ALEC Is Talking About Changing the Way Senators Are Elected and Taking Away Your Vote

A proposed resolution advocates for overturning the 17th Amendment so Republican-controlled state legislatures could pick senators.

(Reuters / Jonathan Ernst)

By John Nichols

The United States Senate is an undemocratic institution. Just do the math: Progressive California Senator Kamala Harris was elected in 2016 with 7,542,753 votes. Yet her vote on issues such as health-care reform counts for no more than that of conservative Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi, who was elected in 2014 with 121,554 votes.

This is an absurd imbalance. In fact, the only thing that would make it more absurd would be if voters were removed from the equation altogether.

Say “hello” to the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, the corporate-funded project to impose a top-down right-wing agenda on the states. ALEC is considering whether to adopt a new piece of “model legislation” that proposes to do away with an elected Senate.

The idea of reversing 104 years of representative democracy and returning to the bad old days when senators were chosen via backroom deals between wealthy campaign donors, corporate lobbyists, and crooked legislators, is not new. The John Birch Society peddled the proposal decades ago. But with the rise of the “Tea Party
movement, the notion moved into the conservative mainstream.

The Nation

Yes, Democrats need a civil war: Believe it or not, it’s the only real path back to power

Papering over the party’s internal conflicts only led to defeat. Without open debate, victory will never come

Former Democratic Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders takes the stage during the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, July 25, 2016.

By Bill Curry

In April, Bernie Sanders and Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez took off on a bumpy cross-country road trip. Their “unity tour” mostly served to highlight their differences and remind people that Sanders is not actually a Democrat. May it be a lesson to Democrats: Unity requires agreement, which requires debate.

Many expected 2016’s losing party to engage in fierce debate and a bloody civil war. Had Republicans lost, they’d have opened fire on one another in their concession speeches. Democrats took another tack. First, they rehired all their top management; their discredited consultants and decrepit congressional leaders. Then, in the spirit of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, they cancelled the debate.

Party elders say it’s no time to squabble. They always say that. The specter of an emotionally arrested, proto-fascist fraud in the White House adds force to their argument, but ducking debate is what got Democrats here in the first place. This is in fact the exact right time, maybe even their last chance, to have one. So, what’s stopping them?

In 2016 Sanders backers fumed over the Democratic National Committee’s conniving with Hillary Clinton’s campaign. But the DNC could screw up a two-car funeral. It’s too ineffectual to effect anything as big and complicated as an election. Progressives made Clinton. Without labor, she’d have opened the 2016 campaign with three straight losses (in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada). Labor’s top goals were blocking trade deals and enacting a living wage. Sanders was with labor. Clinton wasn’t. He outperformed her in nearly every general election poll. Labor went with her anyway, often without consulting the rank and file.

Most old line, Washington-based African-American, women’s, LGBT and environmental groups did likewise. It was the progressive establishment, not the party establishment, that secured Clinton’s nomination. The udemocratization of the Democratic Party starts with the democratization of the left.

Salon

Why Democrats Lost

Kenneth Whitley, WPA poster, 1939

I voted for Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama was absolutely right when he said that there was no candidate better qualified to be president than Hillary Clinton. So, why did Democrats lose?

When asked about raising the minimum wage–while Bernie Sanders was calling for a $15.00 an hour minimum wage–Hillary took the politically safe route and said we should pursue “incremental changes.” Holy crap. My head exploded. Talk about poor optics. Talk about being completely out of touch with your base of support. Let’s do another fundraiser with Wall Street bankers in the freaking Hamptons. Can you imagine how that sounded to a single mother trying to feed her kids on a $9.00 an hour job? Incremental change? We don’t need incremental change. We need someone to call 911. We’re dying here.

Hillary Clinton lost one million Democratic and independent women voters in 2016. Imagine that.

So here’s the not-so-secret answer to why Democrats lost in 2016: Bernie Sanders supporters aren’t a radical fringe element. They are the Democratic Party. They are the ideological heirs of FDR, John F. Kennedy and LBJ. They are the same social democrats who created social security, medicaid, passed the civil rights acts, and protested the unnecessary wars and the military-industrial complex. They didn’t abandon the Democratic Party. They were abandoned by the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party has strived to become more conservative and politically safe. And in doing so has become politically irrelevant.

Do Trump’s Murky Financial Ties to Russia Connect to Money Laundering?

Investigators have only begun to follow the money.

aluxum/Getty

By Bill Buzenberg

Federal investigators continue to dig into Russia’s cyberattack on the US election and the Trump administration’s possible involvement—but as bad as that intrusion and collusion may be, Trump’s opaque financial dealings could prove even more perilous for the president.

Trump has blazed a decades-long trail of questionable financial dealings with Russian sources that could provide investigators with the grist they need for legal action. A wide array of Russian oligarchs with links to Vladimir Putin have invested tens of millions of hard-to-explain dollars in Trump properties. And Trump professes never to know who these people are or where they got the big bucks for their mostly cash deals.

Money laundering is the process of taking proceeds from criminal activity (dirty money) and making them appear legal (clean). Although the news didn’t make much of a splash during the 2016 campaign, Trump paid a $10 million fine to the U.S. Treasury in 2015 for his bankrupt Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City because it failed to meet anti-money-laundering requirements. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Regulators said the casino failed to establish and implement an effective anti-money-laundering program, failed to implement an adequate system of internal controls, and failed to properly file currency transaction reports or keep other required records.”

It is already a matter of public record that several Trump-affiliated businesses and associates are connected to alleged Russian money-laundering operations.

Many of Trump’s business dealings involve Deutsche Bank or the Bank of Cyprus—both known for their connections with Russian oligarchs. Deutsche Bank is also Trump’s biggest lender; he owes the bank some $300 million, as first reported by Mother Jones‘ Russ Choma and David Corn. The Guardian reported that Deutsche Bank paid $630 million in fines for failing to prevent $10 billion in Russian money laundering between 2012 and 2015.

The Bank of Cyprus is also well known as a money-laundering haven for Russian oligarchs. Trump’s Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has invested heavily in the Bank of Cyprus (some $424 million in 2014, giving him an 18% stake) and he was once vice-chairman of the bank, according to the Guardian. Ross presided over deals that raise questions about his tenure at the bank and his ties to politically connected Russian oligarchs.

Ross shared his vice-chairman post at the bank with a deposit holder-turned-shareholder, Vladimir Strzhalkovsky, referred to in Russian media as a former KGB official and Putin ally.

Mother Jones

The Democrats’ Davos ideology won’t win back the midwest

The party has harmed millions of their own former constituents. If they change course, they can reverse their losses

‘The wreckage that you see every day as you tour this part of the country is the utterly predictable fruit of the Democratic party’s neoliberal turn.’ Photograph: Barry Lewis/Corbis via Getty Images

By Thomas Frank

The tragedy of the 2016 election is connected closely, at least for me, to the larger tragedy of the industrial midwest. It was in the ruined industrial city of Cleveland that the Republican Party came together in convention last July, and it was the deindustrialized, addiction-harrowed precincts of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin that switched sides in November and delivered Donald Trump to the Oval Office.

I am a midwesterner too, and I like to think I share the values and outlook of that part of the country. I have spent many of the last 15 years trying to understand my region’s gradual drift to the political right. And I have spent the last three weeks driving around the deindustrialized midwest, visiting 13 different cities to talk about the appeal of Donald Trump and what ails the Democratic Party. I met labor leaders and progressive politicians; average people and rank-and-file union members; senior citizens and Millennials; sages and cranks.

And what I am here to say is that the midwest is not an exotic place. It isn’t a benighted region of unknowable people and mysterious urges. It isn’t backward or hopelessly superstitious or hostile to learning. It is solid, familiar, ordinary America, and Democrats can have no excuse for not seeing the wave of heartland rage that swamped them last November.

The wreckage that you see every day as you tour this part of the country is the utterly predictable fruit of the Democratic party’s neoliberal turn. Every time our liberal leaders signed off on some lousy trade deal, figuring that working-class people had “nowhere else to go,” they were making what happened last November a little more likely.

What we need is for the Democratic party and its media enablers to alter course. It’s not enough to hear people’s voices and feel their pain; the party actually needs to change. They need to understand that the enlightened Davos ideology they have embraced over the years has done material harm to millions of their own former constituents. The Democrats need to offer something different next time. And then they need to deliver.

The Guardian

What Keith Ellison’s Defeat Says About the DNC

Insider Dems simply do not accept the fact that the party must break its bonds with big money and link itself with grassroots activists.

 In December of 2016, Keith Ellison listens as Ray Buckley speaks during a forum on the future of the Democratic Party. (AP Photo / David Zalubowski)
In December of 2016, Keith Ellison listens as Ray Buckley speaks during a forum on the future of the Democratic Party. (AP Photo / David Zalubowski)

By John Nichols

The most significant election result for Democrats on February 25 wasn’t the selection of former labor secretary Tom Perez as the new party chair at an all-too-predictable gathering of Democratic National Committee members in Atlanta. It was the result announced that evening in Middletown, Delaware, where environmental attorney Stephanie Hansen won what was supposed to be a close special election for an open State Senate seat with 58 percent of the vote. That win gave Delaware Democrats something their party now has in only five other states: “trifecta” control of the governorship and both houses of the legislature. In other words, they can govern.

The point of political parties is to win elections, thousands of them, in communities like Middletown, and to add those victories together so that people with a shared set of values—as opposed to the same campaign donors—are in control of city councils, legislatures, and Congress. Democratic insiders lost sight of that point over the years, becoming so presidentially obsessed that they told themselves they could somehow survive without legislators and governors, congresspeople and senators. If they could just keep the presidency, these Democratic partisans imagined, everything would be OK—and the media, which is more focused than ever on Washington, reinforced that fantasy. Then Hillary Clinton lost, and the Democrats suddenly recognized that they were at their weakest point since 1928 in the House, and at their weakest point since 1925 in the states.

No matter who won the competition between Perez and Representative Keith Ellison to lead the DNC, the new chair’s only real job was always going to be to end this losing streak. That’s not some crass partisan calculus; it’s an absolute necessity if America is going to undo not just Trump and Trumpism but the program of inequality and injustice that contemporary conservatives advance. Ellison had the bolder vision for merging the “demonstration energy” of the resistance to Trump with the “electoral energy” that Democrats must muster in 2018. His approach extended from the left-wing, small-donor-funded, millennial-energizing presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders, which Ellison backed—and which Perez, and most of the party establishment, opposed. The Working Families Party’s Dan Cantor described Ellison’s narrow defeat as “a missed opportunity”—and so it is. But it’s important to recognize that a majority of DNC members were willing to miss that opportunity, as they’ve missed so many others over so many years.

The Nation

Trump’s Numbers Continue To Tank As 60% Of Americans Don’t Think He’s ‘Level-Headed’

Overall, the poll reflects a resounding rejection of Trump as a person and the agenda he has worked to implement over the course of his first several weeks in office.

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By Sean Colarossi

It’s been less than three weeks since Donald Trump took the oath of office, and the American people are starting to question whether the new president is even sane enough to hold a job.

According to a new Quinnipiac University poll, a whopping 60 percent of registered voters say that Trump is not “level-headed.” Just a dismal 35 percent of the survey’s respondents say that he is.

This is no surprise given what Trump has managed to do over the first several weeks of his presidency, from lying about crowd sizes and wreaking havoc on American airports to threatening war with two countries and making a deadly and ill-formed foreign policy decision.

Quinnipiac’s finding is just one in a series of devastating numbers showing that a majority of the American people don’t think the president has positive leadership traits.

Politicus

The War on Facts Is a War on Democracy

In a time when facts don’t matter, and science is being muzzled, American democracy is the real victim

 Credit: Gage Skidmore Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Credit: Gage Skidmore Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

By Jonathan Foley

There is a new incumbent in the White House, a new Congress has been sworn in, and scientists around the country are nervous as hell.

We’re nervous because there seems to be a seismic shift going on in Washington, D.C., and its relationship with facts, scientific reality, and objective truth has never been more strained.

Already, in the opening days of his administration, Mr. Trump’s Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, willfully ignored clear, empirical evidence about the size of the inauguration crowds, and bristled at the suggestion experts said they were smaller than in years past. He seemed almost paranoid, and insinuated that a media conspiracy—rather than simple arithmetic—was trying to embarrass his boss. And the Trump Administration continues to claim, without any evidence, that widespread voter fraud cost Mr. Trump the popular vote, even though this has been thoroughly debunked by numerous, bipartisan sources—including his own lawyers.

Even more bizarrely, Kellyanne Conway, a senior advisor to Mr. Trump, has offered up the notion that “alternative facts”, rather than actual truth, were in play now. I don’t know what “alternative facts” are, but I think my parent’s generation would have called them “falsehoods” or even “lies.”

But it’s not just absence of facts that’s troubling, it is the apparent effort to derail science and the pursuit of facts themselves.

Ultimately, a healthy democracy depends on science. The pursuit of truth, having an informed citizenry, and the free and open exchange of ideas are all cornerstones of our democracy. That’s one thing that always made America truly great—the fact that, when all is said and done, evidence and the truth would always win the day in America. Without that, we join the league of ordinary nations.

Scientific American

Pictures From Women’s Marches on Every Continent

Crowds in hundreds of cities around the world gathered Saturday in conjunction with the Women’s March on Washington. JAN. 21, 2017

A participant of a Women's March in Helsinki holds up a poster depicting US President Donald Trump and German dictator Adolf Hitler on January 21, 2017, one day after the US president's inauguration. / AFP PHOTO / Lehtikuva / Jussi Nukari / Finland OUTJUSSI NUKARI/AFP/Getty Images NYTCREDIT: Jussi Nukari/Agence France-Presse -- Getty Images
A participant of a Women’s March in Helsinki holds up a poster depicting US President Donald Trump and German dictator Adolf Hitler on January 21, 2017, one day after the US president’s inauguration. / AFP PHOTO / Lehtikuva / Jussi Nukari / Finland OUTJUSSI NUKARI/AFP/Getty Images
NYTCREDIT: Jussi Nukari/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The New York Times

President Barack Hussein Obama

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“My favorite months in the Oval Office are late fall to early winter when occasionally the afternoon light will be at just the right angle to create some interesting backlight if the President is working at the Resolute Desk.” (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Behind the Lens: 2016 Year in Photographs