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variety 20180915

In this edition: NYS primary election results, free trade vs inequality, and why candidates opposed to their own party are here to stay.

NYS Democratic primary election results

Turnout was impressively high for a primary, with 1.5 million voting in the top line Democratic out of ~6 million registered Democrats, and nearly 20 million total population in NY state. This was nearly double (?) from the June NYS Democratic primaries that were for Federal offices, that that itself was an increase from before. The trend is nationwide, per this TheHill article. I hope primary turnout continues to increase – reminder: primary elections determine the final outcome in the many races, as districts are often drawn so as to not be competitive in the general election. (As an aside, consider the case where districts were drawn to purposely have an equal distribution of Rep/Dem’s. Then, for example, if one party had 55% of the vote, they might win all the districts! This is why electoral systems with single-seat districts make proportional representation impossible)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo beat Cynthia Nixon , 66% to 34%. However, Nixon improved on the result in the 2014 primary, in which Zephyr Teachout’s lost to Cuomo 63% to 33% (0.6 million voters that year). And that despite Nixon having minimal qualifications, while Teachout is a law professor.

Jumaane Williams did slightly better for Lt. Governor.

Interestingly (or not), with his primary victory, Gov. Cuomo now apparently “positions himself for a possible 2020 presidential run”, in the opinion of a Politico article.  This after specifically pledging that he won’t run for President during the debate with Nixon, stating during the televised debate that should he get re-elected, he would complete his term as Governor unless “God strikes him dead”.

Zephyr Teachout lost to Letitia James for NYS Attorney General, in a 3-way race that fell along geographic lines. James won the NYC area, Teachout won the hudson valley / upstate, and Sean Maloney won western NY / upstate. James is NYC’s Public Advocate, a position held before her by NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Locally, I was surprised and happy by my State Senate primary result. Elsewhere in the state, Julie Salazar made headlines by taking the Democratic nomination for her State Senate district – under the DSA banner! – and in a race featuring an ugly smear campaign against her. More importantly, most of the state’s official “IDC” (Independent Democrat Caucus) lost their primaries. This is a bloc of “conservative democrats” in the NY state Senate – who vote with Republicans but run as Democrats just to get the votes.


Free Trade vs Inequality

Here is a piece on Project Syndicate which I think is as close as they’ve come to a useful analysis.

Why candidates opposed to their own party are here to stay

In short, it is because both the Democratic and Republican party’s favorability rating is now too low (low 40%’s) for a candidate to score a majority by simply representing the party. A candidate in both parties can now consistently get more votes by professing a dislike for the “powers that be” within their own party.

This polling is from Pew, which has a slight conservative bias, but they are consistent, track the same issue over not just years but decades. Look at the trends.

Digging deeper:

  • check out the {“Democratic Leaners” vs “Republican Leaners” } vs {“Democratic Party Favorability” vs “Republican Party Favorability”} comparison. Shows disillusionment among Democrats. Trump himself (AND his 2016 opponent, Ted Cruz) is the symptom of disillusionment among Republicans.
  • check out the trend for “unfavorable view of both parties”. Now at 24%, with a remarkably steady rise since the turn of the century. That one is pretty striking, I think. All this talk about 3rd parties that I’m so fond of may not be for nothing, after all.

The disastrous new EU Copyright Directive [Cory Doctorow / EFF]


NY State: vote TODAY Sept 13th in Primary

NYS residents!

TODAY, Sept 13th is the primary election for statewide offices, including Governor, Lt. Governor, State Attorney General, as well as your local State Senate and Assembly races.

Turnout in primary elections is too low, so go vote!

If you need, find your voting location using the NYS board of elections tool below.

For the Democratic Primary, I am endorsing Cynthia Nixon, Jumaane Williams for Gov/Lt-Gov, and Zephyr Teacout for AG.

They also received endorsements from the WFP, prominent progressives including Bernie Sanders. Zephyr Teachout even got the endorsement of the New York Times.

Your State Senate primaries will vary, do look them up.

Bolton and the ICC

It’s 9/11 again. The dark anniversary which marked the turn of US foreign policy toward a cruel and bizarre vision of power-projection, and the (de-)evolution of the US government itself. How many years ago was that now?

Anyway, Trump’s National Security Advisor, John Bolton, couldn’t quite wait until the day itself, even though he had the perfect (/sarc) speech for the occasion, at a Federalist Society luncheon.

Link to BBC story:

SIDEBAR – The Federalist Society is a sortof professional organization for conservative lawyers, whose purpose is political transformation of the US government using the judicial branch. They helped Trump secure the nomination. In exchange, Trump asked the Society to provide him with a list of people he should appoint to Federal Judgeships and the Supreme Court. Politico Article on this.

Back to Bolton and the ICC.

The US foreign policy crew was never really into the ICC, for pretty obvious reasons. The court has this annoying principle that the same rules should apply to everyone. President Clinton signed the treaty creating the ICC, but the Senate never ratified it, and Pres. Bush rescinded Clinton’s signature. Pres. Obama, typical of his style, took some minimal half-measures. Rather than reinstating Clinton’s signature or asking for ratification, Obama’s policy was to “cooperate” with the ICC, but only in cases where the plaintiff is a US ally. Which of course bypasses the whole rule of law concept. I think this is around the time they invented the term “rules-based order” – something I always thought of as analogous to “chicken-based McNuggets”.

At least Obama was polite.

Now under Trump we’re back to neocon’s running the show, so the pile of disturbing self-parody just gets higher and higher. You seriously can’t make this stuff up. Bolton, addressing a group of lawyers, for goodness sake, made various threats to intimidate the judges of the ICC if they should ever agree to hear cases against US defendants. Bolton also said that should the ICC hear cases brought by Palestinians, that too would be a threat to US interests.

Note- if I understand it correctly, jurisdiction for the ICC is determined if the alleged crime happens in a country which is a signatory – the defendant need not be a signatory.

Left, Right, and Dead Center Andrew [Levine / CounterPunch]

Medium length piece, musing on: the multiple meanings of the terms left/right/center, the shape they’ve taken in US politics, the context of Trumpism, the so-called Resistance, and an opinion on how the “notional left” (aka the portion of the spectrum going from “progressives” to “socialists in the original sense”) should approach the current situation.

variety – thoughts on national politics – 20180908

Gonna shoot off another light/quick post here.

Topics: McCain, NYT Op-Ed by anonymous White House anti-Trumper , 25th Amendment, polls

McCain – Finally, the end of the weeklong McCain funeral ceremonies. Complete with flag-waving bipartisan (Obama! AOC!) adulation of this reflexive militarist / cheerleader for I think every single regrettable foreign policy adventure the US had during his time in office (1982 onwards). So much for that.

NYT Op-Ed – There was the New York Times op-ed in which an anonymous “senior official” from the Trump Administration, writing from a deeply conservative political position, described a resistance-from-within, and wrote a sort of call-to-arms for others to do the same.

That this exists is kindof obvious already (i.e, DOJ investigations, foreign policy handled by military “caretakers”). The big news is that the NYT published it (and implicitly endorsed the deeply conservative view of the author). The part about the author being anonymous is fine by me. The choice to publish is the surprising part.

The actual text was just a regurgitation of the past 1.5 years of talking points. Honestly it reads as if it were ghost-written by a particularly un-creative committee. Of course it tries to cash in on the McCain wave of patriotism.

25th Amendment – Also mentioned in the above op-ed, as well as by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (whom I like) – use of the 25th Amendment (section 4) to remove Trump due to his inability to carry out his duties. On the issue of Trump’s unfitness, I don’t disagree – I think anyone using Twitter qualifies for this. However, if we’re going to be honest, we could make historical comparisons of senility or stupidity with Reagan and Bush Jr.

More importantly, just so that we are all on the same page, let’s understand that the relevant part of the 25th Amendment requires a much higher threshold of support than  even impeachment. Namely, the support of:

  • the Vice President
    • who should be even scarier to Trump’s Democratic opponents than Trump himself
  • a majority of Trump’s Cabinet
    • a corrupt lot of Republican-big-business and MIC folk who got everything they wished for so far, and can probably think of more things that Trump will let them have, AND take the blame for in their place
  • 2/3 of both the House and Senate are required if the president does not agree with the VP and cabinet’s decision to remove him.
    • That will only happen if: (a) Trump is physically unable to communicate, comatose or similar. (b) Trump is magically cured of his narcissism and decides to accept the decision of the VP – this would effectively be agreeing to a resignation, for which the 25th Amendment (section 4) process isn’t necessary at all.

Furthermore, pursuing this more burdensome path of removing Trump doesn’t really show confidence in the premise of impeachment, which is that Trump committed a crime big enough to invalidate his election.

Actual text of the 25th Amendment [Cornell Law Archive]

Article on the intent behind the 25th Amendment [Politico] .  Notable excerpt:

But the burden of the congressional commentary was to conclude, as Feerick wrote, that “unpopularity, incompetence, impeachable conduct, poor judgment, and laziness [did] not constitute an ‘inability’ within the meanings of the amendment.”

Section 4 … applied during such serious situations as “loss of consciousness,” “significant alterations of the president’s cognitive faculties or inability to communicate,” “serious injury to the president following an accident or attack on his person,” “terminal illness,” and “progressive, mentally disabling conditions.” 

But in any case, debate about the intent of the 25th Amendment’s drafters is moot, because 2/3 of both houses of Congress are effectively required. This detail is omitted from the politico article.

Polls – Democrats are looking likely to gain a tight (10-20 seats) majority of seats in the House. This will position the “Blue Dog” caucus (i.e., conservative Democrats) as the swing votes. Trump’s approval rating continues its remarkable resilience, bottoming out at around 40% early on last year and pretty much steady ever since despite every conceivable scandal. A great many voters just do not give a flip.

A variety of stats are here:   Note that 538 does considerable processing (adjustment) of the raw data, with an emphasis on accurately picking up shorter term changes in trend. Also, availability of polling data for individual house races is surprisingly thin, even among just the “toss-ups”. We have to rely very heavily on the nationwide “generic congressional ballot” poll data.

NY State – Vote Sept 13th!!!! Primary election for statewide offices.

Cuomo vs Nixon Debate and Definition of Politics [Masha Gessen / New Yorker]

link:   [via NakedCapitalism]

Reminder: NY State Democratic primary for State positions is Sept. 13th

Disclosure: I am for Nixon here, and do some light volunteering for her campaign.

The opening question in the Cuomo-Nixon Debate last wednesday: What of Cuomo’s obvious advantage in experience?

Gessen is saying, I think, that in the “greater battle” to “retake” the US from Trumpism, an inspiring leader is more valuable than an experienced technocrat. Cuomo claimed that NY state needs an experienced governor to help fight Trump by being better able to pull the levers used to defend the status quo.

I would agree with Gessen here. Trump himself had no government experience, and
the “greater battle” is one of politics and advocacy more so than governing or management.

I don’t think it’s hard to see that on the basis of her progressive bona-fides, Nixon is a more inspiring candidate to Democratic primary voters. It is they alone who will decide the governorship in this state. The office of the governor can then be used, in light of the primary importance of politics and advocacy, to advocate progressive issues, which have genuine value in providing a positive alternative to Trumpism. A technocratic or institutional-bureaucratic “resistance” provides no such value, it can offer only a competent technical defense of that which was already rejected by both Democratic and Republican voters.

This is not to dismiss Cuomo’s main argument: that management and governing experience matter in their own right, independent of whether the objectives of government are the ones voters support. That is a tough one for Nixon to beat.

I watched the debate, actually, so I’ll add a few words about that too.

It was “lively” without a doubt, with Nixon calling Cuomo’s bluff at one point and making an impromptu pledge to forego the governor’s salary if elected, and Cuomo doing the same and swearing not to run for President in 2020.

Cuomo played himself, second generation governor, incumbent experienced politician, skilled speaker. Confident, with smugness at times, on on most subjects. The notable exception was when responding to accusations of corruption.

I was more interested in how Nixon would present herself. It was my first time seeing her speak for more than a few seconds (though I’d seen her positions quite a bit in print). She sounded very articulate (an actress!), and came off as phenomenally well prepared. She will make a great politician, and I hope she keeps at it, even if she is not nominated this time.

She was also very aggressive, maybe too much. This was both in substance and delivery. It seemed most of her responses, certainly her most impassioned ones, were about attacking Cuomo, rather than selling her policies on their own merits. And she interrupted a lot, which added a sour note to the otherwise strong impression she made.

To be fair, this was partly in response to Cuomo coopting many of her points, in the form of vague half-agreement in princple. Did I mention he is an experienced politician? He did this in a way that was carefully worded so that can be further diluted later, or just not formed into policy due to “lack of cooperation” from the Republicans in the state senate. But if you want to look for a positive, in this sense, at least, Nixon’s run is already a success – it plants items statewide $15 minimum wage firmly on the table, and opens the door to debate on subjects like single payer and right-to-strike for transit workers, or more broadly, reviving the positive image of unions.

With the exception of that last issue, Cuomo generally tried to steer the debate back to himself on progressive issues, by taking credit for partial achievements made so far in NY state on social justice subjects. This also reminds the audience each time of his experience as the incumbent.

The other card I thought Nixon overplayed was the NYC subway. As someone who grew up in the city and returns frequently (this post is written there), I can confirm how obvious it is that the subway pays world-record construction and operating costs, for infrastructure that is functional but mediocre at best. In many aspects the MTA is plainly inferior to urban mass transit systems throughout the world. (E.g., cleanliness, noise, reliability, cost, aesthetics, thoughtful organization). However, why is this an issue for the NY State? It’s a piece of legislative “pork” for NYC residents. And the historical involvement of the state just perpetuates the complex jurisdictional/budget-process situation. It adds more layers of intermediaries. I think that itself is a top reason why NYC pays world record prices for mediocre design, construction, and service.

But of course both candidates realize that argument won’t sell, so they just promise to throw money at the problem, in proportion to where they think their voters are. In this, I think Nixon, unlike Cuomo, discounts the upstate Democratic vote to her detriment.

As a campaign volunteer, I found her message was a relatively easy sell, actually. Among active Democrat voters with whom I spoke, nobody was defending Cuomo, or made any attempt to speak to anything they thought Cuomo stood for. The sticking point was “Why should I bother” / “She has no chance” / “I support her but don’t really have no time to vote”, in roughly equal frequency to “I didn’t realize there was a primary” / “when is it” / “I moved and am not registered to vote here”.