Category: Politics

This Week in Political Money – BillMoyers.com

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This Week in Political Money – BillMoyers.com

This Week in Political Money: The […]

Kellyanne Conway (left) and Steve Bannon (right) were appointed to leadership positions in the Trump campaign after Donald Trump met with billionaire Robert Mercer. Both Conway and Bannon have run projects funded by Mercer. (Photo credits: Chris Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images; Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM)

We’ll be posting this roundup each week leading up to Election Day. Share your thoughts about these must-read stories and always feel free to suggest your own in the comments section.
 
 
THIS WEEK’S TOP STORY

Last week, conservative activist David Bossie (head of the group Citizens United, which brought America the court case of the same name) stepped down as the head of the pro-Trump super PAC Make America Number 1 to join the Trump campaign, and into his shoes stepped Rebekah Mercer, daughter of hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer. The elder Mercer is the main donor behind the fund, supplying tens of millions to back its anti-Clinton ads.

The Mercer family has been a growing force in Republican politics. Earlier this year they played a huge role in funding the unsuccessful Republican presidential campaign of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), pouring $13 million into a set of super PACs that aggressively backed his candidacy. Last month, the father-daughter duo met privately with Trump and suggested he put two of their longtime associates, Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway, in positions of power. Bannon headed the pro-Trump news website Breitbart, which the Mercers helped fund, and Conway ran one of the Mercer’s pro-Cruz super PACs.

Ironically, Mercer made his money at Renaissance Technologies, a company at which he remains co-CEO, but which was started by James Simons, who remains the board chair. While Mercer has donated more than $20 million to conservative causes this election cycle, Simons has donated more than $10 million to liberal ones.
 
 
QUOTE OF THE WEEK

The @FEC has no opinion on the existence of God. But if she wants to run for US president, she has to fill out her forms like anyone else.

—FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, via Twitter, on a Federal Elections Commission request asking that a candidate who filed to run for president under the name “God” confirm her or his identity.
 
 
CAMPAIGN CASH SNAPSHOT

Figures for presidential and congressional races from the Center for Responsive Politics; figures for state races from the National Institute of Money in State Politics. All figures as of Sept. 8.
 
 
CHART OF THE WEEK

The oil and gas industry has long been an ally of Republicans. But this year it has switched allegiances, supporting Clinton in an attempt to curry favor with the candidate that most projections predict will win the election — even as it continues to give 90 percent of its donations to Republicans down-ballot. The numbers in the chart below are based on figures published in a Wall Street Journal investigation and collected by the Center for Responsive Politics.

At New York magazine, Eric Levitz notes that oil and gas employees are so unenthused about Trump, they donated nearly as much to “Bernie ‘ban fracking now’ Sanders” as they did to his campaign.
 
 
STAT OF THE WEEK

$42 million

That’s the amount raised in August alone by two Republican political action committees, Senate Leadership Fund and One Nation, according to Politico. Both groups are closely aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and both are aimed at helping Republicans hold on to Congress. The figure indicates that after months of confusion about whether or not to support Donald Trump, Republican donors have now shrugged their shoulders and focused their firepower on defending the Senate.
 
 
DONOR(S) OF THE WEEK

Murray Energy and Southern Company

Last summer, 27 state attorneys general sued the Environmental Protection Agency to block President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan; they won a temporary victory in February, when the Supreme Court granted a stay, putting the implementation of the CPP on hold until legal challenges could work their way through the courts. Documents obtained by good-government watchdog group Center for Media and Democracy show that before the suit was filed, representatives of Murray Energy and Southern Company met with these state AGs at the Republican Attorneys General Association’s 2015 summit after making six-figure donations to RAGA. At ThinkProgress, Samantha Page notes that of the 21 AGs who attended the summit, only Idaho’s Lawrence Wasden didn’t join the suit opposing the CPP.
 
 
SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT OF THE WEEK

Lawmakers are invited to join lobbyists from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on Sept. 23 in celebrating National Day, the country’s independence day, at the Saudi embassy. Saudi officials are putting pressure on lawmakers ahead of a House vote later this week on the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, which would allow families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia if it is found guilty of funding the attackers. The bill passed the Senate five months ago on a voice vote without any opposition, even though the legislation is opposed by Obama. The kingdom has also enlisted former George W. Bush-appointed UN Ambassador John Bolton to appeal to lawmakers on its behalf. Bolton, incidentally, has his own super PAC.
 
 
MUST-READS FROM HERE AND ELSEWHERE

  • A Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Bill? by Kathy Kiely, BillMoyers.com
  • Outside Spending Hits $137 Million in Key Senate Races: Report, by Kenneth P. Doyle, Bloomberg BNA
  • Kaine tops $1M in DC fundraiser, Politico “Influence” newsletter, Isaac Arnsdorf
  • Wall Street on Alert to Danger of Donating to Trump-Pence Ticket, by Simone Foxman, Saijel Kishan and Dakin Campbell, Bloomberg News
  • Greasing the Outstretched Palms of the Candidates, by Michael Winship, BillMoyers.com
  • A Climate of Cash in Votes on Global Warming, by Alec Goodwin, OpenSecrets via BillMoyers.com

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US warns Russia against interfering with Western politics – Reuters

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US warns Russia against interfering with Western politics – Reuters

U.S. President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Ash Carter sit down to a meeting of the National Security Council at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S. August 4, 2016.

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

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Partyism one bane of our politics today – The Tennessean

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Partyism one bane of our politics today – The Tennessean

Donald Trump has none and Hillary only has most of the characteristics of a candidate qualified to be U.S. president.

It is a dispiriting time to be a Democrat or a Republican.  Both major-party nominees have historic negative ratings for very different and real reasons.

As a Democrat, it’s been painful for me to watch on TV, Democratic Party leaders and Clinton surrogates tie themselves in knots to defend the Clintons over the email controversy and the Clinton Foundation.

They should know that if she gets elected, defending her will likely be a full-time job because with the Clintons, the skating-on-the-edge-of-legality-and-ethics never stops.

Also, defending the Clintons and their convoluted ethics seems to taint everyone it touches.

On the other side of the aisle, it’s much worse. Watching some Republican leaders defend Trump and his policy “positions” is like watching people wrestling with jello.

On the plus side, however, an increasing number of Republican leaders have abandoned the Trump ship, saying their candidate is unqualified and dangerous for our republic.

All this got me thinking of partyism — the strong identification many voters have with their “Democrat” or “Republican” label.

Paradoxically, this election also has the largest percentage of voters who are disgusted with both parties — self-declared independents at roughly 38 percent.

But today’s discussion is about the roughly 27 percent of voters who call themselves Republican and the 31 percent who are Democrats.

The plus side of partyism is, of course, grassroots zeal and commitment to one’s party.

Some “symptoms” of partyism can be: Many Democrats and Republicans can’t imagine voting for the other party ever; strongly defend their party’s positions and individual leaders, sometimes reflexively so; don’t have good friends of the opposite party; mostly inhale commentary reinforcing their political beliefs.

And some, even “hate” those on the other side and believe they are detrimental to the nation.

All this isn’t surprising. Being Democrat or Republican increasingly isn’t just about having different political ideologies, but about different worldviews.  That’s why, for many voters, being Democrat or Republican can become the strongest part of their identity and sometimes supersede other parts of their identity like race, religion, ethnicity.

The problems with partyism are many: among them, ardent partisans can sometimes develop blind spots and lose their moral bearings defending their parties and candidates.

And sometimes partisans develop an ends-justify-the-means mindset that is bothersome.

And you see this now in both parties. In the GOP, some evangelical leaders and their followers are supporting a thrice-married, boastful candidate antithetical to their Christian values on the grounds that he’ll appoint conservative Supreme Court justices.

It’s there on the other side too.  Democrats are now divided between those strongly “With her,” and those not-enthusiastic-but-voting-for-her. To the former, I’d say: It is concerning that you are unconcerned about our nominee. Brushing aside any legitimate criticism of Hillary Clinton as mere right wing conspiracies indicates that you may have your partisan blinders on.

At the very least, diehard Democrats should be concerned about the inflated speaking fees ($500,000 to $750,000) Bill Clinton commanded during his wife’s State Department years, including some with interests pending before the State Department, and the appearance problems it raises.

Also, Democrats should be bothered that Hillary Clinton didn’t honor her agreement with the Obama administration to keep the Clinton Foundation separate from her State Department job.

Many voters feel Hillary Clinton is qualified to be president. Let’s unpack that for a second. To my mind, being qualified to be president has four key components: knowledge, experience, temperament, character/integrity.

Trump lacks all four components, and Clinton while strong on the first three is short on the fourth key component. It is, obviously, a highly personal decision for voters, but in my view, her actions with her email server and the Foundation disqualify her for the job.

Millions of voters are voting for “their” nominee simply because they “hate” the other nominee.  That, to me, is the sorriest indictment of our politics today.

Saritha Prabhu of Clarksville is a Tennessean columnist.  Reach her at sprabhu43@gmail.com.

Read or Share this story: http://tnne.ws/2bZGYEN

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Pols & Politics: Matthew Beaton OK with GOP staffers working for DCR – Boston Herald

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Pols & Politics: Matthew Beaton OK with GOP staffers working for DCR – Boston Herald

Matthew Beaton, the state’s secretary on the environment, did not shy away from criticizing two of his top employees for throwing a private party using taxpayer resources at the home of a top GOP official.

But the Republican also noted that — in the face of the confluence of state resources and politics — people are “capable of wearing multiple hats” as long as they’re 
not entangled.

In the Department of Conservation and Recreation, that’s a balance for several people.

At least five members of the Republican state committee have state jobs in DCR or its parent agency, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental affairs. A sixth — its COO — has a sister who serves on the 80-person committee.

The overlap isn’t illegal or forbidden, and holding the dual role of a political animal and state employee may be as old as state government itself. But it’s getting attention in light of the July 3 bash thrown by DCR Commissioner Leo Roy and his top deputy, Matthew Sisk, who earned themselves unpaid suspensions — to be served this week — after frothing the private bash, state resources and political officials into an embarrassing mix.

Sisk is just one of those pulling both state and GOP political duty, representing a Norfolk & Plymouth district on the state committee and serving as DCR’s 
$112,000-a-year deputy commissioner of operations.

Others include:

•  Norman Orrall, the $110,00-a-year chief of DCR’s bureau of engineering, is a Lakeville Republican who serves on the state committee and is married to state Rep. Keiko Orrall, the party’s national committeewoman who also attended the DCR party.

• State committeeman Michael Case makes $90,000 as the Western regional director at DCR.

• Lisa Barstow, another state committee member, is listed as a $65,000-a-year DCR administrator.

• Susan Smiley, EEA’s director of facilities and infrastructure — a $92,500-a-year post — serves on the state committee this year out of Lancaster.

• Michael J. Valanzola, EEA’s $115,00-a-year chief operating officer and a former Republican state Senate candidate, is the brother of Lindsay Valanzola, a state committee member.

As for the party itself, Barstow was the only one of the six employees listed above who was not invited.

See in 2017

Last Wednesday was a notable one on the campaign finance calendar, when hundreds of reports from lawmakers and wannabe legislators were due ahead of this week’s primary vote. They, of course, offer a glimpse at not only who’s giving to State House public officials, but how they’re spending that money.

But that’s not the case for every elected official. For those not mounting a re-election campaign, state law does not require them to file their next campaign finance report until Jan. 20, 2017, offering them more than a year — or since their end-of-year 2015 report — to publicly disclose their campaign finance activity.

That means the public is in the dark about the spending of such legislators as state Sen. Brian Joyce, who’s come under scrutiny from federal investigators this year and isn’t seeking to keep his seat. His finance report could provide a window into what he’s spent on attorneys.

Given he, like others, used campaign cash to foot the bill, the reports are often a good indicator of the legal wrangling (and potential trouble) public officials are facing.

For example, the specter of the federal probe into the Probation Department was many times monetized in the reports of Speaker of the House Robert A. DeLeo. In his own pre-primary report filed last week, DeLeo reported making a $100,000 spend on legal fees in March. (DeLeo’s campaign told Commonwealth Magazine the money was tied to “monitoring” the case.)

Alas, a closer view into Joyce’s spending and fundraising — and others such as state Sen. Ben Downing and Rep. Ellen Story — will have to wait until January. Well after they’ve packed up their offices and left the State House.

State House reporter Matt Stout can be reached at matthew.stout@bostonherald.com.

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Politics and religion disrupt Israeli train services – Reuters

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Politics and religion disrupt Israeli train services – Reuters

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks on during a visit at the ”Tamra HaEmek” elementary school on the first day of the school year, in the Arab Israeli town of Tamra, Israel September 1, 2016.

REUTERS/Baz Ratner

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"Dog Whistle" Is the GOP's Longtime Political Weapon of Choice – Truth-Out

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"Dog Whistle" Is the GOP's Longtime Political Weapon of Choice – Truth-Out

(Photo: Sebastian Hartlaub)(Photo: Sebastian Hartlaub)

The message of Ian Haney-Lopez’s book, “Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class,” is especially timely in the current presidential campaign, given GOP candidate Donald Trump’s coded — and not-so-coded — racial appeals to supporters. Haney-Lopez, the John H. Boalt Professor of Law at the University of California at Berkeley and a leading scholar of critical race theory, talked about his book in a discussion last year at the University of Chicago, moderated by Susan Smith Richardson, editor and publisher of The Chicago Reporter. Following are The Reporter’s previously published excerpts from that discussion; The Reporter also spoke with Haney-Lopez last week to get his take on racial politics in the current presidential campaign.

Susan Smith Richardson: First, let me just ask you to talk about the premise of “Dog Whistle Politics.”

Ian Haney-Lopez: Sure. The notion of “Dog Whistle Politics” is that a lot of our political speech is being conducted in code. A dog whistle is something that, when you blow it, humans can’t hear it but dogs can. The metaphor is one in which, in political speech, on one level, some of these coded phrases are silent; and on the other, they’re producing strong racial reactions. So you think about terms like “illegal alien” or “inner city” or “welfare queen.” You can’t find race on the surface, but just below the surface, producing strong reactions.

Now, that’s not a novel claim and, indeed, dog whistle politics is not my phrase. It’s a kind of “inside the beltway” phrase. Most people who recognize that this sort of coded racial appeal is an essential part of our politics, fail to recognize two things that I think are crucial, and that’s the real contribution of my book. First, these coded racial appeals are not simply marginal or not the work of desperate politicians. So we can think about Newt Gingrich talking about [Barack] Obama as a food-stamp president. He was censured for this sort of race baiting but also presented as marginal and desperate. This is not just the actions of some folks who are marginal and desperate. This has been a concerted GOP strategy since 1963. And we see it no more effectively than in 2014, when the major themes of the Republican candidates were ISIS and Ebola, crossing the southern border, plus Obama’s incompetence. These are all racially charged allegations.

That’s our first mistake, to think it’s marginal. It’s not marginal. There’s a 50-year history here, and it’s central to the GOP.

Another way to see this is the GOP today draws 93, 94 percent of its support from whites, and that thought ought to give you serious pause. In a country that’s 65 percent white, how can that be that one of our two major political parties is essentially a party for whites? So that’s one claim. Here’s the other claim, and this one is more important. Race baiting … is harnessed to a particular ideological vision of government … that we ought to distrust government, because government coddles minorities through things like social welfare and public education. The theme is not just fear minorities but demonize government for coddling and refusing to control minorities. And the prescribed solution, you’ll recognize these: tax cuts, disinvestment in social services and getting government out of the way of business. These are the GOP talking points that have led to levels of wealth and inequality our country hasn’t seen since the Great Depression.

Have the rules of “dog whistle politics” changed at all during this election?

Fundamentally, the dog-whistling has continued. What I mean by that is, Trump is still dog-whistling in a way that aims to hide from his supporters how he is manipulating their racial fears. This last week is an example, with Trump talking about blacks and Latinos and saying “We care about them, the Democrats have done nothing from them,” etc. That’s aimed at whites who would hesitate to vote for someone who was openly hostile to Latinos and African-Americans. Then there’s his flip-flopping on immigration. That’s also aimed at reassuring whites who are nervous about the extent of his race-baiting.

He’s spent the last couple of days saying “I’m not racist,” saying those attacks on him are a last, desperate attempt from Democrats in the campaign. He’s not speaking as David Duke. He’s making an appeal in a covert way.

In a speech in Reno, Hillary Clinton talked about Trump’s supporters as the “alt-right” and a “radical fringe” that had taken over the GOP. Is that accurate? Isn’t she ignoring the fact that, as you state, this kind of talk has been part of the GOP appeal for years?

Let me be nuanced here. On the one hand, I think that it’s a very good thing to have Democrats start to talk about racism in politics. We should have been having this conversation since about 1970, but Democrats basically avoided it. Racism is such a potent political weapon, we should have been having this discussion long ago. So this is a positive development. But it’s simply wrong to suggest that Trump is appealing to fringe elements that are just now part of, taking over, the GOP. The GOP made a decision long ago to build its identity on racial politics. It’s been terrible for the GOP and terrible for the country. Trump’s rise exemplifies that this has been [the GOP’s] central strategy for the last 50 years.

Lastly, and this is more subtle — I suspect Clinton knows this and she made the political decision, in the context of the campaign, not to offend moderate Republicans by saying it. I think this is wrong. We need to have a frank discussion with whites and the white working-class about how they have been led to support the billionaire class by Republicans exploiting their racial fears. That is the conversation Clinton should be having. She should be reaching out to whites who think Trump represents their interests, supports them.

We progressives can only get our country back by reaching across racial lines. I think Hillary Clinton, and Democrats in general, need to have a real conversation about why we have such support for the billionaire class and how racism has been used as a political weapon.

What does this campaign say about the future of race and politics in America? 

We’re going to have to have that conversation. Maybe not in 2016, but maybe over the next decade or two. We’re going to have to, because of the lessons Trump is teaching us. Look, all politics is local. Trump has taught a simple basic lesson: The most racially reactionary politician will win the Republican base. …And because politics is local, you’re going to see more racially reactionary Republicans win at the state level, the local level.

He can’t win nationally with egregious race-baiting. But most people are elected locally. …The core lesson is that the most racially reactionary person wins. This is not going away.

Is there any other lesson, any other take-away, that you see from this election season?

There is one other thing. This country needs to start taking seriously anti-Latino racism. We have a sense of racism that’s been constructed pretty much around black-white. Now Trump is metastasizing hatred against Latinos. In some ways, that’s connected to anti-black racism. But at the same time it has other elements involving [fears of] cultural threat, of criminality, of other-ness. … But more than anything else, we need to take seriously the idea that racism against Latinos is a deep threat. We need to deal with that.

Your book talks about dog whistle politics originating with two politicians in the 1960s, George Wallace and Barry Goldwater. Tell us a little bit about the George Wallace story.

We think of George Wallace, now, primarily in terms of his inaugural speech in 1963, when he said, “Segregation now, segregation today, segregation forever.” And we think of him as sort of a reconstructed redneck. But that’s not who he was before, or indeed, after that sort of defining moment. He was somewhat of a racial martyr when he first ran for governor of Alabama in 1958. He was endorsed by the NAACP. As a sign of his moderation, he addressed blacks as “Mr.” as opposed to using their first names.

His opponent is endorsed by the Klan and he loses. Just before giving his concession speech, he’s reflecting on how he’s lost and he turns to some of his cronies and he says, “No other son of a bitch is going to out-nigger me again.” This is a strategic decision to deploy race. And indeed, when he runs again for re-election the second time in 1962, he’s the racial reactionary. That’s how he won the election, and that’s how he came in his inaugural address to proclaim himself an ardent supporter of segregation forever.

But, about a year later, because of the civil rights movement, all this explicit talk about race and politics was becoming unacceptable. It was becoming a mark of people who were backward and bigoted. Could Wallace figure out a way to talk about race without coming across as a redneck? And the language he shifted to was the language of “states’ rights.” … What happens then is a major epiphany for Wallace and a turning point for American politics. Wallace realizes whites across the entire country are anxious about integration and they’re looking for an alternative language to resist, to oppose integration. Everybody knows states’ rights mean the right of Southern states to resist integration. Dog whistle politics is not the introduction of race into American politics. It’s been there for 250 years. Rather, it’s a recasting of race in American politics in the form of coded language.

Part of the reason I start with Wallace is because I want to start with the Southern Democrat. Because I want to make the point that this is not a story about racism or bigotry. Certainly, this is not a story about racism on the part of Republicans. For most of the book, I focus on the fact that Republicans pick this up actually, simultaneously with Wallace, in the form of Barry Goldwater. But I want to make it very clear this is not a story of latent racism, latent bigotry among Republicans. This is a story of strategy.

This term you use in the book, “strategic racism,” is really key because [the idea is to] consciously choose to use racism for political gains.

A better way to think about this would be the “Southernization” of U.S. politics. That is, in the South, you always had to run on race. That’s what Wallace found out, that he couldn’t get elected, except by running on race. That was true in ’58. That was true in ’62. It became true nationally by, let’s say, 1972. Republicans started running on race nationally.

So, let’s tie this back to Goldwater. He is the one who pushes the idea within the Republican Party of “We can actually go in and pull white voters from the South.”

Goldwater was part of a fringe in the Republican Party able to sort of take control of the party in ’62, ’63, after a moderate Republican, Richard Nixon, had lost in 1960. They were able to say that we need to keep fighting against the New Deal. They also understood that the New Deal was really popular. So how were they going to win votes? That’s the moment at which the Republican Party, or a faction of it, decided they’re going to use race. So Barry Goldwater campaigns on the basis of states’ rights, sort of Wallace-like language. He loses big. It’s an enormous landslide against him because he’s running against Lyndon Johnson, [who] in 1964 is saying we can end poverty in our lifetime. We need to ramp up the New Deal programs, expand them into a war on poverty. And he absolutely crushes Goldwater.

In 1980, when Reagan comes in, he combines the cultural provocations of dog whistling with a demonization of government.

That is such a critical turning point. Lee Atwater, who worked on his campaign … says, “and cutting taxes is a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘nigger, nigger.”’

This is key because when Republicans talk about cutting taxes, it’s so hard to see race there. Where is race? And yet Atwater is making clear Republican strategists understand the connection between taxes and race. And the connection is this: liberal government wastes money on undeserving minorities … in the form of welfare, but also in the form of public education or mortgage relief.

In the book, you talk about strategic racism, common-sense racism, implicit bias and individual racism. Why are these definitions important?

Dog whistle politics is all about the stimulation of racial fear. And yet, we should be clear on those who are doing the stimulating — on the politicians, the conservative sort of strategists, the Fox News media folks. They’re not necessarily bigots; that’s the wrong imagery. I think we ought to call them strategic racists, and a strategic racist is someone who strategically, consciously, purposefully sets out to stoke racial anxiety in others for their own ends. What happens in minority communities is just collateral damage. What they care about is winning votes, demonizing government, cutting taxes for the very rich.

These narratives have a cultural purchase that motivates people to go to the polls and vote their fears, and their fears are racialized fears.

The Chicago Reporter is a non-profit investigative news organization that focuses on race, poverty and income inequality.

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State Election Could Signal Big Changes in German Politics – Wall Street Journal

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State Election Could Signal Big Changes in German Politics – Wall Street Journal

Election posters for Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in the city of Greifswald in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, Germany, on Tuesday.
ENLARGE

Election posters for Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in the city of Greifswald in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, Germany, on Tuesday.


Photo:

Reuters

UECKERMÜNDE, Germany—Two years ago, Tommy Piper, upset about increasing numbers of foreigners living in the country, voted for an ultranationalist, anti-immigrant party that claims German taxpayers are being squeezed by “Jewish interests.”

Now the 20-year-old electrician says he’s happy to have found a more moderate standard-bearer for his views: the upstart Alternative for Germany, or AfD.

“They represent my beliefs without being so radical,” said Mr. Piper, who voted for the National Democratic Party, or NPD, in 2014 local elections. “Instead, they are reasonable, and they can make their arguments well.”

This Sunday’s election in the northeast German state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania could herald a turning point in the politics of Europe’s largest economy. Polls show the populist, anti-immigrant AfD could both defeat German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mainstream conservative Christian Democrats, or CDU, and deprive the NPD of its last seats in a state parliament.

The three-year-old AfD is emerging as an unpredictable force in German politics, drawing mainstream conservatives disenchanted with Ms. Merkel’s acceptance of refugees and fringe voters further to the right. Such broad support poses a challenge to Ms. Merkel a year ahead of her possible run for a fourth term and is ushering in new uncertainty for a system long dominated by two large, centrist parties.

The AfD “is a party with a very broad appeal,” said Jürgen Falter, a specialist in political extremism at the University of Mainz. But, he went on, the young party lacks a stable, moderate core, making it susceptible to a shift toward greater radicalism. “This is, of course, potentially dangerous, because we don’t know who will gain the upper hand in the party in the end.”

Sunday’s vote in the economically struggling, former East German state bordering Poland and the Baltic Sea will likely grant the AfD its ninth set of seats in Germany’s 16 powerful state parliaments.


ENLARGE



Now polling above 20%, the AfD has a shot at beating the center-right Christian Democrats for the first time in a state election and at challenging the center-left Social Democrats for the No. 1 position in the state. It will seek to build momentum ahead of the vote for Berlin’s state legislature two weeks later and its effort next September to win its first seats in the national parliament.

The campaign here in Ueckermünde, a half-hour drive from the Polish border, shows how the AfD’s rise is shaking up German politics. The AfD’s 31-year-old candidate in the electoral district, Stephan Reuken, says he gave up his Christian Democrat party membership in 2014 because he “didn’t feel represented at all as a conservative person.”

Tommy Piper, left, with his friend Patrick Herse, plans to vote for the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany in Sunday's state election in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania.
ENLARGE

Tommy Piper, left, with his friend Patrick Herse, plans to vote for the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany in Sunday’s state election in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania.


Photo:

Anton Troianovski/ The Wall Street Journal

“I don’t know if you want to call it the Merkel factor—it has to do with national issues, with the refugee problem,” said Andreas Texter, the CDU’s candidate here, explaining why his party is on the verge of its worst result in the state since German reunification.

But Mr. Reuken isn’t just wooing CDU voters. The NPD garnered a state-best 15.4% here in 2011, and the AfD’s campaign has echoed its nationalist slogans. “Politics for our own people!” and “Save our homeland and values!,” posters say.

“Many protest voters are switching over from the NPD,” said Leif-Erik Holm, the AfD’s top candidate in the state. “They basically only have the real, hard-core Nazi voters left.”

Analysts say the AfD, whose senior ranks include businesspeople, lawyers, and former journalists, has managed to criticize immigration and Islam while not becoming branded as neo-Nazi—a tough balancing act in a country whose past has bred broad suspicion of right-wing populism.

Pollster Manfred Güllner, head of the Forsa Institute in Berlin, said this finely calibrated message also appealed to right-wing voters in the middle class, in addition to the largely working-class voters who used to support the NPD.

Holger Münch, head of Germany’s equivalent of the FBI, told the Tagesspiegel newspaper Friday that the AfD has made “xenophobia socially acceptable in our society.”

The NPD scored a string of successes in parts of former East Germany a decade ago but has been retreating since, with the AfD drawing in most of the voters who want to register their opposition to taking in refugees. Germany’s upper house of parliament is now seeking to ban the NPD, arguing it espouses neo-Nazi views.

Now polling below the 5% threshold for seats in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania’s parliament, the party could lose its last presence in a state legislature. The NPD’s youth wing has put up posters with the slogan: “Squares vote AfD—real men vote NPD!”

“The AfD is sucking up all the discontent right now,” said Stefan Köster, the NPD’s state chairman. But by courting such a broad range of voters, he added, “they lack a clear political line and, in the end, the voters will be disappointed.”

Write to Anton Troianovski at anton.troianovski@wsj.com

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Identity Politics Run Amok – New York Times

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Identity Politics Run Amok – New York Times

David Brooks

David Brooks

Once, I seem to recall, we had philosophical and ideological differences. Once, politics was a debate between liberals and conservatives, between different views of government, different views on values and America’s role in the world.

But this year, it seems, everything has been stripped down to the bone. Politics is dividing along crude identity lines — along race and class. Are you a native-born white or are you an outsider? Are you one of the people or one of the elites?

Politics is no longer about argument or discussion; it’s about trying to put your opponents into the box of the untouchables.

Donald Trump didn’t invent this game, but he embodies it. His advisers tried to dress him up on Wednesday afternoon as some sort of mature summiteer. But he just can’t be phony.

By his evening immigration speech he’d returned to the class and race tropes that have defined his campaign: that the American government is in the grips of a rich oligarchy that distorts everything for its benefit; that the American people are besieged by foreigners, who take their jobs and threaten their lives.

It’s not that these two ideas are completely wrong. The rich do have more influence. There are indeed some foreigners who seek to harm us. It is just that Trump (like other race and class warriors) takes these kernels of truth and grows them into a lie.

Trump argues that immigration has sown chaos across middle-class neighborhoods. This is false. Research suggests that the recent surge in immigration has made America’s streets safer. That’s because foreign-born men are very unlikely to commit violent crime.

According to one study, only 2 or 3 percent of Mexican-, Guatemalan- or Salvadoran-born men without a high school degree end up incarcerated, compared with 11 percent of their American-born counterparts.

Trump argues that the flood of immigrants is taking jobs away from unskilled native workers. But this is mainly false, too. There’s an intricate debate among economists about this, but if you survey the whole literature on the subject you find that most research shows immigration has very little effect on native wage or unemployment levels.

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That’s because immigrants flow into different types of unskilled jobs. Unskilled immigrants tend to become maids, cooks and farm workers — jobs that require less English. Unskilled natives tend to become cashiers and drivers. If immigrants are driving down wages, it is mostly those of other immigrants.

Trump claims the rich benefit from immigration while everyone else suffers. Doctors get cheap nannies, everyone else gets the shaft.

This is false, too. The fact is, a vast majority of Americans benefit. A study by John McLaren of U.Va. and Gihoon Hong of Indiana University found that each new immigrant produced about 1.2 new jobs, because immigrants are producers and consumers and increase overall economic activity.

A report from the Partnership for a New American Economy found that immigrants accounted for 28 percent of all new small businesses in 2011. Between 2006 and 2012, over 40 percent of tech start-ups in Silicon Valley had at least one foreign-born founder.

The cities that are doing best economically work hard to attract new immigrants because the benefits are widely shared. As Ted Hesson points out in The Atlantic, New York, Chicago, Houston and Los Angeles account for about 20 percent of America’s economic output, and in those places, immigrants can make up as much as 44 percent of the total labor supply.

Identity politics distorts politics in two ways. First, it is Manichaean. It cleanly divides the world into opposing forces of light and darkness. You are a worker or an elite. You are American or foreigner.

Seeing this way is understandable if you are scared, but it is also a sign of intellectual laziness. The reality is that people can’t be reduced to a single story. An issue as complex as immigration can’t be reduced to a cartoon. It is simultaneously true that immigration fuels American dynamism and that the mixture of mass unskilled immigration and the high-tech economy threatens to create a permanent underclass.

Second and most important, identity politics is inherently the politics of division. But on most issues — whether it is immigration or the economy or national security — we rise and fall together. Immigration, even a reasonable amount of illegal immigration, helps a vast majority of Americans. An economy that grows at 3 percent would help all Americans.

Identity politics, as practiced by Trump, but also by others on the left and the right, distracts from the reality that we are one nation. It corrodes the sense of solidarity. It breeds suspicion, cynicism and distrust.

Human beings are too complicated to be defined by skin color, income or citizenship status. Those who try to reduce politics to these identities do real violence to national life.

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Billionaire GOP Donor Wants Trump's Head Checked – Mother Jones

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Billionaire GOP Donor Wants Trump's Head Checked – Mother Jones

Mike Fernandez has spent more than $4 million in the last four years supporting Republican candidates for national office. He gave $1 million to a super-PAC backing Mitt Romney in 2012 and more than $3 million to one supporting Jeb Bush’s presidential run this year. He also made a donation to help Scott Walker pay off his campaign debt and contributed to America Rising, a super-PAC set up by the GOP to attack Democrats. Of all the people who have donated money this election, he’s the 31st-biggest donor. And he wants someone to check Donald Trump’s head.

“As a Republican who has contributed millions of dollars to the party’s causes, I ask: Why has our party not sought a psychological evaluation of its nominee?” Fernandez writes in an op-ed published in the Miami Herald on Thursday.

Under the headline “I’m a Republican and I’m With Hillary Clinton,” Fernandez attacks Trump as responsible for “a neverending spiral of vulgarity, intellectual dishonesty, invective, abuse, misogyny, racism, intolerance, bullying, ignorance and downright cruelty.” Fernandez says he takes particular issue with the way Trump has implied that if he loses, it will be because Clinton cheated.

“This is insanity and dictatorial machinations at best,” Fernandez writes.

Fernandez is not just a big donor on the national level. He’s also an important cog in the Cuban American political machine in Florida. Born in Cuba, Fernandez made more than $1 billion investing in a string of health insurance companies. He has been active in the policy debate on normalizing relations with the Castro regime and traveled with Barack Obama on the president’s trip to Havana earlier this year, but he’s hardly a friend of the president and has criticized Obamacare. Fernandez donated $1 million to a super-PAC backing Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who has endorsed Trump, and he chaired Scott’s fundraising effort. Over the last five years, he has donated at least $655,000 to the Florida Republican Party.

In his op-ed, Fernandez makes clear he is not a Democrat, just anti-Trump. He urges Florida Republicans to vote for Clinton but to select Republican candidates elsewhere on the ballot. Fernandez does have a history with Trump. Last December, Fernandez took out an ad in the Herald calling Trump a “#BULLYionaire” and comparing him to Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini (leading to an angry letter from Trump’s lawyer). In July, he attempted to buy an ad in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, timed to coincide with the Republican National Convention, in which he compared Trump to a scorpion that could drown the party (a reference to an old animal fable). The paper said it would publish the ad only if Fernandez removed Trump’s name from it, which he declined to do.


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Latino influx is upending GOP politics in the battleground of Florida – MyAJC

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Latino influx is upending GOP politics in the battleground of Florida – MyAJC

LONGWOOD, Fla. — Republican Bob Cortes was the first Puerto Rican mayor of this Orlando, Florida, suburb. He became the first Puerto Rican from Seminole County to be elected to the state House, then did the same in the state Senate.

He doesn’t want to be the first Puerto Rican from the county to lose his seat.

But the demographics are changing rapidly here in Central Florida, a mecca of undecided voters stretching from Orlando to Tampa, Florida, that helps swing state elections and that is rapidly becoming home to more Puerto Ricans, Venezuelans, Colombians and Dominicans.

Cortes said he campaigns as “an elected official who happens to be Hispanic, not a Hispanic elected official,” adding that means “understanding the diversity of the people who live in the district.”

Unlike a generation ago, when the state’s large Cuban American population was devoted to the GOP, these new Latino voters are less likely to support Republican candidates like Cortes — and they are increasingly unlikely to register with either political party. “No Party Affiliation” voters — known as “NPAs” in local political vernacular — now account for 26 percent of Florida’s electorate, the fastest-growing bloc in the state, according to the latest state voter statistics.

Republican candidates up and down the ballot also have to contend with GOP nominee Donald Trump, who has alienated many Latinos in the state with his talk of immigrant criminals, a massive border wall and aggressive deportations.

The combination of factors sets the stage for a remarkably unsettled election for Republicans in Florida, a crucial battleground state that could help determine who wins the White House and Senate.

Sen. Marco Rubio is a top target for Democrats in November, while Trump is trailing Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential contest here.

Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa, who compiled the data on unaffiliated voters, said the shrinking of the parties means Florida Democrats and Republicans are “fighting for their lives.”

But, she added, “Republicans are a little bit more at risk because of what Trump has already done. That’s why his changing commentary to talking about borders instead of deportation is probably too little, too late.”

Home to nearly 1.1 million Puerto Ricans, the Sunshine State could surpass New York as the largest home of island transplants by the end of the year. As U.S. citizens, Puerto Ricans are not immigrants, but many consider Trump’s harsh attacks on immigrants an offensive affront to the entire Hispanic diaspora.

“He’s a liar. He’s a flat-out liar. I don’t think that man is capable of running this country. He’s a time bomb,” said Lisa Diaz, 51, of Kissimmee, Florida, another Orlando suburb. She’s Puerto Rican and moved to the area in 2006 from New York.

Cortes is well aware of such feelings, which is why he warns that in Florida, “Mr. Trump has his work cut out for himself.”

Cortes’s district straddles Seminole County, a predominantly Republican area, and Orange County, a Democratic stronghold. He won his Senate seat in 2014 by defeating a well-known Democratic incumbent, betting that his name recognition would help him win white and Republican voters, while Hispanics would be drawn out to vote for one of their own.

“To be frank, that’s exactly what happened,” he said. Having studied the numbers closely, he found that out of nearly 14,000 registered Hispanic voters in his district at the time, 5,000 showed up to vote in a non-presidential election — a record total — and most voted for him.

This year, he and other Florida Republicans may also be helped by outside forces waging their own efforts to win over Latinos.

The LIBRE Initiative, backed by the wealthy industrialists David and Charles Koch, is a nonprofit political group designed to woo Latinos to the conservative political cause. Active in 10 states, the group is especially focused on reaching the fast-growing Puerto Rican population in Florida.

In a sign of the urgency conservatives have displayed in trying to win over Puerto Ricans in Florida, LIBRE for the first time sent a team to Puerto Rico in early March to set up a booth at a business expo aimed at people thinking of relocating to Florida.

Cesar Grajales, LIBRE’s Florida state director, said Puerto Ricans’ high rate of civic engagement means that any candidate or organization with serious designs on winning needs to court them.

“They vote, and they vote a lot,” he said.

During a recent walk around neighborhoods in Buenaventura Lakes — an Orlando suburb that has been called “Little Puerto Rico” — Grajales and other staffers and volunteers wore blue-and-white T-shirts and carried iPads pre-loaded with local addresses from state voter files.

If someone answered the door, volunteers asked a series of politically-loaded questions to gauge a resident’s potential support for the Kochs’ mostly pro-business concerns. They never bring up Trump; questions about him might be met with a slammed door.

On the Puerto Rican debt crisis, Grajales asked Jorge Reyes in Spanish whether the island’s political leaders “deberían ser responsables” — should be held responsible.

“Yo creo que si,” Reyes said — I think so.

On Obamacare, Grajales claimed that 15 health insurance companies in Florida planned to raise their rates by at least 17 percent this year. In Spanish, Grajales asked: Should taxpayers be forced to pay for the “mistakes” of Obamacare?

“Claro que no,” Reyes said — of course not.

Yet Reyes, 82, a Puerto Rican Democrat, said he planned to vote for Clinton and other Democrats.

“To me, the other guy is nuts,” he said, adding later that he thinks Trump is “dividing his own party — the way he talks.”

When Grajales and Jeandelize Burgos, a field director, knocked on the door of Guadalupe Rodriguez, 63, he quickly asked in Spanish: “You’re not with Trump?”

“No, no,” responded Grajales.

“No, we’re not with a party,” Burgos said in Spanish, laughing nervously.

Rodriguez said later that he’s opposed to Trump because he “is against us.”

“I don’t like to hate nobody, but when somebody looks at you like roaches?” he said later.

Cortes said he’s aware of what LIBRE is doing, but hasn’t met with the group. Still, he appreciates anyone who talks up conservative ideology to Hispanic voters.

“The moment we start doing that, we’ll start getting more voters to join the Republican Party,” he said.

Cortes knows that the influx of new immigrants across Central Florida could eventually transform his district and make it harder for a Republican like him to keep winning. But the transformation also means greater influence for fellow Hispanics.

“Ten years ago, you’d have a Hispanic candidate around here and he’d come in last. Now, he’s winning races,” he said. “It’s proof that we’re going to have even greater influence.”

And if Trump loses this year and takes Republicans like Cortes down with him?

“We’ve got four years to figure out what he did wrong and not do it again,” he said.

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