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Tom Rinaldo

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Member since: Mon Oct 20, 2003, 05:39 PM
Number of posts: 19,352

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Lamb's Victory was an excellent expression of Center Left solidarity

Activists and voters with beliefs that ranged from centrist to fairly far left worked together to pull off this Democratic upset in a wildly Republican district. I do not mean just voting for Lamb, but also donating to his campaign and, on the local level, working for it. Their ranks included some actual Republicans disgusted with what Trump stands for, and others who are registered as Independents or even as third party members, along with a wide range of Democrats who have been supportive of different presidential candidates in the past.

Today we should be celebrating the solidarity that brought us victory, not looking for opportunities to score political points by searching for and elevating scattered voices of dissatisfaction with the candidate we all helped carry to victory.

Independents and Our Binary Political System

Around the world politics is seldom binary. Though America may officially have a multi-party system rather than a two party one, national alternatives to the Democratic or Republican parties have about as much chance to actually participate in governance here as an opposition party does in Russia. Internationally most people get no choice since most nations are functionally one party states like Russia, if not officially one party states like China. But when people are allowed real choices they seldom are satisfied with having just two options.

Our Democracy is old, as these things are measured. The American Revolution was cutting edge stuff – back in 1776, but we are out of step and behind the times now. We no longer live in a Coke or Pepsi world. Unless you fanatically believe in American exceptionalism, it is ludicrous to believe that we have democracy right and everyone else has it wrong. Americans, as human beings, are not radically different by nature than Canadians, the British, the French or pretty much any other people where democracies flourish. We are not hard wired to prefer binary choices when most everyone else wants a fuller menu to pick from. Canadians currently have four major parties to choose between. The British have five. The French have at least 8, depending on where you draw the line. The 2015 Israeli elections seated members from 17 different parties in their Knesset. Even Mexico, long a bastion of one party rule, now has three major national parties and several smaller ones that those three frequently enter into coalitions with.

American voters are essentially forced to fit into a two party system because our electoral system is structured to punish alternative political challenges to the dominant duopoly. No I don't believe “our two major political parties are the same”. But neither do I believe that confining the public to a binary choice adequately offers expression to a multiplicity of viewpoints and differing personal priorities. Americans have elevated “lesser evil” voting into a national model, because voting for one's ideal choice is increasingly equated (for good reason) with allowing your worst fear to emerge triumphant instead. And so voters in America adopted to having either vanilla or chocolate allegiances, but that adaptation is becoming increasingly uncomfortable for many. A plurality of Americans now identify with neither of our major parties, and that bloc grows quickly by percentage as the age of voters polled lessens.

Most of us here choose to be Democrats. I for one do. But do we profess loyalty to the Democratic Party because it nearly always embodies our deepest values, or instead because we know we risk being politically disenfranchised if we don't associate ourselves with a viable political vehicle? Put me in that latter camp. Call it short sighted, or call it prophetic, but fewer and fewer Americans view politics in either of the aforementioned ways, and the ranks of those who labor within the Democratic Party in America continues to shrink. Love it, hate it, fear or welcome it, the trend lines are unmistakable. Here on DU we frequently rant about insufficient loyalty being shown to the Democratic Party, out in the general public people more often rant about how both parties are unworthy of their loyalty.

In our political system, third parties pose problems. We here tend to view their candidates as hopeless narcissists running for offices they have no chance of winning, stealing votes away from those who actually can win. In a typical election they are simply ignored. In a tight election they get labeled as spoilers and blamed for throwing elections to those we fiercely oppose. That's not what happens though in Canada, the UK, Germany, India, Israel, France, Mexico etc. etc. etc. In those nations it is widely understood that voters can't be stuffed into one of two boxes and personally blamed if they don't coexist comfortably with forced binary choices.

In the vast majority of the world's democracies people are accustomed to coalition governments. Parties that contest for election against each other frequently enter into negotiations once the votes are counted out of which some reach agreement to form a new government together. They do so by hammering out ground rules about the priorities which the government taking office will pursue. They don't pretend that everyone on “their side” suddenly all belong to the same political party. They don't live in a George W. Bush reality where everyone has to either be with them or against them, which is the ultimate extension of binary politics. Party leaders from the largest party in a newly formed coalition government don't vilify ministers from other parties in it for showing insufficient loyalty to the largest party's internal platform. None the less they all remain overall allies despite real differences continuing to exist between them.

In my opinion actual multi-party coalition governments more closely reflect the prevailing viewpoints of the populous of a nation at any moment in time better than a system that offers voters a choice between two supposedly big tent political parties. Of course it is also my opinion that all swords should be turned to plowshares, but my opinion doesn't dictate reality here nor anywhere else. So America has a two party system even though Americans increasingly don't like it. I can't blame them for not liking it though I still pursue politics through the Democratic Party. More Americans are Independents than Republicans. More Americans are Independents than Democrats. It is their right to be neither a Democrat nor a Republican, and increasingly they are exercising that right. Does that therefore mean that Independents can not/ should not have their views directly represented in Congress or the White House? Must they pick only one party to express criticism of in order to fully participate in our Democracy? If they don't in all cases support our own party, can they never literally be our allies?

In short, does anyone doubt the cards are stacked to favor those willing to work politically from inside one of two parties rather than outside of both? The fact that the word “bi-partisan” serves as secular shorthand for nonpartisan should serve as a good clue. In many states those who refuse to identify as either a Republican or a Democrat have no say in deciding which two Americans get granted a viable path to the Presidency. They must pick between them every four years lest they “throw their vote away” in the eyes of major party partisans. Political parties are indeed vehicles for ideologies, but they also become entrenched bureaucracies. When only one or two can defacto control government over time spans lasting a century, their institutional instinct for self preservation is ingrained into our very politics, and big time influence peddlers know where to lay down roots.

I don't know what the solution is to this problem or even whether many of you agree that there is a problem with bi-partisan politics at all. I see most of the other world democracies providing multiple viable vehicles for political representation, not simply two. Most of the people we call Independents here in America find or form viable alternative political parties to belong to in other major democracies. It is wrong to expect our Independents to mimic broad loyalty to a big tent party line. And it's crazy to expect Independents to confine their electoral involvement to endorsing/voting for one of two major party candidates each November, to then faithfully stand behind them.

Many of us are upset that an Independent, Bernie Sanders, ran for President as a Democrat challenging a Democrat in the Democratic primaries, before bowing out of the race and reverting to an Independent status once he failed to win the Democratic Party nomination. Many of us were also upset that Ralph Nader and later Jill Stein ran for President in General Elections as a Green – thereby splitting progressive votes when it really counted. We don't want Democrats challenged by third party candidates in November. We don't want Democrats challenged by Independents in Democratic Primaries. We want Independents to all vote Democratic in general elections, for the candidates that Democrats alone get to choose . Yes, we are free to want that and even to argue for that, but we still remain in the minority, one that becomes smaller every day.

Republicans ushered in Autocracy when they undermined Democracy

Trumpism is just a recent manifestation of anti-democratic beliefs that every generation of Americans must battle in order to advance our basic freedom. Democracy is much more than a system of governance, it is a fundamental philosophy that runs deeper than any set of laws, because it articulates the basis from which laws draw their legitimacy. Fundamentally there are just two models for government, one in which the people serve the interests of the state, and one in which the state serves the interests of the people. In the first model it doesn't really matter what the people think at any given moment of time, because their will does not guide the state, that authority abides in the dictates of leaders/rulers.

True Democracy is the expression of the second model of government, and Republicans by and large have ceased to honor its essential underpinnings.They do not encourage full, fair and free democratic participation by all of our nation's citizens, they consciously and selectively suppress and restrict voting in order to maximize their ability to control government via systems designed to generate the results they desire. They purge voter roles for political purposes, they impede voter registration to gain partisan advantages, they make voting easy in districts that they count on support from and difficult in areas they see as harboring adversaries, and they draw wildly improbable legislative districts for the sole purpose of disproportionately electing their own to office

Republicans manipulate the mechanics of democracy because they do not hold sacred the true expression of a vibrant healthy democracy. Other elements of their ideology take precedence over honoring the actual will of the people, and so they have few qualms about manipulating our democracy in order to maintain power. The difference between the attitude most Republican officials hold toward democracy in America and the attitude Putin holds toward democracy inside Russia is not what Republicans pretend it to be. The difference is more a matter of degree than of actual essence. Once you set out to skew the results of an election in advance you no longer truly believe in democracy.

I've heard it described how Russian intelligence agents develop American "assets" by slowly reeling them in with relatively inconsequential betrayals that barely consciously register in the minds of their targets, until those individuals one day find themselves in way over their heads. At that point they have lost their moorings, at that point they are adrift and it soon becomes any port in a storm.

Fundamentally you either believe in democracy or you don't, and if you don't than it is easy enough to make do with the trappings of democracy instead. President Putin seeks reelection this year, with millions of Russians soon going to the polls. I am certain Putin will express great satisfaction in the overwhelming victory I am certain he will register. Not so different from the public elation I am certain that the Republican Party in Pennsylvania will express if they get the Supreme Court to reinstate their gerrymandered Congressional district lines in time for our mid term elections. A democracy designed to protect the interests of the rulers is but authoritarianism by another name. It is a tool to achieve prescribed results, no longer an inherent expression of justice, equality, and human rights. Yes Russia is trying to undermine our Democracy, but some here at home have been at that a lot longer than them.

Ordinarily Trump would have gotten away with his conspiracy with Russia

Of course there is still a chance that he will, but I increasingly doubt it. Mueller's probe is too exhaustive and professional at the highest level of competency. His office has very deep pockets, and Mueller had a mandate to recruit the best investigators in every aspect of his inquiry. His own personal standing in the fields of law enforcement and intelligence no doubt made it easier for him to attract top talent to his probe, and his reputation for integrity gave all who signed up with him reason to believe the investigation would be guided only by the nation's interests.

I think our nation likely has dodged not just a bullet, but an incoming ICBM with a nuclear warhead. On one level I of course take comfort in this, on another I find it profoundly chilling to contemplate. The media on its own could never have delivered the full goods on Trump and all of the Republicans complicit with him, and I say that with full appreciation for the incredible investigative effort that journalists with integrity have undertaken on this matter on behalf of our nation. Without Mueller's office the media alone likely could have bruised and battered the reputation and standing of many of Trump's co-conspirators, but they couldn't make the final kill. No media outlet has either the resources or standing in the public eye to definitively establish both the truth and/or the full extent of the conspiracy against our Democracy that has long been underway. Anything short of that and I believe the conspiracy would have ultimately achieved it's goal of subverting our Democracy

In a different era, or even now if opposition Democrats were instead in full control of the investigative organs of Congress, much of the truth may have come to light. But even a non complicit Congress lacks the time and resources that Mueller's office was able to assemble, to unravel the maze of international money laundering operations, back channel communications, and the world class capabilities of Russia's formidable intelligence operatives working with the full support and blessing of Putin - in cooperation with American players.

In a sense we are dealing with an inverted 21st century confrontation with the concept behind Hitler's Big Lie propaganda machine. In Goebbels case repeated defiant claims were so outrageous that a response "they couldn't keep saying that if it wasn't true" was cultivated. This is the type of twisting of the truth that Donald Trump himself routinely uses. The inverse though is even more insidious. The scale of the ongoing attack on America, and the true identities of the Americans complicit in it, is so audacious and ultimately deeply treasonous, from quarters where patriotism supposedly dwells, that the truth itself defies belief. The case against the conspirators must be air tight and meticulously assembled and then presented by those with the highest possible credentials in order for substantial segments of the American public to face it fully free of ingrained denial.

But there never would have been a Mueller had Trump not fired Comey. And of course no Special Counsel of Mueller's caliber would ever have been appointed by Jeff Sessions if he had not recused himself in the first place, nor would that hypothetical Counsel have been given free reign if somehow Sessions had been forced to appoint and then oversee one. International crime has become so complex, and asymmetrical information and cyber warfare has become so sophisticated, that it increasingly takes the focused highest level abilities of a nation state to counter. And if a nation state that is under such attack is controlled by forces complicit with that attack, prospects for a successful defense become bleak at best.

Donald Trump and his American co-conspirators had every reason to believe they would never be held accountable for their deeds. If Trump lost the election, the U.S. Government response would have centered on countering Russia's efforts. I strongly suspect even a government controlled by Democrats would not have risked unleashing domestic partisan fueled social upheavals by exhaustively pursuing all domestic leads into the crimes that occurred utilizing the type of resources that Mueller's probe has now mustered - and without that we never could have gotten to the bottom of all this. And I'm sure it never occurred to Trump that if he won he would not have the sufficient control, with his allies in Congress, to make sure the full truth never saw the light of day.

Forty years later and historians still talk about Watergate. One hundred and forty years hence they will still be talking about these times we are living through today.

Our side didn't do as well as it could have regarding the Russian attack on our Democracy

But that is said in hindsight, and it doesn't change the fact that the Democratic coalition was directly victimized by it. The Democratic coalition did not willingly participate in that attack, and today it still leads resistance to it.

I could piss off a lot of people here who insist on thinking that some on our side can not possibly be faulted for anything that they either did or did not do at the time. The same goes for some people who insist on finding fault with what some on our side did or did not do at the time. Hindsight as we know is always 20/20. And there are always reasons why people made the choices that they did in real time, even if in retrospect they were not always the best ones. Sometimes the error was as simple as not connecting enough dots, or in underestimating the impact of events as they were unfolding. Sometimes it was more complex, as in miscalculating the advantages and disadvantages of doing anything differently

The Obama Administration could have done more with the information that they had about the Russians but they didn't. They had their reasons even if it is possible to find fault with that reasoning knowing what we know now. But the Obama Administration didn't attack our democracy, the Russians did. And all of us, you me and the full range of our political allies (including the who ones we only agree with a little more often than not) were in totally uncharted territory. Our nation has never been attacked in this manner before, certainly not it the context of an intrinsically divisive national election, and absolutely not with the seeming active complicity of major elements of one of out two leading political parties.

Bernie Sanders could done more to coordinate with the Clinton campaign to counter the efforts of Russian bots and trolls etc. to the extent that their activity was known and understood, which it was to some extent. He, just like Obama and Hillary herself, expected Trump to lose. He, just like Obama and Hillary herself, underestimated the threat those bots etc. entailed. Sanders could have done more to help Clinton win and in hindsight obviously he should have. But he did endorse her and campaign for her, which happens to be a hell of a lot more than the revered Senator Ted Kennedy did for Jimmy Carter for example. Sanders worked hard with the Convention and Clinton's people to hammer out a 2016 platform he could and did fully support. There is no way he wanted Trump to win and I have no doubt he would have done more to help Hillary had the election not seemed out of reach for Trump, which it did seem until Comey dropped his bombshell.

I don't know exactly what Sanders meant in his recent comments about Russia, the campaign, and Hillary. Obviously he was being defensive and his comments were not at all useful. I had a negative opinion of some comments Hillary made reflecting on the campaign also but I didn't waste energy dwelling on them either. People tend to get defensive when things do not turn out well. It's possible Bernie was taking note of the fact that the Clinton campaign knew a lot of inside information on what Russia was up to because they helped fund Christopher Steele's research and presumably had access to his dossier and findings well before most people did. Hillary made some decisions about what to go public with in terms of opposition research and what not to at the time. In hindsight maybe they weren't always the best decisions in that regard. In hindsight, always in hindsight...

More recently Kirsten Gillibrand (followed by most other Democrats in the Senate) showed inadequate insight into how the Russian bot attack was continuing to function in American politics. To at least some extent they were manipulated to oppose Al Franken remaining in the Senate because of the continuing nature of Russia's attack on our Democracy, which came down hard on Al Franken. I admit I'm pissed at Kirsten for in my opinion leading a stampede against Al, but I still honor the commitment Gillibrand has made to fighting sexual harassment in every work place, including Congress, devoid of partisan favoritism. I know damn well she's at heart a good Democrat in most things. She misunderstood false tea leaves and she miscalculated what needed to be done in response. So maybe she won't get my enthusiastic support at some point in the future, but she's on our team now and I know it.

And the fact that some of us saw through this or that deception at the time and "knew better" doesn't mean shit, because there are always some people who see through things in real time and others who for various reasons don't. But the thing is, it's not always the same people who only see truth accurately in hind sight. On any given day on any given issue I might well prove to be one of the sages, but on some other day I might well be one of those temporarily blinded. That's how it goes.

Fuck Monday morning quarterbacks if the goal is to find someone on our side to pin blame on. I'm sick to death of it when Bernie or Hillary or Barack or Kirsten do it, but I have sympathy for those who gave their all to an effort only to have it not work out the way they gave sweat blood and tears to. Feelings get raw whey the fight is personal. I have less sympathy for us here falling into it.

Collectively our Democratic Coalition rose to the occasion of Russia's attack on our Democracy, just not high enough. Well, it was unprecedented. There's somewhat of a learning curve that needed to and still needs to be mastered. As they say, mistakes were made but no I don't want to use less passive language than that because nothing good comes out of it. Our side didn't have true villains, their side does. We have to count on each other now, we can not count on them. Too much space on this website is still being devoted to divisive so called exposes against our own team. Enough, just fucking enough.We don't have to love each other or all the players on our team but we do have to collectively stay focused on the enemy.

The attack isn't over. The Russians fucking want us all to be at each other's throats. That's the point. I refuse to be party to it. We have much more important things to be angry about, like a looming authoritarian government taking root fucking now.

I'm just gonna say this once

Russia wanted to hurt Hillary Clinton. Their assessment, just like that of all the experts here, was that she would soon become our next President. Anything that they could do to bloody her nose, they were motivated to do. That meant, among other things, trying to help Trump. That meant, among other things trying to help Stein. That meant, among other things, trying to help Sanders. That would have meant, among other things, trying to help any other Democrat who ran a credible race against Hillary in the primaries. If Joe Biden had entered the race, they would have tried to exploit differences between Biden and Hillary also, and between their supporters.

I believe Donald Trump was in of it. I believe it is possible that Jill Stein was in on it, but I am not as certain about her as I am about Trump. I believe Sanders was not in on it. Nor would Biden etc. have been in on it had he also run. We have a political system that allows open competition not only for elected offices, but for nominations to run for elective offices. Elections and primaries, both are part of American Democracy. Both are essential aspects, in my opinion, but primaries in particular can be fertile ground for external meddling. Activists are usually passionate about their choices. Here on DU, I've been through Dean vs Clark vs Edwards wars. I've been through Obama vs Clinton wars, and I've been through Clinton vs Sanders wars. All of them got ugly. If some external force wants to throw fuel onto our internal fires, it is easy to do so. But it is anti Democratic to the core to blame candidates for the sin of competing with each other rather than simply lining up behind a front runner the way the former Soviet Politburo once did in public. There the knifing mostly happened in private.

People here may not all be in a position to remember, but lots of folks on every side got tombstoned here during all past primary wars. Last year was not unique. In all cases lots of good DU activists sincerely believed that opposing candidates and their core supporters were guilty of sundry dastardly deeds. One of the easiest ways to smear anyone on an activist board is through guilt by association. Obama got smeared through his association with Reverend what's his name, to cite a good example of how that works. What makes a smear a smear is when an association does not prove the crime alleged. Barack Obama was not anti-white in that former case. Donald Trump is accused of conspiracy with the Russians. If his team conspired with them than that accusation is not a smear, the documented association between him and the Russians would have criminal relevance. The Russians weighed in regarding Stein and Sanders also, attempting to boost them. They had their own reasons for doing so. If Stein or Sanders were willing knowing participants in that Russian effort, then accusations against them regarding conspiracy/collusion would not be smears. However if they were independently competing for votes without cooperating with the Russian attack, it is a smear against either of them to lump them in with the Russians, and they too then become victims of the Russian attack by hanging that charge around their necks.

Were benefiting in some way from Russian dirty tricks to become an acceptable reason to condemn a candidate's campaign, whether or not that candidate was in any way actually involved, that gives the Russians a classic twofer win win scenario. First they hurt their primary intended target, then they hurt whoever they lined up their bots to support by letting their support be leaked. And they sow chaos in the process, driving wedges between supporters who otherwise are in 90% agreement with each other regarding everything political.

I and millions of others supported Bernie in the primaries for reasons related to Bernie. I was not unsympathetic to Hillary in general, some may remember that I blogged for Hillary extensively on DU during the 2008 primaries. I had my reasons, which I tried to articulate at the time, for supporting Bernie over Hillary, but I backed Hillary over Trump in the General. So did the overwhelming majority of Bernie's core supporters. A small minority were no doubt influenced by Russian efforts against Hillary. And I fear a small minority of Hillary supporters will be influenced by continuing Russian efforts to divide us now.

I actually have an amazing amount of Trust in Mueller's probe. If he uncovers actual evidence of collusion between either and/or both the Stein and Sanders campaigns and the Russians, I will adamantly damn the guilty parties. Until then I do not do guilt by non cooperative association.

It's time for Democrats to focus on issues rather than Trump

And that is true for both Democratic activists as well as politicians. Anger at Trump is already red hot among the percentage of the electorate that is not sympathetic to him. That anger will continue to glow bright through the night until Election Day even if we don't shine our spotlight on him. Even "Never Trump" Republicans have maxed out in their disdain toward him and their alarm about him. A rejection of who Trump is, is already baked into the electorate who can be swayed by their feelings toward him.

Anger at Trump will continue to motivate and drive Democratic voters to turn out in November. Trump himself makes sure of that all by himself. The media will continue to broadcast his tweets and insults. That job is already taken care of. Trump haters will vote in November, period. Democrats need to focus now on those for whom attitudes toward Trump are not the decisive factor in how they will vote in the mid terms, or on whether they will vote at all. We need to focus on the real life repercussions for Americans of total Republican control of Washington. We need to highlight how Republicans in Congress are screwing with the lives of the vast majority of voters. That means talking about issues and policies more and Trump's unfitness for office less. The latter is crowding out the former. for public attention.

I am writing this to myself more than to anyone else. My Trump hatred is almost all consuming, to the point of being addictive. But flipping Congress in 2018 will require reaching large numbers voters who don't share that passion with me.

I hate that it's come down to this

Each day I have to tell myself that Mueller's team has gotten another full day to uncover the crimes of the Trump regime while bringing us one day closer to the mid term elections. That's my mantra for coping: Mueller/Midterms and hang on for dear life.

None of us can do much to help Mueller other that to let the political world know in advance that we will explode if anything happens to thwart his probe, but it's gotta be all hands on deck for the midterms.

Campaign I would like to see: "This year we all vote."

Technically the slogan it is non-partisan, so it could go up anywhere, libraries, universities, even town halls. But the implication is clear. No one can afford to stay home on election day in November. I would love to see a goal established to increase voter registration by 20.18% this year. I was musing on the thought, "What would happen if everyone actually voted?" The spontaneous follow up thought was "Let's find out!". Can we make those questions public and then push us all to get there (or more realistically get to that 20.18% percent increase) for the midterms? Could it be become a campaign that could make a difference? Can we make non voting socially unacceptable this year?

Vladirmir Putin told Trump he didn't do it. The CIA might have made false accusations

Trump believed Putin. Ray Moore said he didn't do it. An exhaustive Washington Post investigation with dozens of sources might have been a false accusation. Trump campaigned for Moore. Rob Porter said he didn't do it. Two women might have made false accusations against him to the FBI under penalty of perjury. Trump wishes him well, and worries about due process. Trump is investigated for several impeachable offenses. He says he didn't do it and rails against the process used to determine the truth.

A denial is Trump's idea of due process. End of story, move on, and let those accused continue their work unimpeded. They all said they didn't do it.
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