Category: Politics

The most powerful woman in GOP politics – Politico


The most powerful woman in GOP politics – Politico

A New York hedge fund heiress who co-owns a boutique cookie bakery has emerged as one of the most influential figures behind Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, and arguably the conservative movement as a whole.

Leaning on the fortune amassed by her father, Rebekah Mercer has steered her family’s rapid rise over the course of just a few years from the conservative fringe to the white-hot center of the most dramatic election season in years. And no matter the results on Nov. 8, the Mercers are positioned to reshape the American right for years to come in their anti-establishment image.

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But the family’s rise, facilitated by an increasingly aggressive network of Mercer-backed institutions and operatives, has prompted worry within the GOP about an attempted takeover, and questions from across the political spectrum about what the Mercers intend to do with the influence they’ve purchased.

Efforts to deduce the family’s intentions have focused largely on the family patriarch, Robert Mercer, 70, a pioneer in quantitative trading. But Bob Mercer, as he’s known, is mostly only writing multimillion-dollar checks that fund the family’s political operation; it is his daughter, Rebekah Mercer, 42, who is running the operation, according to more than 15 personal and political associates of the family.

It is Rebekah Mercer, according to these sources, whose frustration with what she saw as the political ineffectiveness of the Koch brothers’ network led her to redirect Mercer money to build a rival operation.

It is Rebekah Mercer who directs a family foundation that, according to tax returns, has more than doubled its giving between 2011 and 2014, donating $34.6 million to 30 conservative nonprofits over which she holds varying degrees of sway — from the Government Accountability Institute, which produced “Clinton Cash,” a book that damaged Trump’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, to the venerable Heritage Foundation, where she sits on the board.

It is the same Rebekah Mercer who urges campaigns and clients who want her father’s funding to hire a data firm owned largely by the family called Cambridge Analytica, which now counts Trump’s campaign among its clients.

And it is Rebekah Mercer whose meeting with Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, reportedly set the stage for the Mercers to switch their support to Donald Trump after the family’s first choice, Ted Cruz, dropped out of the race, rather than retreating to the sidelines as so many other big donors did.

Rebekah Mercer now sits at the nexus of Trump’s universe. So influential has she become that her conversation with Trump during an August fundraiser in the Hamptons has been widely credited with spurring the rookie candidate to shake up his campaign team by turning its leadership over to two of her closest confidants.

Pollster Kellyanne Conway, who has worked with Mercer on a pro-Cruz super PAC, became campaign manager, while the new job of campaign CEO went to Steve Bannon, a campaign novice who helped run both the Government Accountability Institute — which has received at least $2 million from the Mercer foundation — and Breitbart News, the intensely pro-Trump nationalist website in which the Mercers have invested. This month, Trump rounded out his newly reconfigured campaign leadership by bringing in yet another operative with whom Mercer has worked — David Bossie, who previously ran both an anti-Clinton super PAC that received $2 million from Bob Mercer in July and an anti-Clinton nonprofit called Citizens United that received $3.6 million from the Mercers’ foundation from 2012 through 2014.

Rebekah Mercer did not respond to requests for comment. Conway, Bannon and Bossie either declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment. And most conservative insiders approached for this story were loath to speak on the record for fear it might jeopardize their chances of receiving funding from Mercer’s intensely private family. Mercer, some said, has scolded allies for calling attention to her — even when it’s been positive.

But granted anonymity, the professional and personal associates offer one overarching explanation for the Mercers’ otherwise eclectic series of political moves: Bob and Rebekah Mercer harbor a deep and abiding enmity toward the political establishment.

That context helps account for a surge in political investments that might otherwise come across as quixotic, wasteful or ideologically inconsistent. It explains their shift from Cruz (a socially conservative constitutionalist with a hawkish streak who benefited from $13.5 million from Mercer super PAC spending) to Trump (whose commitment to social and national security conservatism is uncertain but who has nonetheless benefited from $2 million from Bob Mercer and counting), as well as their support for failed long-shot congressional candidates such as Kelli Ward and Arthur Robinson.

“They see the establishment as a very real threat to freedom in America, and they see the need to defeat it,” said Brent Bozell, president of the Media Research Center.

An operative who has worked with the Mercers said their enmity is especially pronounced toward the GOP establishment. “They want to blow things up and start from scratch,” said the operative, pointing to Breitbart News’ fawning coverage of the unsuccessful long-shot challenger to House Speaker Paul Ryan in last month’s GOP primary in Wisconsin.

In all, a POLITICO analysis found that the Mercers have made $73.5 million in disclosed politically oriented donations since the Supreme Court’s January 2010 Citizens United decision paved the way for unlimited political spending through super PACs and other nonprofits. Of that, $39 million came in donations to political candidates and committees from members of the family, and $34.6 million came from the family foundation to conservative nonprofits.

That tally doesn’t come close to approaching the combined spending of the Koch network, which expects to spend $750 million in the run-up to the 2016 election. But the Mercers’ spending does put them in league with donors like fellow New York hedge fund tycoon Paul Singer and members of the Ricketts family, who have become gravitational centers in conservative politics. And that’s even before considering the Mercers’ investments in Breitbart News and Cambridge Analytica, for-profit companies that don’t disclose investors but that could have a greater long-term impact on conservative politics than any given campaign or nonprofit group.

A conservative who travels in the same social circle as Rebekah Mercer described her motivations thusly: “This is about political power. This is about who controls the data and the narrative, and who ultimately is going to end up calling the shots.”

But Bozell, a longtime fixture of the GOP’s right flank who is widely seen as having been among the first to cultivate the Mercers as political donors about a decade ago, said he would advise them against trying to take over the conservative movement.

“They have become great sources of support, obviously, for the conservative movement,” said Bozell, whose Media Research Center has received more than $10 million from the Mercers’ foundation and included Rebekah Mercer on its board until at least 2014, according to tax documents filed by the MRC and the Mercers’ foundation. “But control? No.”

Bozell declined to discuss the family’s plans or Rebekah Mercer’s role in its political activism.

“I do know that she is brilliant,” he said. “She is thoughtful and she has got a keen analytical mind, which came right from her father, and my guess is that her father is very comfortable with her involvement, whatever that may be.”

Rebekah Mercer, who is known to friends as “Bekah,” is the middle of three daughters born to Bob and Diana Mercer and raised in suburban Westchester County, New York.

Described almost universally as intelligent and hard-working, Mercer graduated from Stanford in 1996 with a dual degree in biology and mathematics, then received a master’s in operations research from Stanford. She went to work on Wall Street as a trader, before retiring to raise the four children she had with her husband, Sylvain Mirochnikoff, a managing director at Morgan Stanley.

Associates describe the family as close-knit and culturally conservative but also known to spend lavishly on their wide-ranging hobbies.

Bob Mercer has commissioned a $2.7-million model train set and multiple massive yachts, including one with décor inspired by Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan.

In 2006, Bekah Mercer and her sisters bought and took over the popular bakery Ruby et Violette in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of midtown Manhattan. The bakery later shuttered its storefront and now sells exclusively from a website that invites customers to “seduce someone” with its sweets. Bekah Mercer still features her ownership and management of the company prominently in her bios on the websites of the various Mercer-backed nonprofit groups on whose boards she sits.

While the three Mercer sisters worked together on the bakery, they had different interests outside of it.

The youngest daughter, Heather Sue Mercer, is a competitive poker player, like her father. Conservative operatives buzz about the family’s annual holiday parties at their Long Island estate, which feature blackjack and poker tables. The Mercers supply chips — free of charge — that can be redeemed at the end of the night for lavish prizes such as gold Rolexes, according to people who have attended.

The oldest daughter, Jennifer, or “Jenji,” Mercer shares her mother’s interest in horses. Bob Mercer built a lavish riding center in Florida and invested in a Colorado horse park and an international equestrian center in North Carolina featuring five arenas and 500 stables.

Bekah Mercer, associates say, is the member of the family who most shares Bob Mercer’s passion for politics.

Bob Mercer “supports each of his daughters’ efforts in their own individual areas of interest,” said a Republican strategist who has spent time with the family.

While Bob Mercer is known as quiet and difficult to engage, he “lights up when he’s with Rebekah and just becomes really alive,” said a donor who has spent time with the pair at political events.

The pair shifted their political engagement into high gear in 2010 after a few years of being significant — but not elite — players in conservative finance circles. That was the year that Bob Mercer became co-CEO of Renaissance Technologies, one of the world’s most successful hedge funds.

The 2010 election cycle was the first after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision created a Wild West campaign-finance landscape. And Bob Mercer jumped right in, pouring $640,000 into a super PAC — one of the first — that funded attacks against Oregon Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio, who had sponsored legislation that would have raised taxes on hedge funds. DeFazio nonetheless handily defeated his Republican challenger, Arthur Robinson, whose Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, which stockpiles human urine for medical research and attacks the scientific consensus on climate change, has been the recipient of Mercer funding. (Robinson’s unsuccessful 2012 and 2014 challenges to DeFazio were also boosted by Mercer-funded attacks on DeFazio.)

In 2010, Bekah Mercer also joined the board of the Media Research Center, and, under her direction, the family’s foundation began escalating its grant writing. In 2011, it increased its donations to $7 million. Within three years, that figure was $18 million.

In 2011, Bob Mercer reportedly invested $10 million in Breitbart, and around 2013, as first reported by POLITICO, the family became the largest investor in Cambridge Analytica, the American spinoff of the British data analysis firm Strategic Communications Laboratories Group, or SCL. Bannon played a role in brokering that deal, according to two operatives familiar with it, and the company’s officials, with help from Bekah Mercer, began presenting Cambridge Analytica’s product as superior to both a Koch-backed data firm and that of an RNC-blessed data outfit.

It was around 2011 that the Mercers joined the network of donors spearheaded by the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, according to four operatives familiar with the family’s involvement in the network.

These sources said Bob and Bekah Mercer started attending the twice-a-year donor summits, convened by the Koch brothers, at which the brothers raised tens of millions of dollars for a Koch-controlled political and public policy network. Comprised of advocacy groups that don’t disclose their donors, as well as i360 and a super PAC called Freedom Partners Action Fund, the Koch network has in some ways, in terms of influence, rivaled the RNC. The Mercers began giving at least $1 million a year — and much more in some years — to the network, according to the operatives familiar with the family’s involvement.

At a summit in 2013 or 2014, Koch operatives bought a shipment of cookies from Ruby et Violette as welcome presents, which were left in donors’ rooms with notes thanking Bekah Mercer, according to two of the operatives familiar with the family’s involvement in the network. The move was seen a deft bit of donor maintenance intended to build good will with the Mercers, who, as the Koch operatives were aware, were branching out on their own even as they kept a foot in Koch world.

But by the beginning of the 2014 cycle, Bob Mercer was signaling that his middle daughter was taking charge of the family’s political portfolio, according to operatives who work with the family. They said it had become clear that Bekah Mercer strongly preferred investing in campaigns and causes over which she could exert control.

Bekah Mercer had grown increasingly frustrated with the Kochs’ approach. It is not as politically aggressive as she preferred and also much more supportive of trade and immigration, said operatives and donors familiar with the Mercers’ involvement with the Kochs. They said Bekah Mercer also questioned the effectiveness of the spending orchestrated by the Kochs’ operatives and bristled at what she perceived as their unwillingness to heed her advice.

Bekah and Bob Mercer stopped attending the Koch donor summits and dialed back their giving to the network, according to the operatives familiar with the family’s involvement in the network.

“Some people believe only they can achieve whatever goal it is, and I think she is in that camp,” said one Koch network donor who worked with Bekah Mercer. “And she wasn’t totally aligned with us. She’s much more populist.”

According to a Republican who advises her, Bekah Mercer has grown wary working with other political activists and operatives, in general. “She’s a very serious person. Very smart. Very dedicated to what she’s doing, and I think she feels that a lot of these people are taking advantage of her,” said the adviser. “She wants to have an impact, and she hasn’t found people she can trust.”

Indeed, while Bob Mercer finished 2014 as the sixth biggest donor of the cycle, with $8.4 million in disclosed donations, perhaps more significantly, by the end of the cycle, the Mercers were perceived within conservative politics as their own center of gravity, unmoored from — and in competition with — other major donors-backed networks and even the RNC, which Breitbart railed against.

Heading into the spring of 2015, Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign appeared to be the perfect proving ground for the Mercers’ fully operational political machine.

The Mercers had grown enamored with the Texan after meeting him at a gathering of the fiscal conservative outfit Club for Growth, to which Bob and Bekah Mercer have donated $2.3 million over the years.

For Bekah Mercer, even the Club, a leading supporter of many fiery Republican insurgents, sometimes proved too cozy with the establishment. After Joe Scarborough spoke at the group’s annual donor retreat in Palm Beach, Florida, in early 2013, Mercer stood up and confronted the MSNBC host, who had recently called Cruz a “carnival barker” on air. She told Scarborough she did not know who had invited him and pointed out that the Club was a big backer of the Texas senator, according to a person who was present. Scarborough did not respond to a request for comment.

Breitbart News was cranking out a stream of favorable Cruz stories, and both the Mercer-backed pro-Cruz super PAC, Keep the Promise I, and the Cruz campaign signed up Cambridge Analytica. And only hours after the Texas senator officially launched his campaign at the Christian university Liberty University, he and his wife appeared at Bekah Mercer’s extravagant Upper West Side apartment for a fundraiser.

But things started getting testy almost immediately. At the fundraiser, Bekah Mercer fumed about campaign manager Jeff Roe, who had chewed out Cambridge’s technicians for missing deadlines in building the campaign’s website, according to a person present at the fundraiser.

Mercer and Bannon continued to clash with Cruz aides, including Roe and campaign chairman Chad Sweet, in a series of conference calls about Cambridge’s performance and its billing practices, according to two people with knowledge of the conversations. Mercer was “infuriated” by a campaign official’s contention that rather than providing some secret sauce, Cambridge Analytica was merely using information that was publicly available, according to the people.

It didn’t take long for Mercer’s dissatisfaction with Cruz’s team to extend beyond the dispute over Cambridge. “She was down on the whole campaign,” said one Cruz adviser. “She thought the Iowa operation was terrible. She clashed repeatedly with Jeff Roe. She was very down on the ground game. She thought early on that [Wisconsin Gov. Scott] Walker was eating our lunch.” Mercer also expressed her frustration that the campaign did not hire Iowa operative Chuck Laudner, a veteran of Rick Santorum’s successful caucus campaign, who instead went to work for Trump.

After each primary debate, aides to Cruz — a champion debater as an undergrad at Princeton — braced for Mercer’s withering critiques of his performance.

“Bekah kind of wore out her welcome on the campaign,” said one of the operatives who has worked with Mercer.

Mercer also clashed with mega-donor Toby Neugebauer, an energy investor, over control of the constellation of four pro-Cruz super PACs with variations of the Keep the Promise name, and tried to install controversial evangelical activist David Barton to help run them.

By January, Breitbart had soured on Cruz as well, and its coverage increasingly tilted toward Trump, at Cruz’s expense. Neither Sweet nor Cruz himself were able to persuade Mercer to intervene with Bannon. Instead, she and Conway told Cruz and his team that Breitbart was independent and there was nothing they could do to shape the coverage, according to two people familiar with the interactions.

After Cruz lost the South Carolina primary in February, the campaign stopped using Cambridge Analytica’s models, though it continued to work with its team of embedded data scientists, who had PhDs in the hard sciences and were viewed favorably at Cruz headquarters in Houston. For two weeks in April, as Cruz fought for his political life, Cambridge Analytica executives ordered the employees it had embedded at Cruz campaign headquarters to walk off the job over a contractual dispute, though some continued their work for the campaign in secret from home.

Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier disputed that Mercer expressed any discontent at the fundraiser and said: “Our campaign had a productive and positive relationship with Cambridge Analytica, and they performed important work for the campaign. Rebekah is a friend and we are thankful for her support during our campaign. She loves this country and she is willing to stand and fight for freedom.”

As the Cruz campaign succumbed to Trump, Republican mega-donors like Singer, the Ricketts family and the Kochs remained mostly on the sidelines, reluctant to make major investments in their party’s incendiary presumptive nominee. In that vacuum, Bekah Mercer set about building bridges to Trump’s campaign. The Mercers converted their pro-Cruz PAC into an anti-Clinton one, and Conway prepared to pass the reins to Bossie, who had worked with the Mercers on a conservative film-production venture.

“Rebekah’s a loyal Republican and is always going to support the nominee,” said a personal friend of the Mercer family, who maintained that Trump had been her second choice from the start.

But even as the Mercers lined up with Trump, the GOP nominee’s then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, seemed to be trying to keep them at arm’s length. “They had done everything they could to push themselves into Trump world and then had gotten pushed back out by Manafort,” said a Republican operative familiar with the situation.

Manafort had long questioned the effectiveness and costs of Cambridge Analytica, which had pitched the Trump campaign last year, to no avail. And when Mercer and Bossie urged that Conway be hired as Trump’s pollster, Manafort in mid-May hired his longtime associate Tony Fabrizio.

But ever-persistent, Mercer would prevail. In June, she met with Ivanka Trump at Trump Tower. Days later, Conway joined the campaign.

Then, in mid-August, as the campaign was buffeted by a storm of controversy surrounding Manafort’s ties to pro-Kremlin factions in Ukraine, Mercer met with Trump at the Hamptons fundraiser and recommended a leadership change. Soon after that, the campaign announced the hiring of Bannon as the campaign’s CEO and Conway’s elevation to campaign manager. And two days later, the campaign asked for and received Manafort’s resignation.

Most of the Mercer associates interviewed for this story predict that their influence won’t end with the Trump campaign.

“I don’t think it’s about Trump. Trump is just a vehicle,” said one operative who’s worked with Bekah and Bob Mercer. “It’s about wanting to be a player and wanting to beat Hillary, in that order. Because if you remember, they wanted to use Cruz as a vehicle before that. They do want to beat Hillary, but they also want to beat the Kochs and Paul Singer and the Ricketts,” said the operative, referring to other conservative mega-donors.

But how that influence manifests itself after 2016 is uncertain. Firebrand Iowa Rep. Steve King, who has received campaign donations from the Mercers and gotten to know them a bit through the conservative event circuit, suggested that Bekah Mercer’s views are a driving force in the activism she and her father engage in.

“They wouldn’t be the pair they are if it weren’t for Rebekah’s passionate commitment to the conservative cause,” said King, who — like the Mercers — supported Cruz’s presidential campaign in the primary, before throwing his support to Trump in the general.

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This Week in Political Money –


This Week in Political Money –

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

$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.

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.

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.

  • A Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Bill? by Kathy Kiely,
  • 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,
  • A Climate of Cash in Votes on Global Warming, by Alec Goodwin, OpenSecrets via

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US warns Russia against interfering with Western politics – Reuters


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


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

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


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

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Politics and religion disrupt Israeli train services – Reuters


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


"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


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.

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.



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.


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.

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.


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

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Identity Politics Run Amok – New York Times


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


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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