states
5. Prioritize web development to advance arguments

Down the road, here are some nice-to-haves:
1. Create a podcast
2. Routinely post videos on YouTube
3. Develop a thriving Reddit community
4. Host phone and text banking events to spread issue awareness
5. Establish local meetups across the country

We are also looking for help in these fields:
• Writing
• Web development
• Online organizing
• Fundraising
• Miscellaneous coding projects

If any of those areas pique your interest, please send an email to progressivesforprosperity@gmail.com or shoot us a message on Twitter. Should you wish to participate in another way or if you have ideas about how can expand, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Yesterday, we experienced a significant setback in the search for equality and justice. Tomorrow, we can reverse that. Let’s channel our disappointment and anxiety into productive activities. Please join us in recapturing the soul of America and ensuring that its dream continues for generations to come.

Thank you.


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donald trump first amendment

Trump and Free Speech

Trump and freedom do not go hand in hand.  His rhetoric is repugnant to the Constitution and to American values.  Throughout his campaign, Trump has routinely attacked the First, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments, all of which are integral to the American rule of law and provide us with the freedoms and liberties inherent in the American condition.

But Trump is rarely, if ever, called out on his calls for disobeying and flagrantly ignoring the Constitution.  His supporters – a number of whom claim to love liberty and our government’s founding document – make excuses or promote a vision of American freedom that draws from the early 1800s before America became the beautiful melting pot it is today, before the white majority became but a large segment of a plural society that embraces the equal, fundamental rights of everyone – women, men, and ethnic and religious minorities.  Their view of freedom is perverted and it’s being legitimized by Donald Trump.  Defeating Trump is imperative to sustaining our freedom and our Constitution.

How, exactly, does the Donald seek to trample our freedoms?  We’re compiling a handy list about Trump’s attempts to strip our freedom.  This first edition covers his attempts to stifle speech and press.

Please feel free to share with those who oppose and support America’s worst nightmare.  (And, if you like our piece, please consider donating so we can reach a wider audience!)

Free Speech: Trump’s response to protesters is truly frightening.  At various times, he’s called for:

But that’s not all.  He’s also said he would:

  • Pay the legal fees for those who hurt protesters
  • “Like to punch [a protester] in the face”

Trump clearly detests protesters and has no problem with his supporters and rally-goers beating them up or in other ways causing them physical harm.  No protesters should ever fear for their safety when presenting political arguments.  But that’s exactly Trump’s goal: by creating and fostering an environment in which protesters are subject to violence and must fear for their well-being, Trump successfully squashes dissent.  People won’t show up to protest his rallies because doing so imperils them; the only speech heard, then, is Trump’s divisive rhetoric.  There’s no opposition and no challenge to Trump’s arguments.

If Trump’s actions towards protesters indicate how he would act while in office, we all have reason to fear.  Trump extending his candidacy’s stance towards speech into the Oval Office would lead to a crackdown on opposition and dissension.  Perhaps Trump supporters would continue to attack those appalled by Trump’s beliefs, perhaps Trump would take Nixonian or true authoritarian  measures in order to prevent arguments from being made and to discourage anyone from speaking out against Trump.  That could easily be done against protesters – any mass protest at a university or in a city could end with Trump using the National Guard to “restore order” – likely at the physical expense of the protesters.

But ending demonstrations and cracking down on those who oppose the administration (would President Trump move to withhold federal funds from universities whose professors challenge him?  Try to cut any funds from public radio organizations who aren’t kind to him?) present just one facet of how Trump attacks and would attack free speech.  Trump also despises the free press and his animosity seems to know no bounds.

And no, these protesters are not inciting violence.  That is, unless you think this man wearing an American flag shirt deserved to be sucker punched, thrown to the ground, and kicked.  Trump supporters are egged on by the candidate inflammatory rhetoric and calls for physical altercations, not by supposed and alleged violence on behalf of the protesters.  But the latter provides a nice opt-out for Trump, who enjoys blaming others for problems he causes.

Free Press: Trump has no respect for the free press and its crucial role in democracy.

It’s become a fixture in Trump rallies for him to viciously attack reporters, calling them “scum,” saying ”they are really dishonest,” and that “they are disgusting.”  Supporters take cues from Trump.  This tweet from NBC’s Katy Tur shows a common occurrence at Trump rallies:

donald trump first amendment

Another journalist described the vitriol and hatred emanating from Trump rallygoers prompted another journalist to remark “I’m surprised there hasn’t been an incident of someone throwing a blunt object and hitting a reporter in the head. I wouldn’t be shocked if it happened.”

Trump is creating a hostile environment for reporters at his rallies.  But that’s not all – he actively punishes reporters who dare write things he finds “mean.”  Ben Schreckinger of POLITICO found his press credentials rescinded by the campaign after he published a story critical of Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Cory Lewandowski.  He was turned away from Mar-a-Lago during a – you guessed it – press conference.

Other reporters often face Trump’s harsh rhetoric on Twitter whenever they publish negative pieces about Trump or challenge him in debates.  The aforementioned Katy Tur has faced Trump’s Twitter wrath, being called a “third-rate journalist.”  Megyn Kelly of Fox News has been repeatedly subject to Trump’s vile rhetoric because she challenged Trump on his statements about women.

And let’s not forget Lewandowski’s battery charge for violently grabbing and throwing back Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields.   Trump supporters love to claim the incidence never happened or that Fields lied.  However, the facts and videos show otherwise (and how else did Fields get these bruises?).donald trump political beliefs

Lewandowski originally claimed that the event never happened and that Fields was “delusional.”  Well, that claim was undermined with video evidence, eye witness account, and Lewandowski’s arrest for battery.  Rather than disavow the actions of his campaign manager, Trump stood by him, opting to use Twitter – his favorite platform – to accuse Fields of being a threat.  He pointed to an object in her hand, alluding to the possibility that it could be a bomb (has Trump never seen a reporter holding a pen?).  However, if Fields were such a threat, why did the Secret Service Agent standing by Lewandowski and Trump do nothing?  Why did the campaign manager feel a threat, not the individual whose job is to protect the candidate?

In other words, no threat existed.  Trump used Twitter to bully Fields and to blame the victim of a grossly violent act carried out by Trump’s thug of a campaign manager.

Beyond physical intimidation, Trump has also stated that as president he would loosen libel laws, making it easier to sue newspapers.  That’s a direct attack on the free press – small outlets would not be able to publish critical pieces for fear of frivolous libel suit that would bleed them dry.  Even a suit the outlet would win could cost millions of dollars in defense; a Trump administration would likely extend the proceedings as long as possible, regardless of veracity, to put financial pressure on the newspaper or source, using fiscal pressure to beat them into submission.  That’s not freedom – that’s intimidation, bullying, and an attack on liberty.

The press plays an integral role in American democracy.  Reporters and journalists hold politicians accountable for statements and for policy proposals; they offer unbiased, factual accounts of campaign happenings.  They vet ideas and provide the information voters need to make informed decision at the polls.  Without a strong Fourth Estate, voters would be ill-informed and democracy would suffer.

Trump’s attempts and successes in undermining trust in the press leads directly to voter misinformation and ignorance.  His supporters refuse to believe any “mainstream” media outlet because Trump has denounced them.  They instead believe every word Trump speaks or they turn to the right-wing fever swamps for distorted information and conspiracy-laced policy arguments.  The press serves as the neutral arbiter in politics; Trump is ensuring that millions of people are deaf to objectivity and fact, only capable of hearing information through the biased (and very often wrong) mouth of Trump.  He creates a situation in which all dissenters and doubters are not to be trusted.  Opposing speech – whether subjective or objective – does not enter Trumpian and Trump supporter discourse because it has been injudiciously and illiberally chastised.

In short, Trump promotes ignorance and misinformation, which, in turn, perhaps furthers his candidacy.

A Trump presidency and free speech cannot coexist.  His candidacy relies on misinformation and stifling dissent through intimidation or point-of-origin attacks.  Free speech, perhaps the most important liberal element of a democracy, is weakened by Trump.  We must ensure that he does not win the GOP nomination and certainly not the presidency or else our fundamental freedom will be suppressed.

 


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