Number of Google News search results today for “Michael Sussmann trial” (regarding misinformation and the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign): 16,300
Number of Google News search results today for “Johnny Depp trial”: 1.92 million
Number of Google News search results today for “Michael Sussmann trial” (regarding misinformation and the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign): 16,300
Number of Google News search results today for “Johnny Depp trial”: 1.92 million
cancel culture, Capitol Hill, Capitol riots, China, climate change, Congress, Conservative Populism, Constitution, Democrats, election 2016, election 2020, election challenge, Electoral College, establishment Republicans, Hillary Clinton, identity politics, Im-Politic, Immigration, impeachment, incitement, insurrection, Joe Biden, Josh Hawley, left-wing authoritarianism, mail-in ballots, nationalism, Populism, Republicans, sedition, separation of powers, tariffs, Ted Cruz, Trade, trade war, Trump, violence
(Please note: This is the linked and lightly edited version of the post put up this morning.)
The fallout from the Capitol Riot will no doubt continue for the foreseeble future – and probably longer – so no one who’s not clairvoyant should be overly confident in assessing the consequences. Even the Trump role in the turbulent transition to a Biden administration may wind up looking considerably different to future generations than at present. Still, some major questions raised by these events are already apparent, and some can even be answered emphatically, starting off with the related topic of how I’m viewing my support for many, and even most, of President Trump’s policies and my vote for him in both of his White House runs.
Specifically, I have no regrets on either ground. As I’ll make clear, I consider Mr. Trump’s words and deeds of the last few weeks to represent major, and completely unnecessary, failures that will rightly at least tarnish his place in history.
All the same, legitimate analyses of many developments and resulting situations need to think about the counterfactual. Here, the counterfactual is a Trump loss to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016. And I’m confident that her presidency would have been both disastrous in policy terms (ranging from coddling China to moving steadily toward Open Borders immigration policies to intervening militarily more often and more deeply in numerous foreign conflicts of no importance to the United States) and heatedly divisive in political terms (because of her grifting behavior in fundraising for the various supposedly philanthropic initiatives she started along with her husband, former President Bill Clinton; because of her campaign’s payment for the phony Steele dossier that helped spur the unwarranted and possibly criminal Obama administration investigation of the Trump campaign; and because of intolerant and extremist instincts that would have brought Identity Politics and Cancel Culture to critical mass years earlier than their actual arrivals).
As for the worrisome events of the last several weeks:
>As I’ve written, I don’t regard Mr. Trump’s rhetoric at his rally, or at any point during his election challenges, as incitement to violence in a legal sense. But is it impeachable? That’s a separate question, because Constitutionally speaking, there’s a pretty strong consensus that impeachment doesn’t require a statutory offense. And since, consequently, it’s also a political issue, there’s no objective or definitive answer. It’s literally up to a majority of the House of Representatives. But as I also wrote, I oppose this measure.
>So do I agree that the President should get off scot free? Nope. As I wrote in the aforementioned post, I do regard the Trump record since the election as reckless. I was especially angered by the President’s delay even in calling on the breachers to leave the Capitol Hill building, and indeed the entire Capitol Hill crowd, to “go home.” In fact, until that prompting – which was entirely too feeble for my tastes – came, I was getting ready to call for his resignation.
>Wouldn’t impeachment still achieve the important objective of preventing a dangerously unstable figure from seeking public office again? Leaving aside the “dangerously unstable” allegation, unless the President is guilty (as made clear in an impeachment proceding) of a major statutory crime (including obstruction of justice, or incitement to violence or insurrection), I’d insist on leaving that decision up to the American people. As New York City talk radio host Frank Morano argued earlier this week, the idea that the Congress should have the power to save the nation from itself is as dangerously anti-democratic as it is laughable.
>Of course, this conclusion still leaves the sedition and insurrection charges on the table – mainly because, it’s contended, the President and many of his political supporters (like all the Republican Senators and House members who supported challenging Electoral College votes during the January 6 certification procedure) urged Congress to make an un-Constitutional, illegal decision: overturning an election. Others add that the aforementioned and separate charge not includes endorsing violence but urging the January 6 crowd to disrupt the certification session.
>First, there’s even less evidence that the lawmakers who challenged the Electoral College vote were urging or suggesting the Trump supporters in the streets and on the lawn to break in to the Capitol Building and forcibly end the certification session than there’s evidence that Mr. Trump himself gave or suggested this directive.
>Second, I agree with the argument – made by conservatives such as Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul (often a Trump supporter) – that authorizing a branch of the federal government unilaterally to nullify the results of elections that the Constitution stipulates should be run by the states is a troubling threat to the Constitutional principle of separation of powers. I’m also impressed with a related argument: that sauce for the goose could wind up as sauce for the gander.
In other words, do Trump supporters want to set a precedent that could enable Congress unilaterally to overturn the election of another conservative populist with something like a second wave of Russia collusion charges? Include me out.
>Further, if the Trump supporters who favored the Electoral College challenge are guilty of insurrection or fomenting it, and should be prosecuted or censured or punished in some way, shouldn’t the same go for the Democrats who acted in the exact same ways in other recent elections? (See here and here.) P.S. Some are still Members of Congress.
>Rather than engage in this kind of What About-ism, and help push the country further down the perilous road of criminalizing political behavior and political differences, I’d much rather consider these challenges as (peaceful) efforts – and in some cases sincere efforts – to insert into the public record the case that these elections were marred by serious irregularities.
>How serious were these irregularities? Really serious – and all but inevitable given the decisions (many pre-pandemic) to permit mass mail-in voting. Talk about a system veritably begging to be abused. But serious enough to change the outcome? I don’t know, and possibly we’ll never know. Two things I do know, however:
First, given the thin Election 2020 margins in many states, it’s clear that practices like fraudulent vote-counting, ballot-harvesting, and illegal election law changes by state governments and courts (e.g., Pennsylvania) don’t have to be widespread. Limiting them to a handful of states easily identified as battlegrounds, and a handful of swing or other key districts within those states, would do the job nicely.
Second, even though I believe that at least some judges should have let some of the Trump challenges proceed (if only because the bar for conviction in such civil cases is much lower than for criminal cases), I can understand their hesitancy because despite this low-ish bar, overturning the election results for an entire state, possibly leading to national consequences, is a bridge awfully far. Yes, we’re a nation of laws, and ideally such political considerations should be completely ignored. But when we’re talking about a process so central to the health of American democracy, politics can never be completely ignored, and arguably shouldn’t.
So clearly, I’m pretty conflicted. What I’m most certain about, however, is that mass mail-in ballots should never, ever be permitted again unless the states come up with ways to prevent noteworthy abuse. Florida, scene of an epic election procedures failure in 2000 (and other screwups), seems to have come up with the fixes needed. It’s high time for other states to follow suit.
As for the politics and policy going forward:
>President Trump will remain influential nationally, and especially in conservative ranks – partly because no potentially competitive rivals are in sight yet, and possibly because Americans have such short memories. But how influential? Clearly much of his base remains loyal – and given his riot-related role, disturbingly so. How influential? Tough to tell. Surely the base has shrunk some. And surely many Independents have split off for good, too. (See, e.g., this poll.) Perhaps most important, barring some unexpected major developments (which obviously no one can rule out), this withering of Trump support will probably continue – though the pace is tough to foresee also.
>The Republican Party has taken a major hit, too, and the damage could be lasting. In this vein, it’s important to remember that the GOP was relegated to minority status literally for decades by President Herbert Hoover’s failure to prevent and then contain the Great Depression. Those aforementioned short American memories could limit the damage. But for many years, it’s clear that Democratic political, campaigns, and conservative Never Trumper groups like the Lincoln Project, will fill print, broadcast, and social media outlets with political ads with video of the riot and Mr. Trump’s rally and similar statements, and the effects won’t be trivial.
>What worries me most, though, is that many of the urgently needed policies supported and implemented by the Trump administration will be discredited. Immigration realism could be the first casualty, especially since so many of the establishment Republicans in Congress were such willing flunkies of the corporate Cheap Labor Lobby for so much of the pre-Trump period, and Open Borders- and amnesty-friendly stances are now defining characteristics of the entire Democratic Party.
The Trump China policies may survive longer, because the bipartisan consensus recognizing – at least rhetorically – the futility and dangers of their predecessors seems much stronger. But given Biden’s long record as a China coddler and enabler, the similar pre-Trump views of those establishment Republicans, and their dependence on campaign contributions from Wall Street and offshoring-happy multinational companies, important though quiet backtracking, particularly on trade, could begin much sooner than commonly assumed. One distinct possibility that wouldn’t attract excessive attention: meaningfully increasing the number of exemptions to the Trump China and remaining metals tariffs to companies saying they can’t find affordable, or any, alternatives.
>Much of the political future, however, will depend on the record compiled by the Biden administration. Not only could the new President fail on the economic and virus-fighting fronts, but on the national unity front. Here, despite his reputation as a moderate and a healer, Biden’s charge that Republican Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley have used Nazi-like tactics, and race-mongering comments accusing law enforcement of handling the overwhelmingly white Capitol Rioters more gingerly than the racial justice protesters earlier this year represent a lousy start. And as his harsh recent rhetoric suggests, Biden could also overreach greatly on issues like climate change, immigration, and Cancel Culture and Identity Politics. Such Biden failures could even shore up some support for Mr. Trump himself.
>How big is the violence-prone fringe on the American Right? We’ll know much more on Inauguration Day, when law enforcement says it fears “armed protests” both in Washington, D.C. and many state capitals. What does seem alarmingly clear, though – including from this PBS/Marist College poll – is that this faction is much bigger than the relatively small number of Capitol breachers.
>Speaking of the breachers, the nature of the crimes they committed obviously varied among individuals. But even those just milling about were guilty of serious offenses and should be prosecuted harshly. The circumstances surrounding those who crossed barriers on the Capitol grounds is somewhat murkier. Those who knocked down this (flimsy) fencing were just as guilty as the building breachers. But lesser charges – and possibly no charges – might be justifiable for those who simply walked past those barriers because they were no longer visible, especially if they didn’t enter the Capitol itself.
>I’m not security expert, but one question I hope will be asked (among so many that need asking) in the forthcoming investigations of the Capitol Police in particular – why weren’t the Capitol Building doors locked as soon as the approach of the crowd became visible? The number of doors is limited, and they’re anything but flimsy. The likely effectiveness of this move can be seen from an incident in October, 2018 – when barred Supreme Court doors left anti-Brett Kavanaugh protesters futilely pounding from the outside when they attempted to disrupt the new Supreme Court Justice’s swearing in ceremony. Window entry into the Capitol would have remained an option, but the number of breachers who used this tactic seems to have been negligible.
What an extraordinary irony if one of the worst days in American history mightn’t have even happened had one of the simplest and most commonsensical type of precaution not been taken.
Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, Bill Clinton, China, Clinton Foundation, Clinton Global Initiative, Department of Education, Hillary Clinton, Hunter Biden, Im-Politic, Joe Biden, National Legal and Policy Center, NLPC, Obama administration, University of Pennsylvania
Remember the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative? Because these ostensibly charitable endeavors set up by the former President and the former First Lady, Secretary of State, and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate turned out to be such blatantly income-padding and pay-to-play schemes, contributions have dried up dramatically under the glare of public scrutiny and since Hillary Clinton’s 2016 loss, and her White House run was clearly undermined by the evidence of access selling. (Here’s a good account of its offenses and its demise. And according to this report, the latest figures show that the Foundation has negative cash flow.)
Although practically unreported by the Mainstream Media, apparent President-elect Joe Biden has his own group of foundations, and the refusal of one in particular to disclose information about its budget and donors raises major questions about Biden’s own possible grifting – especially with regard to China. It’s the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.
The Center describes its mission as engaging University of Pennsylvania “students and partners with its faculty and global centers to convene world leaders, develop and advance smart policy, and strengthen the national debate for continued American global leadership in the 21st century.” Although affiliated with the University, the Center is run out of a Washington, D.C. headquarters.
Given its lofty goals, you’d think that the Center would be eager to showcase the funders helping to achieve them – and that the funders would be just as eager for the good publicity. But not only is no information publicly available either about the Center’s budget or its donors. The Center has stonewalled requests for the names and numbers. And so has the University, to which it’s referred reporters.
What is publicly known, though, is a big problem, because a private watchdog organization called the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) has discovered, by combing through U.S. Department of Education Records, that the University as a whole began receiving many more donations from Chinese sources once the Biden Center’s establishment was announced in 2017. Indeed, these contributions increased greatly once the Center opened its doors in Washington in February, 2018 and continued after Biden announced his presidential bid on April 25, 2019. Moreover, in clear violation of federal law, more than 40 percent of the $54.05 million in 2018 and 2019 Chinese contributions came from anonymous sources.
Now as surely known by many RealityChek regulars who follow U.S. politics closely, the NLPC is a decidedly conservative group that’s no friend of Biden or any Democrats or liberals. At the same time, if you doubt these numbers, you can verify them for yourself (as I did) by examining the data base on Foreign Gifts and Contracts to U.S. higher education institutions maintained by the Education Department. (The link to database can be found at this Department website.)
Throughout the presidential campaign, Biden and his aides brushed off questions about his son Hunter’s business dealings with Chinese individuals and entities (all of which are controlled in various ways by the Chinese government) clearly based on his strategy of cashing in on the Biden name. Moreover, many of these relationships date from Biden senior’s years as Vice President, when he helped formulate an Obama administration China policy rightly described as squishy. And the Trump era deals took place during a period when a Biden 2020 presidential run was always a distinct possibility.
In addition, the entire Biden family’s finances are known to have been shaky until his Vice Presidency ended, and that Hunter has been identified as the main Biden family breadwinner during the lean years.
It’s bad enough that so many gaps in this record remain. Even less excusable is the unexamined (except by the NLPC) evidence of large anonymous (as well as identified) Chinese contributions linked at least chronologically to a Biden organization. Both the Biden Center and the University could answer the crucial question – how much of the Penn China money found its way to the Biden Center – instantly by opening up their books. Why won’t they?
battleground states, CCP Virus, coronavirus, COVID 19, election 2016, election 2020, Hillary Clinton, Hunter Biden, Im-Politic, Joe Biden, masks, Nancy Pelosi, political ads, polls, shy Trump vote, suburban women, suburbs, Trump, Wuhan virus
One big reason I’m not a betting person is that I hate a major difference between what I want to happen and what I think will happen. And that’s exactly the case with this year’s presidential election. In other words, although as I explained in a recent post and then amplified in a recent magazine article, I voted for President Trump (and by no means reluctantly), I’m convinced that his time in the White House is just about up.
Not that I’m certain of this outcome. To repeat a conclusion I’ve made to friends, family, and others in various circumstances, I completely accept the idea that the race has tightened substantially in Mr. Trump’s favor in recent months, and especially in toto in the six most discussed swing or battleground states (Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin). But today, as throughout the fall campaign, I’d rather be in Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s shoes.
In fact, I’m sticking with this position even though I’ve become somewhat more impressed with claims of a “shy Trump vote” – i.e., the notion that many Trump voters reached by pollsters don’t reveal their true preferences for various reasons or, similarly, that the same pollsters simply aren’t reaching a significant number of Trump supporters. My main reason? In an era of spreading Cancel Culture at the workplace and elsewhere, it’s entirely plausible that many Trump supporters fear expressing their actual preferences to strangers.
But to me, the most telling poll results stem precisely from those six battlegrounds, however increasingly close the race may be. And that’s because, even though the President carried them all in 2016 (generally by slim margins), and even though he’s the incumbent, they’re now thought to be up for grabs at all. In other words, even though Mr. Trump is now a known quantity (or because he’s a known quantity), and has had nearly a full term of presidential abilities to extend favors to these states, they’re still a heavy lift for him.
I sense, moreover, as just suggested, that his troubles in these “flyover America” regions stem from a political malady that he’s never been able to overcome – and perhaps has never wanted to overcome or dispel: Trump Fatigue Syndrome. I fully accept his insistence (and that of many supporters) that his tweets and other verbal brickbats have built and maintained a large and intensely loyal base (indeed, big enough to elect him President once). I also agree that his combative instincts have enabled him to survive ruthless opponents who, astoundingly, have even filled his own administration and other levels of the federal bureaucracy since his inauguration.
At the same time, it’s hardly a stretch to suppose that even a significant slice of Trump-world is anxious for a return of some semblance of normality to American politics, and that four more years of the President are sure to mean four more years of (partly needless) tumult. Most revealingly, even the President seems to accept this analysis. Why else would he be pleading (only half-jokingly) for the suburban women supposedly most offended by his style to “like him,” and defensively making that argument that his roughness has been the key to his survival? (I can’t find a link, but heard it when listening to one of his rally speeches yesterday.)
And what’s especially frustrating for a Trump supporter like myself: He could have been just as forceful and cutting a champion of his “forgotten Americans” constituencies, and just as much of a scornful scourge of the elites, with a just a little more subtlety and a little more selectivity in his targets.
Some appreciation of nuance, in fact, would have been particularly helpful in dealing with the CCP Virus. In between the kind of fear-mongering and consequent shutdown enthusiasm dominating press coverage and the rhetoric of Never Trumpers across the political spectrum, and the pollyannish optimism and mockery of modest mitigation measures like even limited mask wearing that was too often expressed by the President, could always be found a vast store of effective and actually constructive messaging strategies.
Collectively, they have represented a test of the kind of leadership deserving of political support, and have amounted to acknowledging squarely the difficulties of formulating effective pandemic policies and vigorously supporting targeted counter-measures while staving off the panic that Mr. Trump has (rightly) stated he wanted to prevent. Just as important: The President could have conveyed to the public the admittedly inconvenient but bedrock truth that forces of nature like highly contagious viruses can long resist the powers even of today’s technologically advanced societies. But this was a test that Mr. Trump flunked.
Speaking of forces of nature, the weather across the country today isn’t likely to help reelect the President, either. It looks to be bright and sunny nearly everywhere, with moderate temperatures. Those conditions figure to translate, all else equal, into high turnout, which tends to favor Democrats (even given the astronomical levels of early in-person and mail-in and ballot box voting).
Mr. Trump also faces an opponent who hasn’t been nearly as easy a mark for him as was Hillary Clinton in 2016. Biden’s lack of hard edges unmistakably helps here. But so, too, has his performance in the two presidential debates. As I’ve argued, they’ve belied Trumpist charges of mental and physical frailty. Even better for the former Vice President – he’s also held up more than well enough on the campaign trail. Sure, he’s given himself plenty of rest. But Biden’s increased pace of activity in the last two weeks or so should be enough to fend off a critical mass of doubts among undecided voters about his capacity to serve.
In addition, the Democratic nominee has clearly benefited from the Mainstream Media’s decision to suppress news about the possibly whopping corruption of the entire Biden family. However outrageous I or anyone else considers this cover-up, it’s had the undeniable effect of keeping from huge swathes of the electorate weeks worth of just about the worst news any political candidate could fear.
The Trump campaign might have partly filled this gap, and offset other vulnerabilities, with better advertising. But throughout this election year, most of the Trump ads I’ve seen have been as professional and reassuring as those cable spots for Chia Pets or Sham-Wow – complete with hucksterish voice-overs. Moreover, where on earth are high impact graphics like clips of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi childishly ripping up copies of the President’s last State of the Union address? The videos recently aired at Trump rallies highlighting Biden’s dangerously clueless statements and policy record on China have been very effective. But boy, are they coming late in the day.
Also possibly revealing on the ad front – I see a lot of anti-Trump and pro-Biden ads on conservative-friendly and even transparently pro-Trump shows on Fox News. That’s clearly a sign of playing offense. According to this report, however, the Trump campaign hasn’t taken the fight to hostile territory like CNN and MSNBC to nearly this extent.
I’m not by any means arguing that “It’s over” for President Trump – much less than it has been for weeks. I’m convinced that he’ll be helped by an enthusiasm gap. I take seriously the reports of strong new voter registrations by Republicans, particularly in the key states, along with the evidence that minorities aren’t turning out for Democrats in places like south Florida. Nor, as mentioned earlier, is my faith in the polls remotely complete. But toting up the President’s relative strengths and weaknesses still places him in my underdog category. And unless Election 2016 repeats itself almost exactly, that ‘s no place for a winning political candidate to be.
“He did promise ‘America First.’”
– Hillary Clinton, referring to President Trump’s foreign policy watchphrase on reports that the United States had passed China as the global leader in CCP Virus cases, March 27, 2020
“China Concealed Extent of Virus Outbreak, U.S. Intelligence Says”
– Bloomberg.com, April 1, 2020
(Sources: “Hillary Clinton Criticizes Trump: ‘America First’ … In Coronavirus Cases,” by Mary Papenfuss, Huffpost, May 27, 2020, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/hilary-clinton-trump-america-first-coronavirus-cases_n_5e7e749bc5b6cb9dc1a0437b?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAC85zetb-usg6LFGy4pWMTuWatmovV4hJNR2Lnbf3Itc6yCU7F6Cmkdb2b2k805bUC4CinjfiL-q3z7YXwVpWLlbaP2mkC7ie8vdJiOWEFeTxqapl-1sp9fP_or1NhffhOg70G4uXe8Wu7KAR02UdvsaeoFjLpmZaZHr8kR8zYNg and “China Concealed Extent of Virus Outbreak, U.S. Intelligence Says,” by Nick Wadhams and Jennifer Jacobs, Bloomberg.com, April 1, 2020, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-04-01/china-concealed-extent-of-virus-outbreak-u-s-intelligence-says. Thanks to Christopher Bedford, The Federalist.)
President Trump has betrayed all the (tens of millions) of working class and/or rural voters who supported him in 2016 – that’s been one of the most popular claims by his opponents politics and journalism alike. (See, e.g., this post.) Even so, the evidence to the contrary being either ignored or unknown continues to impress.
At the end of last month, I presented some data showing that lower- and middle-income Americans have seen their economic lots improve faster relative to those of upper-income Americans under the first two years of Mr. Trump’s presidency than under the last two years of Barack Obama’s. The gap hasn’t been enormous, but it sure seems to belie the idea that Trump voters were duped by a phony populist.
This morning, the Commerce Department supplied some more in the form of its annual report on how inflation-adjusted personal income rose or shrank in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia over the latest data year (in this case, 2016-2017).
A casual reading of the report doesn’t provide much encouragement for Trump supporters. For example, of the ten states that saw real personal income rise the fastest, six gave their electoral votes to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016, and only four to Mr. Trump. Moreover, of the ten states that performed the worst when it comes to personal income improvement, seven were in the Trump column and only three in Clinton’s.
Further, on average, the Clinton states enjoyed price-adjusted personal income advances of 2.60 percent in 2017. The comparable Trump state figure was only 2.05 percent.
So why do I argue that the Trump betrayal contentions get the story largely wrong? Because I’ve compared these 2016-2017 results with those of the year before – which was of course the last year of the Obama presidency. And what it shows is what surely matters to voters more the single year results – whether their personal incomes fared better or worse in 2017 than in 2016. And when these numbers are presented, the economic case for Trump votes looks awfully strong.
To be fair, after-inflation personal income nation-wide was much faster in Mr. Trump’s first year in office than in Mr. Obama’s last – and by a whopping 2.6 percent to 1.1 percent! Even so, the Trump states saw the best rates of improvement. Indeed, of the thirty states whose electoral votes were won by the President (and adding in Maine, which split its electoral votes), price-adjusted personal income grew faster in 2017 in fully 25 (or 80.65 percent). Income growth slowed year-on-year in only four 12.90 percent), and the rate stayed the same in two.
For most of the 21 Clinton states (including Maine), real personal incomes grew faster in 2017 than in 2016, too. But the percentage was lower (71.43 percent). In five of those 21 states (23.81 percent), inflation-adjusted personal income increases slowed, and Maine remained flat.
All together, inflation-adjusted personal income growth accelerated from 0.63 percent between 2015-2016 to 2.05 percent in 2016-17 for the Trump states – a much faster rate than the 1.58 percent to 2.60 percent speed-up for the Clinton states.
Especially interesting – between the two time periods, no fewer than seven Trump states saw their personal incomes grow in real terms in 2017 after shrinking in 2016. Only one Trump state (South Dakota) experienced the reverse. By contrast, none of the Clinton states suffered after-inflation personal income drops in 2016 – but none has experienced such dramatic improvement, either.
These state-wide numbers aren’t perfect measures of personal incomes developments, and they’re even more problematic as clues to political behavior. After all, most states are big enough to be highly diverse economically, and wide gaps between rich and poor can be found inside many. It’s also important to note that the Trump states generally keep lagging the Clinton states when real personal income growth is looked at in absolute terms.
But trends almost always deserve to count more than snapshots. And although the new real personal income numbers hardly show that the Trump states have entered economic nirvana, they make the betrayal claims look flimsier than ever.
Obviously, a recent Grinnell College poll with info on American attitudes towards immigration isn’t the Bible on this subject. But, as reported in Tuesday’s post, it shed an unusual amount of light on charges that immigration realists are racists and xenophobes, and if you doubt my conclusion that it exposed those allegations as hokum (to put it politely) check out these other findings from the survey.
Tuesday’s post focused on differences between Americans who voted for President Trump in 2016 and those who backed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton (who favored more lenient policies) on defining “real American identity.” It showed that the Trump voters (whose ranks of course included many supporters of more restrictive immigration policies) mostly rejected arguably racist and xenophobic ideas about American identity (e.g., that only Christians could be “real Americans”) and strongly embraced more inclusive definitions (e.g., “real Americans” accept folks with differing racial and religious backgrounds).
Yet the Grinnell survey also asked these two groups for their views of which kinds of immigrants the nation should and shouldn’t admit more of – measured by countries and regions of origin. And the responses send a similar message loud and clear: Trump voters’ views on immigrants from non-white regions and countries are virtually the same as their views on immigrants from majority white regions and countries. Here are the breakdowns, showing whether Trump and Clinton voters favor increasing or decreasing immigration from various countries and regions, whether they’d prefer leaving current levels where they are, or whether they’re not sure (n/s):
Mexico Trump Clinton
increase 11 36
decrease 40 8
same 46 54
n/s 4 5
China Trump Clinton
increase 9 23
decrease 28 14
same 59 58
n/s 4 5
India Trump Clinton
increase 9 28
decrease 25 7
same 60 62
n/s 6 4
Canada Trump Clinton
increase 19 31
decrease 16 7
same 62 58
n/s 4 4
Middle East Trump Clinton
increase 6 28
decrease 47 11
same 41 58
n/s 5 3
Europe Trump Clinton
increase 13 23
decrease 18 5
same 64 66
n/s 4 7
Caribbean Trump Clinton
increase 12 31
decrease 22 4
same 62 60
n/s 5 5
Africa Trump Clinton
increase 10 35
decrease 24 3
same 60 58
n/s 5 3
These results unmistakably show that it doesn’t make much difference to Trump voters where immigrants come from. Whether they’re arrivals, for example, from Europe (only 13 percent of Trump-ers want their ranks boosted) or Africa (ten percent), Trump-ers generally oppose greater inflows. The big outliers are Canada (19 percent) and the Middle East (six percent). And the degree of outlying isn’t enormous. Moreover, the racism charge looks particularly flimsy considering that the gap between support for more Mexican, Chinese, Indian, African, and Caribbean immigrants on the one hand, and more European immigrants on the other, is within four percentage points.
Could these numbers still support the xenophobia charge? That is, do they show that Trump voters just hate immigrants (and allegedly foreigners) indiscriminately? According to the Grinnell findings, this claim doesn’t make any sense, either. For in every case except Mexico and the Middle East, majorities of Trump supporters say they’re fine with keeping current immigration levels the same. And for some context, the nation currently admits legal immigrants at the rate of about one million each year. (According to the Department of Homeland Security, this number represents “nationals who are granted lawful permanent residence (i.e., immigrants who receive a ‘green card’), admitted as temporary nonimmigrants, granted asylum or refugee status, or are naturalized.)
Of course, polls are far from perfect, and the Grinnell sounding could be an outlier (though I’ve never seen any other surveys going over the same ground). But between the “real Americans” definition and country-of-origin results it reports, it’s at least a challenge to the Open Borders crowd either to explain why these findings are meaningless or misleading, or to produce data consistent with their unflattering description of the Trump supporters – and immigration restrictionists on the whole.
American Enterprise Institute, asylum seekers, Brookings Institution, chattering classes, David Brooks, establishment, Europe, Hillary Clinton, Im-Politic, Immigration, Jobs, migrants, migration, Open Borders, Populism, refugees, The Guardian, The New York Times, Trade, Trump, working class
While we’re still (I hope!) in a Thanksgiving frame of mind, let’s not forget to give thanks to America’s ever clueless bipartisan political establishment and chattering classes. As just made glaringly obvious by a Hillary Clinton interview and a New York Times pundit, these utterly intertwined – and indeed incestuous – elites not only mostly remain just as dumbfounded about the developments that have triggered the rise of populism in the Western world as they were the day after Donald Trump became president. They helpfully keep reminding us of how little they’ve learned – and therefore how completely undeserving they are of returning to power.
Clinton’s obliviousness (again) came through loud and clear in a lengthy sit-down earlier this week with the United Kingdom’s Guardian newspaper. According to the Democratic presidential nominee, whose inept campaign strategy and transparently canned messaging helped key Mr. Trump’s victory, Europe “needs to get a handle on migration.”
That contention’s hard to argue with. But Clinton’s main reason was anything but. According to the former Secretary of State, European leaders’ overly “generous and compassionate approaches” to migration “lit the flame” that have “roiled the body politic” and strengthened the positions of Trump-like populists who have used “immigrants as a political device and as a symbol of government gone wrong, of attacks on one’s heritage, one’s identity, one’s national unity….”
In other words, Clinton apparently has no concerns that a massive influx of migrants – or refugees, or so-called asylum-seekers, or even economically motivated immigrants – could drive down wages for the working class or lower income cohorts of a country’s native-born population, or wind up admitting criminals and terrorists from violence-ridden regions, or swamp a country with newcomers either ignorant or actively contemptuous of its cultural values (e.g., its treatment of women).
She’s simply advocating that establishment politicians do the proverbial – but never well defined “something” – to keep on the fringes counterparts who are mindful of the above, and completely legitimate, concerns. In fact, Clinton’s continuing contempt for such leaders, and their followings, is made clear by her contention that populist voters are defined by
“a psychological as much as political yearning to be told what to do, and where to go, and how to live and have their press basically stifled and so be given one version of reality.
“The whole American system was designed so that you would eliminate the threat from a strong, authoritarian king or other leader and maybe people are just tired of it. They don’t want that much responsibility and freedom. They want to be told what to do and where to go and how to live … and only given one version of reality.”
In other words, “deplorables,” anyone?
If anything, New York Times columnist David Brooks is even brain dead-er on the lessons of 2016. On Thanksgiving day, the paper posted a column of his contending that at least some of America’s establishment has been “chastened” by populism’s successes, and recently has been “working together across ideological lines” to “build the bipartisan governing coalitions” that “pay attention to actual Americans and actual solutions” to the problems that have so divided the nation.
One of his prime examples? A joint effort by the establishment liberal Brookings Institution and the establishment conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI) to develop policies aimed at “Restoring Opportunity for the Working Class.”
On the one hand, it’s good to see that Brookings and AEI aren’t simply dismissing American populism’s main political base as racists and xenophobes. Even better: The report they’ve just issued recognizes job and income loss resulting from offshoring-friendly trade deals and other wrongheaded globalization-related policies as major sources of working Americans’ economic decline and political anger. And the recommendations for trade policy fixes are pretty good – even including an endorsement of unilateral U.S. tariffs in certain situations. In fact, combining these ideas with many of the more purely domestic policy proposals in the study could make a real difference.
On the other hand, the study’s authors decided to ignore the impacts of Open Borders-friendly immigration policies, because they regard “the perception that immigration is responsible for what ails the working class” as “mistaken.”
And some skepticism is warranted on the trade front as well. After all, experts from both think tanks have been among the strongest critics of Trump administration trade policies – no doubt because so many of their donors are businesses that profit from the trade status status quo, and (in Brookings’ case), many of the very foreign governments in the same category.
But what I found especially revealing was Brooks’ description of the report. It ignored the trade recommendations completely and zeroed in on the measures that, unless accompanied by trade and/or immigration policy overhauls (at least), would wind up as an approach that essentially substitutes various forms of welfare for work: “wage subsidies, improved parental leave, work requirements for some federal benefits, child care tax credits.”
And by the way, of course Brooks endorses the study’s calls for more government aid for education that reduces the current emphasis on sending all young Americans to four-year colleges and increases the emphasis on “career education and training.” That’s fine except that there’s little point to vocational type training if family wage jobs keep fleeing overseas or becoming ever lower-wage jobs because immigrants keep supercharging the labor supply.
Nor have any of the education boosters ever responded to two related points I made in my globalization book, The Race to the Bottom: First, people all over the world as just as capable of being retrained and reeducated as Americans; and second, governments all around the world know this, especially in countries with such immense labor surpluses that they’ll long be able to under-sell American workers.
Brooks closes his article by wondering whether the United States contains “enough chastened members of establishments, who have governing experience, who acknowledge past mistakes, who take the time to reconnect with the country and apply their expertise in new ways” to lead the nation successfully. The Brookings-AEI report provides some grounds for optimism. Unlike Hillary Clinton and Brooks himself.
By now it’s become an article of faith among President Trump’s critics that his stated determination to prevent the caravans of Central American migrants from entering the United States represents a shameful, and possibly racist, break with America’s longstanding tradition of providing haven for victims of poverty, persecution, and numerous other hardships and outrages that remain all too common abroad.
In other words, in striking contrast to the Statue of Liberty’s message of welcome for the world’s “tired…poor…[and] huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” Mr. Trump and his supporters are cruelly telling the Central Americans to return to their destitute and violence-wracked countries.
So what do the critics believe should be done instead? Specifics are often lacking, but let’s do a thought experiment and try to figure out how a policy that literally doesn’t “turn its back” on downtrodden foreign populations would like. That is, let’s try to imagine the gist of what a President Hillary Clinton would say about the caravans if she took seriously claims that the Trump approach to the problem is unforgivably callous and wrongheaded – claims that she’s made clear she agrees with via her strong condemnation of Trump administration policies that have resulted in frequent separation of migrant children from their parents:
“My fellow Americans:
“As you have seen in many news reports, several so-called caravans of Central Americans are heading north, through Mexico, filled with men, women, and children hoping to make new lives in the United States.
“Many politicians and news organizations in conservative and Republican ranks, along with out-and-out right-wing extremists, have portrayed this caravans as an impending ‘invasion’ of our country. They’ve urged my administration to deal with this ‘national security emergency’ by taking all necessary steps to turn the migrants back – including stationing the American military at the border.
“I come before you tonight to make clear that I will strongly reject such measures. They would represent a violation of our solemn international treaty obligations. They would amount to a betrayal of America’s long, proud history of welcoming immiserated populations from all corners of the world. And they would ignore simple human decency. In fact, some who urge a hard line toward the migrants are clearly playing on longstanding dark, but completely unjustifiable, fears about foreigners and even about racial and ethnic minorities.
“So I will not send regular military or even national guards units to the border. I will not beef up Border Patrol deployments. And I certainly will not begin building a Wall – as my chief opponent in the last election so foolishly and crudely recommended.
“Nor will I outsource my migrants policy to Mexico, or to the migrants’ home country governments. For none of these countries can guarantee the migrants the safety from crime and violence and the escape from poverty that they, like all members of the human family, deserve.
“In fact, I’m issuing an Executive Order that explicitly establishes gang and domestic violence as valid reasons for granting asylum. For aren’t these dangers just as appalling and inexcusable as the religious, political, and other forms of persecution to which grants of asylum have historically been restricted? Further, this new directive will abolish the artificial distinction between refugees from these horrors and refugees from joblessness, threadbare wages, hunger, homelessness, and other forms of economic privation. For if you’re being victimized for your political leanings or religion or nationality, you’re almost surely trapped in grinding, dehumanizing poverty as well.
“Of course, I’ll be directing that much more of the Justice Department’s budget be allotted to end the shortage of immigration judges that has produced immense backlogs in our immigration courts. Yet until the shortage ends, I will also mandate the construction of high quality accommodations for asylum applicants awaiting a hearing, including first-rate schooling for their children. And needless to say, applicants will enjoy the full come-and-go freedom to and from these facilities. Otherwise, we’d be putting them in cages, however gilded.
“Moreover, I will immediately put into effect my campaign promise to increase five-fold America’s admissions of refugees from Syria’s horrendous civil war. In fact, I apologize to these refugees for waiting so long to address their plight.
“And finally, because too many recent arrivals – from Central America and elsewhere – continue living precariously in the shadows, I will restrict the enforcement of domestic immigration law to finding and deporting dangerous criminals. For far too long taxpayers – including these many of these Aspiring Americans – have paid far too much money for the hounding of individuals and families whose only illegal behavior has been seeking better lives.
“We Americans need to remember: Except for our native American and native-born African-American populations, practically all of our ancestors came to this country for the exact same reasons motivating the Central Americans and so many others today. The Pilgrims were seeking freedom of religion. The Jamestown settlers were economic migrants. How can we deny caravan members and others like them the same opportunities that our nation has extended to our own forebears?
“The answer, it must be clear, is that we mustn’t and we can’t – if we want to be law-abiding global citizens, if we want to be true to our country’s best traditions, and if we want to be able to look ourselves squarely in the mirror.”
Pretty inspiring, isn’t it? But before you pick up the phone to call your Member of Congress (or the White House) to demand implementation of this agenda right now, ask yourself about the impact of an announcement like this. According to Gallup, as of last year, nearly 150 million people around the world would like to move to the United States. That includes 37 million Latin Americans.
Yet since the situation in Central American has clearly worsened over the last year, along with the crisis in Venezuela, that figure now is surely conservative. Additionally, the Trump administration’s current attitude towards migrants could well be depressing the number who consider migrating to the United States an option worth thinking about even idly. The kind of welcoming position Trump critics seem to want – i.e., one that further and greatly strengthens already powerful magnets that have attracting enormous foreign populations to this country – could well supercharge their ranks.
The lessons of this exercise couldn’t be clearer. If you believe that the United States could easily absorb anything close to this inflow in the near future, go right on lambasting the Trump administration and supporters of its immigration policies as modern day [INSERT YOUR FAVORITE ARCH-VILLAIN FROM HISTORY OR LITERATURE HERE]’s. But if you’re genuinely interested in devising an immigration and migrants and refugee policy that acceptably reflects your version of America’s values but recognizes the inevitable limits on such good intentions, you’ll start grandstanding less and thinking about the who, what, how, why, when, and where more.
Although you wouldn’t know it from the Mainstream Media coverage (see the especially egregious front page or home page of yesterday’s Washington Post), the biggest story told by the Justice Department indictments of Russians said to have meddled in American politics and the 2016 presidential election was not the additional evidence of this campaign’s existence, and how it undermines President Trump’s numerous statements denying or belittling Moscow’s efforts.
Instead, it was the evidence that, after eight months of investigation, Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III has presented no reason to believe that anyone connected with the Donald Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with Russia to help him win the White House; that what his probe has found is a Russian meddling campaign with multiple, overlapping objectives that aimed to help several 2016 presidential hopefuls and roil American politics in many ways even (and especially?) after Election Day; and that this apparent Russian effort began long before anyone other than (possibly) Mr. Trump thought he would seek the presidency.
Interestingly, finding number two dovetailed with my post from a week ago, which spotlighted a New York Times story which made the point about Russia’s post-election aims going far beyond propping up President Trump.
Despite the media focus on the indictment’s description of the Russian campaign and its contrast with the president’s alleged indifference to it, it’s crucial to remember that this document is an indictment, not a legal conviction. The defendants still deserve the presumption of innocence when their day in court comes (assuming any will ever stand trial).
And despite the media focus on the Trump denial angle, it’s even more important to recognize how devastatingly the indictment undermines the collusion charge that’s constituted the main fear about Russia’s interference.
First, the indictment makes only one mention of any contacts of any kind between anyone involved in the Trump campaign and these alleged Russian operatives. It comes in paragraph 45:
“Defendants and their co-conspirators also used false U.S. personas to communicate with unwitting members, volunteers, and supporters of the Trump Campaign involved in local community outreach, as well as grassroots groups that supported then-candidate Trump. These individuals and entities at times distributed the [interference] ORGANIZATION’s materials through their own accounts via retweets, reposts, and other means. Defendants and their co-conspirators then monitored the propagation of content through such participants.”
Of course, the word “unwitting” is decisively important. It means that, the view of Special Counsel Mueller, the Trump-ers who were communicating with the Russians had no idea that they were dealing with agents of a foreign government. So by definition, they couldn’t have been colluding with Moscow.
Just as important, even though by now of course Mueller and his team know about controversial contacts between obvious agents of the Russian government and various Trump-ers that previously have ignited major controversy, the indictment never mentions them. These include the Russian U.S. ambassador’s two encounters with then-Senator Jeff Sessions, which ultimately led to Session’s recusal as Attorney General from the “Russia-Gate” investigation and Mueller’s appointment in the first place; and his conversations with former Trump administration national security adviser-designate Michael Flynn during the transition.
Nor does it mention the meeting in Trump Tower in New York City between one of Mr. Trump’s sons, his son-in-law and now senior White House aide Jared Kushner, and then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, with a lawyer Donald Trump, Jr. was told was “a Russian government attorney.” Trump, Jr. was also told that this attorney (who, for what it’s worth, has denied any connections with the Kremlin) was offering what was described by the Trump, Jr. friend who instigated the eventual meeting as
“some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father. This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump…..”
Reportedly, the Special Counsel is investigating the meeting. But also, reportedly, his focus is not on the event itself but on statements that the President himself and top aides made on the subject that appear to be misleading, and that therefore could represent obstruction of justice. Obstruction of course is a serious offense, but the Trump Tower meeting itself clearly is more germane to the all-important collusion charges.
Moreover, the Special Counsel has had full access to the contents of all the wiretapped conversations between the other aforementioned prominent Trump supporters or advisers and the Russians with whom they met. (According to the CNN post linked above, the Trump Tower meeting was not wiretapped.) And apparently – again after months of investigation – nothing said at these meetings has convinced Mueller and his staff that collusion, or any indictable offense related to the Russia-Gate narrative, took place.
The second way in which the indictment undermines the collusion charge is by specifying that Mr. Trump was not the only political candidate that the Russians supposedly sought to bolster in the 2016 campaign, and that they actually began working against him immediately after the election.
According to paragraph 2, the Russian defendants:
“conspired with each other (and with persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury) to defraud the United States by impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the government through fraud and deceit for the purpose of interfering with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016.”
In paragraph 6, the indictment states that “Defendants posted derogatory information about a number of candidates, and by early to mid-2016, Defendants’ operations include supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump…and disparaging Hillary Clinton.” This charge restates the preceding point that supporting Mr. Trump was not the interference operation’s only goal. So does paragraph 10 (e), which refers to the Russians’ “stated goal of ‘spread[ing] distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.”
Paragraph 33 accuses Moscow of writing “about topics germane to the United States such as U.S. foreign policy and U.S. economic issues. Specialists were also instructed to create ‘political intensity through supporting radical groups, [social media] users dissatisfied with [the] social and economic situation and oppositional social movements.”
Paragraph 43 refers to “operations primarily intended to communicate derogatory information about [Democratic nominee] Hillary Clinton, to denigrate other candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump.” (Green Party candidate Jill Stein was also identified, in paragraph 46, as a politician backed by the operation.)
It’s clear that one of the Russians’ top priority was defeating Clinton. And the possibility still remains that Moscow believed it had so compromised Mr. Trump – e.g., through the salacious, though unverified, information in the Steele Dossier (compiled by a former British intelligence agent whose work of course was funded by the Clinton campaign) – that its ultimate aim was a Trump victory and an American president it could blackmail and manipulate on an ongoing basis.
Yet there’s another more obvious explanation for the anti-Clinton focus: She was widely viewed not only as the overwhelming favorite to win the Democratic nomination, but as the overwhelming favorite to win the fall election. Indeed, the latter belief lasted till election night itself. In other words, had one of the other Republican candidates defeated Trump, and become fully competitive with Clinton, it stands to reason that they would have become a major Russian target, too.
Further, the narrative emphasizing that the Russians viewed Mr. Trump as an ideal Manchurian Candidate completely falls apart upon considering two other indictment findings. First, the Russian interference campaign was conceived considerably before Mr. Trump declared his presidential candidacy – which on that day in 2015 was, to put it mildly, viewed as a long shot.
As stated in paragraph 3, “Beginning as early as 2014, Defendant ORGANIZATION began operations to interfere with the U.S. political system, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election.” More specific references to a gearing up period in 2014 can be found in paragraphs 9, 10 (d) and (e), 29, 42, 58 (a), and in numerous descriptions of indicted individuals joining the operation and of their specific activities.
Moreover, as common sense would indicate, for an operation (especially one this substantial) to be running in 2014, planning, and the original formulation of the plan, would have needed to start even earlier. That’s why in paragraph 10, the indictment tells of the umbrella organization registering as a “Russian corporate entity” with the Russian government “in or around July, 2013.” If you had any inkling then that a Trump candidacy in 2016 was remotely conceivable, patriotism should impel you to join a U.S. intelligence agency immediately.
The second finding undercutting the idea of placing a manipulable traitor in the White House is the evidence presented that, almost immediately after Election Day, the Russians began stoking and coordinating both pro- and anti-Trump activities. You can read about them in paragraph 57. And then ask yourself how “protesting the results” of the election and fostering the idea that “Trump is NOT my President” were supposed to enable the victor to aid and abet a pro-Moscow agenda, as opposed to reducing his effectiveness?
For all I know, a new collusion bombshell charge, or an actual smoking gun, could be produced tomorrow in the media. New Mueller announcements or the various Congressional probes may seal the collusion case as well – perhaps with new evidence about the activities of Sessions or Flynn, or other individuals implicated in these events in various ways. (Although again, why haven’t the contents of the wiretapped conversation sufficed?)
But as long as they don’t, especially given the intense hostility of the President’s opponents – including those inside the government – the collusion case is going to look increasingly flimsy, and increasingly political. For if there really might be a traitor in the Oval Office, there’s simply no time to lose.
In the meantime, the “Russia-Gate” theory that looks best is the one I described last week – a chaos-focused operation aimed at whipping up as much American political division and sheer anger as possible, through whoever could advance this goal at any given moment, and whoever prevailed in 2016. Perhaps it’s too cynical (and partisan) to venture that the longer the scandal charges remain in the air, the more the Democrats and Trump’s establishment Republican foes benefit. But there’s no doubt that, the longer the Russia-Gate fight drags on, the better for Moscow and all of America’s foreign adversaries.
Terence P. Stewart
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