Democracy and the Second Amendment

The debate around gun regulations has an unusual dynamic. Supporters of gun regulations make arguments around public health, saving lives and data that shows that limiting access to guns reduces murders and mass killings. Opponents give lip service to opposing these points, but more frequently refer to the Second Amendment, which they interpret to mean that the state cannot pass any laws limiting access to guns. Gun advocates use the Second Amendment not only as a rationale for their views, but as a way so squash any debate on the subject, particularly those grounded in data. Seeing gun advocates cite the Second Amendment in the face of every guard arguments brings up memories of Charlie Brown’s response when confronted with the dismal state of his baseball team.

State Facilitated Domestic Terrorism in Trump’s America

The typical mass shooter in the US is a heavily armed white man who is angry about something. The specific roots of that anger are not always the same, but in many cases the targets of that anger are Latinos, African Americans, Jews, Muslims, LGBT people or some combination of those groups. These acts of domestic terrorism are increasingly not simply meant to kill random Americans while frightening all of us, but to kill specific groups of Americans while sending a message to members of those groups that we are no longer safe in the US. 

American History 2020

As the 2020 election approaches, we will inevitably encounter more commentary reminding us how the future of the US is at stake. That is clearly true, because if Donald Trump is reelected the pace of democratic rollback will be accelerated, perhaps irrevocably, while a Democratic victory may just reverse that rollback and make it possible to rebuild a cohesive and democratic country. However, despite the future being at stake, the election itself will largely be a debate about the past. 

The Never Ending Racism and Anti-Semitism of the Trump Administration

The strangest thing about Donald Trump’s latest racist tantrum is how many people are surprised, outraged or think this is now the definitive proof of Trump’s racism. Trump has been a deeply racist individual and also the product of a deeply racist system since before Twitter was invented. To not recognize that is both a deliberate attempt to live in a fantasy world and also to fundamentally not understand America. Trump was a racist of the most venal and hateful kind long before he became a presidential candidate, yet because of America’s deep unwillingness to wrestle with, or even acknowledge, our racist history, well into 2018 you could turn on CNN or some similar media outlet and hear an earnest discussion of whether or not Trump is a racist. 

The Dangerous Buffoonery of Donald Trump

Sinclair Lewis may or may not have written that "(w)hen fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross." Regardless of who said it first, that sentiment has captured the revulsion many Americans have long felt when far right leaders cloak their bigotry, cruelty and anti-democratic policies in false patriotism and Christianity. As the tragedy of the Trump administration continues, it is evident that Lewis’s sentiment, while still resonant, should be modified somewhat. Under Trump, democratic rollback is wrapped in a clown suit and is carrying a smartphone.

The Debates-Who Won, Who Lost and Who Needs to Drop Out

The Democratic presidential debates on Wednesday and Thursday nights were without precedent. Twenty potential nominees, which did not even represent the full field, debated with each other over the course of two evenings. This field of twenty will be winnowed in the next months with a nominee emerging somewhere between April and mid-July of 2020. The debates are only one component of what will be a long campaign, but they are the most important and high profile to date.

The Democratic Party Must Focus on Ensuring Free and Fair Elections

The most important thing the DNC can be doing right now is not simply to determine the debate schedule or threshold for getting into the debates, or even to raise money for the general election campaign, but creating and implementing a comprehensive strategy to ensure and defend democratic elections next November. This includes things like assembling teams of attorneys in key states around the country, educating voters about their rights, creating hotlines and the like to report voter intimidation and similar problems, keeping the discussion of election security in the media and seeking commitments from Democrats and Republicans to accept the outcome of the election

1972

In November 0f 1972, a very competitive US Senate in Delaware race saw Republican J. Caleb Boggs lose a bid for his third term by fewer than 3,200 votes to a 29 year-old Democrat. That campaign is relevant again today because it was the last time Joseph Biden won a competitive election. For incumbents, the best way to ensure reelection is to show enough strength that potentially strong opponents decide not to run. Biden was masterful at this winning reelection to the Senate against weak opposition six times, including in 2008 when he was also running for vice-president. The skills that Biden employed to do that have helped him get out to an early lead in the Democratic primary, but would be completely irrelevant against Donald Trump in a general election. 

The Disingenuity of Robert Mueller

The consensus that has emerged from Mueller’s statement his that rather than indict the President, he has given Congress a mandate to pursue impeachment. This allows Mueller to present himself like an institutionalist, suggesting that our Constitutional processes can kick into gear and right the wrongs of the Trump campaign administration. The problem with this ostensibly patriotic notion is that anybody who has been paying attention knows that congress will never remove Trump from office because there will never be 67 votes in the GOP controlled Senate to convict him. Thus, by pushing the responsibility to Congress, all Mueller really accomplishes is to create a political conundrum for Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House and leader of the Democratic Party in Washington. If Mueller was not aware of this, it is not because he eschews politics, but because he is appallingly ignorant. For that reason, it is likely he was aware of the consequence of what he was doing, which raises the question of why he did it.

Impeachment Probably Won’t Matter Either

 As the prospect of impeachment seems greater with almost every passing day, it is worth remembering that the most likely political scenario is that impeachment proceedings will have little impact on public opinion or the election of 2020. It is possible that a Senator like Harris, Warren or Booker might have a few moments that go viral, but that will little impact on opinions of Trump itself. The 35% or so of the country that stuck with Trump thus far will watch Fox News and be told that the Democrats are desperate, suffering from Trump derangement syndrome and the like, while a slightly larger proportion of the country will watch MSNBC and various other left of center media outlets, certain in the widespread criminality of Trump and the people around him. Some of those people will be even be foolish enough to believe that some finding or another will finally break the case open to the larger American public, but they will be wrong. 

The Real Electabliity Questions

Over the last few election cycles we have learned pretty definitively that we know a lot less about electability than we think we do. Our last two presidents, Barack Obama and Donald Trump, were both viewed as axiomatically unelectable when they began their campaigns for the White House. Moreover, most candidates have both positive and negative and electoral traits so their overall electability becomes a post facto assessment rather than having any predictive value. For example, in 2016 Hillary Clinton was very electable until she wasn’t. Similarly, had John Kerry beat George W. Bush in 2004, the punditry would have explained that as a war hero with years of experience he was the perfect candidate, but he lost narrowly, so we have been told he was a northeaster liberal with limited charisma and therefore a week candidate. Given this, when somebody tells you they think a particular primary candidate is electable, what they usually mean is simply that they are supporting that candidate. 

Corey Busch and Lincoln Mitchell Discussing Baseball Goes West

On April 25th, 2019 the San Francisco Historical Society hosted a discussion of my book Baseball Goes West: the Dodgers, the Giants and the Shaping of the Major Leagues. The discussant was longtime baseball executive Corey Busch. The event was held at the San Francisco Athletic Club.

How the Media Misplayed the Mueller Report

In the years since the 2016 campaign, various media figures and institutions, including the New York Times,haveapologizedfor their shoddy coverageof that election and of Donald Trump. The gist of these sentiments have been that media outlets made a mistake by allowing themselves to be pulled like moths to the flame that was Donald Trump’s strange, unconventional and sensational candidacy, while failing to give enough coverage to his primary opponents and creating a false equivalency between Trump’s scandals and those related to Hillary Clinton. Despite these mistakes, most of the media similarly botched their coverage of Attorney General William Barr’s letter to congressional leaders summarizing the final report by Special Investigator Robert Mueller.

After the Mueller Report

The Mueller report is an important historical document that scholars will study closely in future decades, but as a political document it was always going to going to have a limited impact. Based on the indictments and information we have learned in the 20 months of the investigation, it is clear that Trump had, at the very least, an untoward relationship with Moscow that should make any American, regardless of party, deeply concerned. It was also clear that even if the report had called for indicting the entire Trump family, Trump’s Tweets about “witch hunts” and “no collusion” were going to be believed by the third or so of the American people that are now his praetorian guard.

Misreading Bernie Sanders’ 2016 Campaign

It may be that in 2016, it was not Sanders who consolidated the anti-Clinton sentiment, but Clinton who consolidated the anti-Sanders sentiment. As the primaries went on voters who found Sanders too far left, did not like his inability and seeming unwillingnessto connect to non-white voters, or chafed at the sexism of many in his campaign, had nowhere to go but to Clinton. In 2020, according to this view, the vote that went to Clinton will be dispersed among all the other candidates while Sanders will hold his base. If that happens, Sanders will be in a very good position to win the nomination.

How Michael Bloomberg Can Save The GOP

By running in the Republican primary, Bloomberg would be able to force Trump to campaign and to answer charges from somebody who is viewed not as a fiery liberal, like almost the entire Democratic field, but from an older white businessman. Keeping that political heat on Trump for the first half of 2020 would further weaken the incumbent President going into the election. It would also present a new vision for the Republican Party, one that is largely true to the economic principles that have always been at its core, but that is not dominated by the magical thinking of tea partiers, climate change deniers and religious fundamentalists.

Munich 2019

For decades, one America’s most valuable assets in the economic, security and foreign policy sectors, was its stability. This is why the dollar became the most trusted currency in the world and why the US was able to lead the way in crafting alliances and relationships that benefited our allies as well as ourselves. Trump has destroyed that stability. Today our European allies look at the Trump administration and recognize if the US can elect somebody like him once, it can do it again. The forces in American society that elected Trump are unlikely to go away simply because a Democrat wins an election in 2020. Those forces have been cultivated and activated by this administration and in the 2016 campaign, but they are here to stay. As long as that is true, the trans-Atlantic alliance is under threat and America can never be trusted the way it once was to honor its word and fulfill its commitments to its allies.

Ilhan Omar’s Tweets and Republican Hypocrisy

While recent events are a reminder that racism and anti-Semitism are problems that do not know partisan boundaries, the faux earnest concern about anti-Semitism from Republican leaders who have quietly sat through the festival of intolerance that is the Trump administration are not just hypocritical, but offensive. Those who see the anti-Semitism in Omar’s Tweets, but not in actions, associates and messages of the Trump administration, care about settling political scores, not about ridding America of this ancient, but sadly persistent, hatred.

Even the Billionaires Are Running from the GOP

During the past few weeks, two American billionaires have floated their name as presidential candidates. Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks, has indicated his interests in running an independent candidacy in 2020, while Michael Bloomberg, the former Mayor of New York City, has suggested he may run in the Democratic primary. At first glance, these two men seem to have a lot in common. Both of these men, who have built extremely successful businesses, are offering a message that their business skills make them uniquely poised to solve the problems facing the US while presenting a vision of fiscal conservatism and social liberalism that is popular among some segments of the educated elite, but has no traction beyond that. Additionally, both have attacked the more economically progressive elements within today’s Democratic Party. Lastly, they are both very unlikely to ever be President.

Never Mind the Horserace: The Real Questions for 2020

This means that rather than turning to our attention to who might win Iowa, which candidate is racking up the most endorsements, the latest great speech, gaffe or negative story about a candidate, we might be better off paying attention to a different set of issues. The question of whether or not the 2020 election is likely to be conducted freely, fairly and democratically is much more central to the future of our country than whether Kirsten Gillibrand or Corey Booker is in third place in Iowa or other such inside baseball campaign dynamics. The questions of which states are passing more restrictive voting laws, which of these laws are being upheld in the courts, why the federal government continues to do nothing to protect our elections from further Russian interference like what we saw in 2016, and the extent to which major media outlets traffic in lies and fear-mongeringare among the much extremely critical issues that too easily get overlooked as we all handicap the Democratic primary.