NDN Blog

The Risk Of Bernie

We have put together some thoughts on just how hard a journey it is going to be for Bernie Sanders to go from socialist insurgent to leader of the Democratic Party to defeating Donald Trump this fall.   This journey would be hard for any politician, but it is going to be particularly difficult for a 78 year old whose health is in question. 

The cold hard reality is that Sanders has never been a Democrat, has never led a Democratic ticket, has never won over general election voters in a swing state, has the support of very few Democratic elected officials, has positions at odds with the vast majority of Democrats in Congress, and has never faced the modern GOP media machine.  His domestic program is shockingly unserious and his foreign policy views are hard to defend.  Given where he is starting from, it is just hard to see how Sanders is able to put it all together and win this thing this fall.  The degree of political difficulty is just too high. 

The explosion of opposition to his praise of Castro from prominent Democratic leaders is an early sign of the troubles Sanders will have in bringing the Party along behind him.  It is no exaggeration to say that he may have just put the most important general election swing state out of play for Democrats, and for what? That Trump, Russia, and Fox News are all working to promote Bernie should also be another big flashing warning sign about the dangers of his candidacy. 

Yesterday, we shared our thoughts about how Joe Biden is the only Democrat left in the race in a strong enough position to beat Bernie.  We still believe that today, and hope that some of the other candidates in the “Establishment” lane – including Mike Bloomberg – withdraw from the race before Super Tuesday.

Biden Or Bust, Vetting Bernie, Four Ways To Combat Trump

From this morning’s Politico: “For the establishment, I think it’s Joe or bust,” said Simon Rosenberg, NDN president, who served as a senior strategist for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2018. “Biden is the only one who has a path to defeat Bernie. It would involve him winning South Carolina and then performing well enough in the early March states to keep the race competitive,” Rosenberg said. “I don’t think Bloomberg can recover quickly enough from the hits he’s taken in recent days to remain competitive or win the nomination.”  

Implicit in this argument is our take that while Mayor Pete and Senator Warren have done well, they haven’t done well enough to be competitive after the early March states.  But at this point one of them staying in the hunt is far more likely than Bloomberg getting himself back into a race he should never have entered in the first place. 

Defeating Bernie at this point will not be easy but it’s not impossible.  A thorough vetting of Bernie has only just begun, and his disastrous 60 Minutes interview last night is a good sign of how rough it’s going to be for him now. He insultingly couldn’t explain how the basics of his health and economic plans would work, and showed an admiration for the Cuban Castro regime that was just jawdropping (and shows how little he understands about leading a party into an election, not just an insurgency). Dr. Rob Shapiro has a smart look at how little reality there is to what Bernie is promising to do, and Ron Brownstein also has a good take on Bernie’s fantasy promises. 

Bernie’s covering up of potentially disqualifying health issues and his long history of pro-gun, anti-immigrant politics are also sure to come to light in the coming days.  That Trump, Russia, and Fox News are all promoting his candidacy remains an extraordinary concern, as does his leadership role in the Socialist Workers Party in 1980, an American affiliate of the Communist Party in the days the Soviet Union still existed. 

If Biden wants to win he will also have to quickly overhaul his strategy and his campaign.  He is ceding way too much of the under 45 vote to Bernie, and got into the digital organizing part of modern politics way too late.  He should address the youth problem by immediately appointing a youth strategy team which should be co-chaired by Rep. Abby Finkenauer among others. 

New polling shows why the stakes of the Democratic Primary are so high – Trump is losing the 2020 election right now, and the GOP’s hold on the Senate has shown real signs of erosion in recent weeks.  Trump’s job approval sits about where it sat on election day 2018 when GOPers lost by 8.6 points in the House, and using Real Clear Politics Biden leads in every battleground state right now including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Wisconsin (MI and PA are gone for Trump, Texas is very close to being competitive).

In the Senate, new polls have McSally trailing Mark Kelly 46-39 in Arizona and Collins trailing Sara Gideon 43-42 in Maine. In North Carolina, a new poll which did not test D/R head to heads has Trump’s job approval at 45-52, while Senator Tillis’ approval rate is only 38% - taken together these three polls suggest that the Democratic quest to take the Senate back is within reach.    

As for the battle to prevent our Mad King from doing further harm to our Republic, Simon’s new piece lays out four ideas for what the House and Democrats can be doing now to more aggressively challenge the escalating lawlessness of the Trump regime.    

Trump, Russia, And The 2020 Elections — Four Things We Can Do Now

This piece was originally published on Medium.

While there are limits to what Congress and Democrats can do in the face of an out of control President and his cowardly enablers in the Senate, I offer ideas for four things we should consider doing in the days ahead:

Launch A Broad Security Review — Over the next few months, the four main House Committees concerned with defending the nation — Armed Services, Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, and Homeland Security — should conduct a broad, coordinated review of the nation’s security in the wake of years of gross mismanagement and corrupt self-dealing by the President and his advisors. The American people have a right to know what has been done in their name, and months of public hearings will help inform the political debate this summer and fall.

Particular focus should be given to the President’s relationship with Russia, and the dramatic steps the President has taken in recent years to support Putin’s ambitions on the global stage. The process should begin next week with hearings about what Russia has been doing to help the President’s re-election, and what steps are being taken to shut down the operation itself and prevent further damage to the election which is currently underway.

Secure Our Elections — Events of recent days have shown how unready we are for what is to come in 2020, and proud patriots of both parties should work to restore the integrity of the ODNI, shut down any foreign influence operation underway here in the United States, re-open the FEC, and pass some of the many bipartisan election security bills Moscow Mitch and the President have been sitting on in the Senate. In a recent opinion piece, NDN called on DHS to establish a “gang of six,” a regular convening of the heads of the six federal political party committees as a way of acknowledging the critical role these institutions play in protecting our elections and domestic discourse.

In that same piece NDN called on the six federal party committees to make two structural changes to better allow them to better manage their new cyber responsibilities:

1) Appoint a Senator or House Member Vice Chair for Cybersecurity and Countering Disinformation from one of the Congressional committees of jurisdiction like Homeland Security or Intelligence. Their subject matter expertise and security clearance will make it easier for the each Party Committee to interact with DHS and the intelligence community, particularly in a time of crisis

2) Hire a Chief Security Officer with a true cyber and technical background and ensure they are in the management team of the committee, a direct report to the executive director or chief executive. The DNC’s appointment of Bob Lord as its CSO is a step in the right direction.

Establish A Bicameral Rule of Law Rump Group — Recently we suggested that leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi appoint a bi-cameral rump group of Democrats whose mission it is to fashion a broad strategy to push back against the President’s assault on the rule of law and help the public understand the gravity of what we are witnessing.

Our thought is to keep it small — under 10 Senators/House Members or so — and start with the former state AGs in the Senate — Blumenthal, Harris, Whitehouse. For more on this idea visit here.

The DNC Should Adopt The Social Media Framework Endorsed By The State Parties — In June of last year the state Democratic Parties endorsed a framework that would govern the use of illicit tactics used by Russia against the Democratic Party in 2016 by Democrats in their own campaigns. The DNC should adopt this framework, and encourage every Democratic campaign to adhere to its requirements in the coming election. Democrats just have to do everything they can to make it more difficult for our politics to descend into an era of what I call “Moscow Rules.”

There has never been a moment like this in American history. Our President aspires to be a king, not just a President, and he is also showing clear signs of mental decline and what may best be called madness. There are no pivots from this awful reality, no waiting for Mueller, no “let’s focus on health care.” This is an all hands on deck moment in the history of our Republic, and Congress must do more than express concern — it must act. I’ve offered some ideas on how to proceed, but whatever the plan it must begin in the days ahead.

Recession Fears Resurface As Coronavirus Batters The Global Economy

Over the past week, the S&P 500 has fallen by almost 5%, the yield curve - considered a reliable recession indicator by the Fed - has inverted to its weakest level since October, and a key survey of the manufacturing and service sectors has dropped to its lowest level since October 2013. All of a sudden, the tepid economic recovery since late last year has ground to a halt. Two key factors underlie this startling new trend. The first, of course, is the emergence of the coronavirus epidemic, which has ground the Chinese economy to a halt with major knock-on effects for the rest of the world. The rapid spread of the virus in recent days to Italy and Iran, the first major outbreaks in countries not neighboring China, have in particular sparked fears that the epidemic will last longer than expected. The second factor, however, is that the US economy was in a weak structural condition even before coronavirus began affecting global markets. While swift action by the Fed likely forestalled a recession in 2019 or early 2020, growth was still forecast at 2% or lower for 2020 and manufacturing remained mired in a deep recession.

Much of this pre-coronavirus stagnation is due to the fact that, even with the phase 1 trade deal with China, Trump's trade wars are very much still alive and running. The average US tariff on Chinese imports is still today at 19.3%, compared to just 3.1% when the trade war began in March 2018 (and Chinese tariffs average 20.3% today, compared to 8% in March 2018). Furthermore, steel and aluminum tariffs are still in place on the EU and Japan, and the President continues to habitually float imposing major auto tariffs on the Europeans. As a result, if the Administration wants to cushion the likely significant impact of coronavirus on the US economy this year, it would be wise to also de-escalate its ongoing trade wars which have harmed American jobs, growth, and wages. For more on NDN's work on economic and trade policy under the Trump administration, please click here.

Dems Fight It Out, Delusions of A Mad King, Nevada This Saturday

Notes on 2020 - There has been lots of polling over the past few days and it tells a simple story – the Democratic race is very competitive and what happens in Nevada and South Carolina is really going to matter. Perhaps the most important development has been the slew of good polls for VP Biden in NV, SC, and other states showing him very much in the game.  Tomorrow’s Nevada debate, with Mike Bloomberg on the stage, will be a significant moment. Lots of drama ahead for the Democrats.

One bit of drama we hope we don’t see again is the troubles which plagued Iowa and which may repeat in Nevada this weekend. NDN believes it would be wise for DNC Chair Tom Perez to take some concrete steps to improve his operation in the coming days, sending a clear signal that he knows he needs to do better, and regain the trust of Democrats across the country.  This will be particularly important if Dems look like they are headed to a brokered convention, something which will put a much greater burden on the DNC to carry a negative message against Trump for the next 4-5 months, build a true general election operation for the nominee, and manage a divisive and challenging convention.  

As for Trump, his numbers remain bad and he has not shown any kind of significant bump from his illicit acquittal.   There is no doubt he is building a powerful juggernaut, which is why Dems not having a nominee until late July will be so problematic.  But some perspective here please.  Trump only won 2016 with the extraordinary trifecta of Russia’s enormous intervention, a left leaning third party candidate, and the Comey letter;  the GOP has had three truly awful elections since including the 8.6 point win for the Dems in 2018; incumbents in the low 40s as Trump is now almost never win; and do we expect him to behave more like Reagan and less like Caligula in the coming months?

The big story with Trump remains his dangerous disregard for the rules and laws which make our democracy, and all democracies, work.  In just the past few months he has solicited campaign help from a foreign nation, illegally held back information for a legitimate Congressional investigation, and corrupted the Senate Impeachment trial, and he now appears to be trying to turn the Department of Justice into an arm of his political project and campaign (something he did with the White House and State Departments in the Ukraine affair). 

What worries us the most is that the latest revelations about Trump and Barr are not just corrupt and illegal, but represent an attempt by the President to replace the story of the past few years with a new, fictitious, and delusional one.  It feels really crazy and dangerous  - as if the President has really lost contact with the real world, becoming in every way the Mad King our Founders so feared.  It remains shocking that the Senate GOPers and Barr are playing along with this destructive and out of control man. 

NDN Applauds New Democrat Coalition Letter On Section 232 Auto Tariffs

NDN is pleased to pass along a letter released today by the New Democrat Coalition that strongly criticizes the President for withholding the Section 232 report on potential auto tariffs that the President is legally required to release to Congress. This refusal to respect the basic separation of powers in our government is another threat to our constitutional framework, and follows repeated illegal impositions of tariffs without the consent of Congress.

NDN has long urged Congress to challenge the President's reckless and extra-constitutional tariff policies, and we are very pleased that the New Democrat Coalition has taken this important step. You can find the letter here, and below.

New Democrat Coalition Letter On Section 232 Auto Tariffs

Dear President Trump,

American autoworkers, parts suppliers and retailers, dealers, vehicle service providers, and millions of consumers have lived under the threat of tariffs since you initiated the Section 232 investigation into auto imports on May 23, 2018. The Secretary of Commerce submitted the Section 232 report to you in February 2019; however, the report continues to be hidden from Congress and the public.

As Members of the New Democrat Coalition Trade Task Force, we once again want to reiterate that we do not believe that imported automobiles and auto parts and the hard-working Americans in the auto sector are a national security threat. As you have admitted publicly, there is no national security risk from automobiles and auto part imports. In fact, your abuse of the Section 232 tariff process jeopardizes our national security by alienating our allies and threatening the economic security of American workers. Imposing tariffs under Section 232 on autos and auto parts for reasons not related to national security clearly oversteps the authority granted by Congress.

Further, to help bring more transparency to this process, Congress included a provision in the Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2020 which required the release of the section 232 report by January 19th of this year. You signed this legislation into law; however, you continue to refuse to release the report to Congress and the public.

You are therefore not only in violation of Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, but also the Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2020.  Your willful disregard for these laws threatens American workers as well as the balance of power that is so essential to our Constitution. We implore you to not only release the Section 232 report on imported automobiles and auto parts as required by law, but strongly urge you to abandon any further tariff action that threatens the American automotive sector, auto workers, and our economy.

We look forward to the immediate release of the Section 232 auto report to Congress and the abandonment of the tariffs you are considering implementing. 

Sincerely, 

Reps. Terri A. Sewell (AL-07), Suzan DelBene (WA-01), Ron Kind (WI-03), Rick Larsen (WA-02), Gregory W. Meeks (NY-05), Lizzie Fletcher (TX-07), Don Beyer (VA-08), Veronica Escobar (TX-16), and Susan Davis (CA-53)

Our List of High-Volume, Pro-Trump Twitter Accounts

As we have previously discussed, we’ve begun a project to locate and publicize high volume pro-Trump accounts on Twitter. These “amplifiers” are a critical part of the modern social media ecosystem and are also an important part of how Trump and his allies move their narratives through the body politic here in the US. It's our sense that all of us need to get a better understanding of these accounts and how they influence our domestic discourse. 

As our research has evolved, so has Twitter. In September of 2019, Twitter began suspending thousands of accounts for manipulation as part of their ongoing battle against disinformation. We went ahead and reviewed our database to check in on which accounts were active. Out of the 441 accounts, we found that 59 are no longer active. These 59 accounts range from some of the highest-performing to some of the lower performing accounts. As our landscape continues evolving, we will be sure to keep checking on how many accounts in our database are suspended for violating Twitter’s platform.

You can find some of the most aggressive accounts below, or you can see all 441 of the accounts we’ve found so far in the attached pdf. You will now notice a column indicating if the account is still active. Feel free to use this information for whatever work you are doing in this space. Our goal is get a better sense of how many of accounts like these are out there – is it a few hundred? A few thousand? More? Help us figure that out.

 

Dems Battle It Out, Nevada Caucus Concerns

We know that Bernie and Mayor Pete will do well tomorrow night.  As the various trackers are very bouncy right now, we don’t really know much else other than that the candidates who finish fourth and fifth will be in serious trouble.  As Nevada isn’t for another 12 days – the longest stretch without voting in the Feb window - the New Hampshire bounce could be more important than ever.  538’s national poll tracker has Biden/Bloomberg/Buttigieg/Klobuchar at 48% combined support, Sanders/Warren at 35%.  Questions remain about how low Sanders’ ceiling is – he’s not where he wants to be given his name ID and the money he’s spent.  And we worry that the President’s/GOP's months long illicit attack on VP Biden did take a toll on the former Dem frontrunner – a terrible outcome for our democracy. 

Trump remains in dangerous electoral territory, down 8 in the latest 538 job approval tracker, 51.7 disapprove/43.9 approve.  Despite the expected incoherent bluster from the White House over the end of Impeachment, whatever small improvement we’ve seen in the President’s numbers hasn’t been enough to make him competitive this fall.   Regular reminder – Trump has led his team to terrible defeats in the 2017/2018/2019 elections and there’s no evidence that he’s found some new formula for success.  A President with 52% wanting removal will never have an easy time getting re-elected; the fallout from his illicit dealings will continue to damage him; and all of us should remain worried/vigilant about the expansive new powers the Senate gave to him last week. 

Our take on the app fiasco is that it was an early test of the Democratic Party’s readiness for this new post-2016/Russia world of disinformation and cyber insecurities, and the Party failed the test, terribly.  The DNC should join Iowa’s call for an independent investigation into what happened, stop blaming the states for what was clearly a joint failure, and restore the critical partnership between the DNC and the states needed to win the 2020 election.  The DNC and the Nevada Democratic Party also must take immediate steps to assure the public that we are not headed towards another fiasco/security breach in the Nevada caucuses; our friends at the OSET Institute offer some concrete steps they could take today.  You can find NDN’s extensive work in this space here

Trump's New Budget Proposal Is Incoherent Yet Immensely Dangerous

Three years of economic policy under the Trump administration are well represented by just a few words: incoherent yet immensely dangerous. First, incoherent. The President promised that his tax cut would pay for itself and super-charge economic growth to a sustainable 3%/year. Instead, the tax cut has cost over $180 billion/year and growth has never come in at 3% or higher during his Administration (and was just 2.3% in 2019). Furthermore, Trump promised that his trade war would revitalize manufacturing and create far more jobs than during the Obama administration. Instead, his tariff policies have led to a deep manufacturing recession and job growth through his first three years is almost 40,000 jobs/month slower than during Obama's second term.

Second, immensely dangerous. As a result of Trump's attacks on Obamacare and his support for new restrictions on Medicaid access in the states, the uninsured rate has begun to rise rapidly after years of declines under Obama. In 2019, almost 8 million fewer people had health insurance than did when Trump took office in 2016. In addition, the sharp decline in pollution of almost 25% from 2009 to 2016 has rapidly reversed under Trump. As a result of his gutting of several major environmental programs such as the Clean Power Plan, emissions have actually increased by over 5% since 2016, a development that his own EPA estimates will cause 1,400 additional deaths per year in the US. 

It is fitting then that the budget proposal released by the administration today continues this trend of being implausible yet significantly harmful to the most vulnerable Americans. First, the budget proposal projects economic growth of 3.1% in 2020 and 3%+ every year up to 2024. This is a wildly unrealistic and downright laughable estimate. Growth was 2.3% in 2019, and the IMF and Fed both estimate that it will be just 2% in 2020. Furthermore, the Fed projects that growth will hit just 1.9% in 2021 and 1.8% in 2022, nowhere close to the administration's 3% estimate.

And second, the budget proposal includes significant cuts to the social programs that disproportionately help poor Americans. Trump's proposal would cut Medicaid and food stamps by almost $300 billion and reduce federal disability benefits by almost $100 billion, targeting literally sick, hungry, and disabled Americans. Furthermore, he proposes significantly cutting the budgets of critical future-looking federal departments such as the Environmental Protection Agency by 27% and the Department of Health and Human Services (which funds medical research organizations such as the CDC and NIH) by 9%. For more on NDN's work on economic and trade policy under the Trump administration, please click here.

On To New Hampshire, Impeachment Ends, The App Fiasco

The race for the Democratic nomination enters an important new phase this week.  Impeachment ends today, and it means that the attention of many Democrats will turn to the Presidential race.  What they will find is a wide open race, with six candidates, including Mike Bloomberg, slugging it out over what is an incredibly intense five week stretch.  In part due to the election night app fiasco, Iowa didn’t do what it often does and winnow the field.  So we have an exciting few weeks ahead with a wide open race, and two candidates – Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar – still very much alive and in contention for the nomination.  The New Hampshire debate this Friday is really going to matter – do make sure you watch.

Like many, we are disappointed in the Senate GOP’s embrace of Trump’s ongoing cover up of his crimes, and worry about where this leaves our Republic.  In a recent piece we wrote how important it was for Democrats to embrace the success of their time in the White House as the foundational argument needed to defeat Trumpism and illiberalism in the coming days.

This morning Simon offered an extensive reflection on the app fiasco, and how all of us – not just the DNC and Iowa Party – have to learn from the mistakes made.  We are in the midst of a wrenching transition to a new era of politics marked by cyber intrusions and disinformation, an era we describe as operating by Moscow Rules, and the need for a fundamental re-invention of our parties and other democratic institutions to prosper in this new era is now more urgent than ever. 

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