NDN Blog

Invite: Feb 16, 1pm ET - NDN Talks High Crimes with Glenn Kirschner

We are very excited for this episode of NDN Talks - an extended conversation with television commentator and former prosecutor Glenn Kirschner.  Reserve your spot for Tuesday, February 16th at 1pm today. 

While we admired Glenn's commenator on television, what originally drew us to develop a working relationship with Glenn was this terrific legal analysis back in 2018.  In this NBC NewsThink essay, Glenn made a big argument, one which we think is particularly relevant today - that the Department of Justice needs to treat electoral crimes committed by the President as grave crimes, ones which cannot be subject to it's current "no prosecution" policy.  In this essay he wrote:

"If a president can act unlawfully to influence an election, he does not deserve the protections of his ill-gotten office. This incongruity encourages lawlessness in the quest for the presidency and then rewards that lawlessness by inoculating the criminal president against prosecution. Such a construct is dangerous....

We now find ourselves with a president whose crimes may outpace those of Nixon and Clinton. Failing to hold criminal presidents accountable in a court of law arguably emboldens, or at the very least does not dissuade, corrupt individuals from seeking the presidency. At some point, we must learn from our institutional mistakes. Department of Justice officials would be wise to reflect on American history lest we once again succumb to a governmental crisis."

What he is saying here, very clearly, is that if a President cannot be prosecuted for election crimes, then he has ever incentive in the world to cheat with impunity, which is exactly what we saw in both the Ukraine fiasco in 2019 and the months long effort to disrupt and cheat in the 2020 election.  Simon wrote an extended essay about Glenn's argument back in August, in the midst of what we called Trump's original electoral crime spree. 

With the 2nd Trump Impeachment trial starting in a new days we hope help to put Glenn's big argument back into the national debate, as a step we can take to ensure that these dark days don't return to America soon, or perhaps ever.

Glenn's Bio:

Glenn is a former federal prosecutor with 30 years of trial experience. He served in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia for 24 years, rising to the position of Chief of the Homicide Section. In that capacity, Glenn supervised 30 homicide prosecutors and oversaw all homicide grand jury investigations and prosecutions in Washington, DC. Prior to joining the DC U.S. Attorney’s Office, Glenn served more than six years on active duty as an Army Judge Advocate General (JAG) prosecutor, trying court-martial cases and handling criminal appeals, including espionage and death penalty cases. Glenn currently works as an NBC News/MSNBC on-air legal analyst and teaches criminal justice at George Washington University. He has a YouTube channel and Podcast, “Justice Matters with Glenn Kirschner.”

Glenn tried hundreds of cases in his 30 years as a prosecutor, including more than 50 murder trials, multiple lengthy RICO trials and precedent-setting cases.  His cases have been made into major motion pictures (murder conviction of a sophisticated con man who ran in elite DC circles, subject of upcoming film “Georgetown”, starring Vanessa Redgrave, Christoph Waltz and Annette Bening) and TV documentaries (defendant Andre Burno convicted of the ambush shooting of an on-duty police officer, subject of the Emmy Award-winning HBO documentary, “Thug Life in DC”). Glenn has lectured at Federal Bar Association seminars, judicial conferences and professional association events.  He has presented at the National Advocacy Center on the topic of homicide prosecutions and taught advanced criminal law at George Washington University School of Law as an adjunct faculty member. He traveled as a Department of Justice representative to address Ukrainian prosecutors and detectives regarding the U.S. Criminal justice system.   

As an Army JAG, Glenn served as prosecutor at Fort Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska, where he handled dozens of court-martial cases and served as legal advisor to Army commanders on criminal justice matters. He then served as an Army appellate attorney at the U.S. Army Legal Services Agency in Falls Church, Virginia, where he handled death penalty and espionage cases, among others.

Glenn attended Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia and was First-Team All American football player in 1983.  In 1987, he graduated with honors from New England School of Law in Boston, where he was named a Trustee’s Scholar. Glenn has received numerous awards, including: the Harold J. Sullivan Award for Fairness, Ethics and Trial Excellence; the John F. Evans Award for Outstanding Advocacy; the Metropolitan Police Department’s Chief of Police Medal of Honor; the United States Attorney’s Office STAR Award; U.S. Army Meritorious Service Medal; Washington & Lee University Athletic Hall of Fame Inductee; and induction in September 2018 into the American College of Trial Lawyers.   

House Making Important Progress in Strengthening the USPS for the 2022 Elections

House Making Important Progress in Strengthening the USPS for the 2022 Elections

Reps. Maloney and Comer should be commended for coming together behind a sensible bill to modernize and reform the United States Postal Service.  For Democrats, putting the USPS on a stable footing is an integral part of our election reform agenda, and it is great to see a bi-partisan approach emerge which will get this done in the coming years.   We are optimistic that when adopted this bill -- the Postal Reform Act -- should be able to pass a closely divided Senate and get to work soon in ensuring the USPS is in good shape for the 2022 elections.

We hope that Members in both parties step back from trying to load this bill  up (or another postal bill also to be considered) with things which will make it more difficult to pass.  Two ideas in particular - postal banking and efforts to alter the package pricing system – are incredibly contentious and difficult issues, and regardless of their merits, should be left for another day.  On package pricing, there is a provision in the main bill to mandate further study of the issue.  Passing the main bill, letting it take effect and then returning to the issue once a study is completed seems like a wise and prudent course.  We simply need to get this bill passed as soon as possible for the sake of the 2022 elections.

The GOP Chooses Autocracy Over Democracy

In the struggle between autocracy and democracy, the GOP chooses autocracy

The ouster of Rep. Liz Cheney from the House GOP leadership is a significant event.  For it signals that the MAGA extremism Trump brought to the GOP has outlived him and become the dominant ideology of the party itself.  As we wrote last week, this is a tragedy for the country - for what MAGA’s short term agenda only seems to be about is restructuring American politics so Democrats can never win elections again.  Any hope of the GOP taking an off-ramp from MAGA does seem, for now, a bit hopeless.  

But what should worry us even more about the Cheney ouster is how much what MAGA/GOP is doing now aligns with our understanding of what Russia has been working towards for years.  The 2017 IC report on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election stated: Russian efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election represent the most recent expression of Moscow’s longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order…. We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process.”

How is what Trump did in 2020 to the election/postal service/census/Jan 6th, and what the GOP is continuing to do now in Arizona/attacks on voting/refusing to renounce Jan 6th/Cheney’s ouster, inconsistent with Russia’s aims here in the US and around the world? In what is becoming the defining ideological battle of the next generation of global politics, autocracy versus democracy, it is as if the party of Reagan has chosen to side with Russia and its goals of weakening the West and democratic forces across the world.  

One of the great fears many of us had about Trump is that his diminution of American democracy would create a permission structure for autocrats throughout the world, left and right, to further erode democratic norms in their own countries.  We are seeing it here in the US; we are seeing it in Europe in Hungary and Poland; as Leon Krauze writes in the Washington Post we are seeing it in Latin America; of course we are seeing it with China and Asia too.  It is why Biden’s commitment to making the strengthening of democracy here at home and abroad is so central to his Presidency – for democracy, the greatest American export, is under threat here at home and abroad in ways not seen in generations.  

Essay: Biden’s Pragmatism, Republican Extremism

Essay: Biden’s Pragmatism, Republican Extremism

As we all try to come to understand what happened to the GOP, how an American political party could have become so lost and extreme, we come back to this basic idea – modern conservatism never really matured into a full-fledged political philosophy capable of governing a post-Cold War America.  It was an ideology that had its moment in the 1980s – a long time ago now – and has done more harm than good since. 

At its core the American right has seen itself as a corrective to a Democratic Party which had lost its way in the late 1960s and 1970s, and remains to this day most comfortable in seeing itself as a response to perceived excesses of the center-left (radical left, Marxists, BLM antifa now).  The problem for the right has been that a post-Clinton reformed Democratic Party was not excessive or leftist, but modern, pragmatic, successful; and thus the blocking of the Democratic agenda over time has became something reactionary and harmful to the national interest, not something virtuous. 

Consider the Dem agenda from Obama on.  A big stimulus, emphasizing clean infrastructure – cut in half, the clean part stripped out.  Slowed our transition to a low carbon economy, made the recovery slower than it needed to be. Immigration reform – blocked.  The ACA – relentlessly opposed, undermined despite it being an extraordinary success.  Min wage – blocked, leaving us with a ridiculous national minimum wage now. Iran nuclear deal – terminated, Iran restarts its nuclear program.  Efforts to make it easier to vote – rolled back, even authoritarian assaults on the Postal Service, the Census, the 2020 election, the Congress itself.  Climate – unyielding opposition, continued fealty to global oil and gas interests, including Russia and Saudi Arabia.  

Now, Biden.  His plan to defeat COVID, restart the US economy – opposed.  His plan to correct for years of chronic underinvestment in our infrastructure, hasten transition to clean energy economy – opposed, absurd arguments about what constitute infrastructure pursued.  Pragmatic steps to make it easier for all workers to succeed like universal child care - communism.  Immigration – hysteria and arm waving, no solutions (again, again).  

There are a lot of ways we can look at what Biden is doing now but to us here at NDN we think there is a deep pragmatism to it all.  COVID needed to be defeated – he is doing that.  The economy needed to be re-started – we are doing that. We need to transition to a clean energy future, modernize our infrastructure which we know from data has been underinvested in – we are doing that.  Globalization had made it harder for workers to compete – he has a plan for that.  Our immigration system is antiquated, and needs an update – he has a plan for that too.  Too many Americans, including those in red states and rural areas don’t have access to high speed Internet - well, we can fix that.  The Bush and Trump tax cuts were too big, and cut far too much from wealthy people and corporations – that can be fixed; and as learned from Clinton and Obama tax increases as part of a broader economic strategy can bring sustained growth to America.  Our democracy was attacked – we can protect it, strengthen it – and we must.  

The point is that none of what Joe Biden is proposing is radical, extreme, out of the mainstream, some lefty “wish list” not based on data and analysis. Everything he is proposing has extensive analysis to back it up, is based on years of policy debate and discussion. Consider that NDN, not a leftist organization, came out in 2005 for rolling back the Bush tax cuts and making major investments in child care/pre-k/community colleges/working training, raising the minimum wage, immigration reform, universal health care and universal broadband.  In 2007 we endorsed a series of ideas to once again make infrastructure investment central to our politics.  In 2008 NDN came out for the carbon tax, and a massive “clean infrastructure” plan as part our recommendations to use the 2009 stimulus to create long term, sustained growth. In 2012 we argued for a big agenda to strengthen our democracy, as even then the anti-majoritarian impulses of the GOP had begun to emerge.  All of these ideas are at the very center of what Biden is proposing now.  None of them are new, or out of the mainstream of thinking in the US.  

Looking back at all this it’s hard not to see the 2010s as a lost decade for America, one where so much progress on the things that matter most were blocked by the rise of the Tea Party and the GOP takeover of the House in 2011.  Yes Obama was able to get the ACA done before 2011, but all these other vital things, things needed by the US, not Democrats, didn’t get done. Progress stalled, and America fell behind (most of the House Members who served in senior positions in the Trump White House came from the Tea Party faction).  

The reason even a Senate institutionalist like Biden is considering pushing so much through reconciliation and not through regular order is because for a decade now the GOP has been more focused on fighting Democrats than fighting the problems we face; and if anything is more radical and extreme today than it has ever been.  It’s as if the GOP’s only agenda now is to lie about the intentions of Biden and the Democrats, and try to paint us as extremists – it is that old impulse to act as a corrective to leftist largesse. Their fight is with us, not the challenges facing America. There is no GOP policy agenda.  No COVID strategy, no economic strategy, no health care strategy, no immigration strategy, no climate strategy – but there is a big agenda to overthrown the election we won, and to make sure we never win elections again.  We are even at the point where several states have introduced bills allowing the running over of “leftist” protestors with cars (a new favorite tactic of the right).  

If Biden is forced to choose between making progress on long unaddressed problems or appeasing a radicalized political movement which is no longer operating in the same information reality as the rest of the world what course should he take? Of course he has to choose what’s best for America – that is his solemn obligation.  

Joe Biden is a pragmatist.  America has problems.  He wants to fix them.  He has offered reasonable proposals for how to do so.  The debate now should be about the how, not the whether; and if Republicans cannot join the debate then he should act alone – it is the pragmatic, and necessary, thing to do.  One could even call it patriotic.

PS - John Harwood has a new analysis up on CNN which does a good job at exploring how reasonable Biden's economic plans are; those who believe they are radical are letting us know who they are. 

Video: With Democrats Things Get Better, Updated w/New Biden Data (4/30/21)

We are pleased to offer a recording of NDN's signature presentation, With Democrats Things Get Better, from Friday, April 30th, 2021. This is the latest in our April series of With Dems presentations celebrating the American Jobs Plan, and the big economic conversation it has kicked off.

You can sign up for a future showing and learn more about the arguments in the presentation here

We will be presenting With Dems every Friday in April, and we intend to take many of the arguments in our presentation to the public with op-eds, media appearances etc.

Video: NDN Talks Dem Polling Challenges w/Jim Gerstein of GBAO (4/27/21)

On Tuesday April 27th NDN hosted a discussion about the struggles of Democratic Party polling in recent election cycles with Jim Gerstein of the polling and data firm GBAO.  Jim's bio is below, and can you watch a recording of our discussion here.

Jim and his firm were one of five Democratic polling firms to have produced an analysis questioning why some Democratic polling has been so wrong in recent years.  It was a brave thing for professional political consultants to do, and we are excited Jim will be joining us to discuss what he thinks went wrong, and what needs to be done to make it less likely mistakes occur again.  This NYT essay by Giovanni Russonello does a good job summarizing the challenge Democratic polling faces today.  

Called Revisiting Polling for 2021 and Beyond the memo states:

"Together, we represent five survey research firms for Democratic political campaigns. During the 2020 election, we worked on the presidential campaign, every major Senate and gubernatorial race, and congressional races across the country. Our main job as pollsters is to provide campaigns with a strategic roadmap for winning, guide their messaging, and help identify the right targets for those messages.

Every one of us thought Democrats would have a better Election Day than they did. So, what went wrong?

Two weeks after the election, our firms decided to put competition aside to discuss what might have gone awry and to collaborate on finding a solution. There were several factors that may have contributed to polling error in 2020, and there is not a single, definitive answer—which makes solving the problem especially frustrating. In the sections that follow, we seek to explain what we’ve learned thus far in our ongoing efforts to “fix” polling, and what we still need to learn."

While here do review our current schedule of upcoming NDN Talks events, and check out recordings of past events with. Rep. Suzan DelBene, Ari Berman, Fernand Amandi and many more thought leaders. 

Jim's Bio

Jim Gerstein is a founding partner of GBAO, and provides research-based strategic counsel for candidates running for office, non-profit organizations, arts and cultural institutions, and Fortune 500 companies.  Over the past 20 years, Jim has conducted hundreds of focus groups and surveys across the United States, Middle East, Europe, Asia, and Australia to help individuals, organizations, and companies devise strategies that will enable them to meet their goals and improve quality of life in the United States and around the world. 

Jim has served as the pollster to numerous candidate and independent expenditure campaigns for U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and municipal elections.  He has also conducted extensive research in the areas of political beliefs and values, charitable behavior, national security and foreign policy, public safety, the courts, digital users’ experiences, health care, medical devices, museums, Millennials, and American Jews. 

Prior to establishing GBAO, Jim led two different non-profit organizations through periods of substantial growth and influence.  For 10 years, Jim served as the Executive Director of Democracy Corps, a non-profit organization that conducts public opinion research and provides strategic advice to the progressive community. Under Jim’s leadership, the organization increased its annual budget seven-fold and dramatically increased its impact on our national debate.  Prior to his work with Democracy Corps, Jim was the Executive Director of the Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Cooperation, where he led public education campaigns, congressional visits to the Middle East, and convened Middle East diplomats in the U.S. for meetings with business and political leaders.  During the 1999 Israeli Prime Ministerial campaign, Jim joined Ehud Barak’s U.S.-based consulting team led by James Carville. He served as the team’s representative on the ground in Israel, overseeing polling, paid media, and message development for the campaign.

Jim began his career working on several U.S. political campaigns and holding different positions within the Democratic Party. In 1992, he worked on the field campaign for Carol Moseley Braun’s successful run for the U.S. Senate in Illinois. In 1996, Jim worked in the press office for the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and then directed the Clinton/Gore campaign for the north side of Chicago and northern Illinois.

Jim received an M.A. in Middle East History at Tel Aviv University and a B.A. in philosophy at Colgate University.  He grew up in the Chicago area and today resides in Washington, DC, with his wife and two sons.

Video: Baer and Cherny Reflect on Democracy Journal (4/20/21)

On Tuesday April 20th NDN hosted a very special event - an in-depth discussion with Kenny Baer and Andrei Cherny about their journey founding and nurturing Democracy, the center-left intellectual journal they founded more than a decade ago. 

You can watch a recording of the event here.

In a recent article reviewing Democracy's impact NYTimes media reporter Marc Tracy wrote: "It has only 500 subscribers. And yet Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, a 15-year-old quarterly run by a three-person staff out of a small office blocks from the White House, may be one of the most influential publications of the post-Trump era.  Six of President Biden’s 25 Cabinet-level officials and appointees, including the secretary of state and the chief of staff, as well as many other high-level administration members, have published essays in its pages, floating theories that may now be translated into policy."

Kenny and Andrei have been part of NDN's extended family for many years, and we were excited to host this wonderful conversation about their careers and the broader journey the Democratic Party has been since the 1980s. 

For fun, here is something I wrote back in 2007 celebrating Democracy's 1st anniversary.  NDN is proud to have been a supporter of Democracy's work from the very beginning.

Hope you can find the time to watch the recording of the event.  It was a great an inspiring conversation - Simon

Analysis: Understanding Trump's Betrayal

Understanding Trump’s Betrayal– Getting the story right about the historic nature of Trump’s betrayal of the nation remains one of the most important tasks of the new Democratic majority, and one which will be very hard given how complicit so many Republicans and center-right institutions have been in a many years long betrayal of the United States.  

For us, there was a single, ongoing betrayal.  It began with the decision to enlist Russia’s support in the 2016 campaign.  It continued with years of aligning US foreign policy around Russian aims, in Helsinki, with Europe/NATO, Ukraine, the G7, Syria, Venezuela, the renouncing of the Paris climate accords.  It took an even darker turn with Trump’s sustained Putinesque attack on core pillars of our democracy in 2020 – the post office, the census, the election – all of which were established in the Constitution itself. And it reached an apotheosis in Trump’s organizing and unprecedented attack on the Congress and the certification of the Biden Presidency on January 6th. 

What makes this all one betrayal, one profound historic betrayal, is that the American experiment was always really about one thing – creating a sustainable governing alternative to authoritarianism.  Trump’s alliance with Russia to cheat/influence/win the election in 2016, his joining of Putin’s illiberal internationale, his 2020-2021 blitzkrieg against our democracy together placed Trump on the side of autocracy against American democratic traditions.  The years of covering it all up by Barr, Nunes, McConnell, McCarthy and the unrepentant support of the Jan 6th insurrection makes the Republican Party complicit in this betrayal.  It may have begun as Trump’s betrayal, but without a process to formally renounce this rancid politics, it has now been become a betrayal of the party of Lincoln and Reagan’s too.  

Video: NDN Talks w/Jessica Brandt About The Global Info War Over COVID Vaccines (4/6/21)

On April 6th NDN hosted a conversation with Jessica Brandt of the Alliance for Securing Democracy.  We talked about one of the most interesting new foreign policy battles of the early Biden era - the great power race between the US/West and authoritarian countries to vaccinate the world and be the ones to defeat COVID.  She's called her initial remarks "Harnessing the Truth in Service of a Lie: Russia, China, and Iran's Information Strategies in the Vaccine Contest." 

You can watch a recording of the event here, and Jessica's biography and important background readings are below. 

We are really excited about this discussion as it brought together important elements of the emerging Biden foreign policy vision which NDN has spent time working - the need to effectively counter rising illberalism around the world, and learning how to better engage and compete against Russian and Chinese information/hybrid war strategies. Jessica and her team have been doing path-breaking work in this area, and we think this will end up being one of our best events of the spring. 

From NDN, please review our call for the Biden Administration to launch a plan to defeat COVID in the Americas, and Simon's Letras Libres essay on the opportunity Joe Biden has to use the global effort to defeat COVID and build back better to reinvigorate the global liberal order imagined and built by the US after WWII.  

Background Reading

Influence-enza: How Russia, China, and Iran Have Shaped and Manipulated Coronavirus Vaccine Narratives (Alliance for Securing Democracy)

How China’s “wolf warrior” diplomats use Twitter to troll Beijing’s enemies (Vox)

How China's "wolf warrior" diplomats use and abuse Twitter (Brookings)

Leaks, Lies and Altered Tape - Russia's Maturing Information Manipulation Playbook (Alliance for Securing Democracy)

Jessica's Bio

Jessica Brandt is head of policy and research for the Alliance for Securing Democracy and a fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. She was previously a fellow in the Foreign Policy program at the Brookings Institution, where her research focused on multilateral institutions and geopolitics, and where she led a cross-program initiative on Democracy at Risk. She is a member of the Advisory Council of the American Ditchley Foundation, a David Rockefeller Fellow of the Trilateral Commission, and a former term member of the Council on Foreign Relations

34m and 2m - Numbers Critical To Understanding the Economic Debate in America

As the Biden American Jobs Plan kicks off a vital conversation about our economic future, NDN will focus our commentary on research and analysis which flows from our presentationWith Democrats Things Get Better.  At the very core of With Dems is two numbers - 34,000,000 and 2,000,000.  34m is the number of jobs created in the 16 years of the Clinton and Obama Presidencies. 2m is the number of jobs created in the 16 years of the two Bushes and Trump.

This data speaks to one of the most important realities of American politics in the post-Cold War era – Democratic policies have repeatedly, successfully navigated the new challenges of a different day, creating jobs/wealth/rising incomes and falling deficits; while Republicans have struggled to adapt to a changing world, and their policies have created 3 consecutive recessions/job loss/failing incomes and spiraling deficits.  The contrast between the performances of the two parties could not be starker, and it’s our contention that it is this lived experience of this successful/modern vs failed /reactionary dynamic that is driving the big margins Democrats are now garnering among younger Americans each election cycle (you can learn more about the big arguments in With Dems and register for an upcoming Friday presentation here). 

As Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and their “jobs cabinet” go out on the road to sell their important new package, we believe telling the story of how things do get better when Democrats are in power – that our ideas and policies have repeatedly worked – should be an essential part of the pitch.  As will be the converse – that Republican economic ideas and policies have repeatedly failed, and should not be taken seriously in the days ahead.  It is critical for Democrats to force the post-Trump GOP/MAGA to confront and explain their party’s years of damaging, repeated policy failure.  It is not just smart strategy for the center-left, it is the only way the GOP eventually reforms and becomes a constructive part of our national politics again. 

The escalating repudiation of the GOP by very mainstream elements of American society suggests that the understanding that it's long past time for GOP/MAGA to get its shit together is starting to become a truly powerful force in US politics.  And while it is focused now on voting and our democracy, this movement could easily grow into a broader repudiation of the extremism of the GOP on a whole host of other matters, including COVID (let the virus spread), economic (2m jobs in 16 yrs, reckless tax policy), health care (strip people of pre-existing condition coverage, end health insurance for 30m Americans), national security (appeasment of Putin, weakening of our alliances), immigration (blocked pragmatic bi-partisan reform twice in past 15 years), gun and public safety (block reasonable gun safety laws) and an all too uncomfortable acceptance of an anchronistic and deeply dark white supremacy.  For the GOP has been no less radical in these areas than it has been in its relentless and un-American attacks on voting and our democracy.  The danger here for GOP/MAGA is that once reasonable people start viewing one part of its agenda as really out there, they will be open to consider whethe other long held GOP positions may be a bit more radical and extreme than they previously understood. 

As a way of providing more information for this important debate we will be presenting With Dems every Friday in April at 2pm ET.  You can register for a Friday presentation and learn more about the presentation’s big arguments here.  For a short, good summary of With Dems read Mike Tomasky’ rave review in the Daily Beast.  Please join us, invite colleagues and friends - all are welcome. 

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