Posts Tagged ‘Democrats’

GOP is shackled to Trump

November 13, 2017

By Juan Williams
The Hill
November 13, 2017

Well, there goes the fake news.

It is real news that Republicans got shellacked last Tuesday in gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey.

And it is real news that President Trump’s grip as the party’s leader loosened for the first time since he claimed the White House.

Republican running in 2018 saw the reality of an anti-Trump wave among white suburban voters. House Republicans rely on votes from suburban areas to keep their majorities in states such as Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Florida.


Republicans currently hold 23 seats in congressional districts won by Hillary Clinton in 2016 and 11 in districts she lost by fewer than five percentage points.

The anger at Trump was evident in exit polls conducted by Edison Media Research.

In Virginia, Republican Ed Gillespie won 91 percent of voters who “approve of the way Trump is handling his job as president.” Democrat Ralph Northam won 87 percent of those who disapprove.

In essence, Gillespie had all the Trump voters. But there just weren’t enough of them and Northam won easily, by nine points.

People upset with Trump turned out in big numbers. In fact, exit polls showed one-third of the electorate wanted to send a message of opposition to Trump with their vote for governor.

Now the urgent fear among Republicans on Capitol Hill is a 2018 landslide for Democrats as voters turn on Trump.

The vote in Virginia comes on the heels of Trump’s disapproval hitting 57 percent in the latest Fox News poll.

The president’s support among white men without a college degree is down to 56 percent from the 71 percent who voted for him a year ago. He has lost support among white evangelicals, with 66 percent supporting him now instead of the 80 percent that voted for him. He has also seen his support among independents slide from 46 percent in 2016 to 30 percent today.

Trump’s support among self-identified Republicans remains high at 83 percent in the Fox poll, but fewer people overall are identifying themselves as Republicans.

That sets the stage for the battle to claim the future of the party going into the 2018 races.

On one side, you have Trump and Steve Bannon, his former top political aide. On the other side are the Presidents Bush, both 41 and 43, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) trapped in the ring and ducking punches from both sides.

The fight comes down to a contest between Trump’s anti-immigrant, isolationist, white grievance politics and the Bush policies favoring immigration, free trade and growing the party through outreach to racial minorities.

After last week’s defeat in Virginia, Trump and Bannon quickly threw dirt on Gillespie. Trump said Gillespie did “not embrace me or what I stand for.” Bannon piled on by saying the “lesson” of the loss was that future Republican candidates must avoid campaigning with President George W. Bush and “embrace the entire Trump agenda,” to the point of taking Trump on the campaign trail.

But Gillespie, the former party chairman, did use Trump-like advertising that focused on stirring fear of immigrants by tying them to MS-13 gangs; he did defend Confederate statues; and he did attack athletes kneeling to protest police brutality.

Gillespie lost because Virginia voters rejected Trump’s politics.

The Bush team also punched back.

“This guy doesn’t know what it means to be president,” the younger President Bush said of Trump in an interview for a new book.

“I don’t like him,” the elder President Bush told author Mark Updegrove. “I don’t know much about [Trump] but I know he’s a blowhard. And I’m not too excited about him being our leader.”

The Bush’s comments drew a sharp rebuke from Trump’s White House

“If one presidential candidate can disassemble a political party, it speaks volumes about how strong a legacy its past two presidents really had,” an unnamed White House official told CNN. “And that begins with the Iraq war, one of the greatest foreign policy mistakes in American history.”

The split between Bush-style establishment conservatism and Trump populism has already hurt the party with about two dozen House Republicans announcing this is a good time for them to leave.

That rush for the door comes as polls show “voters say they prefer Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives over Republicans by the widest margin in over a decade,” the Washington Post reported before Tuesday’s GOP collapse.

Ryan said last week that despite the intraparty fight, it is too late for his House caucus to do anything but side with Trump on the future of the party.

“We already made that choice,” Ryan said on Fox News Radio. “We’re with Trump. We already made that choice… That’s a choice we made during the campaign, which is we merged our agendas.”

What must Republican congressional candidates be thinking today when their Speaker tells them they are handcuffed to a president who has the lowest approval rating in 70 years? At what point do they ignore the Speaker’s directive, cut ties with the president and strike out on their own?

A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll found that just 37 percent of Americans approve of the way Trump is handling his job, while 59 percent disapprove. In the history of the poll, no American president has had a net negative rating so high in his ninth month in office since Harry Truman in 1945.

But Ryan has the real news: Every Republican on the ballot in 2018 will have Donald Trump as a running mate.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.


In Virginia, Democrats Learn the Shape of an Anti-Trump Coalition

November 8, 2017

Northam won by nearly double Clinton’s margin, riding wave of energy that carried down ballot

It is hard to interpret Ralph Northam’s decisive victory as anything other than a reaction to President Donald Trump.
It is hard to interpret Ralph Northam’s decisive victory as anything other than a reaction to President Donald Trump. PHOTO: WIN MCNAMEE/GETTY IMAGES

In their rousing election victories in Virginia on Tuesday, Democrats learned two important things: They found out what an anti-Trump coalition looks like, and they discovered it can be a winning one.

That coalition combines upper-scale white voters, millennials, minorities, suburban women and single women. Exit polling indicates that those groups not only went heavily for Democratic victor Ralph Northam in the governor’s race, but performed better for him than they did for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

That tide produced a stunning nine-point victory for Mr. Northam—almost twice as large as the margin by which Mrs. Clinton carried the state—and it’s hard to interpret it as anything other than a reaction to President Donald Trump. He is the biggest actor on every political stage right now; almost everything happens in the Trump context.

In fact, the best news for Democrats may have been the signs that their wave of energy carried beyond the top race and down the ballot to elections for the state House of Delegates. Many thought Mr. Northam could win at the top of the ballot (though most concluded only barely), but nobody thought Democrats would be on the verge of turning the state legislature blue.

Still, there also are multiple, less-obvious cautionary notes for Democrats in Virginia, starting with the tendency to over-interpret such an off-off-year election.

Beyond that, this winning coalition brought decisive margins in blue parts of the state—the Washington suburbs, college towns and upper-scale coastal areas—but it wasn’t enough to break into the swath of red territory in central and southern Virginia. That part of the state continues to look and act a lot like Trump country in the interior of America.

Mrs. Clinton learned what happens in a presidential race when you run up victories, even big ones, in areas Democrats are strong but don’t crack through in areas where the party is weaker.

Moreover, Democratic success in Virginia probably will do more to paper over than resolve the Democrats’ split between establishment groups and the party’s progressive wing. Liberals had backed former Rep. Tom Perriello in the primary, were under-enthused by Mr. Northam, and thought he should have stressed economic issues more. They were particularly unhappy when he hedged his position supporting sanctuary cities that provide a haven for undocumented aliens. In short, the residual problem for Democrats is that progressives wanted a different kind of candidate and a different kind of campaign.

The good news for them, of course, is that all signs suggest that liberal activists largely swallowed those misgivings and went to work, and to the polls, anyway. We’ll see which side of the coin—tensions at the beginning or unity at the end—proves to be the most important dynamic elsewhere.

The underlying proposition of the campaign of losing Republican Ed Gillespie, meanwhile, was that he could win by having, in the words of populist political crusader Stephen Bannon, “Trumpism without Trump.” That is, that Mr. Gillespie could embrace Trump-like themes—the dangers from violent immigrants, the virtues of Confederate monuments—without embracing Mr. Trump himself personally.

It didn’t work as hoped, obviously. Why? For an answer, look at how two particularly energized Democratic groups performed Tuesday in Virginia.

Single women, inspired by Hillary Clinton and the chance to elect the nation’s first female president, were a big part of the Clinton coalition in 2016. But, one year after Mr. Trump became president, they turned out to be an even more-potent part of the Ralph Northam coalition.

Exit polling by Edison Media Research for the Washington Post and other news organizations shows that unmarried women went for the Democrat by a stunning 77% to 22% margin. That is to say, they went Democratic by more than three to one. The Democratic vote among single women this time was 16 percentage points higher than the vote they produced for Mrs. Clinton in 2016.

There is little except the arrival of a President Trump to explain the difference. In short, single women look an awful lot like a constituency that is newly energized.

Second, consider the performance of millennials, a core Democratic constituency, on Tuesday. NextGen America, a liberal activist group, chose nine precincts across Virginia where millennials make up a majority and monitored them to determine enthusiasm among young voters.

In each precinct—most around college campuses—residents aged 18 to 40 made up at least 60% of voters. In all of them, voter turnout was up over the totals seen in the governor’s election four years ago. In the area around Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, turnout more than doubled.

Energy matters in politics. And on Tuesday in Virginia, at least, Democrats seemed to capture it.

Parties’ Campaign Chiefs Agree: GOP Tax Bill Key to 2018 Results

November 2, 2017
Sens. Cory Gardner and Chris Van Hollen discussed the tax rollout at a WSJ breakfast on Thursday.Photo: Ralph Alswang for The Wall Street Journal

WASHINGTON – One year before the midterm elections, the two parties’ campaign chiefs came together Thursday in a rare public bout and agreed on one thing: The fate of the GOP tax bill could make or break both parties political destiny in 2018.

The comments came in a public discussion, hosted by The Wall Street Journal, between Cory Gardner of Colorado, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and Democratic Senate Campaign Committee Chair Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, facing off for the first time. Also for the first time, Steve Stivers, head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, faced off with Ben Ray Luján, the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Mr. Stivers and Mr. Gardner acknowledged the pressure their party was under to pass the tax bill, after failing to deliver on repealing the Affordable Care Act.

WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib and Janet Hook discuss the 2018 midterms with Sens. Gardner and Van Hollen.Photo: Ralph Alswang for The Wall Street Journal

“We’ve got to show folks that we’ve got to get it done and I think we will,” said Mr. Stivers, of Ohio. The bill will fare better than the GOP’s failed attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act because party lawmakers “have fairly consistent views on taxes.”

The Democratic panelists  hammered the emerging plan, saying it doesn’t do enough to help the middle class, but Mr. Van Hollen left open the possibility that some lawmakers in tough reelection fights could vote for it in the end.

Mr. Luján, who is leading the Democrats’ efforts to retake control of the House in 2018, criticized Republicans for writing the bill behind closed doors. “The only people that they’re not having conversations with is the American people,” the New Mexico lawmaker said of Republicans.

Surveying a political landscape that seems to change by the day, Mr. Van Hollen cited previously unforseen political opportunities in red states like Texas and Tennessee. Mr. Gardner shrugged off concerns about former White House aide Steve Bannon’s rogue efforts to support challengers for GOP incumbents. Mr. Stivers promised to use the liberal reputation of Nancy Pelosi against Democrats in swing districts. And Mr. Lujan countered by saying Democrats energized after the 2016 election losses could make 80 seats competitive.

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, left, and Rep. Steve Stivers talk about campaign efforts already kicking into high gear at the WSJ event on Nov. 2, 2017Photo: Ralph Alswang for The Wall Street Journal

“You can’t wish a seat into play,” said Mr. Stivers, who sees 40 House seats as competitive. Democrats need 24 seats to win the majority.

During past periods when a president’s approval rating was below 50%, the weak numbers have often resulted in a double-digit loss for the president’s party in the midterm elections. President Trump’s approval rating currently sits at 38% — his lowest level since taking office, according to The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released Sunday.  But to take the majority, House Democrats must win districts where Donald Trump won in 2016, and where it will be more difficult for candidates to campaign against the president.

The tumultuous political year has led to moderate Republican lawmakers announcing retirements in the House, and GOP Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Jeff Flake of Arizona announcing they would not pursue re-election. Asked for where the opportunities were for Democrats, Mr. Van Hollen pointed to Arizona and Nevada, citing GOP Sen. Dean Heller’s low approval rating in the state.

Republicans, by contrast, sees an opportunity in the 10 states that Mr. Trump won in which Democrats are trying to retain Senate seats. Mr. Gardner, noting that the president won five of those states by double-digit margins, named Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia as particular targets. In all those states, he said, Democrats will find it hard to campaign against Mr. Trump regardless of his standing in polls nationally.

WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib and Joshua Jamerson discuss the 2018 midterms with Rep. Steve Stivers, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Photo: Ralph Alswang for The Wall Street Journal

In the Senate, Democrats must defend 25 lawmakers total in 2018, including the 10 in states that Mr. Trump won, some by double digits. Republicans see the states that Mr. Trump won as their best bet for increasing their 52-48 majority in the Senate. Republicans must defend eight seats, two of which are open.

Mr. Flake’s decision to not pursue re-election could help Republicans retain his seat, with either a conservative candidate aligned with President Trump or one a more moderate candidate who could pull in Democratic voters. Their nominee will likely face Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, a young centrist, widely considered one of the party’s top recruits for 2018.

Mr. Van Hollen said the tighter-than-usual special election for a Senate seat in Alabama shows that Democrats could have more opportunities, in traditionally red states, such as Texas and Tennessee. In 2016, Mr. Trump beat Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in Texas by nine points.

In Alabama, Republicans are supporting Roy Moore, an evangelical conservative who has made incendiary comments against Muslims and gay people. He was welcomed to the Capitol by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday, a move Mr. Van Hollen called “appalling.”

The person to expect to see in campaign ads against Democrats in 2018: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) who Mr. Stivers said polls lower than the president in swing districts.

“Nancy Pelosi will be speaker if Ben’s successful and I think the people need to understand who’s going to be in charge,” Mr. Stivers said, referring to his Democratic counterpart on stage. “I don’t think we’ll say or do anything that’s unfair.”

Mr. Luján fired back, asking Mr. Stivers “who polls lower?” than Ms. Pelosi. He then answered the question himself, saying House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) polls lower, according to his surveys.

In the recent WSJ poll, more people said they wanted to see Democrats than Republicans control Congress, 48% to 41%.


GOP Sticks With Big, Permanent Corporate Tax Cuts in House Bill

GOP Tax Plan Would Affect Trump and Clinton Voters Differently

November 2, 2017

Image result for IRS, signage, photos

Some of the most popular tax breaks believed to be on the chopping block in the coming Republican tax bills are most heavily used by high-income areas that typically vote for Democrats.

By Max Rust and Richard Rubin

The House Republican tax bill and the changes it will bring to the tax code, if it becomes law, are likely to vary across the country.

A full accounting of the potential impact won’t be possible until the GOP announces tax rates and tax brackets. But some of the most popular breaks believed to be on the chopping block are most heavily used by high-income areas that typically vote for Democrats.

Taxes and the Political DivideThe Wall Street Journal analyzed county-level tax-return data for 2015, the most recent year available, in three types of places: counties that President Donald Trump won convincingly, those that Hillary Clinton won convincingly, and those that voted for Mr. Trump after twice voting for President Barack Obama.

This analysis includes 2,219 of the nation’s 3,111 counties (and doesn’t count Alaska, where county-level election results aren’t available). Solid-Clinton counties, primarily centered around large metro areas, account for about 40 million tax filers, while the more widely spread solid-Trump counties are home to about 32 million. Nearly eight million tax filers live in the Obama counties that flipped to Trump counties. These political divisions reveal numerous contrasts among individual tax returns.

State and Local Tax DeductionsRepublicans have been talking about repealing the deduction for state and local taxes, which tend to be higher in Democratic-controlled places such as New York and California. They have the most to lose. The GOP’s proposal to keep a deduction for property taxes may change this calculation.

Mortgage Interest and Charitable Donation DeductionsNearly doubling the standard deduction would erode the benefit of the deductions for mortgage interest and charitable contributions. Use of those breaks is concentrated in coastal areas with high-income households.

Child Tax CreditThe child tax credit is expected to rise—by an undetermined amount—in the GOP plans. That credit is more evenly distributed across the country. But it is most frequently claimed in Trump-friendly pockets of Utah and Arizona, where more than one-quarter of taxpayers use it.

Earned Income CreditAn early draft of the GOP plan provided no details on the fate of this credit, which is claimed by low-income filers at nearly equal rates in Democratic and Republican strongholds.

—Note: Child tax credit figures don’t include the expected higher credit. Sources: Internal Revenue Service (tax returns, rates); David Leip’s Atlas of Presidential Elections (election results).


  • House Tax Plan to Delay Estate-Tax Repeal, Set Corporate Rate at 20%

Write to Max Rustat and Richard Rubin at

Pelosi moves to muzzle Trump impeachment talk

November 1, 2017

The longtime Democratic leader thinks the key to taking back the House in 2018 is avoiding the president’s distractions.

Nancy Pelosi is pictured here. | AP Photo
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is eager to show her party can govern — in contrast to the chaos surrounding President Donald Trump. | J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Nancy Pelosi offered a forced smile recently when asked on MSNBC about a Tom Steyer-sponsored ad calling for President Donald Trump’s impeachment.

“That’s a great ad,” Pelosi said twice, before rushing to plug the Democrats’ “Better Deal” economic agenda as the TV hit wrapped up.

Pelosi played it off, but privately she was peeved. She told lawmakers at a Democratic leadership meeting soon after that she had reached out to the Democratic megadonor to tell him that his $10 million ad campaign was a distraction. (A source close to Steyer says he hasn’t spoken with Pelosi since the ad launched.)

Pelosi is eager to show her party can govern — in contrast to the chaos surrounding Trump — and believes that a reputation as the “No Drama Democrats” is key to taking back the House in 2018 and whisking her backing into the speaker’s chair.

While not an official slogan, Pelosi has discussed the strategy broadly in recent leadership and caucus meetings, urging members to avoid talk of impeachment and resist taking Trump’s bait on whatever topic is dominating his Twitter feed that day.

“There’s nothing any of us can say in Congress that is going to change people’s view of Donald Trump,” said freshman Rep. Ro Khanna, a Silicon Valley progressive who agrees with Pelosi’s strategy. “What they need is us to help them form their view of whether the Democratic Party is ready to lead.”

Pelosi and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) both issued cautious statements Monday after former Trump campaign aides were indicted in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. The House Democratic leaders reiterated their calls for an independent commission while carefully avoiding any speculation about Trump’s potential collusion with Moscow in the 2016 campaign.

Privately, Pelosi has suggested that the Russia probe could lead to the unraveling of Trump’s presidency, going so far as to say “the proof is in the Putin” at a Democratic leadership meeting earlier this year.

But in public, the California Democrat is encouraging her rank and file to take a measured approach to all things Trump, banking on the strategy that the president and congressional Republicans will bomb big with voters on their own by next November.

Pelosi has warned lawmakers about wading too deeply into Trump-created distractions, most recently at a leadership meeting last week, where she cited the controversy surrounding NFL players kneeling and the president’s attacks on Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) over his phone call to a soldier’s widow.

Instead, she has encouraged Democrats to stay focused on policy battles, telling members at their caucus meeting last week they “will be in the majority” if Republicans head into the midterms without a single major legislative accomplishment.

That doesn’t mean House Democrats will ignore Trump or his tweets. But Democratic leaders think responding to every culture war salvo from the president will only muddy their message heading into the midterms.

Pelosi has encouraged lawmakers to talk up what a Democratic majority can deliver for voters, plugging their economic message on repeat in hopes that it will eventually break through with voters.

“In my opinion it cannot happen fast enough,” said Rep. Cheri Bustos, a moderate Democrat whose northwestern Illinois district was carried by Trump last year. “If we get asked about Frederica Wilson or the NFL or Russia, we can answer that. But then let’s get back to what’s on people’s minds.”

The party’s Trump-focused message fell flat last year, as Democrats picked up only six seats in the House after boasting about the potential for double-digit gains and lost big in working-class districts that dot the Rust Belt.

This time around, Democratic leaders purposefully avoided including divisive social issues in their agenda rollout this summer. Their “no drama” approach to Trump’s controversies is an extension of that strategy.

Keeping Democrats united won’t be easy for Pelosi. The caucus ranges from progressive rabble-rousers like Khanna — who ousted a Democratic incumbent last year and called for a primary challenge to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) — to a dozen Democrats sitting in Trump-won districts like Bustos.

“It is difficult because [Trump’s] actions are so outrageous,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.). “And it’s ongoing work, by all of us, not just leadership” to stay focused.

The approach risks angering progressive groups and liberal donors, some of whom have declared all-out war on Trump and have threatened to primary Democratic lawmakers who don’t do enough to take on the president.

But some lawmakers say their hands are tied — that the best way to defeat Trump’s agenda is by being in the majority, and the best way to be back in the majority is to avoid focusing too much on Trump.

“The Indivisibles, the resist movement, there’s a role and a place for that. But the vast majority of people are scared to death about their own futures,” said Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.).

“When you haven’t been in the majority since 2010, you want to make sure that given the opportunity we have in front of us to take back the House, that you remain focused,” Larson added. “And that’s the only way any progressive agenda is going to have the opportunity to see the light of day.”

Indivisible, the grass-roots progressive group formed after Trump’s election, declined to comment.

Meanwhile, even as the Russia probe heats up, Democratic leaders have been working behind the scenes to quell any chatter about trying to impeach the president. For them, the topic is a distraction from defeating Republicans’ tax push in the short term and could turn off independent voters down the road.

Democratic leaders pressured Rep. Al Green to relent on forcing a vote on impeaching Trump after the Texas Democrat reignited the issue on the House floor recently. Hoyer was seen having a long, intense chat with Green just off the House floor during the debate.

And then there’s Steyer’s ad, where many House Democrats think Pelosi is in the right.

“I certainly don’t think that that’s a helpful effort,” Khanna said.

There is, however, one pol who was happy to comment on Steyer’s impeachment push.

“Wacky & totally unhinged Tom Steyer, who has been fighting me and my Make America Great Again agenda from beginning, never wins elections!” Trump tweeted.

Virginia gubernatorial election campaign features an attack ad about a convited child porn criminal voting for the Democrat — Convicted felons retain their right to vote in Virginia

October 26, 2017

A new TV spot in the Virginia gubernatorial election captures an unusual political moment for criminal-justice reform.

OCT 24, 2017


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Ed Gillespie (right) with opponent Ralph Northam . Credit Steve Helber – AP

Virginians aren’t enjoying a one-year pause in campaign ads like most other Americans in 2017. The commonwealth’s airwaves are saturated by TV spots from Ralph Northam, the state’s Democratic lieutenant governor, and Ed Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chairman. Whichever candidate takes the governor’s mansion will also hand their party a morale boost ahead of next year’s midterms.
Into this high-stakes contest Gillespie has dropped one of the most unusual campaign ads of the year, which melds tough-on-crime fear-mongering—long a staple of political persuasion—with establishment-Republican nods to compassionate criminal-justice reform. In doing so, the spot highlights reform’s unpredictable future in the age of Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions.

The ad takes aim at current Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s program restoring convicted felons’ right to vote. Virginia is one of four states where a person loses the franchise entirely after they are convicted of a felony-level offense. McAuliffe first tried to use his pardon power to restore the rights of 200,000 Virginians in one blow. Republican lawmakers successfully challenged the en masse order in court, so the governor began signing the orders individually, totaling more than 168,000 to date. McAuliffe’s move stands out as perhaps the boldest concrete step to reverse mass incarceration’s effects on individuals’ agency that the country has seen so far.
At the same time, the policy’s breadth left it open to narrow attacks like the one made by Gillespie. Here’s the first half of the ad’s narration:

Last year, Terry McAuliffe and Ralph Northam instituted the automatic restoration of rights for violent felons and sex offenders, making it easier for them to obtain firearms and allowing them to serve on juries. One of these felons, John Bowen, had his rights restored two months after being found with one of the largest child-pornography collections in Virginia’s history. Forty-three prosecutors—Republicans, Democrats, and Independents—opposed Ralph Northam’s reckless policy. Now, Virginia law enforcement has endorsed Ed Gillespie for governor.

This part of the ad somewhat obscures Bowen’s timeline: The Times-Dispatch says McAuliffe restored the rights he lost from a previous conviction, and that Bowen had only been arrested and not yet convicted of the new offenses when the restoration happened. But the overall aesthetic evokes the tough-on-crime ads that dominated campaigning in the 1980s and 1990s: If you vote for my opponent, your family will be less safe.

In that sense, Gillespie’s new ad isn’t surprising, echoing its predecessors from all levels of American elections, with the infamous Willie Horton ad standing out in that dismal field. While the antagonist in this spot is white—unlike Horton, a black man George H.W. Bush’s campaign spotlighted in 1988—Gillespie’s campaign hasn’t shied away from appeals to racial animus, especially in the context of public safety. He maintained his support for Confederate statues after the white-nationalist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August. And he’s run multiple ads portraying Northam as too soft on MS-13, a Latin American gang and a political specter frequently invoked by the Trump administration.
But what’s truly unusual about the ad is how the message changes in its second half. From the transcript:

Virginians who have paid their debt to society and are living an honest life should have their rights restored. But Ralph Northam’s policy of automatic restoration of rights for unrepentant, unreformed, violent criminals is wrong. As governor, I’ll be both compassionate and protecting of Virginia families. I’m Ed Gillespie, candidate for governor, and I sponsored this ad.

The tonal shift is accompanied by an even more jarring visual one, as the ad cuts away from dark juxtapositions of Northam and an alleged child-pornography collector to a smiling, well-lit Gillespie at home. This is not a traditional closing pitch for tough-on-crime ads, to say the least, with Gillespie modifying the tried-and-true formula and conveying actual nuance in his policy prescription.


The Federal Prosecutors Backing Jeff Sessions on Mandatory Minimums

First, he endorses the general aim of McAuliffe’s policy, even if he says he wouldn’t apply it as universally as the current governor does. Second, he emphasizes that his interest in the issue goes beyond punishing criminals. Gillespie isn’t promising to drop the hammer; he wants to be “compassionate and protecting of Virginia families.”

It’s a cliché that politicians campaign in poetry and govern in prose. But Gillespie appears to be campaigning in Trumpism while aiming to govern in criminal-justice reform. His website has a lengthy page devoted to the subject with testimonials to his “thoughtful and detailed approach” from state lawmakers and law-enforcement officials. Some positions are relatively modest, like reduced enforcement for marijuana laws and a toe-dip into legalizing medical marijuana. Others are more arcane but more substantive, like raising the felony larceny threshold from $200 to $500 and reducing driver’s-license suspensions. With some notable exceptions, many of his criminal-justice proposals match those on Northam’s website.

If he wins and enacts this agenda, Gillespie could be a signal to congressional Republicans north of the Potomac, where reform is slowly returning to the federal agenda after its election-year pause. Conservative proponents say they’re optimistic that Congress will take up the matter next year after dispatching with tax reform (though that’s easier said than done). A bipartisan group of legislators even proposed a new bill last month that aims to reduce mandatory sentences for drug crimes and reform harsher aspects of the current system.

At the same time, would-be reformers could wrestle with the potential opposition of President Trump, who rose to power by anointing himself as a “law and order” candidate, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a criminal-justice hardliner who helped torpedo the reform bill last year. A Gillespie victory could prove that Trump’s presidency isn’t necessarily fatal to modest efforts to rein in mass incarceration. Indeed, the candidate appears to be betting it’ll take a little Trumpism to get there.

This article is part of our project “The Presence of Justice,” which is supported by a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge.

Why doesn’t Hillary’s ‘dossier’ trick count as treason?

October 26, 2017

By David Harsanyi

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Getty Images

What’s the difference between the infamous Russian dossier on Donald Trump and that random fake-news story you saw on Facebook last year? The latter was never used by America’s intelligence community to bolster its case for spying on American citizens nor was it the foundation for a year’s worth of media coverage.

Then again, you get what you pay for. We now know Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee paid as much as $9 million for the discredited dossier on Trump.

According to The Washington Post, a lawyer named Marc Elias, who represented both the 2016 Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, had hired Fusion GPS, a DC firm working on behalf of the Russian government to soften sanctions at the time, to provide opposition research for them. The firm then hired a former British spy named Christopher Steele who reportedly purchased salacious rumors about Trump from the Russians.

Now, you might expect that the scandalous revelation of a political campaign using opposition research that was partially obtained from a hostile foreign power during a national election would ignite shrieks of “collusion” from all patriotic citizens. After all, only last summer, when it was reported that Donald Trump Jr. met with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer who claimed to be in possession of damaging information about Clinton, there was widespread condemnation.

Finally, we were told, a smoking gun tied the Trump campaign to Vladimir Putin. Former Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine went as far as to suggest that the independent counsel begin investigating treason.

Tim Kaine

Treason! Trump Jr. didn’t even pay for or accept research.

The Clinton crew, on the other hand, did. They didn’t openly push the contents of the dossier — probably because they knew it was mostly fiction. Instead, Fusion GPS leaked it to their friends in the media.

The dossier ended up in the possession of most major news outlets. Many journalists relied on Fusion GPS to propel coverage. BuzzFeed even posted the entire thing for Americans to read, even though it was more than likely its most scandalous parts were hatched by a foreign government.

The memo dominated newsrooms that were convinced Trump was a Manchurian candidate. No fake-news story came close to having this kind of impact.

Democrats in Washington are now pushing the “Honest Ads Act,” which creates a raft of new regulations and fines for Web sites that don’t do enough to combat fake news. Attempting to control the flow of information into our screens is the hobbyhorse of would-be censors. But since they’re at it, when do we get a bill that fines institutional media organizations that readily embrace bogus foreign dossiers?

Because the dossier didn’t just awaken the Russia-stole-our-democracy narratives in the media. It’s just as likely that the dossier was used by Clinton’s allies in the government.

The Obama administration reportedly relied on the dossier to bolster its spying on US citizens. We know of at least one case where the information was used to justify a FISA warrant on a Trump adviser. And let’s not forget that Steele had reached an agreement to be compensated for his efforts by the FBI.

None of this excuses the actions of Paul Manafort and others who may have benefitted from their relationship with the Russians. Yet, using the very standards Democrats have constructed over the past year, the Fusion GPS story is now the most tangible evidence we possess of Russian interference in the American election.

And at some point, Democrats will have to decide whether it’s wrong for a political campaign to work with foreigners when obtaining opposition research or whether it’s acceptable. We can’t have different standards for Democrats and Republicans.

Otherwise people might start to get the idea that all the histrionics over the past year weren’t really about Russian interference at all, but rather about Hillary losing an election that they assumed she’d win.

David Harsanyi is a senior editor at The Federalist and author of the forthcoming book, “First Freedom: A Ride through America’s Enduring History with the Gun, From the Revolution to Today.”

Tim Kaine Says The Russia Investigation Is Now Looking At Potential Treason
Over the past few days, The New York Timeshas reported on a meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer during the 2016 election, and the details of said meeting concern some lawmakers. Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 running mate and junior Virginia senator, told reporters on Tuesday that the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia could now include treason.
“The investigation — it’s not, nothing is proven yet, but we’re now beyond obstruction of justice in terms of what’s being investigated,” Kaine said. “This is moving into perjury, false statements and even potentially treason.”
Congress and the FBI have both been investigating the possibility that the Trump campaign was involved in Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election (for a full recap check out our timeline of the Trump-Russia scandal).
The New York Times reported that Donald Jr. met with a Russian lawyer after he was offered dirt on Clinton, and that Trump’s oldest son knew the information was part of the Russian government’s efforts to help Trump win the election.
On Tuesday, The Times published the email sent to Donald Jr. on June 3, 2016 offering the damaging information about Trump’s 2016 opponent. The email specifically says the documents would “incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia” and would be “very useful” to Donald Jr.’s father. It also included a disclaimer that “this is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
Donald Jr. replied: “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”
The first son continues to deny any wrongdoing and released the entire email chain the same day The Times published it, writing in a statement that he wants to be transparent.
He wrote: “The information they suggested they had about Hillary Clinton I thought was Political Opposition Research.
Now, Kaine has suggested Congress will investigate whether members of the Trump campaign committed treason by working with Russia to interfere in the election. President Trump has not commented on Donald Jr.’s 2016 meeting.

Left Turn? California Senate leader Kevin de León tells several Democrats he will challenge Sen. Dianne Feinstein

October 15, 2017

By Seema Mehta and Melanie Mason
The Los Angeles Times

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting and suit

California Senate Leader Kevin de León will announce an audacious bid to challenge fellow Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Sunday, according to multiple Democrats who spoke to De León about his plans Saturday.

The announcement sets the stage for a bitter intraparty battle next year, pitting Feinstein, who epitomizes the Democratic old guard, against a member of the party’s ambitious younger generation seeking to climb the political ladder.

Three prominent Democrats told The Times that De León contacted them Saturday to disclose his plans, which are expected to be unveiled Sunday. They requested anonymity to speak openly about their conversations.

Attempts to reach De León’s political advisors were unsuccessful Saturday evening. But confidantes told The Times earlier this week that De León was strongly leaning toward challenging Feinstein, who at 84 is the oldest member of the Senate and was first elected to the chamber in 1992.

Rumors about De León challenging Feinstein crescendoed in recent days, notably after California’s senior senator formally launched her reelection campaign for a fifth full term on Monday. Unlike previous years, she has faced heated criticism in recent months from liberal critics who have said her measured approach is no longer representative of a state that has become home to “the resistance” to President Trump and his policies. Feinstein also drew rebukes from members of her party when she called for “patience” with Trump this summer, saying he could develop into a good president.

De León faces significant challenges in his effort to unseat Feinstein. She is a well-respected party elder who is among the most powerful Democratic forces in the state and the nation. She is also among the wealthiest members of Congress and could easily self-fund a campaign if she needed to.

But political strategists say that while she enjoys institutional advantages, she can’t take for granted that this may be her toughest election since her 1994 reelection campaign. Making her case to younger voters who are unfamiliar with her record as well as the most liberal wing of the party that is hungry for a flame-throwing critic of Trump will be key.

Among De León’s greatest challenges is likely to be fundraising. As a state party leader, he has cultivated relationships with some of the most prominent donors in the state, but some might be wary of challenging a sitting senator. De León also lacks a statewide donor base. And the roughly $3 million he has parked in state accounts can’t legally be transferred to a federal race.

The child of an immigrant single mother, De León, 50, spent much of his childhood trekking from his humble home in the Logan Heights neighborhood of San Diego to the city’s wealthier enclaves, where his mother worked as a house cleaner.

His upbringing would prove influential in shaping the political career that was to come.

He worked on campaigns and for labor unions, and won a state Assembly seat in 2006. In 2010, he moved to the Senate and was elected leader of that chamber in 2014 — the first Latino to hold that position in more than a century.

In the Capitol, he has embraced high-profile legislative lifts, pushing state-sponsored retirement plans for low-income workers and background checks for ammunition purchases.

He has been a central figure in California’s efforts to combat climate change, such as setting aggressive targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and extending the state’s landmark cap-and-trade program.

But his environmental advocacy has also led to high-profile setbacks. A 2015 proposal to slash petroleum use in the state by 50% by 2030 collapsed and this year, his bill to phase out all fossil-fuel use by 2045 to generate energy sputtered in the legislative session’s final days.

He also has eagerly embraced positioning California as the heart of the “resistance” against Trump and the federal government.

That posture was most evident in his signature legislation of the year, the “sanctuary state” measure, which limits state and local law enforcement’s cooperation with federal immigration officials.

Mitch McConnell: Democrats Must Forget About Trump and Join the GOP on Tax Reform

October 11, 2017

NBC News

The need for tax reform is loudly supported by Democrats — or at least it was.

by Mitch McConnell / 

A staff member adjusts the podium before a news conference where Republican lawmakers announced plans for tax reform on Sept. 27.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

For many Americans living on the coasts — or working in Silicon Valley or finance — the recession of 2008-2009 may seem little more than a distant memory. But for many other Americans, the last 10 years have been a lost decade, where the economy stumbled and opportunities declined. They suffered through stagnant paychecks, a lack of steady work and retirement that slipped further away by the day.

Maybe you are one of the millions of American workers who feel this way. You deserve better. You deserve an economy that lives up to its potential once again: with more jobs, fairer taxes and bigger paychecks. That’s why we are working so hard in Congress to pass tax reform.

Tax reform is our once-in-a-generation opportunity to replace an outdated tax system that holds our country back with one that actually works for you. It’s the single most important thing we can do today to get the economy moving again.

Just consider how the current tax code holds us back. First, it imposes tax rates that are too high. Second, it forces you to navigate a confusing web of schedules, deductions and penalties that many find impossible to comprehend — and the wealthy and well-connected find easy to exploit. Third, its incentives often make little sense — some even encourage companies to ship American jobs overseas. That’s wrong.

Here’s what we want to do about it: Take more money out of Washington’s pocket and put more in yours.

We think taxes should be lower, simpler and fairer for American workers like you. We want you to be able to keep more of your hard-earned money in your paycheck. Which is why we’re lowering tax rates, doubling the standard deduction and increasing the child tax credit.

Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, alongside Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, announces a tax reform bill on Sept. 27. Jim Lo Scalzo

We want to promote fairness by eliminating loopholes for the wealthy while preserving core middle-class incentives that help American families buy a home or donate to charity. We also want to simplify your taxes so they are easier to understand and file.

In addition, we think taxes should be reformed to make it easier to keep jobs in America. We want American companies and the workers they employ to compete and win in today’s global economy. So we’re leveling the playing field against foreign companies. We want to bring jobs and profits back to the U.S.A., so we’re ending the perverse incentives that help keep them offshore. We want to unleash the potential of American enterprise to create more jobs and keep more of them here.

These are the goals of tax reform. They have traditionally been bipartisan. Here in the Senate, the need for tax reform is loudly supported by Democrats — or at least it was, until the last election.

Now, Democrats are under pressure from the left to oppose just about everything President Donald Trump touches — even ideas they themselves used to promote. This has sent Democrats scrambling for nearly any kind of excuse to oppose a tax-reform effort that fights corporate offshoring, eliminates loopholes for the wealthy and cuts middle-class taxes.

Tax reform is our once-in-a-generation opportunity. It’s the single most important thing we can do today to get the economy moving again.

So Democrats are in a tough spot. We understand. But the excuses we’ve heard to oppose tax reform are just wrong. Some Democrats have even tried to attack these commonsense proposals by predetermining the details of a final tax bill that has not yet been written. So they can pretend this effort is something it is not.

Let’s be clear: This effort is not about cutting taxes for some fat cat. It’s about helping American workers like you keep more of the money you earn in your pocket. It’s about helping companies drive the economy forward and invest in employees like you through wages and growth.

Tax reform has been a bipartisan effort before. It can — and should — be a bipartisan effort again. All it will take is for our Democratic friends to continue supporting the very ideas they supported until Trump came along.

I hope they will work with us in a serious way to get this crucial reform accomplished for our country — especially for the millions of Americans who’ve had a terrible go of it the last 10 years.

You deserve an economy that reaches for its true potential again. Passing tax reform is critical to getting us there. We in Congress will be working hard to get it done.

Partisanship Is Breaking Both Parties — Full Text

September 29, 2017

Republicans fail again on health care, while Democrats refuse to get serious about taxes.

Republicans announce their tax-reform plan, Sept. 27.
Republicans announce their tax-reform plan, Sept. 27. PHOTO: © BILL CLARK/CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY/NEWSCOM VIA ZUMA PRESS

By Peggy Noonan
The Wall Street Journal

The subject is realism. It involves seeing clearly your moment in time and where you are within it. We have a heck of a time with this. Our dreams, hungers and illusions get in the way.

But I’ve never seen such a lack of reality among our two great political parties in Congress.

Their own survival as parties requires bipartisanship—concrete achievements and progress. They have to work together and produce! Nobody likes them. The biggest “party” in America is those who call themselves independent. Gallup has the Democrats’ and Republicans’ favorability each at about 40%. Both parties are internally riven, warring and ideologically divided. Neither is as sure as it’s been in the past of its philosophical reason for being. Both have to prove they have a purpose. Otherwise they will in time go down, and it may not take that long.

Both parties go forward as if they are operating in a pre-2016 reality. But the election, now almost a year ago, should have changed so many assumptions. For instance, when the Republican nominee promised not to cut entitlements, his crowds—Republicans, Democrats and independents—cheered.

Health-care reform this week went down, again. The Republicans did not have the votes in the Senate, again. How they tried to get the bills through suggests they are living in a dream. The dream was that once they held the House, the Senate and the White House, they would be able to call the shots, crush the foe, bully their way through. They thought they would finally be able to do what the Democrats did when President Obama and the Democratic Congress bullied through Obamacare.

That was a mistake. What the Democrats did shouldn’t be emulated.

Sen. John McCain, who basically killed the two Republican bills, did it based on a central insight as to the facts of the moment and the issue: The path to a new health-care law runs through the Democrats. The path to a bill better than ObamaCare—and it would have to be bad indeed to be worse than ObamaCare—runs through the Democrats. Changing one-sixth of the American economy cannot be successfully done without them. The American people will never accept a health-care law that is not backed by both parties. That means regular order—hearings, debate, negotiations—as Mr. McCain has said.

The Republicans failed because they tried to do what Mr. Obama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Harry Reid did, passing ObamaCare on a party-line vote. But bills that make great changes in how Americans live, such as Social Security and Medicare, must always have broad, two-party support. The Democrats pushed ObamaCare without fully understanding what the bill even contained. “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it,” said Mrs. Pelosi, mindlessly and in a way accurately: They were content to let regulators and administrators figure out the implications of everything.

But fierce pushback followed—the tea party uprising grew; the Democrats lost the House in 2010. Then came the failure in 2013 of the website on which the entire program depended, the admission by one of its architects that it was marketed to take advantage of “the stupidity of the American voter,” and the revelation that the central promise—“If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor”—was a lie.

The bill failed on its own terms, and it is still the law of the land. When Republicans tried to replace it, they tried to do just what the Democrats did—hold party-line votes on bills that few in the electorate fully understood. The difference is the electorate had previously been scalded. They’re not in a trusting mood.

Health care is experienced now as a fully national issue, and there are signs America is tilting left on it. (A bipartisan health-care bill might help blunt the coming movement for single payer.)

Democrats have to be part of fixing ObamaCare. And though they should be in a weak position, having lost the congressional majorities and the White House, they’re holding strong cards. The Republicans have crashed and burned twice, and there’s no reason to think they’ll magically succeed next time.

Health-care reform will have to come from both parties or it will not be accepted by America. It will have to be a compromise that comes from both parties or it will not pass the Kimmel test, the nonsensical but powerful showbiz bar such a bill must now clear. That means it will be more liberal than the Republicans want, and more expensive.

The Democrats will be hellish in negotiations. They will not call it “repeal and replace”; they’ll call it “repair and reinforce.” They’ll be demanding. And this is unjust. They caused the problem in the first place! They should be feeling chastened; they should be desperate to create a fix. Instead they’ve been amusing themselves watching the hapless Republicans blow it again. They should amuse themselves less.

Now the Republicans turn to tax reform. Again they move from a weakened position. They’re going forward without the momentum of victory, without the confidence of recently demonstrated skill. As he unveiled the plan this week, Speaker Paul Ryan wore a weirdly triumphant smile. “Today,” he said, “we are taking the next step to liberate Americans from our broken tax code.” He compared this moment to 1986, when Ronald Reagan won tax reform. But that was another world—a broadly popular president, both parties strong, each working, however reluctantly, with the other.

As strange as Mr. Ryan’s enacting of a happy warrior’s joy was the Democrats’ response. They reverted to their own antique playbook, taking potshots, being unserious. The Republican plan is “a massive windfall for the wealthiest Americans,” said Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. “It seems that President Trump and Republicans have designed their plan to be cheered in the country clubs and the corporate boardrooms.” It should be called “wealth-fare.” Sen. Bernie Sanders said the plan is “morally repugnant and bad economic policy.”

But the tax code is too big and too complicated, as Mr. Ryan said. It would do the country good to see it improved.

Both parties are breaking and broken. They both need a win. They could recover some of their standing with a bipartisan victory. It would show America the two-party system itself can win and produce something needed. This would reinforce the position of both parties. It would suggest they’re needed!

If they can’t produce something big together, more Americans will become certain they are not.

Meanwhile, thousands of K Street tax lobbyists will be crawling the halls trying to affect the shape of the bill for their clients.

Everyone is acting as if they don’t know what time it is, or what position they themselves are in.

America is in trouble, with huge problems. The people need improvements in health care, in the tax code. They’re desperate for is a sense that improvement is actually possible.

This is no time for Democrats to be small, tatty and cheap, to do the old class warfare, to issue one-liners instead of thoughts. They should wake up and get serious.

It’s weird to see everyone going through the old motions, dream-like.

Political Divisions in U.S. Are Widening, Long-Lasting, Poll Shows