NDN Blog

Tariffs, Trump, and Tyrants

One of the great animating principles which drove the founding of America and the design of our government was the quest to curtail the power of a single person to determine the fate of the nation without reasonable deliberation and what we call checks and balances.   There is perhaps no more quintessentially American idea than this – that the President is not a sovereign, but a partner in governing the nation with Congress and the Judiciary; that he or she serves the people, not themselves; that we are a nation of laws, not men and women.

After more than two years of his Presidency, it just isn’t clear that Donald Trump agrees with this time worn American belief that the power of an executive in a democracy must be limited and checked.  At the core of Bob Mueller’s report to the American people are profound questions about Donald Trump’s willingness to trample democratic norms and laws, even openly working with a hostile foreign power to influence the outcome of an American election.  The President showers authoritarian strongmen like Putin, Kim, and Orban with praise, and denigrates our democratic allies.  In case after case – the unrelenting lying about everything, the refusal to divest from his businesses, the unilateral deployment of the military on US soil, the years of obstruction documented by Mueller and the unprecedented disregard for the oversight responsibilities of Congress, the many times the President’s policies have been stopped by US courts, the granting of security clearances over the objections of professional staff and the intelligence community, the wanton lawlessness of his Cabinet and staff, and the persistent invocation of emergency powers when no emergency exists (either the US economy is the best ever or we are in a national emergency, can’t be both) – the President has refused to abide by the laws and norms essential to making our democracy, or any democracy, work.  In many ways he has become the type of American leader our Founding Fathers tried so hard to prevent from ever occupying the White House. 

It is in this light that we must see, and ultimately challenge, the President’s use of tariffs with Mexico, China, and other nations in the world.  The way he is using them, without consulting Congress and by whimsically announcing and enacting them without public debate or deliberation, is simply outside any reasonable understanding of how our nation should be governed.  They are the actions of a tyrant, or a Mad King, not an American President.  They also, perhaps even more importantly, violate the entire theory of how the post WWII order, designed and built by the United States, was supposed to work.  Whimsical use of tariffs has been essentially outlawed or highly constrained in our global system, in ways similar to how we’ve approached chemical and nuclear weapons.  Their escalating use in the pre-war period led to world war, and leaders from around the world came together and designed a system which sought to eliminate their existence entirely.  The President’s repeated deployment of tariffs to achieve not just economic but political objectives is a clear break from the norms and laws of the modern world. 

What the President has done with his tariffs, Mexican and otherwise, is therefore both a clear betrayal of the American system of government, and of the system we designed and built for the world after WWII.  As many predicted, the tariffs are slowing global economic growth, slowing American growth, creating extraordinary tensions with our largest trading partners and most important geopolitical allies, and weakening the global system America built that has ushered in the most peaceful and prosperous period in all of human history.  Congress has a profound duty to step in now and stop this dangerous abuse of Presidential authority before more harm is done to the United States and the world.  It can begin by advancing a bicameral, bipartisan bill already introduced into Congress that is designed to reign in the President’s abuse of his tariff authorities. 

But Congress has an additional remedy it is considering now – impeachment and removal.  It is my own belief that if Congress does begin the process of removing the President, among the more persuasive arguments which will need to be made is Donald Trump’s historic abandonment of the democratic principles which have inspired the world and made America great.  Refusal to embrace those principles, flirting and encouraging autocratic whimsy rather than democratic deliberation, is perhaps the greatest crime an American President can commit, for it is a betrayal of our nation’s most important contribution to human kind – that it is the people who are sovereign, not Mad Kings and tyrants.  There is perhaps no greater rationale for the removal of a President than failure to maintain fidelity to our democratic system itself. 

For more on why Congress should be challenging the President’s tariffs see this recent series of essays from the NDN team. 

Key Takeaways from the European Election

In a weekend Twitter thread I did a deep dive on the results from the European elections: big turnout, gains for the Liberals and Greens, losses for the establishment left and right, and less power for European parties on the right. Support for the European project held, but the governing coalition will now be broader and more complicated, with the Liberals and Greens having much more influence than before.  ew voices and new politics will emerge now in Europe. 

One group who will not have more influence is the European far right.  Overall the center-right/far right parties saw their representation in the European Parliament drop from 49.5% to 46.7%. The three far right parties went from 21% to 23%, gains that were less than anticipated, and became only a bit more of a smaller and less powerful right-of-center pie.  Even in the UK it appears those voting for Remain outpolled those voting for Brexit, though things remain closely divided there. 

Loss of ground for the center-right/rfar right, and gains for Liberals and Greens, feels similar to what we are seeing here in the US. The GOP got beaten badly here in 2018, and Donald Trump is the weakest incumbent at this point in his Presidency in the history of polling - with no near peer.  President Trump would lose to Joe Biden by a large margin if the election were held today.  In the Democratic Party, we are seeing a huge rise in the import of countering climate change, and Dem voters hold very “liberal” views on immigration and trade, supporting free trade and opposing the President’s tariffs by wide margins.  Importantly, in Europe you did not see the rise of a far left to counter the rise of the far right – the party which gained the most ground was the Liberals, a centrist pro-EU alliance.  The far-left alliance actually lost ground in Europe, perhaps tracking the decline of the Labour Party in the UK and Bernie Sanders here in the US. 

As NDN has been arguing for months, the response of the center-left to the rise of a radical and dangerous far right politics here in the US has been something that feels far more like pragmatism than anything else. It's how we won the House back in 2018, how Pelosi is leading today, and in our own 2020 field, the politician most associated with that politics holds a commanding lead.  It isn't that the rise of AOC and are allies isn't important - it is.  But is our take that their influence and the Democratic Party's leftward drift has been exaggerated.  Consider that the Justice Democrats, her group, won only 7 of its 67 races in 2018; and that 40 of the 59 new House Democrats have joined the New Democrat Coalition, a group long associated with pro-market, pro-trade "liberal" politics. 

If your basic analysis is the radicalization of the other party has become dangerous, it would stand to reason you would be wary of embracing extremism in your own party. 

I would also posit the rise of the “Greens” here and in Europe is a pragmatic response, long overdue perhaps, to a serious global challenge and threat.  Fascinating to see the response to the perceived threat of Trumpism/Orbanism/Putinism to be a pro-globalist pragmatism and one working to hasten the arrival of a post-carbon world – both of these impulses seem very much in line with what is needed now, and ones that should worry the GOP about next year. 

Is Trumpism Failing? His Declining Poll Numbers Sure Suggest So

In a post earlier this week I noted that Trump had experienced a very dramatic decline in his standing in Rasmussen, his favorite pollster, dropping from 51/47 (+4) to 44/54 (-10) over the past 3 weeks.  Nate Silver’s 538 has found similar slippage, as Trump has dropped from 42.7/52.4 (-9.7) to 41.1/53.8 (-12.7) in just the past 2 weeks.  It is just hard not to conclude at this point that Trump’s big play of the last few months – tariffs, global saber rattling, border chaos, burying Mueller – hasn’t worked, and in fact is in some way contributing to his rather abrupt decline.  I review all this data and the points made in the last graph below in a new post today.

The media has failed to capture how fundamentally unpopular Trump is right now, and how much trouble he is for re-election.  His unpopularity is unprecedented in modern American history.  In a study released by NDN a few weeks ago, we found that this point in their first term, all post war American presidents had:

- Net approval of + 22.5.  Today Trump’s is 12.7.  He is net 30 points below the average of all first term post war American Presidents at this point.

- 72 days at -10 or worse approval.  Trump has had more than 700 days at -10 plus so far in his Presidency, or ten times all other post war American Presidents combined.

Trump is even in trouble in MI/PA/WI, the 3 states most critical to his success in 2016.  The GOP was blown out in these states in 2018, and according to Morning Consult, Trump has lost between 15 and 19 pts net in favorability in all three.  A new poll has him trailing Joe Biden by 11 points in Pennsylvania.  His America First policies have pushed the heavily Mexican American parts of the country significantly towards the Democrats in the last two elections, almost certainly putting CO and NV out of play, and AZ and TX very much in play for the Democrats.  A recent poll in Arizona had Biden leading Trump by 5 there.  And if Texas is indeed in play, it will be $200-300m problem for Trump – no small thing.

Incumbents very rarely come back from where Trump is today.  His Presidency increasingly feels like a failed one, and many more days like today and it certainly will be.

2020 Election And Political Analysis

Election and political analysis has been a major program area for NDN over the past 20 years. Here you can our work on the 2020 general election and democratic primary, Trump's popularity through three years in office, and more detailed geographic/demographic analysis. As well, our 2018, 2016, and 2014 election analyses are also available for your review. 

Top Lines

Simon's "Notes On 2020" Column - Simon writes a short column on the 2020 election and national politics at the beginning of each week.  You can find them all here.

Analysis: Trump Is The Least Popular First-Term President Since WW2 - Chris Taylor, NDN, 9/11/19 - Trump is the most unpopular first-term president in over six decades and is leading Republicans down the path of the California GOP by ignoring those demographic groups that will over the next decade become more and more critical to winning elections.

Trump 1.0 Has Failed. What Comes Next? - Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 6/18/19 - Evidence of the failure of Trumpism is all around us.  His poll numbers are the worst of any 1st term President, his policies have left the nation weaker, more isolated.  As he begins his re-election campaign, Trump is looking increasingly desperate, and we fear, dangerous. 

Demographic/Geographic Analysis

Americans Under 45 Are Breaking Hard Toward The Democrats - And For Good Reason - Simon Rosenberg and Chris Taylor, NDN, 8/2/19 - Among the most significant political developments of the Trump era is the dramatic shift of under 45 year old voters towards the Democrats.From 2000 to 2016 D margin w/under 45s was 6 points. In 2018 it was 25. 

Dems Have Already Won Back Voters In The Rust Belt. It's Trump Who Needs To Win Them Back Now - Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 6/5/19 - It is a myth that Trump's anti-immigrant and protectionist policies have made it difficult for Democrats to win in the Rust Belt in 2020.  Trump is trailing badly there now raising questions about Trumpism itself has become a grand failure. 

Notes On The GOP's Erosion In The Southwest - Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 2/11/19 - The dramatic erosion of the GOP brand in the heavily Mexican-American parts of the country over the past two elections is one of the biggest stories in American politics.  Trump's border extremism has cost the GOP dearly, and it hasn't kept the industrial north from slipping away. 

In All Important Florida, Democrats Lost Ground With Hispanic Voters - Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 11/9/18 - In a year when Democrats made gains with Hispanics across the nation, Florida Democrats saw their performance with Hispanics decline.  Work has to be done to figure out why. 

$38 Million For Beto, And Why It Matters - Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 10/30/18 - Democrats have been raising a lot of money this cycle.  This is not just about fear of Trump - it is about the broad adoption of a more authentic people based politics suited for the digital age championed by Dean, Obama, and yes even Trump himself.

More

Europe's Elections: Liberals and Greens Make Gains, Right Loses Ground - Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 5/28/19 - In both Europe and the US, a new politics is emerging in opposition to the extremism of the far right. It emphasizes political pragmatism and the embrace of trade and immigration, while also focusing on the significant threat of climate change.

Democrats Must Demonstrate Greater Leadership In Challenging Trump's Ruinous Trade Policy - Simon Rosenberg, Twitter, 5/8/19 - Democrats should be more aggressive in challenging Trump’s tariffs and trade policies given the failure of those policies to achieve their objectives and growing discontent with them around the country.

Iowa, Trump, and the Politics of Globalization/Tariffs - Chris Taylor, NDN, 10/12/18 - Trump’s trade policies are hurting the Iowa economy. His tariffs are unpopular there, and his party is performing badly in the fall elections. Some thoughts on what this means for the Democratic presidential race starting soon.

Media Citations: You can find NDN in recent stories about the national political landscape in the AP, Hearst Media/San Antonio Express News, NBC News, Washington Monthly and Washington Post (here, here, here).  Our most important recent citations are below. 

Joe Biden Identifies The No. 1 Threat: Trump - Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, 4/25/19 - Key passage: As Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg, who worked on House races in 2018, told me, Democrats realized that both Democratic and swing voters wanted candidates who offered a "safe port in a storm" at a moment of perceived extreme danger in the form of Trump, which is why Democrats recruited many candidates with records of accomplishment and an aura of solidity and competence. 

The Biggest Field Yet. No Frontrunner. A Divided Base. Welcome To The 2020 Democratic Primary - Molly Ball and Philip Elliott, Time Magazine, Cover Package, 2/21/19 - Key passage: “The Democratic Party is going through a very large transformation,” says party operative Simon Rosenberg, who’s backed the winning candidate in every primary since 1988 but has no favorite this time. “The era of Clinton and Obama is ending and ceding to a new set of dynamics. A new Democratic Party is being forged in front of our eyes.”

This Is Why Republicans And Democrats Aren't Talking To Each Other In Washington - Ron Brownstein, CNN, 1/8/19 - Key passage: "It's fair to say that the House campaign in 2018 executed on a politics that we first saw with Obama in 2007 and 2008: It aligned the House with the way that Obama began to reorient the Democratic Party," said Rosenberg, who consulted with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee through the campaign. "There were many people who were saying that Obama's embrace of this new coalition [that was younger, more diverse, better-educated, and more urbanized] was the cause of Democratic decline in the Senate and the House. It was never true. But what was true was that Democrats had never resigned themselves to having to lean into this new coalition that Obama constructed. Now they did in 2018 -- they leaned into it -- and look what happened."

Three Things We Need To Do Now To Protect Our Elections In 2020

This essay originally appeared on Medium.

Despite how front and center Russia’s significant campaign to influence the 2016 elections has been in our politics these past few years, little has been done to ensure it doesn’t happen again in 2020. No major bill addressing foreign interference has passed the Congress, the strategy of the United States government remains opaque at best, and of course our President has still not accepted that Russia did intervene last time. This lack of action comes despite the US intelligence community giving repeated warnings about Russia and other nations trying again in the 2020 election; and in recent weeks FBI Director Wray has been loudly raising the alarm about an unprecedented rise in cyber-attacks happening now against American interests. Given how late we are to taking action — the election began three months ago, twenty candidates are actively campaigning for President and voting begins in January — there are three things which the nation’s political leadership should prioritize and make happen in the coming months:

Require Paper Ballots And AuditsFirst and foremost: make sure every state uses unhackable paper ballots and conducts mandatory post-election risk-limited audits of votes (something currently required in Colorado, Rhode Island, and Virginia). Getting this done by the November 2020 elections is going to require swift action, strong leadership from the Administration and Congress, and federal resources. Our current system of leaving election security up to the states, with no minimum mandatory standards, isn’t an adequate response to the reality of the threat today. The simple truth is without paper ballots and audits we have no way of knowing whether our election results have been altered. The lack of leadership from the White House on this fairly straightforward issue has been profound, and dangerous.

Protect Federal Candidates From Cyber Attacks/Hacking And DisinformationWhen it comes to protecting political candidates for federal office from the kind of activity we saw in 2016, the candidates and their political party campaign committees are essentially on their own. The Department of Homeland Security just isn’t yet in this business, and the extraordinary turmoil we are seeing at DHS now will make it far less likely a real program will emerge in the coming months. The cyber protections that federal elected officials receive in their official capacity as Senators and House Members do not extend to their campaigns or private activity, nor does it extend to candidates who are not yet elected. Essentially, it’s up to the candidates and campaigns to protect themselves — even though few politicians are cybersecurity experts — from Russian, Chinese, Iranian and North Korean government hackers and disinformation campaigns.

A series of things must be done here to address these emergent challenges. First Congress should work with DHS to establish a clear and transparent process for information sharing and technical support at the very least with the six federal party committees — the RNC, NRSC, NRCC, DNC, DSCC and DCCC — who can then extend similar services to each of their campaigns. Next each party committee should add a Vice Chair for Cyber Security to oversee these efforts and a Chief Security Officer to ensure the Committee’s access to the technical knowledge required to truly protect our candidates. The strategy for how each Party Committee approaches their responsibilities in these areas should be public, perhaps on their FEC filings; and robust programs with modern tools, fulsome information sharing and extensive training should be funded and executed.

The two offices that provide cyber security for Congress, the Senate Sergeant at Arms and the House Chief Administrative Officer should be given additional authorities and resources, including the ability to help extend protections to the political and private communications of Senators and House Members. Congress should also make counter intelligence and cyber security training mandatory for all principals and staff, and this training should be conducted at least annually as the threats, tactics and tools are always evolving.

Candidates Should Enter Into A Pact To Forgo Use Of Illicit Campaign TacticsOne of the great dangers facing the US in the coming years is that the kind of illicit tactics used by the Russians — hacking, weaponization of stolen information, extensive use of fake accounts and inauthentic amplification — becomes commonly used by domestic actors here in the US against one another. It is vital that responsible leaders of both parties come together and commit to forgoing the use of these kinds of tactics in our democracy.

Many European political parties have signed on to a pledge to forgo these kinds of illicit tactics in their May elections. The Democratic Party State Chairs of the four early primary states — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada — have expressed support for the idea of the Democratic Presidential candidates entering into a binding pact with one another committing to forgo the use of a wide range of these tactics. Encouragingly, all of the Democratic candidates up and running in late February agreed to forgo the use of stolen or hacked material in the 2020 elections, a tactic central to how Russia influenced our election last time. It is a good first step but much more must be done.

As an advisor to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the 2018 elections, I supported both extensive cybersecurity security and countering disinformation operations run by the Committee. We worked with the social media platforms to take down illicit activity, and reported cyber intrusions to the FBI. But at no point did we work cooperatively with anyone else in the federal government. The systems for information sharing, joint learning, training and tool evaluation simply aren’t there yet. We were on our own, as are the campaigns and party committees of both parties this election cycle.

Simply put, we are not ready. The country hasn’t taken the kind of commonsense steps to protect ourselves that we should have taken after Russia’s historic attack on the nation in 2016. The kinds of things I describe above should have happened in 2017 and 2018, and been up and running on January 1st, 2019. They didn’t happen — but they should now. While there are many things which can be done to protect our elections (like the Honest Ads Act and DETER Act, and of course HR1) to me these three steps are the most important and achievable in the coming months. I urge our candidates, elected leaders and the Trump Administration to step up and work together to get them done as soon as possible.

NDN Applauds The Progress Made Towards Reining In Trump's Tariff Authority

NDN applauds the progress we've seen this week towards challenging the President's whimsical use of tariffs to achieve his trade objectives. We're pleased that the New Democrat Coalition's Trade Task Force sent a letter on Wednesday urging the President not to impose auto tariffs on our close trading partners, and are also pleased about the more vocal opposition to these tariffs now coming from Republicans as well.

NDN has already endorsed the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act and the Automotive Jobs Act, both of which would put constraints on the President's tariff authority. We continue to believe that the President's frequent and routine invocation of national emergencies as a justification to put tariffs on our closest allies is an extraordinary abuse of President power and should be more forcefully challenged by Congress.

Related Writings: 

Congress Should Warn The President Against Levying Tariffs On Europe - 3/21/19 - The hostility shown by the President and his family towards Europe this week has reinforced the need for Congress to send a clear message to Trump that if he chooses to put tariffs on European goods there will be consequences for his Presidency and his agenda in Congress.

NDN Supports Bicameral Tariff Bill - 2/8/19 - NDN is pleased to endorse and support the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act of 2019, legislation which provides critical Congressional oversight on the President’s ability to use national security as a justification to impose tariffs on our close trading partners.

Trump's Tariffs Are A Growing Threat To The American, And Global, Economies - 11/28/18 - US growth expectations have fallen, manufacturing and agricultural firms now face higher costs and weaker demand, and the trade deficit has surged. With a President unwilling or unable to grasp the risks of a broader trade conflict, it is up to Congress to challenge Trump far more directly on his reckless trade policies.

Iowa, Trump, and the Politics of Globalization/Tariffs - 10/12/18 - Trump’s trade policies are hurting the Iowa economy. His tariffs are unpopular there, and his party is performing badly in the fall elections. Some thoughts on what this means for the Democratic presidential race starting soon. 

Congress Should Warn The President Against Levying Tariffs On Europe

We are at the point now where Congress should send a clear message to President Trump that if he chooses to put tariffs on European automobiles and other goods in the coming weeks there will be consequences for his Presidency and his agenda in Congress.   Given the struggles Europe is having with Brexit, its upcoming May elections, and a slowing economy, launching tariffs at this particular moment would be rightly interpreted in Europe as an unnecessary and reckless hostile act and do grave and lasting damage to America’s relations with our closest historic allies.  Additionally, as we’ve written elsewhere, the President’s repeated evocation of emergency powers to levy tariffs without the approval of Congress is a dangerous abuse of Presidential power and should no longer be tolerated by leaders in either party. 

Events of the last few days have made this kind of aggressive action by Congress far more urgent.  First, the President’s son, Don Jr, penned an op-ed in a UK newspaper attacking Prime Minister Theresa May for her ineffective management of Brexit during perhaps the most consequential week of this sorry saga.  An extraordinary step, the op-ed demonstrated a willingness by the President’s family, and perhaps his government, to take dramatic action outside of all traditional diplomatic protocol to hasten the breakup of the European Union.  Second, the President has used remarkably hostile language about Europe in recent days, most notably in this exchange with the Irish Prime Minister at the White House last week.   With the Irish Prime Minister sitting next to him, the President said about Europe: “We are going to do something that’s pretty severe economically.  We are going to tariff a lot of their products coming in.” 

The formation of the European Union was one of America’s most successful and important post war projects.  In April, Europe and the United States will be marking NATO’s 70th Anniversary, and in May, Europe will be holding elections for representation in the European Parliament.  This should be a time to be celebrating our historic alliances and partnerships, not attacking them.  And at a broader level, Congress must now, as best it can, not just work to counter or mitigate the damage the President is doing to our nation and its interests, but to prevent it. 

While we believe anything the House and Senate do should be very aggressive, at the very least they should give serious consideration to two bills currently in Congress: the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act of 2019, sponsored by Senators Toomey (R-PA) and Warner (D-VA) in the Senate, and Reps. Kind (D-WI), Panetta (D-CA), Gallagher (R-WI), and LaHood (R-IL) in the House, and the Automotive Jobs Act, sponsored by Reps. Sewell (D-AL) and Upton (R-MI). The Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act provides critical Congressional and Department of Defense oversight on the President's Section 232 ability to use national security as a justification to unilaterally impose tariffs, while the Automotive Jobs Act requires the federal government’s International Trade Commission to study the economic impact of auto tariffs before they can be implemented by the President.

With all of the warning bells ringing for the American and global economies, and our alliances with key trading partners, it is time now for Congress to engage and directly challenge the President on his irresponsible tariff policy.

Time For Congress To Directly Challenge Trump's Tariffs, Pass Bicameral Bill Reining In His Tariff Authority

Today's extremely poor job growth data reinforces the trend also echoed this week in Europe that we are heading for a sharp deceleration in economic activity and a potential recession.  The Atlanta Fed now sees only 0.5% growth in Q1, while Goldman Sachs projects a growth rate of just 0.9%. On top of that, manufacturing output, a key leading indicator of growth and a major priority for the President, has fallen sharply in recent months and is now at its lowest level since November 2016. 

Much of the blame for this significant deceleration lies at the feet of Trump's reckless trade policy, which has seen new tariffs imposed on over 20% of all US imports. This policy has led to a significant deceleration of global growth, including a near recession in the euro area, as well as a loss of key demand markets for US manufacturers and farmers. All told, the tariffs have led to thousands of US jobs being lost and have contributed to the recent declines in the stock market. 

As a result, removing Trump's tariffs is a key growth imperative for the US economy. This reinforces the need for Congress to more forcefully challenge Trump's trade policy, particularly the illegal national security authority Trump has used to unilaterally impose tariffs. One important way we recommend doing this is the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act of 2019, sponsored by Senators Toomey (R-PA) and Warner (D-VA) in the Senate, and Reps. Kind (D-WI), Panetta (D-CA), Gallagher (R-WI), and LaHood (R-IL) in the House. The legislation provides critical Congressional and Department of Defense oversight on the President's Section 232 ability to use national security as a justification to unilaterally impose tariffs on our close trading partners.

Challenging the President on his trade policy is especially important in light of his new rent-seeking "plan" to charge our NATO and East Asian allies the full cost of US troops deployed in their countries plus an extra 50% premium. This idea is nothing short of extortion of our close allies, and if enacted would shake the transatlantic alliance to its core. If the President also unilaterally imposes auto tariffs on the European Union, a move likely to push the euro area into recession, the transatlantic alliance could witness a very rapid, and potentially fatal, unraveling. These moves can only be seen as intentionally trying to destroy the alliances that have created decades of peace and prosperity around the world. It is our belief, therefore, that directly challenging Trump's ability to impose these tariffs is a critical part of the fight against illiberal authoritarianism both at home and abroad.

With all of the warning bells ringing for the American and global economies, it is time now for Congress to engage and directly challenge the President on his reckless tariff policy.

Related Writings:

Trump's Trade Deal W/China Looks Toothless, 2019 Growth Stagnates - 3/6/19 - The potential trade deal with China looks likely to only increase some purchases of US goods, while doing little to reduce Chinese structural trade abuses. Meanwhile, the trade war has led to a large deceleration in US growth, while stimulus from the tax cut has weakened significantly.

Trump's European Tariffs Would Weaken The US Economy And The Transatlantic Alliance - 2/14/19 - Auto tariffs on the EU would destroy thousands of US manufacturing jobs, raise car prices across the country, and weaken our alliance with our European partners. Congress must act to challenge this looming trade war.

NDN Supports Bicameral Tariff Bill - 2/8/19 - NDN is pleased to endorse and support the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act of 2019, legislation which provides critical Congressional oversight on the President’s ability to use national security as a justification to impose tariffs on our close trading partners.

Trump's Tariffs Are A Growing Threat To The American, And Global, Economies - 11/28/18 - US growth expectations have fallen, manufacturing and agricultural firms now face higher costs and weaker demand, and the trade deficit has surged. With a President unwilling or unable to grasp the risks of a broader trade conflict, it is up to Congress to challenge Trump far more directly on his reckless trade policies.

Iowa, Trump, and the Politics of Globalization/Tariffs - 10/12/18 - Trump’s trade policies are hurting the Iowa economy. His tariffs are unpopular there, and his party is performing badly in the fall elections. Some thoughts on what this means for the Democratic presidential race starting soon. 

Trump's Hold on DC, US Politics and the GOP Is Weakening

The central dynamic in US politics today, and perhaps even the politics of the world, is the growing awareness of how weakened a figure Donald Trump has become.  He was beaten badly in the 2018 elections, and saw both parties come together in Congress to reject his strident demands on his central domestic issue, the border.  In essence no one is scared of him anymore.  

The opposition to him is becoming more pronounced in official circles here and abroad.  On Venezuela, China and Russia came together to support a pro-Maduro coalition, directly challenging the President’s very aggressive policy there.  The open hostility towards him was on full display in both Warsaw and Munich last week.  And here at home, prominent Republicans have not only challenged him on the border, but also on NATO, tariffs, Russia, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. 

The President’s unfortunate decision to declare a national emergency on the border when none exists may weaken him further.  As the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent reports this morning, early polling on the emergency declaration is very bad for the President, even among his supporters.  After weeks of improvement on 538’s polling aggregate, the President’s approval rating has turned sharply more negative in recent days.  The sense that our President is failing, adrift, a bit crazy and potentially in imminent, grave legal jeopardy is taking hold here and across the world.  Domestically it means more direct challenges to his power, and more anger, lashing out; globally however it may mean even more aggressive actions against US interests, as this New York Times article about escalating Chinese and Iranian cyberattacks against American businesses details.  As I wrote this weekend, the President has left America dangerously isolated and not focused on the most serious threats facing us today – Russia, cyber exploitation of our open society, climate change and the corrosive geopolitics of oil wealth – but his profound new weakness is an additional threat to our security now too. 

Finally, with this wierd period from early October to last week when the political focus was on the elections and then the shutdown coming to an end, the focus now will be now on more conventional governing challenges - the economy, foreign policy, health care, the deficit, etc.  Given that virtually every metric about the health of the nation has worsened under Trump, and our standing abroad has taken a huge hit, the return to reality we may be about to experience is going to be unpleasant for Trump.  I don't know how he is going to handle it all - his decline, the willingness to challenge, the growing gravity of the legal cases, the reality that he's been a crappy President - but one should expect more distractions from it all, and more dark and challenging days ahead. 

NDN Hails Progress Towards 2020 Pact on Disinfo, Hacking

Feb 12th - In anticipation of the DNC meeting here in Washington later this week, NDN is calling on the DNC, the State Parties and the 2020 Presidential campaigns to forge a pact agreeing to forgo the use of illicit campaign tactics in the upcoming Democratic Presidential primary. 

In this new pact, it is our hope that all the Democratic campaigns will pledge to forgo the use of bots, trolls, troll farms, fake accounts, fake sites, deepfakes and faked images, hacking and use of hacked materials; for the campaigns to pledge to be vigilant about reporting illicit activity to the proper authorities, the social media platforms and the DNC; and to discourage the use of these tactics by their supporters and allied institutions. 

The use of these tactics has no place in modern democracies, and the Democratic Party should take a very clear stand against their use in the 2020 election.  Negotiating and adopting a pledge like this will send a very strong signal that Democrats want the American people to conduct a debate and choose their leaders without interference from foreign or inauthentic actors.

You can learn more about our idea for a party-wide pact here

Feb 22nd - Great to see chorus growing louder, much louder for new norms and committments for how we will manage our politics in the social media age.  A broad consortium of European parties signed on to a pledge; Joe Biden endorsed the pledge concept; and all the early Dem 2020s agreed to never use hacked materials this cycle. 

This story from Natasha Korecki of Politico dives into a new report showing early and aggressive disinformation tactics being used already against 2020 Democratic candidates.  It is a reminder that the 2020 election is not happening next year - it is happening now.  It has already begun.  And the big question still remains - are we ready? What are we doing to prevent 2016 from happening again? This is not a question for next year - it is a question for right now, today. 

Feb 26th - Politico is reporting that the 4 early state Democratic Party Chairs - IA, NH, SC and NV - have sent a letter asking other party leaders to work together with the 2020 candidates towards a party-wide pledge to combat disinfo and hacking.  Very promising development.

The Washington Post's Greg Sargent offers a very smart take on the importance of the four early state Dem chairs pushing the party into a debate about these issues.  

April 23rd - Three exciting developments today.  Sen. Gillibrand pledged to forgo use of stolen or hacked materials in her campaign and challenged other 2020s to do the same.  According to the CNN story "the campaign hopes this pledge will launch a conversation that will allow all the presidential candidates, the Democratic National Committee and state parties to come up with a common strategy, ideally before the debates begin this summer."

Additionally, in a letter to her House colleagues today about the Mueller Report, Speaker Pelosi wrote "The For The People Act addresses the sweeping election protection, ethics reforms, and voting rights protections that the public has demanded to ensure that each voter has an equal voice and that their votes are counted as cast. We continue to urge our Senate colleagues to take up these reforms. And in light of the President’s defenders arguing in defense of receiving and weaponizing stolen emails, we continue to press our Republican House counterparts to take up our pledge to refuse to use stolen, hacked, or falsified information in campaigns because the American people deserve honest debate." Great to see the idea of a "pledge" - the establishment of new norms in this age of disinformation - so prominently referenced in this historic letter. 

Finally, DNC Chair Tom Perez in an open letter to the RNC called for both parties to establish new norms in the current elections.  Was an important early step in this process by Perez. 

Related Writings/Media from NDN

Protecting The 2020 Dem Primary From Disinformation, Bots and Hacking - Simon Rosenberg, NDN, 1/29/19 - Democrats must come together now to prevent what happened in 2016 from happening again this time. NDN is calling for all 2020s to sign a pledge forgoing the use of illicit campaign tactics in the Democratic Presidential primary. 

Simon Discusses Protecting The Democratic Primary From Disinfo And Hacking On MSNBC's Joy Reid - Simon Rosenberg, MSNBC, 2/2/19 - Simon appeared on Joy Reid’s MSNBC show last Saturday to discuss his ideas for how Democrats should be working to protect the 2020 Presidential primary from bots, disinformation and hacking.

Trump Doesn't Take Russian Electoral Interference Seriously. This Is What Democrats Did To Oppose It In 2018 - Simon Rosenberg and Aaron Trujillo, NBC News, 12/18/18 - The U.S. and its politics are not powerless to stop the kind of foreign hacking and disinformation tactics we saw in 2016. In the 2018 midterms, the DCCC developed a series of tools and strategies for reducing the influence and impact of malicious actors. Far more can now be done to protect our democracy and our discourse — and doing so should be a very high priority for the new Congress in 2019.

A Primer on Social Media Bots and Their Malicious Use in US Politics - Tim Chambers, NDN, 9/13/17.  This new and compelling paper by long time NDN collaborator Tim Chambers explains what bots are, looks at their malicious use in US politics and offers some ideas on what to do about it in the days ahead.  

The RNC's Russia Problem - Simon Rosenberg, US News, 5/14/17.  The RNC was instrumental to the success of Russia's interference campaign in 2016.  It should take the lead to make sure nothing like this every happens again. 

Calling All Patriots - Simon Rosenberg, US News, 10/13/16.  In a new essay Simon calls on the RNC and other GOP leaders to stop aiding the ongoing Russian effort to disrupt and influence our election. 

Other Related Writings/Media

Every 2020 Candidate But Trump Promises: No Stolen Data - Sam Stein/others, Daily Beast, 2/21/19.  Every 2020 Presidential candidate agreed to not use hacked material in the 2020 elections except one - Donald Trump. 

Biden Calls on Candidates Not To 'Aid and Abet' Foreign Election Interference - Josh Rogin, Washington Post, 2/21/19.  Joe Biden joins the call for US Presidential candidates to forgo use of illicit campaign tactics in the 2020 election. 

2/16/19 Update - A new European initiative has adopted this "pledge" construct for the upcoming European wide elections.  Is an exciting development. 

Can American Political Candidates Help Stop the Flood of Disinformation with a Pledge? - Justin Hendrix, Just Security, 1/31/19.  A smart new piece which dives deeper into the idea of a pledge, or pact, among politicians and political parties as a way of countering hacking and disinfo.

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