NDN Blog

A New Day, The Spirit of Cincinnatus Returns

New Day – Hard to overstate the significance of what’s about to happen in the next few days.  More than a transfer of power – the Biden team is coming in ready to hit the ground running as few Administrations in recent American history have.  Biden has a clear world view; has built a remarkable team; is already rolling out cogent, smart plans on the biggest challenges we face.  The change in language, agenda, orientation is going to be dramatic, jarring, needed, and oh so welcome. 

We keep coming back to the concept of experience – Joe Biden and his team just know their way around the place.  We are witnessing a remarkably sure footed operation come in at a time of enormous crisis in America – COVID, the economy, body politic, cyber, climate, America’s standing in the world – and it is hard at this point to not feel a bit lucky that Biden, like Cincinnatus, came out of retirement and suited up one more time for the good of the republic.  

In a recent op-ed Simon offers some thoughts on Joe Biden’s historic opportunity to “build back better” here in the US and around the world.   The piece argues that America’s new President should view the next few years as akin to the years after WWII; and use the need to fashion a successful recovery from a shared global trauma to reaffirm and reinvigorate the liberalism which has been so essential to America and the world’s success in the post WWII era.  

You can catch Simon talking more in depth about these ideas in a new “Unpresidented” podcast, and another one from a few months back with Salon’s Chauncy DeVega.  

Analysis: The Republicans Have An Off-Ramp - They Need to Take It

Republicans Have An Off-Ramp — They Need To Take It

This essay was originally published on the website Medium. 

The attack on Congress last week, and other extremist disruptions which may come in the days ahead, are being driven by the belief that an American election was stolen, and that proud “patriots” need to rise up to defend our democracy from those trying to dishonor it.

The election wasn’t stolen of course, and thus this entire radicalized pro-Trump extremist movement has been built on a lie. To stop the violence, restore order, and allow the next President and Congress — and state governments — to get on with their important business — Republican leaders across the country simply must tell their supporters that the election was legitimate and to stand down, go home, and help bring an end to the ongoing insurrection.

We have to be clear that this if this does not happen, and the Republican Party, leadership including “Stop the Steal” sympathizers Kevin McCarthy and RNC Chair McDaniel, continue to sow doubt about the election, the insurrection we are seeing could turn into a years long domestic insurgency which will also certainly see prominent politicians attacked again and undoubtedly some will die.

The Trump Presidency has left America a domestic radicalization problem that is going to take years to address. But the role of post-Trump Republicans in this de-radicalization effort is going to be vital, essential. A first step will be to declare the election legitimate, and ask Trump’s supporters to stand down and go home. Our disputes in America are decided by debate and elections not bullets and violence.

A second and in my mind equally important step will be for Republicans to stand down from using language which whether they understand it or not is equally false and equally an incitement to violence — the language describing Democrats and Joe Biden as Marxists/Communists/the Radical Left. In the evolution of the current moment, this language came first, over the summer, from the President in a speech he gave at the White House, on July 4th. A few days after this speech I wrote:

“If you haven’t read or watched the President’s speeches on July 3rd and 4th — just do it. The language, the hyperbole, the violence will shock you. You will find phrases like “there is a new far-left fascism,” “this left-wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American Revolution,” “radical assault” “the radical view of American history is a web of lies,” “unleash a wave of violent crime.” The Washington Post reported: “He celebrated Independence Day with a dystopian speech in which he excoriated racial justice protesters as “evil” representatives of a “new far-left fascism” whose ultimate goal is “the end of America.”

The single most poisonous passage came from his July 4th remarks: “American heroes defeated the Nazis, dethroned the fascists, toppled the communists, saved American values, upheld American principles and chased down the terrorists to the very ends of the earth. We are now in the process of defeating the radical left, the Marxists, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters, and people who, in many instances, have absolutely no clue what they are doing.”

Friends, we know the guy is loose with his words, but this is the President of the United States conjuring up some dangerous domestic enemy who needs to be fought the way we fought Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, ISIS and Al Qaeda, with the American military, with death and assassinations. This wasn’t a campaign speech, and the President wasn’t talking about politics or the 2020 elections. It was an official speech by the President, from the White House, on the 4th of July, and it is was a call to arms by the leader of our government to kill and hunt down a dangerous domestic other".

…..The call for domestic violence as we saw on July 6th was first made by the President that day. The frame he established — that Democrats have evolved into something akin to an existential threat to the country and thus must be violently put down like ISIS, Al Qaeda, Communists and Fascists — still lives in the language of Republicans every day. It was the core argument of the election, and it remains the essential frame of the GOP as they head into the new Biden era.

Like declaring the election legitimate and walking away from Trump’s false frame about the election, Republicans must also walk away from the false frame about the radicalization of the modern Democratic Party. They’ve invented an imaginary domestic threat which their supporters have become radicalized against. Democrats are not an extremist party, but a pragmatic one. Our governance while in the White House has made the country far stronger, repeatedly. Our current leaders come from the Democratic establishment, and Joe Biden has long been a leader in standing up for American ideals of liberty and freedom both domestically and abroad. We haven’t uses illiberal or illicit means to gain power — in fact our recent success at the ballot box, winning more votes in 7 of the last 8 Presidential elections — is the best electoral run of any political party in American history. We are historically popular, have governed well and are run by pragmatists, not ideologues.

The ongoing attacks on Democrats as “radical,” “communists” etc is itself the language of extremism, an incitement to violence, false — and like the language around the “stolen election” it must be dropped by Republican leaders in the days ahead. It is a dangerous rhetorical relic of the Trump era which has no place in a healthy democracy; or in a modern, responsible center-right party which we all hope rises from the rubble of Trumpism.

The stark reality we as a country has now is that we have a serious domestic extremist problem, one which scored an historic victory last week. It is going to grow, become more ambitious and aggressive in the coming months. The nation will need to work hard to prevent this armed, radicalized movement to do lasting damage to the country. The Biden Administration will be developing strategies to address the challenge, using all the tools available to them. But whether this movement become something truly significant, and does lasting harm, or fizzles out in the coming months will be a great degree up post-Trump Republicans. If the GOP can de-Trump, de-radicalize itself, and return to a party one would recognize in a Western democracy, it will help bring a rapid demise of the current domestic insurgency we are experiencing. But if the language and tactics of Trump, and the purposeful stoking of extremism, remains central to the Republican Party in the coming months then the kind of violence we are witnessing now could be with us for many years.

The choice for every Republican now is a binary one — drop the language of Trumpism, declare the election legitimate, tell the insurrections to stand down or become an insurrectionist, insurgent yourself. Republicans have a clear off ramp available to them from this road of radicalization. For the good of the nation let us hope they take it.

Note - I've written extensively over the past few days about the absurd notion that no one saw Jan 6th coming.  That it remains the default position of the US government - when it is so obviously untrue - should worry us all.  More here.

Confronting The Rising Threat of Domestic Extremism

The Biden-Harris Administration is inheriting an extraordinary array of problems left by the many years of misgovernance by the Trump Administration.  We know the list – COVID, a weak economy, a broken immigration system, loss of US standing in the world, a wounded democracy, a worsening climate crisis, compromised government computer systems, a resurgent Russia.  It goes on and on. Few Administrations in our history have had so many difficult challenges left in their lap, all at once. 

As critical as all these things will be there is one additional part of the terrible Trump legacy that will need a great deal of attention in the Biden era, one that will be among this talented Administration’s most difficult challenges – confronting and defeating the rising threat from right wing extremism.   

Among the things which happened in this dark week in Washington is that this movement was able to, with the enthusiastic help of the President and his family, achieve perhaps its most significant victory to date – the successful storming of the US Capitol.  There can be little doubt their success in breaching the Capitol’s defenses, occupying the building and disrupting the Electoral College vote, will supercharge a deeply dangerous movement whose adherents have already just this year plotted to kidnap kill Michigan’s governor, assassinated police, occupied statehouses, conspired to kill American troops stationed overseas, murdered the husband and son of a Federal judge and planned to firebomb police in Las Vegas. 

In a series of new writings (herehere and here) I reflect on the challenges America now faces from what will be a far more grave domestic security threat.  NDN is also calling on Congress to bring AG Jeffrey Rosen and DHS Secretary Chad Wolf in to testify, under oath, about the federal government's lack of preparedness for Wednesday's attack on the Congress. 

We also share a link to one of our main project areas, Countering Illiberalism’s Rise, which has years of our work offering ideas on how to combat the rancid embrace of anti-democratic sentiment and extremist forces we’ve seen not just by the Trump family but by the modern Republican Party.  Finally, we offer an essay I wrote recently which discusses how the Biden Administration can consciously work to strengthen our post war liberal tradition in the coming years – a vital, essential task. 

Rejuvenating post WW II liberalism and combating the rising threat of illiberalism and extremism is going to become NDN’s central focus in the Biden-Harris years. 

From the darkness of this week there can be light.  But only if we work together to make it so.  For as difficult as dislodging Trump and the Republicans has been in recent months, our most important work, together, is coming in the days and months ahead.   

Analysis: The Southwest Has Become A Democratic Stronghold

The Importance of the Heavily Mexican-American Parts of the US to the Democrats– In a lively discussion on Friday December 4th, 2020 with Arizona Congressman Ruben Gallego, NDN took a look at one of the more important geographical developments in recent years - the turning of the Southwest and heavily Mexican American parts of the US much more blue.  

You can watch the discussion here, read a Greg Sargent Washington Post story which quotes both Rep. Gallego and Simon, and review some of NDN’s previous work in this space here, here here and here. Simon was also cited in a recent Claire Hansen US News analysis:

"While immigration may not be a top issue in the current debate, it has played a major role in the election – Trump's extremism on the issue has helped push the heavily Mexican American parts of the country even further away from the president and his party, making his Electoral College map far harder, and the Senate far more likely to flip," Rosenberg says.

One remarkable set of stats which Simon shared during the discussion showed just how much ground the GOP have lost in this region since Bush swept it in 2004.  A snapshot of how much has changed from 2004 to 2020 in AZ, CO, NM, NV:

Dem Electoral Votes – 0 in 2004, all 31 (100%) in 2020

Dem Senate Seats – 2 of 8 (25%) in 2004, all 8 (100%) in 2020

Dem House Seats – 6 of 21 (29%) in 2004, 14 of 23 (61%) in 2020

Dem Govs – 0 of 4 in 2004, 3 of 4 (75%) in 2020

In 16 years Dems have picked up 31 Electoral College votes, 6 Senate seats, 8 House seats and 3 governorships in these 4 southwestern states.  When you expand this analysis to include CA and TX, you get: 

Dem Electoral Votes – 55 of 118 (47%) Electoral College votes in 2004, 86 of 124 (69%) in 2020

Dem Senate Seats – 4 of 10 (40%) in 2004, 10 of 12 (83%) in 2020

Dem House Seats – 55 of 106 (52%) in 2004, 69 of 112 (62%) in 2020

Dem Govs – 0 of 6 (0%) in 2004, 4 of 6 (67%) in 2020

If current census projections hold, Biden's 306 Electoral College vote total will shrink to 301, the region will pick up 4 to get to 128, and the # of EC votes coming from the 4 states will grow to 33.  At 301 and 33, this means that Biden is at 268 without AZ, CO, NM, NV, further reinforcing the political significance of the region. 

From this region today comes the next Vice President, the current Speaker, and the next HHS Secretary who will be leading the fight against COVID.  The DCCC Chair in the 2018 cycle was from NM; the current DSCC Chair is from Nevada; the next DGA Chair is from New Mexico.  All four of Dem Senate pick ups over the last 2 election cycles have come from this region – Rosen (NV) and Sinema (AZ) in 2018, Hickenlooper (CO) and Kelly (AZ) in 2020.  

This recent transformation of the heavily Mexican-Americans part of the country, which includes our two largest states, ranks as one of the most important geographic and/or demographic stories of early 21stcentury American politics.  It is deserving of far more attention.  

Young Voter Turnout in Early Vote Way Up from 2016

This analysis was put together by NDN’s Simon Rosenberg and Bill McClain of the advocacy group Clean and Prosperous America. We will be providing updates of this data thru Election Day – do check back on both of our sites to get the latest on this important 2020 development. 

Young Voters Voting in Large Numbers, Youth Share of Early Vote up 31% Since 2016

In the past few months two respected analysts of youth civic engagement and voting, Tisch College/CIRCLE, and Harvard’s Institute of Politics predicted that, based on their polling of young voters, youth turnout could be very high this election, potentially matching the historic youth turnout in the 2008 elections, according to Clean & Prosperous America.

Early voting data available through the TargetEarly site is finding higher youth early voting rates than in either 2016 or 2018.  In their age breakouts, 18-29s, 30-39s, 40-49s are all voting at higher rates than in either of the last two elections, while voters over 50 are seeing their relative voting rates decline.  A breakout of some of this data is below. A new CIRCLE study has similar findings.

“If there was any question about whether young people were going to turn out in 2020, the early data suggests we have an answer – young people are highly motivated and are voting in very large numbers this year.  While things could change, all the data suggests we are on track to see very high youth turnout in this election, perhaps even record breaking,” said Simon Rosenberg, national political strategist and advisor to Clean & Prosperous America (CaPA).

“Given that Biden is winning about two thirds of young voters right now, a very large youth turnout will help Democrats win elections all across the country.  Indeed, it is increasingly possible that Biden could match Obama’s historic 2008 youth turnout rates and strong Democratic performance. It’s a major development in the 2020 election,” said Bill McClain, Research and Marketing Director, Clean & Prosperous America.

Selected 18-29-year-old performance at this point from TargetEarly: 

 

2016

2020

Share of early vote so far

National

7.0%

9.2%

(31% Increase)

Michigan

3.6%

7.9%

(120%)

Texas

6.6%

10.2%

(55%)

Minnesota

7.9%

10.8%

(37%)

Florida

5.2%

7.0%

(35%)

Wisconsin

3.9%

5.1%

(31%)

Georgia

7.5%

9.1%

(21%)

Arizona

7.3%

8.7%

(19%)

North Carolina

8.9%

10.3%

(16%)

Ohio

6.6%

7.6%

(15%)

Nevada

7.7%

8.7%

(13%)

Iowa

8.6%

8.4%

(-2%)

Pennsylvania

15.6%

9.5%

(-39%)

NOTE:  Data Current at 9:30am ET on 10/23/2020.  New Hampshire is not listed because no 2016 data exists for comparison to 2020.  And while PA has seen its share of the youth vote decline this year, the raw vote has increased from 19,000 at this point in 2016 to 112,000 today.  It is a reminder of how remarkable it is we are seeing the youth vote share grow in all these states given how many more people are voting this time.  Nationally, and in many states, the youth vote is a larger slice of a much larger pie.

Analysis: There's A Whole Lotta Voting Going On!

Every week NDN publishes its Poll Roundup, a deep dive into recent polling and political trends. You can sign up to receive it each week and feel free to review previous editions too. NDN is also now holding in depth discussions about the 2020 Election every Wednesday at 2pm ET – join us and feel free to invite others too. This piece was updated on Friday morning, October 16th and was cited in Greg Sargent's smart new piece looking at all these people voting!

Polls have been telling us that interest in voting this year was at historic levels.  In a Tweet a few days ago election analyst Nate Silver noted that a new Gallup survey found one measure of voter enthusiasm among the highest it has ever recorded, slightly above late 2008 measures.  A recent Harvard/IOP study found vote intent among young voters to be significantly higher than 2016, and on par with the big youth turnout year of 2008. We know that 2018 was a very high turnout election, and all indications have been that this one will be too. 

And what we are seeing in the early days of the 2020 voting window is that turnout is very high indeed.   A new Washington Post story reports:

“With less than three weeks to go before Nov. 3, roughly 15 million Americans have already voted in the fall election, reflecting an extraordinary level of participation despite barriers erected by the coronavirus pandemic — and setting a trajectory that could result in the majority of voters casting ballots before Election Day for the first time in U.S. history.

In Georgia this week, voters waited as long as 11 hours to cast their ballots on the first day of early voting. In North Carolina, nearly 1 in 5 of roughly 500,000 who have returned mail ballots so far did not vote in the last presidential election. In Michigan, more than 1 million people — roughly one-fourth of total turnout in 2016 — have already voted.

The picture is so stark that election officials around the country are reporting record early turnout, much of it in person, meaning that more results could be available on election night than previously thought.

So far, much of the early voting appears to be driven by heightened enthusiasm among Democrats. Of the roughly 3.5 million voters who have cast ballots in six states that provide partisan breakdowns, registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by roughly 2 to 1, according to a Washington Post analysis of data in Florida, Iowa, Maine, Kentucky, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.”

So people are voting in big numbers, and about two thirds of those who’ve voted are Democrats. A new YouGov poll finds that 80% of Democrats (80%!) are planning on voting before Election Day.  Remarkable news indeed.  

To follow early voting tallies as they come in, we recommend following Professor Michael McDonald and his US Elections Project site, and Tom Bonior of TargetSmart and a site he and his team have put together.  

If you haven’t made your vote plan yet, be sure to do so by using the I Will Vote site, and be sure to vote early, perhaps on the very first day, however you choose to vote.  

Many states now allow you to track the status of your ballot if you have mailed it in or dropped it off.  I checked the status of my vote this morning here in DC, and found that it has been accepted - was really cool to see.  It is important to check the status of your absentee ballots for if anything has gone wrong you still have time to fix it and make sure your vote is counted.  

What This Big Early Vote Means for Election Night

This very heavy early Democratic vote is going to make it harder for the President to disrupt, contest or steal the election in at least four ways: 

1. Every day which goes on it becomes clearer our voting systems are working as intended, and that people are being able to have their say.  The process looks and feels legitimate, and it will just be harder to claim it has been corrupted somehow.   

2. Any planned Election Day disruption by the President or his “poll watchers” will have a far more limited impact as few Democrats will be voting on Election Day.  

3. In theory, fewer absentee ballots will be arriving after Election Day in those states which allow post-election counting to take place.  Trumpian efforts to disallow these late arriving and/or counted ballots will also have a far more limited impact if somehow successful.  

4. A majority of the important battleground states count their absentee and early votes before Election Day, and many release those tallies as soon as the polls close.  This means that on Election night big states like Florida and North Carolina will be starting the night off with potentially significant Biden leads.  While Trump is likely to make it close as the night goes on, he may never actually lead in states which Biden eventually wins and which count ahead. This will make any premature claim of victory by Trump on Election night much more challenging. 

This Washington Post article does a good job at breaking down how critical states count their absentee ballots.  Only 2 of the Presidential battleground states start counting their ballots on Election Day (though Michigan only starts counting the day before): 

Ballots proceeded upon receipt – AZ, CO, GA, MN, NC, NV (really good)

One week or more before Election Day – FL, KY, ME, OH, TX (good)

Less than a week before Election Day – IA, MT, MI, NH, SC (okay)

Processing starts on Election Day – AL, MS, PA, WI (ugh) 

We will have a good sense of where the Senate stands on Election Night as AK, AZ, CO, GA, KS, KY, ME, NC, TX should be complete or almost complete that night.  AL, IA, MS, MT, SC will likely come very late that night or a day or two after Election Day as their counting process starts later than these other states.  A New York Times look at all this does a very thorough job looking at how the counting will work in key Senate races.   

Based on what states can count ballots received after Election Day, when they begin counting their absentees and how close things may be it’s pretty clear we won’t know the outcome of AL, IA, PA, MI, OH, WI until after Election Day.  Though if Biden is winning in PA, MI and WI by the margins he currently holds it is unlikely that Trump will end the night with a decisive lead in any of these states – again making it far harder for him to prematurely declare himself the winner. 

One wonders whether the President's incessant attacks on the integrity of our voting system isn't a major cause of the high Democratic turnout we are seeing.  The issue of voting, and how people vote, has been a top issue for months now.  Folks have been talking about it, discussing their own vote plans with others.  It's been top of mind - and when early voting began, they were ready! 

Anyway, this early and enthusiastic vote is just great to see, and raises the likelihood we will know the winner on Election night.  

The President creates a huge COVID outbreak, does nothing to stop its spread

When we look back at the Trump era one of its great mysteries will be the President’s refusal to fight COVID.  Objectively he’s done more to combat an imagined terror threat than he has the very real and deadly threat of COVID.  It’s not easy to understand.  At some point in December or January, the President had to have received a briefing about what we do when a pandemic strikes.  It’s pretty simple, as we don’t have a lot of tools.  We have social distancing, masking, testing/tracing/isolation, travel bans, shut downs, therapeutics, vaccines.  The key as he was told was to move quickly, catch it early, prevent a wide spread that becomes hard to reverse.  Clear Presidential communication with the public about their role in preventing the spread is critical too. 

The President was informed that he had a tried and true set of tools he could use when we knew the virus was really here – and the story, incredibly, is that over all these months he has chosen to use none of them.  He has just let the virus ravage the country, while also working really hard to prevent other government leaders from setting up effective regimes in their own cities and states.  It is perhaps the worst governing disaster in American history.  We’ve experienced mass death and one of the worst economic collapses in our history.  Kids are missing school, workers aren’t working, businesses are shutting down for good, social isolation is doing perhaps irreparable harm to millions. Countless lies have been told, scientists undermined, medical quackery celebrated.  It has been, as Joe Biden has said, a dark period in our history.  

In August the President returned to campaigning.  He started holding rallies without social distancing and masks.  He has repeatedly broke state and local COVID protocols banning mass gatherings, and requiring local quarantine, masking and social distancing.  People returned to full time work at the White House without masks.  Reporting suggests that the testing regime around the President began to let up.  The President wanted a return to normal, and around him, at least, normal did return.  

So it was inevitable that once the President really started traveling and doing more intimate gatherings he and his team would get the virus.  And at some point, perhaps on Friday the 25thor Saturday the 26thof September the President got COVID, and so did lots of people around him.  RNC Chair McDaniel was with him on the 25thand now has COVID.  At least 10 people at the Sept 26thConey Barrett event have COVID, including people who returned home to states like CA, IN, NJ. At least 11 Ohio residents who worked on the Sept 29thdebate in Cleveland have COVID now.  At least 2 campaign staff involved in debate prep with the President have COVID.  Dozens of people who work in the White House alongside the President have COVID.  3 US Senators have COVID.  On Sept 30th, almost certainly infectious, the President spent the day in Minnesota – dozens of Republican elected officials and party leaders there are now isolating.  On Thursday, symptomatic and knowing by then he had been exposed, he went to his property in Bedminster, NJ and spent time with 225 people with no social distancing, no masking.  

Sometime that week – Monday? No later than Thursday morning – the White House learned COVID had spread to the inner sanctum around the President.  At that point, if the White House was concerned about stopping the potential spread of the virus their reckless behavior had caused, it needed to start a vigorous testing/tracing/isolation program.  The President and his team had come in contact with vast numbers of people that week, far more than another group in the US could have possibly come in contact with in such a short period of time.  The chance they could have spread the virus not just through the White House and DC, but other places like CA, IN, MN, NJ, OH and anywhere else people who had come for the Coney Barrett event, the debate, the Bedminster event had come in from was very high.  No precautions had been taken, common sense protocols were never followed.  It had been a week of Typhoid Donald with Air Force One and mass gatherings.  It was a dangerous moment. 

So what did Mark Meadows and Donald Trump do to stop the spread in all these places in those first critical 48 hours? Nothing.  They did nothing.  As of Monday morning officials in DC, MN, NJ and OH said the White House wasn’t working with them on contract tracing.  The White House said the President’s physician was overseeing a limited contact tracing effort, something Dr. Conley denied at the press conference yesterday. The President risked new infections by interacting with staff and Secret Service MASKLESS EVEN WITH COVID.   And every day we learn more people are infected but as there is no central system to track what’s happening so we don’t really know what’s happening.  Though if secondary and tertiary infections began mid last week, we could see a significant uptick in positives this week. 

Over the past 10 days the President not only didn’t protect the American people from COVID, he used his immense powers to actually spread the  virus widely – in a way no other American could - and has done nothing to help slow the spread he’s caused or treat those who have become ill.  Both the WaPo and the NYT Times have stories this morning about White House staff freaking out at the chaos and lack of concern for their safety. Prominent Trumpites who have been exposed – Pence, Meadows, Barr, Coney Barrett – are refusing to follow CDC guidelines and isolate.  The President exposed all sorts of people last night who worked on his video as he isn’t isolating and isn’t wearing a mask.  He has also revived his ridiculous narrative that fears of COVID are exaggerated, that all our precautions unnecessary.  

I don’t know what is going to happen to the President’s health but if in the next few days the virus spreads even more widely, as it may, due to their recklessness and inaction, I think the President will be finished.  He and his team are already responsible for the deaths of tens and thousands due to their inaction and negligence; if he closes the election reminding us of his unwillingness to do literally do ONE THING to protect us from COVID this could be a huge Biden blowout indeed.  

As the resident of a city which is now experiencing an outbreak due to super spreader events and crowded unsafe work conditions in a very busy and large office complex, I hope the DC govt gets together with MD and VA to forge a regional alliance to force the White House to turn on its contact tracing powers and help ensure the Coney Barrett outbreak doesn’t become something truly dangerous. And we end where we began – why in the world has the President continued to play down the threat of the virus, and why has he done nothing to fight it? It remains the most inexplicable – and deadly – chapter of this dark era.  

PS - In a David Nakamura Washington Post article from October 2nd, I addressed the White House's over-reliance on testing: :

“It’s not just Trump. It’s the entire senior team around the White House participating in this fiction that, ‘We can ignore it,’ ” said Simon Rosenberg, founder of the liberal think tank NDN. “They’re not in a bubble if they’re around other people and not wearing masks. The whole reliance [just] on testing was insane.”

Build Back Better/Reconstruir Mejor - Joe Biden's Historic Opportunity

In the fall of 2012 I wrote an essay for the influential Spanish language journal Letras Libres which warned about what I felt was becoming a serious, and worrisome, drift of the Republican Party into something which felt more reactionary and dangerous than traditionally conservative (here is an English language version of that essay).  

Today, they're publishing what in my mind is an "Afterward" to that piece, one where I lay out what Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and the Democrats can do to repair the damage the Republican Party's enthusiastic embrace of illiberalism and extremist politics has done to America, and more broadly, the West. 

You can read the essay in Spanish here on the Letras Libres site.  For English speakers, I offer an edited version of what I sent to the journal for translation below (and yes it was translated - I am not a Spanish speaker!). 

Reconstruir mejor: la oportunidad histórica de Joe Biden

Build Back Better – Joe Biden’s Historic Opportunity

If Joe Biden and Kamala Harris win the US election in November, they will inherit a country badly damaged by two concurrent failures – our response to COVID-19 and the breakdown and radicalization of one of its two major political parties. 

In a 2012 Letras Libres essay (English/Spanish) I warned that the Republican Party rather than re-inventing itself to meet the challenges of globalization and the post-Cold War era was fighting these changes, increasingly drifting into an anti-modern, reactionary force in American life. The results of the GOP’s ideological journey from Reagan to Trump have been disastrous for the United States.  At a geopolitical level America’s standing and influence in the world has never been lower.  Republican Presidents have ushered in three consecutive recessions and left the nation more indebted than any time since WWII.  COVID confused our current President, and his refusal to tackle the pandemic head on has done lasting harm to the American economy and the health of its people. A malevolent white supremacy has been revived, creating searing divisions in a very diverse society, making millions of immigrants feel unwelcome in their new home.  But the most consequential failure of the Republican Party in this era has been its allowance of Trump’s descent into a Putin-inspired illiberalism, at home and abroad.  For that endangers more than America – it endangers the centuries old, American-led effort to spread democracy across the world.

A President Biden would have an extraordinary opportunity to do what he calls “build back better” here in America, and around the world.  It would be wise for Biden to view this moment as the beginning of a new era, a generational long project to reset America and the world after a collective trauma.  Perhaps the most analogous moment in our history would be the years after World War II in which new institutions were established around a new vision for humankind.

What does “build back better” mean, in practical terms?  Here in the US it means defeating COVID, rebuilding our economy, tackling climate change and embracing a low carbon future, improving our health care system and preparing for future pandemics, modernizing our immigration system, reforming our criminal justice system and adopting smart gun safety laws, and renewing our own democracy.  In each of these efforts, adopting strategies to address accumulated racial and economic inequities will be of paramount importance – for in a now very demographically diverse America, the challenge of making “e pluribus unum” (from many one) after Trump may be Joe Biden’s greatest domestic challenge of all.

This agenda of course is very big, and will take many years, even perhaps many Administrations, to achieve.  It is perhaps best understood as a blueprint for a new generation of domestic politics here in the US, one yet without a name.  Implementing it all will become the life work of the three emerging American generations – Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z – who are now a majority of the US population, and it will require the new thinking, ingenuity and commitment they will undoubtedly bring.   

Globally, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and the Democrats should focus on three big tasks – defeating COVID and helping lead the rebuilding which follows; winning the fight against climate change; and renewing the global liberal order and fashioning a clear, steely counter to the rising illiberalism we see across the world today.

To be successful at the last two of these great global projects America will need to focus very intensely one the first one - conquering COVID and leading the rebuilding which follows.  This daunting global challenge will give the Biden Administration an un-paralleled opportunity to show the world who America is now, through deeds and determined leadership.  Despite the work which must be done at home, we cannot continue Trump’s isolationist turn, and should mount a truly significant effort to help fashion the post COVID world.  President Biden should consider appointing a team of very prominent Americans to lead this effort – Pete Buttigieg, Susan Rice, Cory Booker, Michelle and Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Laurie Garrett for example – and ensure that America be very present at every gathering, every discussion, and follow through with money and American ingenuity to ensure we come out the other side better than before.  Vice President Kamala Harris can also play a very important role in this critical work, as her life story, from a child of immigrants to the White House itself, is a reminder to the world that this can be a time once again of extraordinary possibility. 

The new President should also take great care in his appointment of Ambassadors, making the most important – UN, NATO, EU, China, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, Canada - have the weight of a domestic Cabinet position, and also draw from prominent Americans ready to sell our great country to the world again.  We are only get one shot at this moment after Trump, and we need to make it very clear that America is going to try really hard to once again play the role that has done so much good, for so many, for so long.

When WWII was coming to an end FDR forged a comprehensive plan to “build back better.”  It was based on the inspiring and universal principles found in the Four Freedoms – freedom from want and fear, freedom of speech and religion.  So simple, so powerful.  From these words came the post WWII global order, the building of institutions like the UN and the WTO, the ending of colonialism and the institutionalization of the fight against authoritarianism through the building of NATO and the prosecution of the Cold War.  We did big things, and did them over a long period of time. 

Of all the big things we have to do in the coming years there is one more – to honor and build on the work of FDR American leaders should forcefully denounce white supremacy in all of its forms.  We have to make clear that American, Western, liberal, Four Freedom values are universal values, values of all people everywhere, regardless of race, religion or country of origin.  They belong to all of us.  White supremacy is not just a malicious legacy belief system from our racist and colonial past, it’s also profoundly anti-modern; for who could, after seeing the advances and potential of the people all over the world over these past fifty years ever believe that any race or religion or culture was somehow not capable of extraordinary things, and the people of all nations not deserving of the opportunities and freedoms we cherish.  Trump’s white supremacy must be returned, aggressively, to the dustbin of history, where it belongs. 

If victorious this fall Joe Biden and the Democrats will have an historic opportunity to “build back better” here in the US, and abroad.  Let us hope they find the right mix of vigor and pragmatism that will allow them to meet the moment.  What happens to the party of Trump, if defeated, is far less clear.  Ideally, a reform movement would seize control, and help fashion a modern center-right party which repudiates Trump’s illiberalism.  But that is not a likely scenario in my opinion; meaning that America and the world may have Trumpism to reckon with for many years to come. 

Trump Is On An Electoral Crime Spree

This essay was originally published by GEN on September 9, 2020.

Trump Is On An Electoral Crime Spree

Cash-strapped and facing lagging polling numbers, President Trump is cheating — knowingly breaking the norms, rules, and laws of our political system — to remain in power. It’s not as if we shouldn’t have seen this coming: When the Senate failed to remove Trump for threatening to withhold federal aid from Ukraine unless it investigated Joe Biden and its — not Russia’s — role in the 2016 election, he would read it as a green light to cheat even more aggressively in the election this year. Sure enough, here we are.

The scale of Trump’s cheating is breathtaking: for his reelection, including on Biden at official, taxpayer-funded events; appropriating itself for partisan activity; launching a clearly illegal right before the election; ; ; itself; for Russia to once again intervene in U.S. politics on his behalf; brazenly and using other disinformation tactics; employing to hide suspicious activity; coordinating with the absurd ; and too many of Bill Barr’s activities to fit into one column. There is also the Senator Ron Johnson–led probe into a debunked conspiracy theory about Joe Biden and Ukraine — a project that reeks of partisanship and which U.S. intelligence has warned will only .

As someone who has been working in national politics and campaigns since the 1980s, I can tell you that this level of rule-breaking is unprecedented. In a very Trumpian way, what we are seeing looks more like an electoral crime spree than a traditional campaign.

In a prescient from 2018, former prosecutor Glenn Kirschner argued that the Department of Justice needed to rethink its policy of not prosecuting a sitting president; there needed to be exceptions, he argued, for election law violations — or “cheating,” as I call it. Otherwise, our system is actually designed to encourage cheating, and cheating at a massive scale. After all, if you cheat a little bit and lose the election, you could get prosecuted. But if you cheat really big and win, you can’t be prosecuted, per DOJ standards. Such is the scenario we’re now seeing: Trump has every incentive in the world to cheat at such a level that it will transform his losing campaign into a competitive one and therefore could help absolve him from prosecution.

Trump knows all this — it’s how he won in 2016. Even with the help of Russia’s attacks on the DNC and the Clinton campaign, Trump was trailing Clinton by six points 10 days out. But the infamous and DOJ norm-breaking Comey letter, which dropped on October 28, helped narrow Clinton’s lead to , and Jill Stein’s improbable campaign shaved off enough votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin to give Trump a win. If any of these three things hadn’t happened, we wouldn’t have Trump in the White House today. The combined efforts it took to turn this unpopular, scandal-ridden candidate into a 70,000-vote winner was extraordinary.

As we learned in 2016, all of this cheating can turn a big lead into a small one, and a small one can become an ill-gotten win for Donald Trump.

Right now, Biden leads Trump by seven to nine points. Following the path Trump set in 2016, all of his cheating is designed to chip away at Biden’s lead, to keep it close. Kayne might cut down Biden’s lead by a point or two, as would late or lost ballots. People not voting due to confusion or concerns — another point or two. Illegal use of the White House, daily partisan attacks from government buildings, the illegal $250 million campaign lying about the dark realities of Covid-19 — all combined, maybe two to three points. A Comey-like late hit by Barr or Senator Johnson — a point or two or three. Russia — who knows, maybe the whole election.

These efforts aren’t just about saving Trump; they’re also about saving the party. At the very least, even if all this cheating doesn’t save Trump, it could still prevent Democrats from flipping the Senate and blunt what would likely be a very favorable conditions for the left. That’s why you’ve seen party loyalists like USPS Chair Mike Duncan and Postmaster General Bill DeJoy going so far as to sabotage the Postal Service — they have to hold down Biden’s margin to prevent a game-changing bloodbath for the GOP.

As we learned in 2016, all of this cheating can turn a big lead into a small one, and a small one can become an ill-gotten win for Donald Trump. The more Biden’s campaign looks adroit and well-funded, and the more Trump’s own campaign continues to stumble and struggle, the better the odds the president relies on ways of staying in power that don’t involve winning a free and fair election. Keeping it close also allows Trump to launch a postelection challenge to the results and attempt to block ballots that arrive after Election Day from being counted. These efforts shouldn’t be dismissed, for in 2000, a 5–4 Supreme Court intervened to block the counting of ballots after Election Day. If it happened once, it can happen again.

We all failed to understand what was happening in 2016. There simply is no excuse this time. Trump’s extensive cheating must begin to get covered as a central aspect of his campaign — the way we treat paid media, candidate visits, Get Out the Vote, and so on. on Monday night, the last week. And the American people need to understand that the man they elected to uphold the law is breaking it daily in his dirty bid to hold onto power. The president’s rampant cheating should be a far bigger story than it is.

 

 

 

 

 

Analysis: It Has Been A Very Bad Week of Polling for Trump and the GOP

Analysis: A Very Bad Week of Polling for Trump and the GOP

Every week NDN publishes its Poll Roundup, a deep dive into recent polling and political trends. You can sign up to receive it each week and feel free to review previous editions too. NDN is also now holding in depth discussions about the 2020 Election every Wednesday at 2pm ET – join us and feel free to invite others too. 

We’ve seen many new polls over the past week and there was a remarkable s amount of bad news in them for Trump and McConnell.  The bottom line right now is that the various strategies the GOP have employed to change the trajectory of an election they are losing haven’t worked, and there is evidence that their already weakened position may be eroding further.  

Some key takeaways from recent polling: 

Biden’s lead remains sturdy, no signs of upward movement for Trump/GOP Senate– Despite two big potentially race altering events – the appointment of a new Supreme Court Justice and domestic unrest – Biden retains a very durable and significant lead and the Senate would likely flip to the Democrats.  GOP running out of time, and have no clear mechanism or set of issues, to turn things around. 

Trump saw meaningful erosion in the battleground states – New polls showed Biden tied or even leading in IA and OH, two states which were not part of the Biden target list and where they had not been advertising (the shift in these two states is the biggest news of the week).  Two new polls out in the last 24 hours have Biden up 9 in PA. A Fox poll had Biden up 11 in Nevada, a state where there had not been much polling.  New polls showed Biden leading in ME-2 and NE-2, districts Trump won in 2016.  An Atlanta Journal Constitution poll had GA tied at 47-47, and a new high quality poll in Alaska had Trump only ahead by a new single point, 47-46 (all polls mentioned in this memo can be found on FiveThirtyEight).  

Given how late it is, given Biden’s financial advantage and his sizeable lead, that Trump is seeing erosion in the battleground in places where Biden wasn’t advertising is an ominous development for the President’s campaign.  The polling in MI, MN, PA, WI this past week suggests that none of them may be competitive – which is the whole ball game.  If Biden wins those 4 states he wins the election. 

The Senate– there just isn’t any good news for the GOP here.  New polls suggest Alaska and South Carolina really may be competitive. Iowa’s trending towards Biden is a bad development for an already struggling Senator Ernst. The nomination of Judge Coney Barrows looks like really bad news for Maine’s Susan Collins, a state Biden has a double digit lead in now.  And fundraising for the Democrats in the days after Coney Barrow’s nomination has exploded. If there was any movement this week in the Senate it was towards the Democrats, and as we’ve argued before, we think if the election were held today the Senate would flip.  

GOP very clearly in the minority now –57% of the country is not with the President now.  Most Senate Republican incumbents have 55-59% of their voters not with them.  On issue after issue – COVID, health care, the protests, who caused the recession, should the Senate wait to move ahead on SCOTUS to the next President – 55-61% of the country is not with the GOP position. It is hard to look at all of the polling we see now and not conclude that at least 55% of the US is just not available any longer to Trump and the GOP – and it could actually be higher.  Their only hope is Trump’s decent showing on the economy – something we’ve argued Biden can and should be able to take away in the days ahead.  

As we wrote last week, we think the GOP’s choice of ending the election with the appointment of Coney Barrows, a very vivid reminder of their treachery and radicalism, was a very bad electoral decision. At a time when the country has decided to give the Republicans less power there is little chance for them being rewarded by seizing more of it in such an illicit manner.  

Trump has developed a serious young voter problem– NDN released a new comprehensive analysis of young voters last week.  Recent polling shows a huge swing against Trump here, and among the highest levels of vote intent ever recorded.  In 2016 Clinton won 18-29 year olds 55-36, +19.  In a series of good polls that margin this year is 33-38 points, a shift, depending on final turnout, of 5-6m votes and 2-3% points in national polling.  It’s a huge 2020 development.  

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