Posts Tagged ‘Kirsten Gillibrand’

Dems mull whether Warren is the one to take on Trump

July 10, 2018

Can Elizabeth Warren win back blue-collar Democrats from President Trump in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania?

It’s a question many Democrats are pondering as Warren — one of the leading contenders for her party’s presidential nomination, if she chooses to run in 2020 — goes back and forth with the president over immigration and other issues.

Image result for Elizabeth Warren, photos

Warren (D-Mass.) has shown an ability to rally and excite progressives, she’s a proven fundraiser and she has policy bona fides from her work in the Senate.Yet there are creeping doubts among some Democrats that she’s the best candidate to take on Trump.

Some worry the former Harvard professor will have a tough time winning back the Rust Belt centrists and independents who abandoned Hillary Clinton and Democrats for Trump.

“I just can’t see a blue-collar, Rust Belt guy voting for her,” said one Democratic strategist who has worked on presidential campaigns. “I think the party needs to be realistic about that.”

Some Democrats almost certainly remain shellshocked from the last election after Trump’s surprise win. He became the first Republican to win the states of Pennsylvania and Michigan in a presidential election since 1988 and the first Republican to win Wisconsin since President Reagan in 1984.

If Democrats don’t retake those states in 2020, their chances of winning the Electoral College will fall.

Teeth-gnashing over who is best-positioned to take on Trump, as a result, is already taking place ahead of the midterm elections.

Warren’s gender and her political identity as a voice on the left are both likely to be issues for primary voters sizing up Democratic candidates in potential head-to-head matchups with Trump. Would she be stronger than former Vice President Joe Biden? What about Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)? Does the party need the face of a new political generation, such as Sens. Kamala Harris (Calif.), Cory Booker (N.J.) or Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.)?

Warren has her advocates, who say the senator’s anti-corporate economic message will resonate with the types of voters who left the party for Trump.

Jesse Ferguson, who served as a spokesman for Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, said Warren “has a powerful economic message that resonates everywhere.”

Democratic pollster Celinda Lake said Warren is the perfect candidate to oppose Trump because she “has the ability to go straight at him on his economic policies.”

She also argued that Trump’s repeated attacks on Warren suggest the White House sees her as a threat.

“I think this man understands his brand very well and understands his populist appeal very, very well, and he realizes how threatening to him she is on his brand,” Lake said.

Warren’s office declined to comment for this story.

Trump mocked Warren over her Native American heritage twice last week, once on Twitter but also at a campaign-style rally.

“Let’s say I’m debating Pocahontas. You know those little [DNA] kits they sell on television for two dollars? … I’m going to get one of those little kits and in the middle of the debate when she proclaims that she’s of Indian heritage, because her mother says she has high cheekbones,” Trump said to the cheering crowd in Montana.

“We will take that little kit … but we have to do it gently because we are in the ‘Me Too’ generation,” Trump said, adding that he would donate $1 million to Warren’s favorite charity if she took the DNA test. “I have a feeling she will say no.”

Warren immediately hit Trump back on Twitter.

“Hey, @realDonaldTrump: While you obsess over my genes, your Admin is conducting DNA tests on little kids because you ripped them from their mamas & you are too incompetent to reunite them in time to meet a court order. Maybe you should focus on fixing the lives you’re destroying,” she wrote.

Warren called Trump a bully during an event outside Boston over the weekend.

“He tries to bully me in order to shut me up,” Warren said, according to the Boston Herald. “I seem to be in his head.”

Warren is a favorite of liberals and could be well-positioned to win her party’s nomination given the ascent of the liberal wing.

“She has a very strong base of support and is one of the few figures on the left who has a chance at winning over a broader range of the party,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University.

He said her focus on consumers and the middle class is the kind of rhetoric that resonated with Sanders supporters in 2016.

Zelizer said the question, if she wins the nomination, is whether she “can withstand what will certainly be a brutal general election campaign against the master attacker.”

Warren’s counterattacks on Trump could be read as sending the message to prospective Democratic primary voters that she’s more than up to that task.

Another factor for Warren is whether some segments of the Democratic electorate see her as too liberal to defeat Trump.

Basil Smikle, a Democratic strategist who served as the executive director of the New York state Democratic Party, said he’s not sure Warren could woo independents.

“Democrats are certainly motivated on issues like [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] separating children and the potential for the Supreme Court to reverse Roe v. Wade, but are independents that upset?” said Smikle, who worked for Clinton. “They may not like Trump’s tactics, but they may, to some extent, like the ultimate outcome if it helps to stem the tide on undocumented workers.”

But Lake argues that Warren would strike directly at independents because of her populist approach.

“In some ways, she’s Trump’s worst nightmare for independents,” she said. “She can run rings around him.”


Abolish ICE! — Leading Democrats settling on midterm debate over immigration

July 8, 2018

It was a faint but fervent cry on the far left before moving to the mainstream, echoed by some leading Democrats: Abolish ICE!

The drive to eliminate, or, at least overhaul, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has quickly become another of the political wedges dividing the country and inflaming hardcore partisans.

name-checking him.

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While its practicality remains to be seen, the utility of the issue and its underlying emotionalism is clear: It’s given Democrats a rallying call against the perceived excesses of President Trump’s immigration policy and Republicans a rejoinder against accusations of heartlessness.

Reform efforts, if any, will almost certainly be pushed past November, when the midterm election will determine control of Congress — an outcome that could hinge greatly on the immigration issue and which party better frames the debate over the next four months.

What is ICE?

The agency was born out of a government reorganization that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The move consolidated the Immigration and Naturalization Service and U.S. Customs Service under a new roof.

Broadly speaking, the agency’s responsibility is tracking down immigrants who entered the United States illegally and have settled in the country. lt also works to prevent counterfeit and illegal merchandise, such as guns, drugs and child pornography, from entering the U.S.

It is not responsible for patrolling the country’s borders and is not behind the controversial policy of separating children from parents apprehended at the border. A different agency, Customs and Border Protection, oversees the Border Patrol.

So why is support for ICE melting away?

Couldn’t resist, could you?


First off, there’s not a whole lot of data on public attitudes toward ICE, which most people had probably never heard of a month ago. A better question might be: Why have its operations suddenly become an issue?

Do tell.

The agency has faced criticism before. The Intercept published a report in April alleging widespread physical and sexual abuse of detainees, one of several accounts accusing agents of improper behavior.

Under President Obama, the agency was criticized for a number of deportation raids that critics denounced as cruel and heavy-handed, in part because some involved the detention of young children.

But why all the attention now?

The well-documented scenes of kids being separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border created a humanitarian and political crisis for the Trump administration, adding new urgency to an issue — illegal immigration — that has long stirred strong feelings on opposing political sides.

Then, in a huge upset last month, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old political newcomer, defeated Rep. Joseph Crowley, the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House leadership, in a New York City congressional primary. One of the issues she promoted was the elimination of ICE.

The call was subsequently taken up last weekend by demonstrators across the country protesting Trump’s immigration policies and by two prospective 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls, Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.

Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris of California and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti — who are also eyeing a White House bid — have been more circumspect, calling for a top-to-bottom assessment of ICE but not its outright abolition.

Why do I hear Republicans gleefully rubbing their hands together?

Many see this as a huge political gift, the equivalent of Christmas in July.

Ho ho ho?

That’s because instead of focusing on kids being separated from their parents, which even some Trump supporters find abhorrent, the focus of the immigration debate has shifted to considerably more favorable political ground. Republicans, led by the president, have portrayed the calls to overhaul ICE as an effort to stop protecting the country’s borders.

“I hear Democrats saying, ‘We want to abandon ICE,’” Trump told supporters at a recent West Virginia fundraiser. “We’re not abandoning ICE, and we’re not abandoning law enforcement.”

When Democrats say, “Abolish ICE!” Republicans translate that as, “Open borders!”

Is that true?


Again, ICE has nothing to do with patrolling the border, although it is charged with helping enforce the country’s immigration laws and some parents who were separated from their children are being detained at ICE facilities.

But it’s a politically resonant accusation and gives Trump and his allies, who were thrown on the defensive over the family separation policy, a chance to seize the political upper hand. “I love the issue,” Trump said candidly in a Fox News interview.

So it’s just a lot of fringy left-wingers clamoring to ice ICE?

Actually, no.

In a letter sent last month to the secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, leaders of ICE’s criminal investigative division called for an overhaul of the agency, saying its work has been undermined by the branch responsible for immigration arrests and deportations.

“Many jurisdictions continue to refuse to work with [the investigative division] because of a perceived linkage to the politics of civil immigration,” the group of agents wrote.

What’s Congress doing about this?

Two Democratic lawmakers, Reps. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, have proposed legislation to abolish ICE. In response, the White House in a pair of tweets accused Blumenauer and Pocan, respectively, of supporting drug smuggling and human traffickers.

You mean respectfully?

No, respectively. There’s not a lot of respect in our politics these days.

By Mark Z. Barabak
The Los Angeles Times


Dems seek to one-up each other with Trump attacks

July 5, 2018

Democratic lawmakers considering a presidential run in 2020 are sharpening their attacks on President Trump as they compete over who can land the toughest blows.

In tweets and speeches in recent days, would-be Democratic candidates including Sens. Kamala Harris (Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) have all slapped Trump in a series of tweets and speeches, often times name-checking him.

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“I think they’re trying to out-trump Trump while trying to out Trump each other,” said one Democratic strategist who has worked on presidential campaigns and has noticed the uptick in anti-Trump rhetoric. “It’s open season on who can jab the hardest and best.”

It’s an effort to rally a Democratic base at its wit’s end with Trump amid the controversy on family separations, the Supreme Court pick that some progressives fear could overturn the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion and ongoing concerns about the president dismantling Obama-era policies.

Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement as a pivotal Supreme Court vote has only intensified passions and rhetoric on the left, signaling what is likely to become the most negative presidential campaign season yet.

That many Democrats think Trump is vulnerable given the enthusiasm of the Democratic base is another factor. A number of Democrats feel confident they can defeat him in a general election, despite the repeated reminders from Trump allies of how his opponents repeatedly underestimate him.

“Everybody sees this as the jackpot,” said Tobe Berkovitz, a communications professor at Boston University who served as a political media consultant. “Donald Trump is the man they love to hate and because of that, everybody ramps up the strategy of who can hate him the most.”

Harris took to Twitter this week to warn her followers about Trump’s intention to nominate someone who will overturn Roe v. Wade to the Supreme Court.

“What this is really about is punishing women for wanting to control their bodies, their lives, and their futures,” she wrote.

In a tweet that went viral last weekend with more than 65,000 likes on Twitter, Harris also wrote, “Years from now, people will ask us where we were in this moment. We don’t want the answer to be how we felt. We want the answer to be what we did.”

On her Twitter account, Warren name-checked Trump a couple of times this week.

She said Trump’s short list of Supreme Court nominees “was hand-picked by right-wing extremists who want to criminalize abortions,” adding that that’s “#whatsatstake here.”

She also urged supporters to join her at a Families Belong Together march, adding “We’ll show @realDonaldTrump that the power is with the people.”

Gillibrand also weighed in on the family separation issue and the Supreme Court issue, urging her supporters to “take @realdonaldtrump at his word.”

But in her most popular tweet this week, she wrote: “I know how hard things feel now, but we’ve faced challenges before and have overcome them. If you keep fighting for justice, we will win. If you do the work and keep believing, we will win.”

Late last month, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also took to Twitter to call out the president. “Trump’s pathological dishonesty is undermining American democracy, is setting a terrible example for our children and is isolating us from our democratic allies around the world,” Sanders wrote.

Democratic strategist Jim Manley said it’s appropriate for potential candidates to take a more aggressive stance against Trump.

“Trying to stay above the fray is no longer an option,” he said

In past cycles, opponents often preferred more veiled swipes until the final stretch of the campaign. Manley and other political strategists expect a slugfest from the beginning this time.

“Anyone thinking of running needs to recalibrate,” Manley said. “Putting your head in the sand isn’t the smart way to go.”

Trump, not surprisingly, isn’t letting his opponents go unanswered. The White House directly targeted Harris and Warren earlier this week on Twitter.

.@SenKamalaHarris, why are you supporting the animals of MS-13? You must not know what ICE really does,” the White House’s Twitter account tweeted on Monday afternoon. It included a link to ICE “to help you out.”

The White House account tweeted the same message to Warren.

Harris immediately pounced on the White House tweet by emailing fundraisers.

“A few moments ago, this White House used its official, taxpayer-funded Twitter account to launch a completely false attack on me,” the email reads before asking for “$10 or more right now to help us fight back.”

She also responded to Trump on Twitter.

“As a career prosecutor, I actually went after gangs and transnational criminal organizations. That’s being a leader on public safety. What is not, is ripping babies from their mothers,” the senator wrote.

As of Tuesday afternoon, in a sign of the competition already gripping Democrats, a source close to Harris noted that Warren had not yet responded to Trump.


Senator Gillibrand calls to eliminate ICE: ‘Get rid of it, start over’

June 29, 2018

Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) became the first sitting senator on Thursday to call for the elimination of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), telling CNN that the agency should be “reimagined.”

By John Bowden
The Hill

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Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.)

In an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo, the New York Democrat was asked whether she agreed with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who defeated 10-term incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) in a primary Tuesday while running on a platform to fully shut down ICE.

“Well, I agree with it. I don’t think ICE today is working as intended,” Gillibrand said, referring to Ocasio-Cortez’s platform.

Pressed on the issue by Cuomo, Gillibrand went further than her liberal colleagues including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), who have called for the agency to be examined but not fully abolished.

“I believe that it has become a deportation force. And I think you should separate out the criminal justice from the immigration issues,” she continued. “I think you should reimagine ICE under a new agency, with a very different mission, and take those two missions out. So we believe that we should protect families that need our help, and that is not what ICE is doing today.”

“And that’s why I believe you should get rid of it, start over, reimagine it and build something that actually works,” she added.

Ocasio-Cortez stunned Washington on Tuesday night with her double-digit victory over Crowley, a member of the House Democratic leadership and someone once considered to be in line to succeed Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as a possible Speaker.

Gillibrand, considered a possible 2020 Democratic presidential contender, has criticized the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy and introduced legislation to require ICE agents to keep records of immigration checks they perform on train and bus passengers.

“Keeping our country safe cannot come at a cost to basic human rights. When border patrol agents stop and question people in New York and in many places across the country, they aren’t keeping data about why they targeted a particular person or what happened during their encounter,” Gillibrand said in a statement last month.


Senate moving ahead with border bill, despite Trump

June 21, 2018

Senate Republicans on Wednesday said legislation is still needed to address the overflow of detained immigrants at the border, but they are unlikely to pick up enough Democrats to get a bill to President Trump’s desk.

Republicans unveiled a bill that merged a variety of ideas put forth by Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn (Texas) and Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) as they seek one package that can win the support of the entire GOP conference.

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A large group of senators, Democrats and Republicans, met Wednesday afternoon in centrist Sen. Susan Collins’s (R-Maine) office to find shared principles that could serve as the basis for a compromise bill.

“The idea is to make sure we are bringing people from both sides of the aisle together,” said Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who heads the Senate GOP campaign arm and attended the meeting. “Family separation, that’s what we want to stop. How do we come together as two parties to do that?”

Trump diffused the growing political crisis on Wednesday by signing an executive order that authorizes border agents to keep children with their detained parents indefinitely, which will likely end the spectacle of kids being forcibly removed from their families.

Regardless, GOP lawmakers say legislation must move forward.

“It would be helpful to codify some of that stuff. I think it eliminates the uncertainty and potential legal challenges,” said Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune (S.D.).

Cornyn, who met with Trump about a trade issue along with other members Wednesday, said the president approved of Congress moving forward with legislation during the White House meeting.

Republicans say a 1997 legal settlement known as the Flores settlement agreement, which does not allow children to be detained at the border beyond 20 days, must be reversed by an act of Congress.

“I think the Flores decision has to be dealt with legislatively,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

Without legislation, Republicans warned that Trump’s executive order could get bogged down or potentially overturned in court, prolonging a political fight that has plagued the administration’s actions on immigration.

“Ultimately it would be ideal if we could back that up by passing a law that does it so there wouldn’t be a court uncertainty,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). “You’re a court ruling away from being back to the same thing, potentially.”

Trump’s decision came after his “zero tolerance” policies that resulted in the separation of migrant families along the U.S.-Mexico border sparked intense, days-long backlash from GOP leadership and high-profile figures in the party.

But Republicans were caught flat-footed by Trump’s controversial policy, and the administration dispatched Attorney General Jeff Sessions to a closed-door GOP lunch to try to explain the administration’s thinking.

Trump’s executive order would keep families detained along the border “together where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources.”

The order could lessen the chances the Senate ultimately passes legislation, where immigration is a political lightning rod and lawmakers were already running into partisan headwinds as senators lined up behind competing bills.

Underscoring the political tensions, Cruz questioned if Democrats would block legislation so they could use the issue as a political football for November’s midterm elections.

“I’m hopeful Democrats will work with us to end family separation,” Cruz said. “The question is, do congressional Democrats want to actually solve the problem or do they want an issue to campaign on in November?”

Democrats are deeply skeptical about passing a bill that would codify Trump’s order, arguing that it would support his zero tolerance policy of prosecuting illegal border crossers instead of deporting them.

They argue that it’s inhumane to detain children along with their parents indefinitely.

“To the extent that families can stay together that’s a good thing, but indefinite family detention is not a solution to the problem,” said Sen. Bob Menendez (N.J.), a leading Democratic voice on immigration.

“It does not solve the problem,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said of Trump’s order. “Indefinite detainment of families is also inhumane. These children should be in school.”

Gillibrand, who is seen as a possible 2020 presidential candidate, said a narrow bill codifying Trump’s order is insufficient and Congress should instead pass comprehensive immigration reform.

But lawmakers in both parties have warned that broad immigration legislation would never be able to clear Congress. A February immigration fight in the Senate resulted in a stalemate, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has shut down holding another broad, freewheeling debate.

It remains to be seen if McConnell will want to tackle immigration again in the wake of Trump’s executive order. McConnell is co-sponsoring legislation introduced by Tillis and other Republicans on Wednesday. But if immigration fades from the headlines, McConnell could opt to move to other matters — such as voting on Trump’s pending nominees.

House Republicans, meanwhile, have struggled to get on the same page on immigration. Two immigration bills that call for major changes to immigration law — including allowing detained parents to be with their children — don’t appear to have the votes to pass the lower chamber.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has proposed a bill that has the backing of the entire Democratic caucus that would prohibit law enforcement from taking a child from a parent or legal guardian within 100 miles of the border. She said any Republican proposal to detain families together would be problematic.

Feinstein doesn’t think any sweeping immigration bill can pass Congress any time soon.

“That means to me that we have to gather certain very precise rallying principles,” she added.

A senior Democratic aide called Republican legislation to keep detained families together “a complete waste of time” and said it’s being used as a “shiny object” to detract attention from Trump’s unwillingness to reverse his zero tolerance policy.

Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) on Tuesday dismissed questions about Democrats backing a GOP bill to address the border crisis, arguing it’s the president’s responsibility.

Schumer didn’t address legislation in his immediate reaction to the executive order Wednesday afternoon, instead saying it was a “relief that the president has reversed himself.”

“I also hope this represents a turning point and that the president will stop blaming others for problems he creates and start fixing them himself,” Schumer said in a statement.

Some Republican senators think that Schumer is purposely dragging his feet because Trump is taking a beating in the media over the controversy.

“Schumer doesn’t want to cooperate because this is such a wonderful issue for them,” said one Republican senator. “I’m sure he’s loving the headlines every morning.”


Gina Haspel’s hypocritical critics

May 10, 2018

Senate Democrats gave President Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel a fierce grilling Wednesday over the post-9/11 “enhanced interrogation” program, which is fair enough. The question is, how many will vote against her — after they voted to confirm President Barack Obama’s CIA pick, John Brennan, back in 2013?


Brennan, after all, was also deeply involved in the use of waterboarding and other now-controversial techniques to gain vital intelligence from captured terrorists. That’s why the American Civil Liberties Union opposed his confirmation (as it has Haspel’s), citing his “complicity” in the program.

In fact, Brennan praised it in 2007, telling CBS: “A lot of information . . . has come out from these interrogation procedures that the agency has, in fact, used against the real hard-core terrorists . . . It has saved lives.”

Yes, he later walked back those comments while serving as Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser — and as point man in the also-controversial use of drones to kill terrorists, and sometimes bystanders as well.

Fifty Senate Democrats voted to confirm Brennan; 36 remain in office. That includes five current Intelligence Committee members, as well as New York’s Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.

Haspel told the committee she wouldn’t restore the program, even if Trump so ordered. Yes, she refused to call it “immoral” — and rightly so: that would be a cheap concession to political grandstanding.

After all, the CIA fully briefed Nancy Pelosi and other key Democrats in Congress on what it was doing in those scary early days of the War on Terror, and none objected.

Haspel was plainly doing her job when (as chief of staff for the CIA leader who actually made the call) she played a role in destroying videos of interrogations in order to prevent them from being leaked (as similar info then was) and so endangering the lives of men and women who’d been trying to protect this country.

A 30-year veteran already serving as acting CIA chief, Haspel would be the first woman to lead the agency and the first director in decades who’s spent her entire career there. She has the enthusiastic support of pretty much anyone who’s ever worked with her, including several top Obama officials who are now loudly anti-Trump.

Any Democrats voting against her, especially those who voted to confirm Brennan, ought to give a good explanation why. They could cite the statement opposing her from 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed…


Civil War in the Democratic Party

March 1, 2018

Bernie Sanders was a portent of the populist left’s rise. Now even Dianne Feinstein looks vulnerable.

 Image result for Bernie Sanders, photos

The rise of Donald Trump has prompted endless analysis about the populist right, what it is and what it wants. Now it’s time to consider a neglected segment of the electorate—the populist left.

Progressive populists scored an upset this past weekend, when California Democrats at their annual convention declined to endorse liberal stalwart Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is seeking a fifth full term. “The outcome of today’s endorsement vote is an astounding rejection of politics as usual, and it boosts our campaign’s momentum as we all stand shoulder to shoulder against a complacent status quo,” crowed her progressive opponent, state Senate leader Kevin de León, who along with Ms. Feinstein will face voters in June.

A civil war rages among Democrats in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s defeat. Mainstreamers are coming under attack from their left flank, with the sharpest broadsides emanating from the postindustrial Midwest. “We need to unite the agenda and unite the Democrats right now around a strong economic agenda,” Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, who tried in 2016 to depose Nancy Pelosi as House minority leader, said in February. The left has growing numbers, enthusiasm and a potent small-contribution fundraising model. As they pull the party away from the center, the perpetually lamented polarization of America will continue.

Excluded from both parties, left populists are a significant slice of the 37% of Americans who prefer socialism or even communism over capitalism, according to a 2017 YouGov survey. Like their counterparts on the right, left populists resent political, cultural and economic elites. They distrust big business, academia, the major political parties and corporate media outlets that prop up a self-interested establishment. They believe the system exploits hardworking Americans to fatten corporations and wealthy individuals.

Civil War in the Democratic Party

Left populism is distinguished from the left centrism that currently dominates the Democratic Party. Left centrists seek reform, not revolution. President Obama wanted to regulate Wall Street, not replace it. The Clintons cashed checks from Goldman Sachs ; last year Mr. Obama accepted one from Cantor Fitzgerald.

Left populists focus on class-based perspectives. What matters to them most is the struggle between the 1% and the 99%, especially over globalization. Working-class lives matter; banks are evil. Identity politics—race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.—don’t excite left populists much.

These were the voters who supported Bernie Sanders. Team Hillary never understood them. “What happened” was that the history-making potential of the first female president left almost half the party, not only white males, unmoved.

One point of disagreement is a question that also divides Republicans: immigration. During this year’s budget talks, Democratic leaders were determined to prevent deportations of “Dreamers,” whose parents brought them to the U.S. illegally when they were children. Populists sympathize with Dreamers, but they don’t see a hill worth dying on. Budgetary brinkmanship on behalf of illegal aliens risks alienating a growing left-populist base, whose members worry more about their own long-suffering bank balances.

As Mrs. Pelosi garnered liberal accolades for her eight-hour pseudo-filibuster over Dreamers—when did she showboat over, say, distressed homeowners during the housing crisis?— Mr. Ryan fumed that the stunt’s identity-politics-oriented optics, featuring female congressmen standing behind her, could alienate left populists. “If you’re going into a budget battle like this, you can’t go in with just a million Dreamers,” Mr. Ryan said. “You need the retired coal miners, the retired Teamsters.”

Until a few years ago, the potential of the populist left manifested itself primarily in spasmodic street demonstrations such as the antiglobalization “Battle of Seattle” in 1999 and the ragtag Occupy encampments in 2011. Mr. Sanders capitalized on it, transforming from a rumpled fringe candidate into the most popular politician in America. He rocketed from around 6% in the polls among Democrats in 2015 to a 53% favorability rating among all voters last year.

And left-populist voters were decisive in November 2016. Some 12% of those who supported Mr. Sanders in the primaries cast their votes for Mr. Trump, according to political scientist Brian Schaffner. “I’m with her,” Mrs. Clinton’s bumper stickers proclaimed. But populists wanted a candidate who was with them. From her decision not to consider Mr. Sanders for the ticket to her failure to pick up his call for a $15 minimum wage, from her focus on identity politics over pocketbook issues to her campaign’s outreach to anti- Trump Republicans in the suburbs, Bernie voters got the Big Snub.

They snubbed back. Many Sanders supporters stayed home on Election Day. “Donald Trump probably would have lost to Hillary Clinton had Republican- and Democratic-leaning registered voters cast ballots at equal rates,” wrote Harry Enten of FiveThirtyEight.

Mr. Trump owes his presidency to the populist left. But he’s not respecting them either. He brags about stripping away regulations and a $1.5 trillion tax cut whose benefits mostly go to the wealthy and big corporations, not to mention a stock market whose gains are leaving many Americans behind. It all tells Bernie America that Hillary America was right about the Republicans and Mr. Trump.

Tom Perez

Fortunately for the GOP, the national Democrats are as clueless about the populist left as they were in 2016. The choice of Clintonite Tom Perez to run the Democratic National Committee broadcasts the Democrats’ determination to nominate another identitarian left-centrist standard-bearer— Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, maybe even Oprah Winfrey. Anyone but Bernie!

DNC-approved “mainstream” presidential prospects have adopted left-leaning positions on a variety of issues. Yet the populist left doesn’t trust them, and for good reason. Ms. Harris was caught fundraising in the Hamptons; Mr. Booker is too close to bankers; Ms. Gillibrand may have vested too much in #MeToo; Ms. Winfrey is a billionaire arriviste. They’re all silent on the working class.

The populist left won’t flip to the GOP again in 2020. But they won’t turn out for another regular Democrat either. This November? They’ll probably stay home with Netflix .

Mr. Rall is co-author, with Harmon Leon, of “Meet the Deplorables: Infiltrating Trump America,” and author of “Francis: The People’s Pope,” forthcoming in March.

Poor Chuck Schumer

January 30, 2018

The Senate Minority Leader made it to the top, but at the worst possible moment.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Capitol Hill, Dec. 19, 2017.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Capitol Hill, Dec. 19, 2017. PHOTO: ALEX BRANDON/ASSOCIATED PRESS

In only one year as Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer has managed to pull off some large but dubious achievements.

The biggest came last week, when New York’s senior senator became the only Democrat in recent memory to lose a government shutdown fight. The way he lost was as distinctive as the loss itself. Having vowed on a Friday not to agree to a funding bill until Congress had a bipartisan agreement to protect the so-called Dreamers (immigrants who came to America illegally as children), by Monday he was crying uncle. By Tuesday angry protesters appeared outside his Brooklyn apartment building, shouting that Mr. Schumer had sold the Dreamers out.

In short, Mr. Schumer’s hard-line start and surrender finish produced the worst of all worlds. To begin with, he provoked more ridicule from a president who seems to enjoy taunting him, especially on Twitter . And Mr. Trump continues to do so, recently tweeting that a legislative solution for the Dreamers “has been made increasingly difficult by the fact that Cryin’ Chuck Schumer took such a beating over the shutdown that he is unable to act on immigration!”

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump also offered a framework for an immigration deal that contains genuine concessions, such as a path to citizenship for all 1.8 million people who qualified for DACA—not just the 800,000 who had enrolled. The president has also suggested, plausibly, that Mr. Schumer refuses to cut a deal because the Democrats prefer to exploit the plight of the Dreamers rather than reach a genuine bipartisan solution.

On the eve of Mr. Trump’s first State of the Union, it puts him in an interesting place. Here’s a what-if: What if Mr. Trump looked up at the gallery full of Dreamers during his address and said, “I have offered a good-faith compromise that would not only resolve your place in America but open to you the precious gift of American citizenship. All I ask is that Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi meet me halfway”?

Still, as trying as Mr. Trump must be, even worse for Mr. Schumer is the split in his own party. It might roughly be characterized as between those looking at 2018 and those looking to 2020.

In the 2018 midterms, Democrats will be defending 26 Senate seats—10 of them in states Mr. Trump carried. Most of these Democrats were irritated by how Mr. Schumer’s stand opened them up to accusations (and the inevitable attack ads) that they’re willing to shut down the government to protect illegal immigrants. So upset were these Democrats by Mr. Schumer’s uncompromising stand that before the weekend was out they had abandoned him for a deal with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to reopen the government.

In the opposite corner are the 2020 Senate Democrats, i.e., those eyeing a White House run. They sense, correctly, that their party’s base is in full resistance mode. It is no coincidence almost all these Democratic senators—including Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand —voted against ending the shutdown. Some are further embellishing their purist credentials by voting against almost every Trump nominee.

Indulging anti-Trump absolutism is not without its price. Notwithstanding the prevailing orthodoxy that Republicans will be overwhelmed by a blue wave in the 2018 midterms, vulnerable Democratic incumbents such as North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp and Indiana’s Joe Donnelly don’t seem so sure.

Republican leaders faced this same dynamic themselves, notably in 2013 when Texas Sen. Ted Cruz persuaded enough Republicans that if they would only shut down the government, they could force Mr. Obama to agree to defund his signature legislative achievement, ObamaCare. Republicans who opposed the shutdown found themselves traduced as RINOs—Republicans in name only. It too ended in humiliating retreat.

Of course, it’s one thing for an individual senator to push his caucus into a futile gesture. It’s quite another for a party leader to do so.

The irony is that by nature Mr. Schumer inclines more to deal-making than suicidal last stands. His problem is that Mr. Trump is an even more polarizing figure for Democrats than President Obama was for Republicans, and what these Democrats want now is to resist. But if Mr. Schumer allows the Democratic zeal for resistance to take the form of rejecting every Trump offer for compromise, Mr. Schumer may well pull off another miracle by making Donald Trump look like the reasonable one in Washington.

For years, Mr. Schumer has been climbing the greasy pole, finally reaching the top last year when he replaced retiring Sen. Harry Reid as leader of the Senate Democrats. Normally the priority of a minority leader would be to regain control of the chamber in which he serves. Alas for poor Mr. Schumer, his tragedy is to have reached the top at precisely the worst moment, caught between a Republican president who can’t stop demeaning him and a Democratic Party that seems determined to ensure he remains a minority leader.

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Appeared in the January 30, 2018, print edition.

US federal workers to return after Congress ends 3-day government shutdown

January 23, 2018

Above, a notice alerts visitors that the National Archives building in Washington DC is closed due to a government shutdown. (AFP)
WASHINGTON: US federal workers prepared to return to work Tuesday after Congress ended a three-day government shutdown, with President Donald Trump claiming victory in his standoff with Democrats.
The House voted 266 to 150 to extend federal funding for another three weeks, hours after Senate Democrats dropped their opposition to the plan after winning Republican assurances of a vote on immigration in the coming weeks.
Trump signed the measure into law Monday night and government operations were essentially to return to normal on Tuesday.
“I know there’s great relief that this episode is coming to an end,” House Speaker Paul Ryan told colleagues. “But this is not a moment to pat ourselves on the back. Not even close.”
The stalemate consumed Washington for the better part of a week, as lawmakers and the White House feuded over immigration policy and the nation’s two main political parties exchanged bitter barbs before finally reaching a deal.
The shutdown began at midnight Friday and thus affected only one regular workday — Monday — but it made both parties look bad. If it had continued, hundreds of thousands of federal employees would have been furloughed.
Democrats decided to end the shutdown after making progress with ruling Republicans toward securing the fate of hundreds of thousands of so-called “Dreamers” brought to America as children, many of them illegally. They had been protected from deportation under an Obama-era program known as DACA, which Trumps wants to end.
With Democratic support, a bill keeping the government funded until February 8 easily passed the Senate, where different versions of the funding had languished for days.
Word of the compromise deal struck in Washington sent US stocks surging to new highs.
Earlier, the White House appeared in no mood for bipartisanship or magnanimity after a shutdown that overshadowed Trump’s first anniversary in office.
Trump moved to undercut Democrats, saying he would only accept a comprehensive immigration reform — one that notably addresses his demands for a border wall with Mexico as well as the fate of the “Dreamers.”
“We will make a long-term deal on immigration if, and only if, it is good for our country,” he said in a statement.
And in a tweet late Monday, he again cried victory over the Democrats.
“Big win for Republicans as Democrats cave on Shutdown,” he wrote on Twitter.
Trump added: “Now I want a big win for everyone, including Republicans, Democrats and DACA, but especially for our Great Military and Border Security. Should be able to get there. See you at the negotiating table!“
In a sign of the poisoned politics of Washington, when top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer announced his party would vote with Republicans to end the shutdown he also pilloried Trump.
“The White House refused to engage in negotiations over the weekend. The great deal-making president sat on the sidelines,” Schumer said.
Trump spent the weekend stewing at the White House when he had planned to be among friends and family at his home in Mar-a-Lago, Florida for his anniversary bash.
And with the fundamental row on immigration and funding of Trump’s border wall unresolved, Republicans and Democrats may very well find themselves back in a similar stalemate come February 9.
Schumer told Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that he expected Republicans to make good on a pledge to address Democrats’ concerns over the Deferred Action on Child Arrivals (DACA) program. This shields immigrants brought to the country as children from deportation but expires on March 5.
There are an estimated 700,000 “Dreamers” whose fates are up in the air.
“If he does not, of course, and I expect he will, he will have breached the trust of not only the Democratic senators but members of his own party as well,” Schumer said.
Trump has staked his political fortunes on taking a hard line on immigrants, painting them as criminals and scroungers.
Senator Tim Kaine summed up the view of the more optimistic Democrats: “We got a commitment that I feel very, very good about.”
But if no progress is made on an immigration bill, Molly Reynolds of the Brookings Institution warned, “Democrats still have the ability to potentially force another shutdown over the issue.”
The House is under no obligation to pass any Senate bill generated as a result of McConnell’s pledge to cooperate with Democrats — although Speaker Ryan did say his chamber needs to “move forward in good faith” on DACA and immigration.
Notably, many of the Senate Democrats who voted against the funding agreement included a litany of potential 2020 presidential candidates, including Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand and Elizabeth Warren.
Ahead of the deal, Trump had goaded Democrats from the sidelines, accusing them of shutting down the government to win concessions on immigration, in service of “their far left base.”
There have been four government shutdowns since 1990. During the last one, in October 2013, more than 800,000 government workers were put on temporary leave.
Essential federal services and the military were operational on Monday.


Trump’s biggest enemy isn’t the media — it’s himself

December 21, 2017

Image may contain: 1 person, suit

By Michael Goodwin
New York Post

Speaking as Congress neared final approval of the historic tax bill, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders hailed the culmination of a year of major accomplishments. She cited the defeat of the Islamic State, the creation of 1.7 million new jobs, the lowest unemployment rate in 17 years, a rollback of excessive regulations, and more than 60 record highs of the stock market.

It is an impressive list, yet a catch was reflected in a question. Why, a reporter asked, in the face of such accomplishments, do polls show President Trump’s approval stuck at under 40 percent?

Sanders is good on her feet, and her answer was aggressive without being incendiary. She blamed the media for its lopsided coverage, saying it ignores accomplishments to focus on “other things” and echoed studies showing that 90 percent of TV coverage of Trump “has been negative.”

She’s absolutely right — in fact, she understated the bias that drives much of the anti-Trump coverage around the clock and around the country. And she’s right to hope that the tax bill’s help for families will help Trump’s standing in the polls.

But there’s more to the answer than media bias, and while Sanders can’t say it, I will.

Her boss remains his own biggest problem.

Trump has dug himself in a hole with large segments of the American public, and needs to step away from the shovel if he hopes to get out. A year in office, his accomplishments still are being overshadowed by bad habits and unlikable aspects of his personality.

Knowing that much of the media is out to get him, he should stop giving them ammunition. Most important, Trump must stop attacking individual Americans on Twitter.

His recent attack on New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is a perfect case study. Trying to make a national name for herself, she’s aiming to galvanize the female vote by focusing on sexual harassment. So she attacked Trump over the allegations against him.

He responded, on Twitter, by calling her a “lightweight” and a “flunky for Chuck Schumer,” which are widely held views in New York political circles, including among Democrats.

But then Trump wrapped the rope around his own neck, saying she “would do anything” for campaign contributions. It was vague enough to let the jackals turn it into red meat.

The Washington Post called the line “sexually suggestive” and Gillibrand called it a “sexist smear.” The media piled on Trump and soon headlines appeared saying the incident had raised Gillibrand’s profile.

That’s a neat trick — in a few badly chosen words, Trump lifted her and made himself look small and mean.

While all Americans want a tough president, few want a mean one, even rhetorically.

In fairness, Trump has steadily gotten more disciplined, but there are still too many Twitter eruptions, making it hard to change public perceptions. Examples of his deep-seated problem are evident in the latest Quinnipiac poll, which shows voters disapprove by 59 to 37 percent of the way he is doing his job.

Although 63 percent say the economy is “excellent” or “good,” they give him a thumbs-down on his handling of the subject by seven points, with 51 percent disapproving and only 44 approving.

Many of those are “resistance” Democrats, of course, and they will never give Trump credit for anything. But I also believe he is being penalized for personal fouls by Americans who want him to succeed. They just need to be confident he’s not going to embarrass them five minutes after they say something nice to a pollster about him.

Other numbers in the survey reflect his deficit. He gets low grades on most character traits, from honesty to leadership, and only 28 percent think he is levelheaded.

Polls are not destiny, as Trump proved last year, and he worked with congressional leaders to keep 99 percent of Republicans on board for the tax reform despite those low approval numbers. No small feat, given his nasty battles with some of them.

But the stakes grow larger once the calendar turns. Republicans are facing an uphill fight to keep Congress next fall, and if either chamber flips, the anti-Trump knives will be in charge.

A Democratic House would probably push impeachment. If the Dems take the Senate, Trump’s reshaping of the federal courts would come to a stop. If the GOP loses both chambers, Katie bar the door.

Trump’s first year has been one of significant accomplishments, but the climb from here gets harder, not easier. If he can harness his combative instincts and keep his eye on the ball, he’ll have a chance to keep a GOP Congress for four years — and really have the chance to do great things for America.

It’s up to him.