After the Congressional Special Election down in Georgia, President Trump exclaimed, Great victory. (He meant for Trump.)
At the same time the Democrats were saying the same thing: They said they’d won a great victory. And defeated Trump.
Somebody wasn’t telling the truth.
And Sean Trende, of Real Clear Politics, put his finger on who: “This isn’t a win, and it isn’t a defeat. It’s a ‘to be continued,’” he wrote (in the final runoff election in June.)
Both sides had thrown honesty right out the window. And sitting at home, listening, no one seemed to mind. The truth had vanished. But hardly a soul blinked.
Four years ago this week, an extraordinary young woman I had come to know was brutally murdered. Stabbed to death in her own home. By a man she and her husband had befriended and helped.
Four years on, I still struggle with the monstrous evil here.
We know that human beings do cruel, senseless, horrible things to each other. We see it in Syria, in terrorist attacks and in random violence in our own country.
We don’t expect it down the street. To people we know. And, until it happens, you don’t realize how much damage is done to families and friends.
Today, a foundation named for Jamie Kirk Hahn is doing good work. I know extraordinary young people who’ve been inspired by her life and her example.
Jamie was a political consultant. She was that most valuable asset, a fundraiser. She had built a good business. Helped good candidates and causes. She was exploring how she could help more nonprofits and charities.
Four years on, I have more awareness of the goodness and greatness that lies within us.
But I also have more awareness of the terrible evil that lies within some people. And the awful suffering they cause.
Outside, the rain keeps coming down. Like a flood of tears.
Governor Cooper’s office calls the HB2 repeal “an important step forward for LGBT rights” even though it “wasn’t a perfect compromise or the Governor’s preferred solution.”
LGBT leaders call it a “sellout” and an “insult.”
This is the oldest debate in politics. Not liberal/conservative. Or Democrat/Republican. But “compromise” versus “all or nothing.”
The Governor had to weigh competing needs – and pain. There is the LGBT community’s pain of discrimination, bigotry and intolerance. There is the pain of lost jobs and income among working people who depend on tourism, conventions and sports events that HB2 cost the state.
That’s a painful choice. And it clearly weighed heavily on the Governor.
He did the right thing. Now he faces threats of retribution from Democratic progressives. Even talk of a primary challenge.
Nothing would please Republicans more. Nothing would do more to keep them in power throughout the 2020s.
I’m reminded of Robert Caro’s account of Lyndon Johnson when LBJ was Senate minority leader in the 1950s. Johnson pushed for modest civil rights legislation. He was maligned by his Southern colleagues, for doing too much, and by liberals and civil rights leaders, for doing too little.
LBJ persisted. Step by step. A decade later, by accidents of tragedy and history, he was President. Democrats had big majorities in Congress. Whereupon President Johnson pushed through the most sweeping civil rights act in history – and a Voting Rights Act that transformed America’s politics.
Compromise is frustrating. It may be more fulfilling to denounce leaders who take half a loaf today. But it’s self-defeating to attack those leaders when they share your goals, have shown their courage and will keep coming back, again and again, until the job is done.
When I worked with Governor Hunt, we had a mantra that reflected his willingness to compromise and his determination to keep pushing: “Good step. Right direction. Lot left to do.”
So it is.
This is a great bill, he said. There’s a great plan… the plan gets better and better and better, and it has gotten really, really, really good.
It was like listening to a high-school boy urging a girl to go to the prom with him: This will be great. Really great. It just gets better and better. It’s really, really, really good.
But it wasn’t a boy it was President Trump – selling his new plan to replace Obamacare. And that’s all he said, It’s going to be really, really, really good.
A new now-it-can-be-told book performs the requisite autopsy on why Hillary Clinton lost.
Judging by the reviews, “Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign” is the kind of political porn we junkies eat up. No doubt it’s filled with delicious dirt dished out by dueling staffers exacting revenge and blaming each other. Yum!
It’s a first stab at answering the questions Democrats have agonized over since about 10 pm EST November 8 when they realized, “Son of a gun, this SOB Trump is going to win!”
The book apparently says Hillary never could figure out why she wasn’t connecting with voters – with millennials, with minorities, with ex-Obama voters, with working-class voters, with a lot of women and with the kind of voters Bill Clinton used to get.
She and her campaign didn’t get it even after Bernie Sanders stunned them by winning the Michigan primary in March.
The answer, as usual, is clear in retrospect.
The Clintons had come a long way since 1992, when Bill felt your pain and “It’s the economy, stupid.”
It’s hard to convince people you feel their pain when you get paid $675,000 to give a speech to Goldman Sachs. Which she did.
After leaving the White House, the Clintons soared into the world of billionaires, private jets and the Davos crowd – precisely the people real Americans are mad at. See my blog on Steve Bannon and the populist anger in America.
As Senator from New York, she cultivated the Wall Street crowd. And they donated generously – to her campaigns and to the Clinton Foundation.
As Secretary of State, she travelled all over the world. Her campaign bragged that she had gone to 478 countries, or something like that.
Her campaign simply lost touch with the people at home. They forgot it was the economy, stupid. They thought the election was about “Stronger Together.”
Bill Clinton apparently sensed what was happening – and complained loudly. But the data nerds in Brooklyn thought the Big Dog was barking up the wrong tree.
Too many Americans didn’t believe Hillary felt their pain. So they gave her some real pain. And gave us Trump.
Watching Sean Hannity’s like watching a celebrity say the same thing over and over – it wears out quickly. But somehow, Bill O’Reilly wasn’t hum-drum – he had a knack for entertainment.
So, did O’Reilly’s sins catch up with him?
Fox News says Yes. He’s guilty and gone.
O’Reilly says not so – that the accusations were unfounded.
Either way, I wonder whether Sean Spicer’s looking over his shoulder this morning? O’Reilly’s got time on his hands. And he’d be in a class by himself conducting the daily White House press briefing. Sounds incredible. But imagine the Twitter hits.
It’s good that Steve Bannon has been eclipsed in the court of the Sun King. By all accounts, he’s a hate-spewing, fear-mongering, immigrant-bashing, Muslim-banning, dark force.
But Bannon did have one important insight into today’s politics. And Democrats should take heed of it.
Bannon has a clear focus on the anger that millions of Americans feel about the economy, the 2008 crash and the greed, recklessness and arrogance of the political and financial class. See more below.
That seething anger – over trade deals, Wall Street bailouts and lost jobs – fueled Trump’s election. Yes, there was racism, sexism and Russia. But there was also the real pain of real Americans – especially in the Midwest states where the manufacturing economy has collapsed and Trump picked up surprising wins.
Now Trump is siding against Bannon and with the Goldman Sachs-billionaire-Wall Street crowd. With Ivanka, Jared and their wealthy friends.
Democrats should side with the millions of Americans who are hurting.
Hillary Clinton lost in large part because she and Bill were seen as wealthy captives, if not platinum-card-carrying members, of the Wall Street crowd. You can’t be a populist and get paid $675,000 to give a speech to Goldman Sachs.
That’s why she nearly lost the nomination to Bernie Sanders.
Trump, because he’s wealthy, was seen as independent of Wall Street. Rich enough to tell Goldman Sachs to go to hell.
Instead, he’s put Goldman Sachs in charge of his administration.
No surprise. Trump is a man of no ideas and no fixed principles. He thinks he got where he is because he’s great. He has no feel for people who are hurting. He doesn’t care about them, except as props at his rallies and photo ops.
Going back to FDR, Democrats have been the champions of the forgotten man and woman.
Trump has already forgotten them. It’s time Democrats remembered them. And stood up for them.
Bannon himself put it well in a 2014 speech:
“The 2008 crisis, I think the financial crisis — which, by the way, I don’t think we’ve come through — is really driven I believe by the greed, much of it driven by the greed of the investment banks….And so the crisis of 2008 was, quite frankly, really never recovered from in the United States. It’s one of the reasons last quarter you saw 2.9% negative growth in a quarter. So the United States economy is in very, very tough shape.
“And one of the reasons is that we’ve never really gone and dug down and sorted through the problems of 2008. Particularly the fact — think about it — not one criminal charge has ever been brought to any bank executive associated with 2008 crisis. And in fact, it gets worse. No bonuses and none of their equity was taken….
“…the underpinning of this populist revolt is the financial crisis of 2008. That revolt, the way that it was dealt with, the way that the people who ran the banks and ran the hedge funds have never really been held accountable for what they did, has fueled much of the anger in the tea party movement in the United States.”
Second of two parts
More than 25 years ago, a little-known college president was running what looked like a hopeless U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania.
He was Harris Wofford, a Democrat. He was running against Richard Thornburgh, a former Governor and United States Attorney General.
Wofford’s own polls showed him 40 points behind. Thornburgh had way more money – and way more name recognition.
But Wofford had a good campaign team, including the not-yet-famous James Carville, Paul Begala and Mike Donilon.
They had an idea. They had an issue they thought might work. They tested the idea in a poll. The poll told the voters that Wofford wanted to enact national health insurance.
That one fact flipped the poll. Hearing it, voters in the poll supported Wofford by a 10-point margin.
National health insurance become the sole focus of Wofford’s campaign. He took up a line he heard from a voter: “If every criminal has a right to see a lawyer, then every American should have a right to see a doctor.”
Wofford went on to win the election with 55 percent of the vote.
You can read more about the campaign here. And Democrats should study it. Because, sometimes, history does repeat itself.
Today, Americans are more economically pressed than ever. Insurance is more expensive than ever. Health care, doctors’ visits and medicine are more expensive than ever.
Greed, like a cancer, permeates the health care system. Greedy insurance companies, greedy pharmaceutical companies and, yes, some greedy doctors and hospitals.
National health insurance would give the federal government the power to root out the greed, squeeze out the waste and negotiate better prices for consumers.
Republicans, of course, don’t want that. They love the free market.
But there’s no free market in health care. You have no choice and no freedom when it comes to buying health care. You have to pay whatever they say. Because your and your loved ones’ health and, yes, your lives are at stake.
Democrats should take up this fight. They should admit there’s a problem with Obamacare: It doesn’t cover enough people. While Republicans believe it covers too many people.
Ultimately, Republicans believe Americans should get only as much health care as they and their families can afford. No more.
Let’s take that fight to the people.
First of two parts
Since Obamacare passed in 2009, Republicans have attacked it. For eight years, they called it a “job killer” and a “disaster” that created “death panels.”
Through four election campaigns – 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016 – they promised to repeal it. And replace it with something better, cheaper and, as Comrade Trump vowed, “beautiful.”
Then they won the White House. They won both houses in Congress. They made repealing Obamacare their first order of business.
And they fell on their faces. They flopped. They whiffed.
They went down without even swinging. They couldn’t even bring a bill to the House floor for a vote.
They licked their wounds for a while. Then they said they’d try again. And they struck out again.
But never fear. Trump says he’ll try again. Maybe this time he’ll even learn what’s in the bill before he orders Republicans to pass it!
Here’s their problem: Republicans can’t agree on how many Americans they want to throw off health insurance.
Paul Ryan’s plan would have thrown 24 million Americans over the cliff. But that wasn’t nearly enough to satisfy Mark Meadows and the Freedom (to Die) Caucus. They wanted even more people to lose insurance. They wanted to take away even more protections. Things like maternity child, mammograms, pre-existing conditions, young people under 26 staying on their parents’ insurance.
Even some Republicans couldn’t swallow all that.
Here’s the truth: The Trump-Ryan plan wasn’t just a job-killer. It was a people-killer. It didn’t have death panels. It was a death penalty.
Is that a bit harsh? Extreme?
Well, what happens when people don’t have health insurance? When they don’t get medical treatment?
They get sick, and they die.
But don’t worry: Trump promises to try again.
Which gives Democrats a great opportunity. Which will be our topic next time.
NEXT – Rx: the Democrats.
Gary told me, Read Hillbilly Elegy – it’ll make you see things you’ve been staring at for years in a different light.
The story – a memoir – starts when a pregnant thirteen-year-old girl marries a sixteen-year-old boy and moves from Kentucky’s Appalachian Mountains to Middleton, Ohio in the late 1940’s.
He went to work in a steel mill and, as she had three more children, he drank until one night she told him, Come home drunk one more time and I’ll kill you.
A week later after he staggered home, as he lay sleeping on the couch, she poured gasoline on him and struck a match. Their oldest daughter put out the flames. They separated, reconciled, but lived apart until he died.
Their youngest daughter set out to become a nurse but, out on her own, crippled by addictions to prescription drugs she crashed through five marriages.
Her son, guarded by his older sister, meandered through high school, joined the Marines, served in Iraq, returned to Ohio, went to college, met a girl, fell in love, married, and wrote a memoir about the land he’d left behind.
Our neighbor Pattie, he wrote, called her landlord to report a leaky roof. The landlord arrived and found Pattie topless and unconscious on her living room couch. Upstairs the bathtub was overflowing – hence, the leaking roof. Pattie had apparently drawn herself a bath, taken a few prescription painkillers, and passed out. The top floor of her home and many of her family’s possessions were ruined. This is the reality of our community. It’s about a naked druggie destroying what little of value exists in her life. It’s about children who lose their toys and clothes to a mother’s addiction.
He told another story about a man who, after a career teaching, explained: They want us to be shepherds to those kids. But no one talks about the fact many of them are raised by wolves.
Hillbilly Elegy is about a land where hillbillies get run over by freight trains when factories shutter; where husbands beat wives, mothers take drugs, and children grow into adults without faith or hope.
Enter Donald Trump.
Who sung the lost hillbillies a simple song: They’d been screwed. By Washington Elites, Wall Street Elites, bad trade deals and illegal immigrants.
Then he promised them vengeance.
The hillbillies weren’t naive – they doubted his promises. And they saw at times he lied. But they didn’t care. They had a score to settle. And he had the guts to settle it.
Last fall – in Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania – their votes catapulted Donald Trump into the White House and, now, there’re millions of dispossessed hillbillies…waiting…and if he lets them down they will grow even angrier.
The Charlotte Observer says: “Carter Wrenn and Gary Pearce
don’t see eye-to-eye on many issues. But they both love North Carolina
and know its politics inside and out.”
Carter is a Republican.
Gary is a Democrat.
They met in 1984, during the epic U.S. Senate battle
between Jesse Helms and Jim Hunt. Carter worked for Helms and Gary,
Years later, they became friends. They even worked together on some nonpolitical clients.
They enjoy talking about politics. So they started this blog in 2005.
They’re still talking. And they invite you to join the conversation.
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Spirits of the Air