How Dark Money, Gerrymandering And Democratic Complacency Altered Wisconsin Politics

.. Six years before Trump’s win, the state’s voters elected conservative populist Scott Walker governor. With the help of a Republican-controlled legislature, Walker waged an unprecedented assault on public employee unions in the state and later signed a right to work bill, which undermined private-sector unions.

.. he would go along to these small towns and speak to people about this danger of corporate influence on their lives.

DAVIES: And how far into the 20th century did this sort of progressive trend hold in Wisconsin? And I note that Senator Joe McCarthy – probably the most notorious anti-communist of the century – came from that state.

..  he undertook a pretty radical approach to dealing with public employee unions. What did he propose to do?

KAUFMAN: Well, he proposed to all but strip them of collective bargaining rights, which is their ability to speak as a collective voice around wages, benefits and other workplace concerns, workplace safety, basically, reducing their ability to act as a collective voice. He exempted the police and fire department unions. Some would say that cynically because some of these unions supported him.

..  Tim Cullen, a moderate Democratic state senator – he said, the one thing that was non-negotiable was the automatic dues checkoff.

..  He stoked resentment against the public workers. It was clear in his inaugural address in 2011. He said the public employees can no longer be the haves, and the taxpayers can no longer be the have nots. Privately, he even went further.

There’s a famous recording of him speaking to a billionaire donor where she says when will we become a completely red state? When will we become a right-to-work state? She conflated the two. And he answered, you know, have you seen what we’re going to do with the public employees? And then he went on. He said, you know, because you use divide and conquer. What he meant by that was he was going to first attack the public employees. And then several years later, he instituted a right-to-work law against the private sector employees. Now you have a state that went from 14 percent union density when he was elected to 8 percent.

.. in 2016, the presidential election arrives in Wisconsin, as it does in the rest of the country. The Democratic primary – Bernie Sanders beats Hillary Clinton by 13 points. Why did Hillary Clinton have trouble connecting to Democratic voters in Wisconsin?

.. she has never been a close ally of labor. Wisconsin progressives were deeply wounded by the attacks on labor. She was a former corporate board member of Walmart, a notoriously anti-union company. And she also supported for many, many years free trade agreements, like NAFTA and the China’s membership into the World Trade Organization, that have really impacted the industrial Midwest in such a profound way. People are aware that you can drive by a factory, and they’ll say, oh, this factory moved to Mexico and then went on to Vietnam. They are very keenly aware. Other factors played a role – automation and so on – but these agreements really impacted particularly the industrial Midwest – Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio.

DAVIES: And particularly unionized workers, I think.

..  I think people forget that Donald Trump’s message during the campaign – he also twinned his message of resentment – racial resentment – with a defense of the welfare state. You can look at his speeches. He staged five huge rallies in Wisconsin. He almost always mentioned, we’ve got to protect Social Security and Medicare, and he railed against these free trade agreements. So there was a different kind of Republican message that resonated with a certain sector of the population enough to put him over the top, coupled with Hillary Clinton’s noncampaigning and non-effort in these places, and it really impacted the race.

.. There was frankly a weak Democratic opposition to his message, and there was a stoking of resentment in a time of economic insecurity. That is very powerful. And they weren’t – people weren’t being offered an alternative – a very compelling one anyway.

..  Another example is gerrymandering. In 2012 election, Wisconsin Democrats won an aggregate of almost 200,000 more votes than the Republicans, and yet they lost seats. That…

DAVIES: You’re talking about in the state legislature.

KAUFMAN: In the state legislature in the assembly, and that leads to demoralizing (laughter) of your party. I mean, it’s hard to get candidates to run when they know they’re going to be defeated if the district is just so heavily drawn to favor the Republicans where – and the Democratic seats are – you know, they’ll routinely win more than 70 percent of the vote. So they pack them in. And that case was, you know, brought to the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s the first partisan gerrymandering case to go to the Supreme Court in more than three decades because the federal court agreed with the plaintiffs – the Democrats – that their rights had been denied because it was so extreme.

America Has Gone Off the Rails. Steven Brill Sees Ways to Get It Back on Track.

According to Gallup, in the first week of January 2004 more than half of surveyed Americans were satisfied with the direction of the country. Within a few weeks, however, that number had fallen below 50 percent. It has never recovered. Since the 2008 financial crisis, it has not cracked 40 percent.

.. Brill describes a slow-motion process of perverse meritocracy in which, as one law professor tells him, “the elites have become so skilled and so hardworking that they are able to protect each other better than ever before.” Or, as Brill labels it, “Moat Nation.”

.. Brill focuses on the legal shifts and stalemates that ushered in the country’s current predicament

.. The rise of executive compensation practices linked to stock prices encouraged executives to prioritize short-term profits over long-term investments. A series of Supreme Court cases, ending with Citizens United, enabled corporate speech to play a powerful role in national politics. The growth of super PACs and lobbyists in Washington guarantees that any piece of appropriate regulation will be watered down — first in Congress and then in the implementation stage.

.. The federal government’s approach to fraudulent financial firms has shifted from the criminal prosecution of executives to the levying of fines.

..  the number of times the phrase “unintended consequences” appears in the book. Many of the legal and regulatory changes that Brill excoriates have counterintuitive beginnings. Who helped spearhead the growth of the commercial speech movement? The consumer advocate Ralph Nader, who sued the Commonwealth of Virginia to allow pharmacies to advertise drug prices. “Talk about boomerangs,”

.. the very first political action committee was created in 1943 by a labor union.

.. efforts to bring more minority members to Congress as “another reform effort that boomeranged,” because minority Democrats allied with Republicans to rewrite congressional districts and eviscerate districts held by white Democrats.

.. Brill blames the tortoise-like pace of government rule-writing on due process run amok.

.. Brill argues that interest groups have weaponized due process to guarantee gridlock.

..  In almost all of “Tailspin,” a well-intentioned liberal reform goes badly off the rails.

.. Brill never quite makes the connection between laws and norms.

.. many of the trends that Brill identifies, like political polarization, have their origins in the erosion of norms, not laws, and the real question is whether Americans can trust one another enough not to abuse less legalistic systems.

.. On this point, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt’s “How Democracies Die” is probably more instructive.

This Is the World Mitch McConnell Gave Us

it is, essentially, a kind of shrine to the political career of Mr. McConnell, not unlike the exhibits on Babe Ruth or Hank Aaron you’d find at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

.. it memorializes a politician who shows no sign of leaving the stage any time soon.

.. What’s most unusual, though, is what it chooses to highlight. There are a few artifacts from Mr. McConnell’s youth — his baseball glove, his honorary fraternity paddle — but most of the exhibits are devoted to the elections Mr. McConnell won, starting with high school and on up through Jefferson County executive and the Senate.

.. When I visited the room while researching my 2014 biography on Mr. McConnell, I was struck by what was missing: exhibits on actual governing accomplishments from the Senate majority leader’s four decades in elected office.

That absence confirmed my thesis that Mr. McConnell, far more even than other politicians, was motivated by the game of politics — winning elections and rising in the leadership ranks, achieving power for power’s sake — more than by any lasting policy goals.

.. it is becoming increasingly clear that Mitch McConnell is creating a legacy for himself, and it’s a mighty grand one.

.. Mr. McConnell has created the world in which we are now living. Donald Trump dominates our universe — and now has the power to fill the second Supreme Court seat in two years. Mitch McConnell, who has promised a vote on whomever the president nominates “this fall,” is the figure who was quietly making it all possible

.. First, there was Mr. McConnell’s vigorous defense, going back to the early 1990s, of the role of big money in American politics

..  helping shape the conditions for his appeal.

.. he was well aware that he, as someone lacking in natural campaign talents, and the rest of the Republican Party, as more business-oriented than the Democrats, would need to maintain the flow of large contributions to be able to win elections. “I will always be well financed, and I’ll be well financed early,” he declared after winning his first race for county executive, in 1977.

.. culminated in the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling eliminating limits on corporate spending on elections, which Mr. McConnell followed up by blocking legislation to disclose the identity of large donors.

.. the spread of big money in politics had done so much to sour the public on government, creating a ripe target for the Tea Party and, later, for a billionaire populist running against “the swamp.”

.. laid the groundwork for the right-wing insurgency of 2009 and 2010

.. his decision to withhold Republican support for any major Democratic initiatives in the Obama years. This meant that Republicans had less influence on the final shape of legislation such as the Affordable Care Act than they would have had as fully willing negotiators.

.. fueled the rise of the Tea Party, which was motivated substantially by the notion that Mr. Obama was “ramming things down our throats”
.. his refusal to hold a confirmation hearing, let alone a vote on Merrick Garland, Mr. Obama’s nominee to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, despite the fact that the nomination was made a full 10 months before the end of Mr. Obama’s term. This refusal exploded norms and dismayed Beltway arbiters who had long accepted Mr. McConnell’s claim to be a guardian of Washington institutions. It also provided crucial motivation to Republicans who had grave qualms about Mr. Trump but were able to justify voting for him as “saving Scalia’s seat.”
.. Mr. Obama had been prepared that September to go public with a C.I.A. assessment laying bare the extent of Russian intervention in the election. But he was largely dissuaded by a threat from Mr. McConnell.
.. During a secret briefing for congressional leaders, The Post reported, Mr. McConnell “raised doubts about the underlying intelligence and made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.”
.. Mr. McConnell’s doing away last year with the 60-vote requirement for Senate confirmation, to get Neil Gorsuch seated
.. In the 1970s, when he ran for county executive in Louisville, he secured the pivotal endorsement of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. by pledging to back collective bargaining for public employees (a promise that went unfulfilled), and while in office he worked effectively behind the scenes to protect abortion rights locally.
.. Mr. McConnell saw the rightward swing of the Reagan revolution and decided to hop on board for his own political preservation as a Southern Republican. These days, Mr. McConnell has made explicit, with taunting tweets among other things, that he views long-term conservative control of the Supreme Court as his crowning achievement.
.. Holding a long-term majority on the court greatly aids his highest cause — Republican victories in future elections — as recent rulings on voting rights and gerrymandering demonstrated once again.
Whether Mr. McConnell decides to add an exhibit in the Civic Education Gallery documenting his role in the rise of Donald Trump is another matter. The final historical judgment on that score will not rest with him, in any case.

Trump vs. the First Amendment

the hallmark elements of the president’s political style:

  • ignorance,
  • stupidity,
  • pettiness, and
  • malice.

.. the FCC does not license networks or cable channels. NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox News, etc., do not have FCC licenses to review or revoke. The FCC licenses individual stations.

.. Bill Mitchell, the Trump sycophant whose comprehensive lack of self-respect makes Paul Begala look like Cincinnatus, went on to argue that print publications such as Vanity Fair and the Washington Post should have their licenses revoked, too

There is no such thing as a newspaper license in the United States. There is the First Amendment.

.. Gutting the First Amendment is one of the top priorities of the Democratic party, which seeks to revoke its protection of political speech — i.e., the thing it’s really there to protect — so that they can put restrictions on political activism, which restrictions they call “campaign-finance reform.”

.. They abominate the Supreme Court’s solid First Amendment decision in Citizens United, a case that involved not “money in politics” but the basic free-speech question of whether political activists should be allowed to show a film critical of Hillary Rodham Clinton in the days before an election. (Making a film and distributing it costs money, you see, hence “money in politics.”) They lost that one, but every Democrat in Harry Reid’s Senate — every one of them — voted to repeal the First Amendment.

.. Right-wing populists, too, are an illiberal bunch

.. They are repeating the progressives’ mistake: imagining what their guy could do with vast new antidemocratic powers while never bothering to consider that the other side’s guy is probably going to get in there one of these days and enjoy the same powers.

.. Free speech is extraordinarily unpopular on college campuses, and California has just enacted a flatly unconstitutional law that would empower the government to put people in jail for failing to use the preferred pronoun of a transgender person.

Jimmy Carter Brilliantly Explains How The Establishment Gave Us Trump

The disparity in income feels that they are getting cheated by government and society.

healthcare

education

political rights:

  • particularly after Citizens United
  • legal bribery

justice system:

  • 1/1000 before under Carter
  • 7/1000 now

The Establishment failed people for so long and badly.  People were willing to take a chance to try something new.

 

 

Floyd Abrams Sees Trump’s Anti-Media Tweets as Double-Edged Swords

His Twitter trail could be a gift to lawyers for the news industry during leak investigations into articles that made the president mad enough to pick up his Android and tap, Tap, TAP!

It could provide great grist for legal arguments that the investigations are less about prosecuting damaging leaks than they are about punishing journalists.

.. his new book, “The Soul of the First Amendment,” which he called “really a story of American exceptionalism.” It argues that the United States’ protections for free speech are the best in the world, at least as of now.

.. he helped argue the conservative side of the Citizens United case, which allowed corporations and unions to spend more freely in elections.

.. things have been much worse. There were days when censorship was rampant and real reporting could land you in prison, right here in the United States. For instance, as Mr. Abrams’s book notes, it was not all that atypical when, in 1901, a Chicago court sentenced the managing editor and a reporter at The Chicago American to jail for an article that was critical of one of its decisions.

.. by the second half of the last century, the courts had begun to view “the First Amendment in an expansive and generally highly protective way.” It started with liberal jurists and eventually spread to the conservative jurists as well

.. Gawker, which a Florida jury hit with a $140 million verdict in an invasion-of-privacy lawsuit last year. Without the financial wherewithal to fight on through the appeals process, its owners went into bankruptcy and sold to Univision.

Inside The Wealthy Family That Has Been Funding Steve Bannon’s Plan For Years

Jane Mayer writes in the New Yorker about Robert Mercer and his daughter, Rebekah, who have poured millions of dollars into Breitbart News, and who pushed to have Bannon run Trump’s campaign.

.. MAYER: Among the theories that Robinson has propounded and that Bob Mercer has accepted is that climate change is not happening. It’s not for real, and if it is happening, it’s going to be good for the planet. That’s one of his theories, and the other theory that I found particularly worrisome was they believe that nuclear war is really not such a big deal. It’s survivable, and – they think.

And they’ve actually argued that outside of the immediate blast zone in Japan during World War II – outside of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – that the radiation was actually good for the Japanese. So they see a kind of a silver lining in nuclear war and nuclear accidents. And he co-authored a book in 1986 that I took a look at that describes ways that Americans can survive nuclear war by basically digging fallout shelters all across the country. And he believes that radiation is potentially good for people’s health.

DAVIES: And do the Mercer’s seem to have embraced Robinson’s views about nuclear war and climate change?

MAYER: Well, Bob Mercer has certainly embraced the view that radiation could be good for human health – low level radiation. And he’s been in arguments with people that I interviewed about it, so, yes, very much. He seems extremely influenced by Arthur Robinson’s scientific findings.

.. they have very extreme views, and they’re impatient – both of them. They want action fast. And what was a question for me as I was reporting this was, so how did they get what they wanted? What did they do? And they couldn’t really do it on their own because, like many wealthy people who have strong political ideas, they have no idea how to sort of manipulate politics. They need some kind of professional help. And the person they turned to for that was Steve Bannon.

.. Yet, when Trump’s campaign started to really fall apart last August, it was Mercer’s daughter who met with Trump’s people and with Trump and said, I’ll put money in, but you’re going to have to basically put my people in charge of your campaign.

.. MAYER: Well, now, Trump and Steve Bannon go way back. And that’s a different story. Steve Bannon saw Trump speak at CPAC – the Conservative Political Action Conference – years ago, maybe 2013 or 2014, and was blown away by Trump. And so he’s been actually quite helpful to Trump for years. He – when he was running Breitbart, Bannon gave Trump tons of great coverage and really boosted his visibility. So yeah – so Bannon and Trump have been in touch for quite some time.

.. MAYER: Well, according to people I interviewed such as Sam Nunberg, who was an early, early member of the Trump campaign, Breitbart was enormously helpful in providing a platform for Trump, a national platform. And it gave Trump space to sort of test out his narrative and see which storylines worked best and promoted him so much so that Steve Bannon wrote an email to a friend that eventually leaked out – and this was way back in – in 2015 – saying that he was secretly Trump’s campaign manager.

.. DAVIES: You actually spoke to Steve Bannon for this piece.

MAYER: I did speak to Steve Bannon.

DAVIES: What did he tell you?

MAYER: And he was fascinating. He’s very articulate, and he said – he minced no words about the Mercers. He said they laid the groundwork for the Trump revolution. He said irrefutably that when you look at the donors in the past four years, he said they’ve had the single biggest impact of anybody, including the Kochs.

.. Rebekah Mercer who met with Trump and said – your campaign’s a mess. I would like to support you, but you’re going to have to straighten out the way you’re running it. And she suggested that he put Steve Bannon in charge of the campaign as campaign chairman, Kellyanne Conway in charge as campaign manager and that they also put in David Bossie, who runs the group Citizens United, as deputy campaign manager. And Bossie is someone else who the Mercers have supported financially through his group for quite some time. In essence, they were circling Trump with their own people.

.. She had mixed success, but she had some serious successes with Mike Flynn who she wanted to have become national security adviser. And of course, Trump did choose him. He didn’t last very long, but he was in there. And she pushed very hard for Jeff Sessions to be the attorney general, and she got success with that. And she pushed very hard to have Bannon play a major role in the White House. And of course, he is now Trump’s strategic adviser. And at first, she was hoping that Kellyanne Conway would not go into the White House but would stay outside and help Rebekah Mercer run an outside group that would support Trump, but that didn’t happen. Kellyanne Conway went into the White House.

So her people did quite well. I mean, there’s some people that she wanted that didn’t get jobs. She wanted John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to be the secretary of state, and she was very disappointed when he didn’t get that. And she has touted this very odd scientist that her family has supported, Arthur Robinson, to be the national science adviser. And so far, that hasn’t happened.

.. And I think if you sort of step back, one of the things that interests me about what Trump is doing is I think you can see that he is – on questions having to do with the health care fight and the budget, he’s taking positions that are very much aligned with the super-rich donors, particularly things that the Mercers would have liked and in some ways, taking policy positions that hurt many of the middle-class and lower middle-class voters who supported him.

.. Rebekah Mercer’s got a game plan in mind. What she’s hoping to do is start an outside group that’s outside of the White House that’s going to be a powerful voice pushing Trump to take her point of view. And so when – it will trumpet his moves when they – when she thinks they’re good and attack him when she thinks that he’s, you know, not following a tough enough line. And I – you know, so we will start probably seeing commercials and a lot of social media coming from this group.

.. He said that Mercer wanted to shrink the government to the size of a pinhead and that he doesn’t think that – he basically has a philosophy, according to Magerman, that values people on the basis of what they earn. He doesn’t think human beings have intrinsic value. He thinks that if you are a schoolteacher and you earn 2 million times less than Mercer earns, then you’re 2 million times less valuable than Mercer is. And he believes that if you are on welfare, you have negative value. And what Magerman said was, and he’s not talking about economically. He means as a human being.

So he has this kind of very mechanistic, almost kind of Ayn Rand-like, objectivist philosophy.

.. since the Citizens United decision and the others that were part of that was – is that you can now have people – a few people with an incredible amount of money who the rest of the country doesn’t even know their names, let alone who they are or what they want. And they can have this outsized impact. And I think that that’s what’s different.

You know, before Citizens United, there was still a lot of money in politics, but because there were limits on how much any single person could give at any time to PACs, there were bundlers, and they were known to people. And they were – kind of the parties had much more influence which had much more consensus.