NDN Blog

Column: How America Prospers In A Global Age

Friends, the middle class has not been in decline for 40 years, nor have incomes been flat in America for the past 15. Over the past several months we’ve released a series of reports that show that things are far better today than much of what we’ve heard on the campaign trail this year, and that Americans themselves can feel it. In my new Op-Ed in US News (read here, excerpts below), I argue that since a new age of globalization began in 1989, America has seen periods of growth, lower annual deficits, booming stock markets and real income gains for workers – but only when the right policies have been put into place. There is a need for all of us to get closer to this data, find a better way to talk about the US economy and help reframe the economic conversation in the months and years ahead. The profound economic pessimism we’ve heard from many candidates these past two years neither accurately reflects the true experience of the American economy, nor the perception of American workers themselves. This is particularly true for Democrats, 78% of whom said economic conditions were good (in this same poll the # was 28% for Republicans – a 50 point difference). 

For more on this discussion review the Op-Ed below, a series of recent pieces from NDN, and this excellent set of analyses and essays from Dr. Rob Shapiro. 

Key Paragraphs:

"One of the more important questions in this long presidential election asks whether this new age of globalization has worked and is working for everyday Americans. We've heard many charges – decades of middle class decline, years of no income growth and lots and lots of anger at elites. Given how central this discussion has been to 2016, it deserves a closer look."

"Here at home the data suggests a more complicated picture than what we've heard on the campaign trail. While median income is only $3,000 higher today than in 1989, it has not moved on a straight line. As the graph below shows, it fell under President George H.W. Bush, rose steadily under President Bill Clinton, flatlined and then dropped under the second Bush, then declined as a result of the Great Recession and is now steadily rising again under President Barack Obama. By the end of this year incomes are likely to be 10 percent higher than they were at their recent nadir in 2012, and grew more in 2015 than in any single year of the modern era."

"Other economic data from this period follow similar trend lines – the annual deficit grew under both Bushes, and dramatically improved under Clinton and Obama. The unemployment rate rose under both Bushes, and fell during Clinton and Obama. The stock market had a modest rise under the first Bush, fell under the second and had explosive growth under Clinton and Obama. Three million net new jobs were created in the two Bush presidencies. Thirty million were created under Clinton and Obama."

"So a fairer characterization of this new global economic age isn't one of relentless decline; it is one that acknowledges workers have been able to prosper and make gains, but that two recessions – one the second worst in the past century – wiped out many of those gains. Or to put it another way, when the right policies and team were in place, Americans have been able to prosper in this new age. And the opposite has been true as well. So perhaps it isn't globalization or bad trade deals that have caused the struggle of far too many of late, but policies and leaders not capable of navigating a vastly changed economic, demographic, technological and geopolitical landscape."

"Which is why the choice Americans are about to make for their president matters. The last two presidents who argued for aggressive military action abroad and regressive economic policies at home brought us recession, income losses and larger annual deficits. Those who argued for investment at home, an embrace of this new global age and its opportunities and a restrained multilateralism abroad saw long, sustained periods of growth, lower annual deficits and rising incomes. We've tried this four times now since the wall fell, and we have real data to guide us going forward. Americans have prospered and succeeded in this new age, and can do so again – but only if we follow policies that look far more like Hillary Clinton's than Donald Trump's."

More Time, More Answers Please on the Middle East Please in Final Two Debates

The next President faces consequential choices about what to do in the Middle East. Simple solutions have defied American leaders for generations now, and the American people deserve a full and robust discussion of the choices ahead in the final two Presidential debates.

It is particularly important given that it is reasonable to conclude from the remarks of the Donald Trump and Mike Pence in recent weeks that if elected they plan to go to war in both Iraq and Syria without much delay. “Safe zones,” “no fly zones,” striking Russian allied Syrian regime targets, wiping out ISIS can only be done with a dramatic escalation of military involvement in the region requiring ground troops, substantial air power and the holding of territory in foreign countries potentially against the will of regional governments. Whatever words they may be use what they are describing is America going to war not just in Iraq, again, but in Syria too.

Like George W. Bush before them, Trump and Pence offer no plans for the political settlements that will have to achieved to cement in place any military gains that may be made. It is all about war, and nothing about how we achieve a lasting and sustained peace in the region. It is this kind of tactical approach to the region that failed the United States so utterly in the Bush era. The hard fought gains in Iraq Mike Pence described last night weren’t lost due to America not continuing to wage war in Iraq, but due to the Bush Administration’s failure to craft a workable post-war approach to keep the peace. ISIS grew in Iraq from the failure of peace making, not war making. We cannot afford to make these elemental mistakes all over again but this time in two countries, not one.

Given how central these matters have become for America, those managing the final two debates must do a better job at allowing a sustained and intelligent conversation about how we got here, and where we need to go. I am no foreign policy expert, but what I am hearing from Trump and Pence is alarming, and deserves far more in-depth discussion in the days ahead.

A Potentially Decisive Week in the Presidential Election

2016 Overview – Trump’s poor performance in the 1st debate, Clinton’s relatively strong showing, and his terrible week that has followed appear to created what may have become a decisive moment in the 2016 election. It will probably take another week or two to fully understand the impact this week has had, but early polling suggests dramatic movement in the race. Fresh out this morning is a Politico/Morning Consult track that now has Clinton up 6. It was plus one for Trump a week ago. 7 of the 8 polls that included the debate night in their polling have Clinton up 4 points or more, and in the new Huffington Post Pollster track she is now up 5 points, outside the margin of error. Even the Friday Fox News poll had it 49/44, with Clinton winning the debate by 61/21 (mon eve update - 10 of 11 polls have it 4 or more). 

Other data points to a Democratic structural advantage emerging now. Dems lead the Congressional Generic, 45-41. Party favs/unfavs are 44/48 for the Ds, 31/58 for the Rs. Dems lead Party ID by 6, 37/31. Obama’s approval is holding near 2nd term highs, in the low to mid 50s depending on the poll. In the Huff Po data, he is now in positive territory on the economy, and we know from other data, there has been a sharp improvement in how the public sees the economy over the past few months in particular. Trump’s unsteadiness makes it unlikely for him to make gains if there is violent act of some kind before the election, and given how well the economy is doing, there just isn’t going to be a lot he can do to gain meaningful advantage here. If the new tax story starts to eat into his over performing numbers on economic stewardship, you could begin to see movement in the race towards the Democrats that could start to really impact down ballot races.

It is important to remember that Obama won by 7 and 4 points in his two campaigns. The electorate was going to be perhaps 2% points more Democratic this time, given the increase of minorities and Millennials since 2012. So a 4-6 point victory by Clinton was always the a possible outcome of this election assuming the GOP nominee could not break the demographic advantage Democrats have had of late. And we know that hasn’t happened in 2016 – in fact, the Democratic Presidential advantage may have actually increased this year. Trump is campaigning today in Arizona, a state Mitt Romney won by 9, that appears to be a true toss up today (see my recent piece on Dems expanding the map).

If the structure of the race is settling into a 4-6 point Democratic advantage, it will take a few weeks for us to see how/if this impacting the down ballot races, particularly Senate and House. Real Clear Politics has its Senate “no toss ups” map moving from 51/49 R to 50/50 this week – a sign that things have moved there a bit. Clinton’s new intense focus on Millennials and Hispanics, two groups with a lot of newer and thus more episodic voters, could have its biggest impact on close down ballot races who just don’t have the bandwith or expertise to reach these voters.

The Millennial opportunity for Democrats this cycle cannot be overstated. 20m new Millennials have entered the electorate since 2012. If even just half of them vote, and vote 2:1 Democratic (may be conservative), this is an additional 3.5m votes for Democrats. Obama’s margin of victory in 2012 was 5m votes. So this Millennial thing ain’t beanbag, and the Clinton campaign is right to be pouring energy and resources into this opportunity this cycle.

So, yes, lots of caveats - but early indications are this has been a potentially decisive week in the Presidential election. 

Update 10/3 7pm - CBS's new poll has the race going from 42/42 to 45/41 for Clinton; new CNN/ORC has the race going from 45/43 Trump to 47/42 Clinton.  Along with Morning Consult, these are swings of 7, 7 and 4 points.  Game change!

Three Questions Donald Trump and Every Republican Should Have to Answer

Debate season starts tonight, and many are writing about the questions they would like to see answered by the candidates. Here are the three I hope to see Donald Trump asked tonight, and put to other Republicans and their surrogates in the days ahead:

1. The Economy. You say things are worse today because of President Obama. Yet the employment rate and annual deficits are way down, the stock market is at record highs, the number of American without health insurance is at the lowest level ever recorded, and even median income is higher today than when Obama took office. Are Americans really worse off today?

2. Safety. You say Americans are less safe today. But compared to President Bush’s Presidency, only hundreds have been killed by terrorists not thousands; only thousands of Americans have been killed and wounded in war compared to tens of thousands; crime rates and the number of police killed in action are far below what we saw in the Bush years; and the net number of unauthorized immigrants coming into the country annually has plummeted from 400,000 a year to zero. What statistics can back up your claim that America isn’t safer today than during the Bush years?

3. Syria. Candidate Trump has blamed President Obama and Secretary for the Syrian civil war. Can you tell us how the war started, and what your plan is to end it? Feel free to discuss the role of Russia and Iran, and the regional sectarian struggle between Sunni and Shi’a, in your response.

So, yes, inferring from these questions I believe America is both better off and safer today.  I am also anxious to hear GOPers continue to blame America for a war started and waged by Assad and his Russian allies, and for how they plan on bringing it to an end.  No more secret plans please. 

Column: Thoughts on the New Democratic Coalition (esp Hispanics/Millennials)

“Monday Musings” is a new column looking at the 2016 elections published most Mondays. You can find previous editions here.

2016 Overview – Using our regular polling aggregator, Clinton leads this week 46/42. The race is clearly tightening, both across the country and in the 13 battleground states. This of course was to be suspected. Trump had been struggling for months to consolidate the Republican electorate, and is slowly, slowly doing so now. One should expect him to continue to do so until he is regularly polling at 45%. The question begs – can Clinton answer, regain some of the standing she’s lost in recent weeks, and put the race away?

To do so Clinton is now functionally running against three candidates – Trump, Johnson and Stein. Simply, if Clinton performs well at the debates, spends her time, particularly in the 1st debate, making her case, laying out her plans, conveying her optimism and can do spirit, she should be able to pull voters who’ve wandered over to Johnson and Stein. But the campaign would be wise now to start kicking around ways to create more excitement about this race for Democratic voters – inspirational videos, more Michelle Obama and Cory Booker, things that provide a lift and resist the deeply negative environment that I worry is indirectly suppressing our voters. We need more “for” to complement the very well articulated with hundreds of millions of dollars of the “against.” And count me in on the idea of having aging politicians lecturing voters why the vote for a Clinton alternative is “youthful” or a “waste” is itself a waste of time. Time now to focus on making our case. And as I wrote last week, we have a compelling case to make indeed.

On the new Democratic Coalition and turnout – In the last week we’ve seen a stream of stories about how Democratic voters are less enthusiastic about voting than Republicans, and emerging weaknesses with two of the pillars of the muscular new Democratic coalition, Hispanics and Millennials. Whether this is true or not is a bit hard to tell, but that is in some ways the point. Given how important this new electorate is to 2016 and the future of the Democratic Party, there shouldn’t be any confusion about what is going on with these voters at this point in the election cycle.

A decade ago NDN was among a handful of organizations and researchers who pointed out that American politics was in the process of going through a huge demographic transformation, one driven by the explosion of two emergent groups, Hispanics and Millennials. Perhaps more than any other organization in American politics NDN focused on these two groups in particular, capped by the major magazine piece Pete Leyden and I penned for Mother Jones in 2007 (yes prior to Obama winning in 2008). In our piece, and in the hundreds of presentations we’ve done on the subject, we argued that these demographic changes represented a big “opportunity” for Democrats if their politics could adapt to the sensibilities and the far different media consumption habits of these new potential voters. We do not and have never believed demography was destiny. It was an opportunity to be seized, and never guaranteed (Bush showed us this in 2000 and 2004).

In the last few elections we’ve seen the opportunity this emerging electorate offers, and the perils for Democrats in not getting it right. In part by surfing this demographic wave, Barack Obama received 53 and 51 percent of the vote in his two elections, the best showing for Democrats in back to back elections since 1940 and 1944. But at the same time, during this same period of historic success, we had two disastrous midterm elections. In a series of essays (here and here) and a major poll we did in the spring of 2010, NDN warned that these new voters were far less committed to voting in mid-terms and that left unaddressed we could see a very bad election ahead. My own view since 2010 has been simple: as Tip O’Neill said, we cannot expect someone’s vote unless we ask for it, and we just weren’t asking for the votes of this new electorate with the money and strategic intent we were with the rest of the electorate. This was a bit of an “old dogs new tricks problem,” and as Harry Reid says in today’s Washington Post, it is also expensive (and I would add hard, complicated and requiring the reinvention of the traditional 20th century campaign model).

So heading into 2016 it was conventional wisdom that a great deal of the Democratic Party’s success would ride on the ability to get this new Democratic Coalition (it is not Obama’s coalition, and I will leave that for another day) to be actively engaged in the election. This was particularly important, for given the growth of both Hispanics and Millennials, the electorate this year was projected to be about 2 percentage points more favorable to the Democratic nominee. Getting this part right, holding all other things equal, would make success far more likely.

Which was why I became loudly opposed to the Democratic debate schedule when it was first announced last summer. It was in many ways it was the exact opposite of what was required by the Party to address this strategic opportunity/challenge. Nothing was built in to appeal to Millennials, the Hispanic/Spanish part was TBD, and the choice of old school broadcast networks on the weekends was seemingly designed to create as few impressions with all voters as possible. Given the success of the Party and its 26 debates and highly competitive primary in 2008, it was hard to justify a big change in the debate strategy; it was impossible to justify the schedule the DNC committed to last summer. Look at the results: the GOP’s debates were seen by over 100m more people than the Democrats, an impression gap worth literally hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars. And we did nothing to address this core strategic challenge that we need to design and learn new ways to reach new audiences that are far more open to hearing from us than them.

The burden of re-inventing the 20th century broadcast model of American politics falls far more heavily on the Democrats, as our coalition is younger and has far more rapidly left the reach of a traditional 30 second spot. The DNC should have used these debates to have experimented with the model, bringing in new partners and models, showcased younger more diverse leaders, etc. Lots of things could have been tried, but instead we relied on media partners from the predigital age (incl PBS!!!!!!!!!!!) of media and few people watched. No Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, Snapchat, Twitch, Vice. Our clear message to this emerging electorate who remain episodic voters – our party is not speaking to you. It was one of the greatest mistakes by a major American political party in my lifetime.

Given the fear Democrats should have had about this new coalition not adequately showing up in 2016 literally everything the Party should have done these past two years should have been designed to engage these new audiences in new ways. And that’s why reading these articles – Spanish language ads starting 10 days ago (In May in 2012, March in 2004), the Millennial effort beginning today, no clear evidence of major Hispanic strategy at the DSCC – you just have to sit back and say WTF guys. Given both the promise and very real challenges of engaging the new electorate the only justifiable strategy would have been to spend more money and to have created more impressions (asking for their vote) than ever before.There is no strategic logic for less, particularly when there are as many as 20 million more Millennials and 4m more Hispanics in the electorate than in 2012.

In my mind, the Democratic Party had one truly significant strategic challenge this cycle – to have ensured that we had a tested, true and funded national strategy to ensure this emerging electorate did not underperform again. Sitting where I sit today, it is clear that we are not there yet. Democrats are still likely to win this year but man is it long past time for there to be a big national conversation about how are going to finally once and for all become the party of the digital age and this new electorate that offers us so much promise and opportunity. 

P.S. Simon wrote about these matters extensively in his 2014 post-election memo, "A Wake Up Call For Democrats".

Release: Rosenberg Statement on Trump Immigration Letter - "It Resolves Nothing"

Simon Rosenberg's statement on Melania Trump's immigration letter:

“Without producing the actual visas or green card application this letter resolves nothing. If they have all the documents, then release them. It is the only way we can answer the fundamental question here which is whether Melania Trump followed immigration law. Failure to release them suggests that they are indeed hiding something, or the narrative they spelled out today is false. It also would have been far easier and quicker to release the actual documents then to have created an outside review. This letter is another case of “believe me” - which is clearly insufficient given that we are talking about possible criminal behavior by the potential First Lady of the United States.

There are additional problems with the letter:

Extraordinary Ability - The claim to have gotten an “extraordinary ability” green card seems improbable given this particular green card's requirements. They are intended for Nobel Laureates or others whose achievements are widely recognized as extraordinary in their field, not middling models. And the most important question remains unanswered by the letter– if she claimed to have a double degree from a university in her green card application she committed fraud, a crime against the United States Government which would put her entire green card/citizenship path becomes in doubt.

It should be noted that the lawyer who produced the letter today is also the one who said on the record in a recorded interview she received her green card through marriage. So one assumes he has recanted his previous public statement about her immigration path into the US.

Questions about the H1B - The reporting by Julia Ioffe and others that she had no regular employer and infrequent work in the late 1990s is again inconsistent with her having been granted a series of H1B visas, or suggests that there were misrepresentations and/or fraud in her applications. It is also not traditionally necessary to return to the home country to renew an H1B, once again calling into question her own recollection of how she lived and worked in the US in the late 1990s.

Finally, the claim that she was never in the US until Aug 1996 has obviously been contradicted by several different eyewitnesses and news accounts.

So, where are we? The letter was well executed and smart. But it resolves nothing. The only way to clear up the question of whether Melania Trump followed immigration law is by releasing her work visas, green card application and green card. Her refusal to do this implies guilt, and this whole episode should be treated as seriously as the Donald Trump’s coming appearance with Dr. Oz."

Additional Resources: Be sure to review Simon's tweets on the topic: here, here, and here as well as his piece, "4 Questions About Melania's Immigration Path Which Still Need Answers".

Column: Clinton Expands The Map, Trump's Worrisome Embrace of Putin

“Monday Musings” is a new column looking at the 2016 elections published most Mondays. You can find previous editions here.

2016 Overview – With fewer than 60 days to Election Day, according to our polling aggregate Clinton continues to hold a substantial 5 point lead in the race, 46-41. A few things to also note: 1) While Clinton retains this 5 point lead, a majority of public polls now have the race within 2 points. 2) Trump is still struggling to get out of the low 40s, and is only above 42% in a handful of either national or battleground state polls. 3) Clinton has successfully expanded the battleground to three new states – AZ, GA and NC. New polls from NBC this weekend should both AZ and GA to be a dead heat, and she leads in most North Carolina polls.

This last point is significant. A larger battleground allows the Clinton financial and organizational advantage to become magnified, as her resources – including powerful surrogates – are being deployed in more than just 10 states (the core battleground - CO, FL, IA, NV, PA, MI, NH, OH, WI, VA). This not only puts much more pressure on the under-resourced Trump operation, but it will mean more wins for Democrats down ballot in these additional states. For the Republican Party who has struggled so much at the national level in recent elections this expansion of the map is a very ominous development.

The move of Arizona into a pure toss up (two good polls out this week have the race dead even, Romney won by 9 pts in 2012) is one that should be particularly worrisome for the national GOP. For it means that soon Texas will start to be in play for Democrats, and not just statewide – Hispanics make up more than 15% of eligible voters in fully 15 Congressional seats held by Republicans in Texas, and 5 of those have more than 25% share. Dedicated, funded campaigns designed to get Hispanic turnout up in those districts could have a significant impact on the balance of power in the House in coming years. The last two public polls of Texas have Clinton up 1, and Trump up 6. Even assuming a 6 point spread, this is way way too close for the GOP to feel good about.

For those wondering about the state of play in the House, this Politico piece is well worth reading.

Trump and Putin – While Trump’s apparent admiration for Vladimir Putin has gotten a lot of attention of late, it is his embrace of Putin’s worldview that should be most alarming to Americans and to his fellow Republicans. Trump and his top supporters, including Governor Pence, have repeatedly praised Putin’s “strength,” admiring of his ability to prosecute his agenda on the world stage particularly in the Middlle East. But let’s look at that agenda a bit, and question whether it deserves praise and admiration.

In the Middle East, Putin is funding and protecting Syria's Assad, and is thus directly complicit in mass slaughter of civilians, the lengthening of the Civil War, and the massive refugee crisis in Europe that is doing so much to weaken establishment parties in Europe right now.  Putin has also for years been Iran’s primary backer on the global stage, including at the UN. The ISIS insurgency is primarily a fight against the Iran/Shi’a aligned regimes in both Syrian and Iraq, and thus one could argue that it has been Russia more than any other global power who has been responsible for creating the conditions that have led to both the rise of Iran as a regional power and ISIS itself - something Trump blames Hillary Clinton for daily.  

The distance between Putin's approach to the Middle East and the very public demonization of Iran we've heard from the GOP over the past few years could not be greater. 

His “strength” has also led Putin to invade and occupy portions of a foreign neighbor, and like Trump, support Brexit, weakening of both Europe and NATO (see this piece for a longer discussion of this).  His “strength” has also put him right in the middle of both the greatest sport cheating scandal in history, the FIFA scandal, and now the greatest Olympic cheating scandal in history. The level of cheating and corruption practiced by Russia on the global sports stage has no historic parallel, and is another sign of Putin’s utter contempt for a rules-based, international system.

Third, Putin is a leader of what has become the most pernicious political economy of the 21st century – the petro state. There is perhaps no system more antithetical to the American creed than petro states – unaccountable dictatorships, systems whose wealth and power is derived from mass pollution of the planet and the threat of global instability (which keeps oil prices high) rather than a commitment to the current global system.

Which brings me to my final point – that Trump, like Putin, has denigrated institutions and conventions which keep our democracy strong. He has broken from time honored bi-partisan tradition and refused to release his tax returns and his medical records, and has even failed to produce Melania’s basic immigration documents that he promised weeks ago.. He has refused to allow press to travel on his plane, and ended the traditiona of the “protective pool” that would travel with him at all times of day. He already said the election will be rigged and thus illegitimate, has encouraged the hacking of a major political party in the US by a foreign power to help disrupt our election and constantly calls the media and political elites dishonest and corrupt. He has questioned the efficacy of NATO and the European project, praised Brexit, and has said he will rip up trade agreements we have with other nations, violating international law and weakening the global trading system that has done so much to advance democratic capitalism around the world.

It would be one thing to praise Putin’s charm, but to praise his leadership and “strength” is praising a man who gets up every day fighting against time worn American values and the modern world we helped build. This is the very opposite of patriotism, and to me is the single most troubling manifestation of the new politics of Trump.

On 2016: We Are Better Off Today

“Monday Musings” is a new column looking at the 2016 elections published most Mondays. You can find previous editions here.

2016 Overview – Sticking with the poll average we’ve used all election, Clinton heads into the home stretch up 48.1/42.5 over Trump. The Real Clear Politics “No Toss Ups” Electoral College map has it 340/198 for Clinton. While the race has tightened a bit, and the CNN poll shows Trump up today, I will stick with the data in front of us – Clinton holds a firm lead on Labor Day. It was always inevitable that Trump would claw his way back to the mid 40s from the historically low place he has been in recent months. Part of what we are seeing is the slow, painful “coming home” of Rs who are holding their noses and deciding to vote for Trump. My expectation is that heading into the 1st debate on September 26th Clinton will hold a 3-4 point lead.

The Real Clear Senate “No Toss Ups” has it 50/50, which would give control to the Democrats if Clinton wins. Any way you look at this election right now, we should expect it to be competitive across the board. The ace in the hole for Democrats is their huge financial and organization advantage, which could make a significant difference in close states either for President or Senate. More on the House next week.

We Are Better Off Today – One of the most significant sets of data in the 2016 revolves around the perception of the performance of President Obama. As I’ve said for years now, if folks don’t believe that Democrats did a good job these last eight years there won’t be any reason for them to vote for them in 2016. We know that President Obama’s various approval ratings hover in the high 40s, low 50s, and in some polls are the highest they’ve been in his second term. We know that the employment rate is below 5%; median incomes have been rising in the US since 2011; there is direct evidence now that wages have alos been rising since 2013; the stock market is at historic highs; the annual deficit is less than half of what it was when Obama took office; 20m have health insurance today who didn’t have it and the growth health care costs are slowing: despite dystopian rhetoric from Donald Trump, crime rates in the US have plummeted over the past generation and investment in our cities has soared; energy costs are lower today, domestic production is up and we’ve begun to make the transition to a cleaner energy future in earnest.

To me it is clear and evident that things are better today than when Obama took office.

Helping fill in this picture a bit comes a brand new study from Gallup. We include the key graphs from the study but this shows is that simply isn’t a high level of discontent in the country right now. 80% of Americans say they are satisfied with their current standard of living, and 50% say things are getting better for them. Take a look:


Democrats need to do a better job owning the success of their past two Presidents. Both have left the country far better than they found it. The same cannot be said of the last two Republican Presidents. If Democrats were to move one single message as a party in the final two months of the election it would be this – when they are in power, things better. When the Rs are in power, things get worse. This is both true, and germane to the debate we are having in America right now.

We end with a chart that Jared Bernstein used in a recent Washington Post piece,  It shows that median income has been rising since 2011. 

Trump's New Immigration Line Is Consistent - Not Inconsistent - With His Arizona Speech

Yesterday, I released a detailed analysis of why what Donald Trump outlined in his Arizona immigration speech was mass deportation. Again, in the last 24 hours, he and his surrogates have attempted to muddy the waters. Here is a quick explanation for why what Trump said last night on Fox was consistent – not inconsistent – with the plan he spelled out on Wednesday.

The bottom line: Trump has eliminated legalization as an option for anyone who has ever entered the country illegally; said all 11m must leave the country with no exception; creates a massive unprecedented, ubiquitous, 24/7 deportation force; and even after all this if there is any undocumented immigrant left in the US he has said there is no chance for legalization or visa of any kind. So what exactly is there to “sit back and assess?” He has already forestalled anyone who has come in illegally doing anything other than leaving the country. Let’s review the key passages from his speech:

11m Must Leave, No Chance of Legalization Ever – “For those here today illegally who are seeking legal status, they will have one route and only one route: to return home.... Our message to the world will be this: you cannot obtain legal status, or become a citizen of the United States, by illegally entering our country.”
The offer from Trump is for families to quit their jobs, sell their homes/break their leases, remove their kids from school and return home to a country they no longer know w/o any guarantee of return. For most undocumented immigrations the wait to come back into the US will be at least 20 years. This is in effect forced removal.

All 11m Can Be Deported At Any Time – “But unlike this administration, no one will be immune or exempt from enforcement....Anyone who has entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation."

Establishment of Unprecedented, 24/7 Deportation Force – “There are at least 2 million criminal aliens now inside the country. We will begin moving them out day one, in joint operations with local, state and federal law enforcement. Beyond the 2 million, there are a vast number of additional criminal illegal immigrants who have fled or evaded justice. But their days on the run will soon be over. They go out, and they go out fast.

Moving forward, we will issue detainers for all illegal immigrants who are arrested for any crime whatsoever, and they will be placed into immediate removal proceedings. We will terminate the Obama Administration’s deadly non-enforcement policies that allow thousands of criminal aliens to freely roam our streets.
We will restore the highly successful Secure Communities program. We will expand and revitalize the popular 287(g) partnerships, which will help to identify hundreds of thousands of deportable aliens in local jails. ….The Davis-Oliver bill will enhance cooperation with state and local authorities to ensure that criminal immigrants and terrorists are swiftly identified and removed.

We are going to triple the number of ICE deportation officers. Within ICE, I am going to create a new special Deportation Task Force…..We’re also going to hire 5,000 more Border Patrol agents.”
Taken together this is a massive new, unprecedented national deportation force unlike anything seen in all of American history.

Conclusion – Trump’s plan is to create an unprecedented national, 24/7, deportation force by formally deputizing all federal, state and local law enforcement and adding significant new DHS capabilities in the immediate round up of several million people. At the same time, any undocumented immigrant will become once again a deportation priority. This means that while the new deportation force is rounding up the millions of “criminal aliens” any other undocumented immigrant may get caught up in the enforcement web and immediately deported. Finally, you will have been told by your government that you in fact must leave and there is no chance of you ever achieving legalization or a visa if you stay.

The strategy is that all of this taken together – the massive national raids; ubiquitous 24/7 deportation force; a universal removal order for all 11m, no chance of legalization or visa - will cause the rest of the undocumented population to “self-deport.” The expectation that there will be very few left after years of this effort (why Trump’s language last night on it taking a while was significant – a longer process will catch more non-criminals and is more threatening to those without criminal records); and that he has already said there is NO CHANCE anyone of them will get a visa or legalization.

So, again, how exactly he is being reasonable here? Suggesting a change in policy? What exactly will he have to “sit back and assess?”


Trump’s Mass Deportation Strategy Explained

While there has been a great deal of confusion around Trump’s immigration wiggle and concepts like "mass deportation" in the past few weeks, his strategy towards the 11m and others here without authorization is very clear: they all have to go, and he will ensure they do through an unprecedented expansion of the state’s power to round people up and deport them.

After Obama’s victory in 2008, the restrictionist movement pragmatically realized that its goal of outright forced removal of 11m (core to the 2005 House GOP "Sensenbrenner Bill") was no longer on the table.  They moved on to “attrition through enforcement” that would count on making the threat of deportation so ubiquitous and terrifying that undocumented immigrants would "self-deport."  This strategy was manifested in Arizona’s famous HB 1070 bill, other copy cats in states like GA and PA, and of course Mitt Romney’s own commitment to "self-deportation" in 2012.

It also explains the extraordinary demonization of President Obama for his 2011 Morton reforms that prioritized undocumented immigrants with criminal records for deportation.  By prioritizing criminals for deportation, DHS was also acknowledging that the other 10m or so undocumented immigrants without criminal records were no longer a target of our deportation machinery.  Without this imminent threat, there is no "self-deportation."  While obviously a smart use of limited resources, the 2011 Morton reforms also dealt an ideological death blow to the restrictionist movement.

These reforms were violently opposed by restrictionist leaders like Rep. Steve King.  In 2013, the House GOP passed the “King Amendment” which called from the rollback of the Morton reforms by name.  When the bi-partisan Senate bill came to the House in the fall of 2013, the central reason Republicans refused to take it up was the claim that these new sensible enforcement priorities were "lawless," and that the President couldn’t be trusted.  To be clear – the prioritization of criminals for deportation was the central reason the House used to walk away from the immigration reform debate in 2014.  In fact, the only immigration bill passed by the House in 2014 in response to the Senate bill was another version of the King Amendment, putting Paul Ryan and his colleagues on record for blocking legalization and the re-establishment of the ubiquitous 24/7 threat of deportation.

In Trump’s published immigration plan and in his remarks last night the Republican nominee goes even further – he calls for the deputization of all other federal, state and local law enforcement in the round ‘em up efforts. This would create a super sized, truly ubiquitous, 24/7 deportation force, far greater than what DHS offers today. The reporting by some that he has backed off mass deportation is just plain wrong. He made clear in Arizona last night that all 11m undocumented immigrants in the country would have to leave and return to their country of origin with no guarantee of return. This would require them to quit their jobs, sell their homes/break their leases, rip up families and return to a country they no longer know. For those from countries like Mexico with huge backlogs, the application process to re-enter could easily take 20-30 years. This is anything but humane, soft or even pragmatic.

The big innovation in the Trump plan is that he now uses the threat of "criminal aliens" – the same ones the restrictionists have fought from prioritization in recent years – as the impetus to construct his massive deportation force.  Once constructed it would of course catch non criminals in its net but most importantly it would establish the Orwellian immediate, imminent threat of deportation required to scare the rest of the 11m into "self-deporting."  The reason Trump and his team suggests they are open to figuring out what to do with those who remain (with no hope of legalization or special visa) is that they do not expect there to be any one who remains with him and his policies in place.

Finally, those commenting and reporting on Trump and immigration should stop taking the daily bait he is tossing out. He has made his choice.  The most hard core of the restrictionists – Sen. Sessions and Joe Arpaio – were on stage with him last night in Arizona.  Sessions even accompanied him to Mexico, something the Mexican government never should have allowed.  The speech he gave last night, and his already published immigration plan, are the most enthusiastic embrace of restrictionist politics by a major party leader in the last two generations of American politics.  There is no pivot, no wiggle, no softening – just the nasty, over the top embrace of some of the darkest impulses in American political life today. 

Believe me.

Further Reading

Greg Sargent, Washington Post, "Trump Returns to His Old Standbys: Xenophobia, Hate, Lies, and Yes, Mass Deportations"

Simon Rosenberg, NDN, "On Immigration Enforcement, The GOP's Decade of Blocking Sensible Reform"

Key Passages from Trump Immigration Speech

“For those here today illegally who are seeking legal status, they will have one route and only one route: to return home and apply for re-entry under the rules of the new legal immigration system that I have outlined above. Those who have left to seek entry under this new system will not be awarded surplus visas, but will have to enter under the immigration caps or limits that will be established.

We will break the cycle of amnesty and illegal immigration. There will be no amnesty. 

Our message to the world will be this: you cannot obtain legal status, or become a citizen of the United States, by illegally entering our country.....

......In a Trump administration all immigration laws will be enforced, will be enforced. As with any law enforcement activity, we will set priorities. But unlike this administration, no one will be immune or exempt from enforcement. And ICE and Border Patrol officers will be allowed to do their jobs the way their jobs are supposed to be done.

Anyone who has entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation. That is what it means to have laws and to have a country. Otherwise we don’t have a country."


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