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Trump’s latest race-baiting

Trump’s latest rhetoric was about suggesting that minority members of Congress ‘go back to where they came from’. How will this effect the 2020 election?

It seems the intention of Republican strategists is that this will put the spotlight even more on immigration issues, which they believe energizes their base. Centrist Democrats, lacking confidence in their own handling of the issue, seem to fear this for some reason.

They shouldn’t. If Trump takes it there, the only thing to do is respond with

(1) Strong, unequivocal condemnation. Key word: UNEQUIVOCAL.

(2) Don’t fund Trump’s DHS you flippin morons. Do not talk about the importance of “reaching across the aisle” while this is the main news item. What happened to the full-court-press ‘resistance’ thing, that was so prominent while russiagate was the thing? Now might be an appropriate time to actually do that.

(3) Don’t attack members of your own party who led the way on this issue.

(4) Make a point of not insulting Trump’s voters or accusing them of being racist. DO accuse Trump, and attack whatever dumb ass words he transmits over Jack Dorsey’s unfortunate invention.

(5) DO nominate a candidate who has an unwavering record on social justice, does not flipflop, and does not hedge their statement of their position on the issue. (i.e., if you want to win, do the exact opposite of the way Kerry talked about the Iraq War issue in 2004). Sanders, Warren, and plausibly Harris would fit this description. Biden would NOT. If Immigration is the defining issue of the election, Biden is least positioned to pick up on the outrage-energy driving Dem voters. His game is status quo.

If the Democratic response is done right, they will pick up votes in several key states which are marginal, in particular FL, AZ due to demographics, and PA is affected by moving the focus away from economy.

  • The AZ senate seat will become a realistic target, and its electoral votes too. Unlike 2018, the Dem AZ Senate nominee this time is looking like it will be a white dude, which would otherwise have put this out of reach. But now it’s perhaps back on if the Spanish speaking vote can turn out in even larger numbers than 2018.
  • FL, of course, always one of the pivotal electoral vote states. Until now, it seemed to favor Republicans a tiny bit for 2020 – at least per demographic correlations via the Morning Consult poll series. Historically, FL has not benefited Dems relative to its Hispanic population as much other states. This can now change.
    • related: refugees from Puerto Rico, previously disenfranchised US citizens, ~150k of whom moved to FL since that hurricane, and are potentially able to vote for the first time.
  • Last but certainly not least: PA. It is the other main swing electoral vote state on my list. I would even say the sine qua non state for the 2020 presidential election. The Democrat objective there is squeezing every last vote out of Philly and eastern PA, meaning the turnout game for younger voters and minorities. Responding to blatant race-baiting by Republicans is actually one of the easier approaches to execute going door to door in Democratic neighborhoods, to get marginal voters up off their butts (I’ve done it). But once again, it will be more convincing, relatively speaking, for Sanders/Warren/Harris, and less so, relatively speaking, for Biden. To be sure, Biden is a hit with the Democrats who are older (the best voters)- but they can be counted on to vote for whoever is the Democrat nominee. They are not the marginal voters in a general election for president. Meanwhile, the PA Trump campaign will try to harvest rural votes obviously, but also, the working class industrial belt in Erie-Pittsburgh. This region is a relatively even mix of partisanship. On the basis of inland working class culture, and excluding the black population, they are relatively more sympathetic to the Trump campaign’s “economy” angle, and relatively less sympathetic to coastal/urban cultural consensus of outrage against Trump. PA is definitely up for grabs, and I think it would normally be played by Republicans as an “economy” state – something not that great for Dems, since for most people, there is less outrage factor in “economy”, thus less motivational for younger voters.
    • side note 1: Sanders and Warren are working on that… there should be outrage factor in “economy”
    • side note 2: see previous post. Immigration and Economy are actually closely linked in the same way people opposing NAFTA is an economy/pocketbook issue rather than “isolationism” for its own sake. But if you focus specifically on the cruelty and racism, the story plays out differently.

To summarize, in an immigration-centric election, Trump will get some boost too, but it is mostly regardless of who the Dem nominee is. Dems have potential to get an even bigger boost in vital states, with a progressive (including immigration) candidate, and a direct unequivocal message and delivery. That is, if they don’t screw it up.

So don’t screw it up.


Why Democrats Keep Caving on Immigration [Miles Culpepper / Jacobin]


See also, recent details of the unconscionable treatment of children in DHS detention centers:

Per recent polling, the top issues for voters are economy, health care, and immigration. Of these, immigration is a divisive issue for Democrats, and also one that I think is misunderstood in the context of trying to appeal to “moderates”.

The main article linked talks about Democrat’s badly mixed record, repeatedly turning their backs on working class immigrants, but then asking for the votes of their friends and families (for example, the Obama-Biden administration under DHS secretary Janet Napolitano dutifully implemented the awful Bush era plans and proceeded to deport a still-record rate of 400,000 immigrants per year, mostly non criminals, for Obama’s entire first term).

So the thing that I think is underappreciated in the story told in political media, is the connection between the desire for economic security, and willingness of “moderates” or “centrists” to go along with anti-immigrant policies.

More “hard” social-conservatives may well be anti-immigrant out of some fundamentally nationalist beliefs – but they are not a realistic audience for Democrats to appeal to anyway. “Moderates” on the other hand, especially Democrats and Independents with some lighter socially conservative sympathies, parse immigration as an economic-security item. Something grouped right next to offshoring of jobs under NAFTA, for example.

The misunderstanding, then, is the reasoning for the “appeal to the moderates” / “prevent the progressives from pulling the party to the left” strategy for the 2020 presidential election. This reasoning, which I believe is incorrect, presumes that a Democratic candidate can pick up votes by abandoning the issues of “economic justice” and instead offer “compromise” on issues like immigration – perhaps under the guise of “appealing to national security”.

This is a mistake because going after economic justice issues like health care and inequality is in fact a strong direct response to the core concerns of economic security / job security etc — and one what we know working class across party lines do believe in.

Economic justice issues are the natural answer Democrats have to give to Trumpism. Give this answer, and you energize the base, increase turnout, ally with the spanish speaking demographic which in fact delivered gains in the 2018 election. You anger the commited conservatives who weren’t going to vote for you anyway. But you are saying  to that elusive working class swing voter, that they will get relief from 30-40 years of economic decline and that you have a plan to halt that trend at its root cause.

On the other hand, running a blue dog / social-conservative type candidate (i.e. Biden) alienates the progressives, is a weak draw for spanish speaking voters, and the answer it offers “moderates” for job insecurity is no different than what they are already getting from Trump, except that Trump’s version goes further.

It is very much the same mistake that the Democratic party made in 2016.

The details of the electoral matchup are different – we know now that Trump is even more of a doofus than he seemed then. And all candidates, including Biden, will be less controversial (i.e. less unpopular) with the general public than Clinton was. Yet Trump’s approval is now higher, getting into the mid 40’s. All indications suggest he will get the benefit of an improving economy. Most importantly, he can plausibly claim to have followed through on his core promise: attacking economic security / job security related issues, “his way”, on multiple fronts. Strong-arming various foreign trade partners, esp. China, renegotiating NAFTA, cutting taxes (a false point in terms of inequality, but a lot of people are going to fall for it), and of course the vocal anti immigrant rhetoric and policy. That is what I mean by Trump and Republicans offering a “stronger” version of the thing Biden and/or a moderate/conservative Democrat will supposedly offer swing voters, at least those who believe in this stuff. (and to repeat, you’re going to alienate progressives and lower your own turnout).

EU elections; right wing joins mainstream [David Renton / Jacobin]

Overview of country-by-country position of right-wing parties, with many of the more extreme ones abandoned by voters, but the less-extreme anti-immigrant parties gaining.


EP election

European Parliament elections are in (preliminary results)

  • high turnout (~50%).
  • slight gains for euroskeptics, but not high enough for them to have a blocking minority
  • center-left displaced by greens etc.
  • previous center coalition, EPP (christian dem. etc) + PASD (soc.dem), no longer a  majority, so will have to expand coalition, perhaps with lib. dem’s (ALDE) or Greens.
  • Greens (G/EFA in the EP) looking alive

National highlights (biggest countries, parties >10%)

  • Germany: (1) CDU/CSU (2) Green (3) SPD (4) AFD
  • France: (1) RN [Le Pen] (2) Macron coalition (3) green (4) republican [conservative] (<10%)
  • UK (1) Brexit party (2) LibDem (3) Labour (4) Green (5) Tory (<10%)
    • Nigel Farage capitalizes on Brexit debacle
    • Corbyn, far too late now, just announced his intention to push for second referendum.
    • May beat the rush, resigned on Friday.
  • Italy: (1) Lega [populist] (2) PD [soc.dem] (3) M5S [populist]
  • Spain: (1) PSOE [soc.dem] (2) PP [chris.dem] (3) Ciudadanos [Catalan unionist?]
  • Poland : (1) PIS [right-populist] (2) European Coalition [opposition catch-all]
  • Romania: (1) conservative-liberal (2) soc.dem (3) USR-PLUS [centrist/??]
  • Netherlands: (1) labor (2) conservative-liberal (3) chris.dem (4) euroskeptic/right-populist (5) green
  • Greece: (1) conservative-liberal (2) SYRIZA [quasi-left]
  • Belgium: (1) conservative (2) right-populist (3) soc.dem
  • Czech: (1) centrist-populist (2) liberal-conservative (3) pirate (4) [???]
  • Hungary: (1) FIDESZ [right-populist] (2) Democratic Coalition [liberal] (3) Momentum [centrist]
  • Sweden: (1) soc.dem (2) liberal-conservative (3) swed.dem [right-populist] (4) green (5) liberal
  • Austria: (1) chris.dem (2) socd.em (3) right-populist (4) green


news reactions, various

[update- added footnote on pipelines in Caspian Sea region, since we are talking about Iran and China and sanctions]


  • Trade talks broke down, predictably.
  • 25% tariffs going into effect. On the US side, this will hit agriculture and LNG exports. The next round will go to aircraft. Surprised this round did not. On the China side, a very wide range of US exports are affected.
  • US is going after Huawei seriously now, not just in the US, but trying to prevent it from selling to third parties. This kind of breach of international norms has happened before, the bridge is now fully crossed.
    • Current-round moves block US chip exports (infrastructure) and Google branded Android licenses (handsets).
    • Short term, it will work. Samsung will gain market share.
      • possible retaliation vs Apple
    • Medium term, for handsets, I’d say Huawei will fill the gap within 2 years.
      • Android is built almost entirely on open source, so the barrier to replace it is more a matter of organizing a project with a few thousand developers, rather than making even a single researach breakthrough. This is work that the Chinese tech sector excels at.
      • Between Huawei and the other Chinese makers (Xiaomi, Oppo), that is half of Google’s android market. Google Android goes from industry standard to Samsung’s vendor, though still massively influential.
    • For the top-end chips (high-GHz digital and optoelectronics), Huawei will have to substitute less efficient technologies.
      • This will give european 5G players time to catch up
      • will give third countries a reason to defer 5G deployment
      • no impact on Chinese industry development, was already top priority
      • opens a global market space in the US telecom firms to re-enter
      • It will not put Huawei out of business, because Chinese state will not let them fail and Chinese domestic market can sustain them anyway – and they will still be competitive for providing current-generation telecom to the parts of the world that have ambivalent relations with the US.


  • The NeoCon’s are having their day in the sun, it seems.
  • A military adventure would be a self-correcting problem.
  • The reason they’re able to do it is because of the oil.
  • Watching central-asia pipeline developments. see [footnote 1]
  • What would US do if China made a direct massive violation of US sanctions?
    • But China won’t. They haven’t really mastered the high stakes, high-bluff poker style.

US Politics

  • Not much happening in the primary race.
    • Other than 2020 DNC delegates working the back channels, figuring out how much the high bid is going to be next year…
  • The DCCC, a national organization of state-level Democratic party campaigns, is making a move to prevent primary elections. The most recent method is to punish campaign professionals who should work for any primary candidate who is not an incumbent. I’ve seen the same outcome (to sabotage, rig, or pre-empt the primary process) repeatedly at the local level using various strategems, so it is very much in character for the Democratic party, and we should note the Republicans are exactly the same. Such is the two-party duopoly. Recall that in many, perhaps most congressional and state-legislative districts, it is the primary elections which effectively determine who ends up in the seat.
    • As far as the DCCC goes, this is plainly undemocratic behavior. It is not defensible in any way, and should be widely called out for what it is. If you don’t have primaries, then the party doesn’t represent the people any longer. The Democratic party might as well change its name.
    • The only realistic response is for candidates to run as independents, knowing full well they may become spoilers. This is the ONLY thing that the national and state Democratic (and Republican) parties fear. Public shaming does not affect them in the slightest.
  • In the Presidential primary race, Biden getting high poll numbers
    • but… some polls not showing undecideds. I.e. poll with 30% A, 15% B, 5%C, 50% undecided – is often reported as 60%A, 30%B, 10%C.
  • Sad/predictable to see bipartisan support returning to Trump on Iran and China.
  • Far too early, but 3 key states to watch: FL, PA, AZ.  (no longer MI/WI)
    • If Democrats can win any of these 3 states, I think the next president is a Democrat. If Republicans win FL, PA, AZ they get the white house.
    • Biden and Sanders are both ahead in PA.
    • Trump seems to be ahead in FL, against all opponents.
    • AZ is a tossup for Biden, Trump beating all others. Historically Rep., but Dems took Senate seat in 2018. Sanders would need to work to win it.
  • A Biden candidacy and presidency would be an enormous disappointment, would pull the Democratic party further to yield to more Republican policy positions.


  • The story approaches its conclusion. Not particularly surprised.

footnote 1:

Not super relevant to Iran. Is relevant to both China and to US LNG exports (energy industry are key Trump administration players!).

Relations in the NG/pipeline part of the “new silk road” are not so simple. The Caspian Sea region is a nexus of rival producers and pipeline owners. The geography and markets make it so that is set up to go mainly East or West. Iran and Russia, at the South and North ends, do not have realistic options to make use of this transit path.

Wikipedia: Turkmenistan pipelines, Azerbaijan Pipelines

Summary of routes:

  • West, through Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey-EU (TANAP and TAP pipelines)
  • East to China, Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan-Kazakhstan-China (Central Asia-China pipeline).
  • East to Pakistan/India, Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakisan-India (TAPI pipeline).
  • Either Direction: Turkmenistan-Azerbaijan (Trans-Caspian pipeline) or equivalent ship transit
  • Iran-Pakistan (Peace Pipeline) was planned, built in Iran, blocked by Pakistan by US request.
  • Kazakhstan-China, developed and does not seem to be inhibited, but Kazakhstan’s Caspian shore is not in a position to block any route, so in that sense not part of this discussion.

Other notes:

  • East to China already exists, but its expansion was halted for reasons I don’t understand.
  • Partially complete construction projects for all the other routes exist.
  • Of the not-yet-existing expansions in pipeline capacity, the closest to viability seems to be the Western route, with nothing really blocking it any more.
    • Caspian sea issues were resolved in 2018 [] after a 22 year delay. Among other things, pipeline development in the Caspian was previously blocked by Iran and Russia, who hold the less pipeline-valuable territory at the South and North ends of the Caspian.
  • It should be noted that both Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan are repressive police states, with Turkmenistan being especially bad.

Anyway, the actual point of this footnote — everyone wants to sabotage someone else. For Turkmenistan, somewhat old news, but see here , here, here [all links radio free europe].



clean energy: Germany vs CO2 [Frank Dohmen / Spiegel]

Article link [Spiegel Online] – The info-graphic in this article makes some important points.

Germany, Europe’s leading economy, has in many ways led the way in environmentally conscious development. They adopted wind and solar with vigor. Yet the nation’s carbon emissions have barely changed (see image below).

What happened was that, similar to the US, wind and solar displaced the most expensive and toxic fuel, nuclear. Unlike the US, there was not a simultaneous replacement of coal with natgas. Reasons include availability of resources, geopolitics, and willingness (in the US) to abandon environmental protections in exchange for cheap energy.

A partial reduction in coal did take place, but it was mostly in exchange for biomass and household waste. These fuels, while renewable, are similar to coal in carbon intensity. (It is still worth doing, for reducing both solid waste and the environmental impact of coal mining).

The article also notes that German automotive carbon use has not come down. However, Germany was starting from an already more energy efficient vehicle fleet and use pattern compared to the US, due to (1) more diesel passenger cars, which are more carbon-efficient, (2) smaller passenger vehicles,  (3) more mass transit, and (4) shorter travel distances. Also, electric cars were not practical until the last 5 years.

Some notes relevant to US discussions:

  • Wind is 2x the amount of solar
  • It took 15 years, with a deliberate policy, to reduce nuclear use by about half
  • The system already has the capacity for wind and solar to fully power the country — when conditions allow peak power output for both. At the same time, the average wind/solar contribution is only ~16-20% [note 1]. It will go up as even more capacity is added, but the point of this statistic is that the required peak capacity for wind/solar will have to be far greater than actual peak use, and in this regard, wind/solar differ from the technologies being replaced. Corollaries:
    • Non-wind, non-solar generation will continue to be built for longer than optimistic estimates would suggest. Power storage technology will help, but the scale required is daunting – we are just now starting to even consider the economic feasibility of 5-10 hours worth of system wide storage. (At this point, the plausible use case is limited to solar-rich climates, covering the time delay between peak solar availability at midday and peak electric use in the late afternoon or evening).
    • In a grid with wind/solar, all generation types will be impacted by the eventual necessary situation of wind/solar over-capacity. Analysis of economics will be dominated by curtailment and the policies that govern it. We shouldn’t extrapolate the economics of current generation of installations, when solar/wind capacity is well below 100% peak use.
    • If storage tech is developed after the necessary level of wind/solar over-capacity is built, it will economically ruin the wind/solar installations existing at that time.

As for Germany – if they continue on this path, I am confident they will eventually see big reductions in carbon use. But it is hard to imagine that they can reach the goal of 80% non-carbon energy without maybe 20-30% nuclear.


link:  [via NakedCapitalism]

[note 1 – Another version of this bar graph, with a scale and apparently slight variations in the data, can be found here [], on pdf page 11 ]


Bernie Sanders interview on ABC (2019-05-05)