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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

 
A great speech by a southern white politician

by digby




The New Orleans mayor gave a speech for the books explaining the necessity of taking down the confederate monuments at long last:

Thank you for coming.

The soul of our beloved City is deeply rooted in a history that has evolved over thousands of years; rooted in a diverse people who have been here together every step of the way – for both good and for ill.

It is a history that holds in its heart the stories of Native Americans: the Choctaw, Houma Nation, the Chitimacha. Of Hernando de Soto, Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, the Acadians, the Islenos, the enslaved people from Senegambia, Free People of Color, the Haitians, the Germans, both the empires of Francexii and Spain. The Italians, the Irish, the Cubans, the south and central Americans, the Vietnamese and so many more.

You see: New Orleans is truly a city of many nations, a melting pot, a bubbling cauldron of many cultures.

There is no other place quite like it in the world that so eloquently exemplifies the uniquely American motto: e pluribus unum — out of many we are one.



But there are also other truths about our city that we must confront. New Orleans was America’s largest slave market: a port where hundreds of thousands of souls were brought, sold and shipped up the Mississippi River to lives of forced labor of misery of rape, of torture.

America was the place where nearly 4,000 of our fellow citizens were lynched, 540 alone in Louisiana; where the courts enshrined ‘separate but equal’; where Freedom riders coming to New Orleans were beaten to a bloody pulp.

So when people say to me that the monuments in question are history, well what I just described is real history as well, and it is the searing truth.

And it immediately begs the questions: why there are no slave ship monuments, no prominent markers on public land to remember the lynchings or the slave blocks; nothing to remember this long chapter of our lives; the pain, the sacrifice, the shame … all of it happening on the soil of New Orleans.

So for those self-appointed defenders of history and the monuments, they are eerily silent on what amounts to this historical malfeasance, a lie by omission.

There is a difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it. For America and New Orleans, it has been a long, winding road, marked by great tragedy and great triumph. But we cannot be afraid of our truth.

As President George W. Bush said at the dedication ceremony for the National Museum of African American History & Culture, “A great nation does not hide its history. It faces its flaws and corrects them.”

So today I want to speak about why we chose to remove these four monuments to the Lost Cause of the Confederacy, but also how and why this process can move us towards healing and understanding of each other.

So, let’s start with the facts.

The historic record is clear: the Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard statues were not erected just to honor these men, but as part of the movement which became known as The Cult of the Lost Cause. This ‘cult’ had one goal — through monuments and through other means — to rewrite history to hide the truth, which is that the Confederacy was on the wrong side of humanity.

First erected over 166 years after the founding of our city and 19 years after the end of the Civil War, the monuments that we took down were meant to rebrand the history of our city and the ideals of a defeated Confederacy.

It is self-evident that these men did not fight for the United States of America, They fought against it. They may have been warriors, but in this cause they were not patriots.

These statues are not just stone and metal. They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for.

After the Civil War, these statues were a part of that terrorism as much as a burning cross on someone’s lawn; they were erected purposefully to send a strong message to all who walked in their shadows about who was still in charge in this city.

Should you have further doubt about the true goals of the Confederacy, in the very weeks before the war broke out, the Vice President of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, made it clear that the Confederate cause was about maintaining slavery and white supremacy.

He said in his now famous ‘Cornerstone speech’ that the Confederacy’s “cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”

Now, with these shocking words still ringing in your ears, I want to try to gently peel from your hands the grip on a false narrative of our history that I think weakens us and make straight a wrong turn we made many years ago so we can more closely connect with integrity to the founding principles of our nation and forge a clearer and straighter path toward a better city and more perfect union.

Last year, President Barack Obama echoed these sentiments about the need to contextualize and remember all of our history. He recalled a piece of stone, a slave auction block engraved with a marker commemorating a single moment in 1830 when Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay stood and spoke from it.

President Obama said, “Consider what this artifact tells us about history … on a stone where day after day for years, men and women … bound and bought and sold and bid like cattle on a stone worn down by the tragedy of over a thousand bare feet. For a long time the only thing we considered important, the singular thing we once chose to commemorate as history with a plaque were the unmemorable speeches of two powerful men.”

A piece of stone – one stone. Both stories were history. One story told. One story forgotten or maybe even purposefully ignored.

As clear as it is for me today … for a long time, even though I grew up in one of New Orleans’ most diverse neighborhoods, even with my family’s long proud history of fighting for civil rights … I must have passed by those monuments a million times without giving them a second thought.

So I am not judging anybody, I am not judging people. We all take our own journey on race. I just hope people listen like I did when my dear friend Wynton Marsalis helped me see the truth. He asked me to think about all the people who have left New Orleans because of our exclusionary attitudes.

Another friend asked me to consider these four monuments from the perspective of an African American mother or father trying to explain to their fifth grade daughter who Robert E. Lee is and why he stands atop of our beautiful city. Can you do it?

Can you look into that young girl’s eyes and convince her that Robert E. Lee is there to encourage her? Do you think she will feel inspired and hopeful by that story? Do these monuments help her see a future with limitless potential? Have you ever thought that if her potential is limited, yours and mine are too?

We all know the answer to these very simple questions.

When you look into this child’s eyes is the moment when the searing truth comes into focus for us. This is the moment when we know what is right and what we must do. We can’t walk away from this truth.

And I knew that taking down the monuments was going to be tough, but you elected me to do the right thing, not the easy thing and this is what that looks like. So relocating these Confederate monuments is not about taking something away from someone else. This is not about politics, this is not about blame or retaliation. This is not a naïve quest to solve all our problems at once.

This is, however, about showing the whole world that we as a city and as a people are able to acknowledge, understand, reconcile and, most importantly, choose a better future for ourselves, making straight what has been crooked and making right what was wrong.

Otherwise, we will continue to pay a price with discord, with division, and yes, with violence.

To literally put the confederacy on a pedestal in our most prominent places of honor is an inaccurate recitation of our full past, it is an affront to our present, and it is a bad prescription for our future.

History cannot be changed. It cannot be moved like a statue. What is done is done. The Civil War is over, and the Confederacy lost and we are better for it. Surely we are far enough removed from this dark time to acknowledge that the cause of the Confederacy was wrong.

And in the second decade of the 21st century, asking African Americans — or anyone else — to drive by property that they own; occupied by reverential statues of men who fought to destroy the country and deny that person’s humanity seems perverse and absurd.

Centuries-old wounds are still raw because they never healed right in the first place.

Here is the essential truth: we are better together than we are apart. Indivisibility is our essence. Isn’t this the gift that the people of New Orleans have given to the world?

We radiate beauty and grace in our food, in our music, in our architecture, in our joy of life, in our celebration of death; in everything that we do. We gave the world this funky thing called jazz; the most uniquely American art form that is developed across the ages from different cultures.

Think about second lines, think about Mardi Gras, think about muffaletta, think about the Saints, gumbo, red beans and rice. By God, just think. All we hold dear is created by throwing everything in the pot; creating, producing something better; everything a product of our historic diversity.

We are proof that out of many we are one — and better for it! Out of many we are one — and we really do love it!

And yet, we still seem to find so many excuses for not doing the right thing. Again, remember President Bush’s words, “A great nation does not hide its history. It faces its flaws and corrects them.”

We forget, we deny how much we really depend on each other, how much we need each other. We justify our silence and inaction by manufacturing noble causes that marinate in historical denial. We still find a way to say “wait, not so fast.”

But like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “wait has almost always meant never.”

We can’t wait any longer. We need to change. And we need to change now. No more waiting. This is not just about statues, this is about our attitudes and behavior as well. If we take these statues down and don’t change to become a more open and inclusive society this would have all been in vain.

While some have driven by these monuments every day and either revered their beauty or failed to see them at all, many of our neighbors and fellow Americans see them very clearly. Many are painfully aware of the long shadows their presence casts, not only literally but figuratively. And they clearly receive the message that the Confederacy and the cult of the lost cause intended to deliver.

Earlier this week, as the cult of the lost cause statue of P.G.T Beauregard came down, world renowned musician Terence Blanchard stood watch, his wife Robin and their two beautiful daughters at their side.

Terence went to a high school on the edge of City Park named after one of America’s greatest heroes and patriots, John F. Kennedy. But to get there he had to pass by this monument to a man who fought to deny him his humanity.

He said, “I’ve never looked at them as a source of pride … it’s always made me feel as if they were put there by people who don’t respect us. This is something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. It’s a sign that the world is changing.”

Yes, Terence, it is, and it is long overdue.

Now is the time to send a new message to the next generation of New Orleanians who can follow in Terence and Robin’s remarkable footsteps.

A message about the future, about the next 300 years and beyond; let us not miss this opportunity New Orleans and let us help the rest of the country do the same. Because now is the time for choosing. Now is the time to actually make this the City we always should have been, had we gotten it right in the first place.

We should stop for a moment and ask ourselves — at this point in our history, after Katrina, after Rita, after Ike, after Gustav, after the national recession, after the BP oil catastrophe and after the tornado — if presented with the opportunity to build monuments that told our story or to curate these particular spaces … would these monuments be what we want the world to see? Is this really our story?

We have not erased history; we are becoming part of the city’s history by righting the wrong image these monuments represent and crafting a better, more complete future for all our children and for future generations.

And unlike when these Confederate monuments were first erected as symbols of white supremacy, we now have a chance to create not only new symbols, but to do it together, as one people.

In our blessed land we all come to the table of democracy as equals.

We have to reaffirm our commitment to a future where each citizen is guaranteed the uniquely American gifts of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

That is what really makes America great and today it is more important than ever to hold fast to these values and together say a self-evident truth that out of many we are one. That is why today we reclaim these spaces for the United States of America.

Because we are one nation, not two; indivisible with liberty and justice for all, not some. We all are part of one nation, all pledging allegiance to one flag, the flag of the United States of America. And New Orleanians are in, all of the way.

It is in this union and in this truth that real patriotism is rooted and flourishes.

Instead of revering a 4-year brief historical aberration that was called the Confederacy we can celebrate all 300 years of our rich, diverse history as a place named New Orleans and set the tone for the next 300 years.

After decades of public debate, of anger, of anxiety, of anticipation, of humiliation and of frustration. After public hearings and approvals from three separate community led commissions. After two robust public hearings and a 6-1 vote by the duly elected New Orleans City Council. After review by 13 different federal and state judges. The full weight of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government has been brought to bear and the monuments in accordance with the law have been removed.

So now is the time to come together and heal and focus on our larger task. Not only building new symbols, but making this city a beautiful manifestation of what is possible and what we as a people can become.

Let us remember what the once exiled, imprisoned and now universally loved Nelson Mandela and what he said after the fall of apartheid. “If the pain has often been unbearable and the revelations shocking to all of us, it is because they indeed bring us the beginnings of a common understanding of what happened and a steady restoration of the nation’s humanity.”

So before we part let us again state the truth clearly.

The Confederacy was on the wrong side of history and humanity. It sought to tear apart our nation and subjugate our fellow Americans to slavery. This is the history we should never forget and one that we should never again put on a pedestal to be revered.

As a community, we must recognize the significance of removing New Orleans’ Confederate monuments. It is our acknowledgment that now is the time to take stock of, and then move past, a painful part of our history. Anything less would render generations of courageous struggle and soul-searching a truly lost cause.

Anything less would fall short of the immortal words of our greatest President Abraham Lincoln, who with an open heart and clarity of purpose calls on us today to unite as one people when he said:

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to do all which may achieve and cherish: a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Thank you.
 
Colbert on the trip. Oh my God.

by digby




Don't miss it. Just brilliant...






This was the opening:



Maddow was on too. 


.
 
Melania's instinctive recoil

by digby



This is strange. But telling. The Daily Beast reports:


As President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump flee the “witch hunt” in D.C. for a world tour, there have been ample opportunities to observe their forced interactions.

Monday in Tel Aviv, Melania’s casual batting away of her husband’s hand lit the internet on fire. Her “hand slap heard ’round the world… temporarily sated the public’s bottomless appetite to see President Trump denied what he wants in its most viscerally appealing manifestation,” Erin Gloria Ryan wrote.



Ok, whatever. It looks like she slapped his hand away but maybe it was something else.

Now check this out from their arrival in Rome:





She's recoiling. Haven't we all had that reaction to some people in our lives?

I don't blame her, of course. I suspect most women react that way in his presence.



.
 
We built it. They're using it.

by digby



We gave them all these tools to hunt suspected terrorists. Now Trump and his newly empowered federal cops are using those tools for other things. Surprised?

Federal investigators are using a cellphone snooping device designed for counter-terrorism to hunt undocumented immigrants amid President Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown, according to federal court records obtained by The Detroit News.

An unsealed federal search warrant affidavit obtained by The News is the first public acknowledgment that agents are using secret devices that masquerade as a cell tower to find people who entered the U.S. illegally, privacy and civil liberty experts said.

The secret device was used in March by a team of FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in Metro Detroit to find Rudy Carcamo-Carranza, 23, a twice-deported restaurant worker from El Salvador whose only brushes with the law involve drunken driving allegations and a hit-and-run crash.

The use of the cell tower simulator comes amid the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown and attempt to temporarily ban travel from six Muslim-majority nations.

The cell-site simulator device, known as a Hailstorm or Stingray, tricks nearby phones into providing location data and can interrupt cellular service of all devices within the targeted location. Federal investigators are required to obtain a judge’s approval to use the device.


“While the warrant does ensure a modicum of judicial oversight, it is troubling to see the government using invasive surveillance technology on the streets of America to grease the wheels of the Trump administration’s deportation machine,” said Nathan Wessler, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project. “This is the first warrant I have seen specifically showing ICE’s use of a cell-site simulator in an immigration enforcement operation.”

I'm sure they would never use anything like this if there was political unrest.

When you give police more powers for one purpose they inevitably use that power for other purposes. It's how this works.


.


 
President Bieber

by digby




I would say this is the low point except that we still have five days to go on this trainwreck of a foreign trip:



That's what Trump wrote in the guestbook at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial.

Yes, he wrote a note like a 12 year old girl would write in her junior high yearbooks. At the Holocaust Memorial. In Israel.


For contrast, this is what Obama wrote when he visited:

Nothing equals the wrenching power of this sacred place. If you come here a thousand times, each time our hearts will break. For here we see the depravity to which man can sink, the barbarity that unfolds when we begin to see our fellow human beings as somehow less than us, less worthy of dignity and life; we see how evil can, for a moment in time, triumph when good people do nothing."


Here's what Hillary Clinton wrote in 2009:



"Yad Vashem is a testament to the power of truth in the face of denial, the resilience of the human spirit in the face of despair, the triumph of the Jewish people over murder and destruction and a reminder to all people that the lessons of the Holocaust must never be forgotten.God bless Israel and its future.""

Even George W. Bush, who wasn't exactly eloquent, was smart enough to keep it short and dignified:







And what 70 year old man uses a little circle instead of a period in their exclamation point?
 
The other Trump Russia scandal

by digby



I wrote about the part of he investigation that's probably keeping Trump up at night for Salon this morning:

So Donald Trump screwed the pooch again. This time the president did it on camera, standing next to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, when he made a point of quieting the room and addressing reporters to say this out of the blue:
Just so you understand, I never mentioned it, the word or the name Israel. I never mentioned it during that conversation. They were all saying I did. So you had another story wrong. Never mentioned the word Israel.
He was referring, of course, to his infamous May 10 meeting with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at the White House, the one when he gave away sensitive foreign intelligence and explained to his guests that he had gotten rid of that pesky little problem he had with former CIA Director Jim Comey. Although there has been some reporting that the original information came from Israeli intelligence, no one has ever claimed Trump told the Russians that. In fact, national security adviser H.R. McMaster had gone to great lengths to explain that Trump had no idea where the information came from. So this was simultaneously a confirmation of reporting that Israel was the source and a confirmation that all classified information should be kept far away from President Trump.

Meanwhile, back in the States, the gusher of news about the Russia investigation continued to flow. Former national security adviser Michael Flynn gave notice that he planned to assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination rather than testify before Congress. And then there was the usual late-breaking Washington Post bombshell, this time reporting that Trump had asked Mike Rogers, the National Security Agency’s director, and Dan Coats, director of national intelligence, to push back on the Russia story after Comey’s congressional testimony, as well as that White House officials had aimed for encouraging the FBI to drop the Flynn probe. It was just another day of gaffes, scandals and lawbreaking in the era of Trump.

But a few stories over the past several days may have Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner feeling a bit more nervous than usual. Last Friday among the cascading breaking news, one factoid was mostly overlooked in the big Washington Post story reporting that the Russia investigation had expanded to include a member of the White House staff who is close to the president. See an excerpt below with emphasis added:

Although the case began quietly last July as an effort to determine whether any Trump associates coordinated with Russian operatives to meddle in the presidential election campaign, the investigative work now being done by the FBI also includes determining whether any financial crimes were committed by people close to the president . . .
While there has been a loud public debate in recent days over the question of whether the president might have attempted to obstruct justice in his private dealings with Comey, whom Trump fired last week, people familiar with the matter said investigators on the case are more focused on Russian influence operations and possible financial crimes.

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo observed that the investigation may be homing in on the story he’s been following for some time about Trump’s business and financial dealings over the decades with a whole cast of nefarious characters, including authentic mobster Felix Sater, who has ties to Russian oligarchs and gangsters and may be a U.S. government informant. Over and over again in Trump’s past you find connections to criminals and shady characters who operate on the very edge of legality. Marshall noted that for the past couple of decades, Trump has had a specific business model:
Cut off from capital from the big banks and most people interested in not losing their money, he had to do business with people with decidedly sketchier reputations. Those people, often looking for places to park wealth in real estate, had to accept much higher levels of risk than people with clean reputations. That seemed to lead them to Trump.
You may have heard that congressional investigative committees have requested that the Treasury Department’s financial crimes enforcement network, or FinCEN, provide any information it has on Trump, his businesses, his top officials and campaign aides. CNN received access to 400 pages of this FinCEN information on Trump’s casino operations in Atlantic City and found that the Trump Taj Mahal casino broke money-laundering rules 106 times in the first year and half of operation and paid nearly half a million dollars in fines in just one settlement agreement in 1998. The network reported as follows:

According to a dozen anti-money laundering experts, casinos often run into these problems. But getting caught with 106 violations in the casino’s opening years is an indicator of a serious problem, they said. The violations date back to a time when the Taj Mahal was the preferred gambling spot for Russian mobsters living in Brooklyn, according to federal investigators who tracked organized crime in New York City. They also occurred at a time when the Taj Mahal casino was short on cash and on the verge of bankruptcy.
One might assume that this is ancient history. But consider this February 2015 Fortune story, published just four months before Trump descended from his golden escalator to announce his candidacy:

The parent of Trump Taj Mahal, one of Atlantic City, New Jersey’s struggling casinos, has settled U.S. government charges that it violated federal laws designed to thwart money laundering, court filings show. Trump Taj Mahal agreed to the assessment of a $10 million civil penalty by the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, according to a proposed consent order filed on Tuesday with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware.
The violations in that case went back to 2003.

Casinos are an obvious choice for money launderers. So is real estate, for that matter. And Trump has been closely associated for years with the kind of people who dabble in such behavior, including Russian mobsters. It’s entirely possible that Trump’s panic over the Russia investigation doesn’t stem from any collusion with the Russian government over the election but rather from his possible involvement with Russian mobsters and oligarchs involved in money laundering and other criminal activities.

Trump may not know much about how the presidency works, but he surely has enough street smarts to know that once the authorities get all up in your business they will follow wherever the trail leads.

There’s a reason that the president refuses to be transparent about his financial dealings and we know it isn’t because he’s so modest. He’s hiding something, and a special prosecutor with a mandate to look into financial crimes is probably going to find out what it is.

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Only Republicans are with him

by digby

This is an interesting observation by Philip Bump of the Washington Post. Trump has totally lost support among Independents. And that means something to him and to the GOP:





That’s not what the polling looked like during Barack Obama’s presidency.

Over Obama’s first 17 weeks in office, independents were about roughly halfway between liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans — but so were liberal-moderate Republicans. (There aren’t enough liberal Republicans to break them out separately.) 
This is critically important for Republicans generally, in addition to Trump specifically. In the 2016 election, almost a third of Trump’s support came from independents.

















If independents continue to view Trump as poorly as do Democrats, that suggests he is unlikely to see similar support in four years’ time. What’s more, if Republicans continue to stand with Trump to plaudits from their base, it’s worth asking how independents will respond. 
The picture Gallup’s numbers give, then, is not really one of a partisan split. It’s one of a Republican Party that views Trump differently than everyone else.

He looked at the Obama Independent numbers throughout his presidency and it remained the same all the way through.

In other words, Trump has lost those Independents who usually vote Republican. And that's a problem for Republicans.



 

"All we hold dear is created by throwing everything in the pot"

by Tom Sullivan


Lee Monument, New Orleans, La., circa 1906. (Library of Congress)

Ordinarily, I would have more to say here about yesterday's 5-3 Supreme Court decision in Cooper v. Harris that finally struck down North Carolina's racially gerrymandered 2011 congressional district maps. The maps left Republicans in control of 10 of 13 districts.* Rick Hasen at Election Law Blog cuts to the chase:

This decision by Justice Kagan is a major victory for voting rights plaintiffs, who have succeeded in turning the racial gerrymandering cause of action into an effective tool to go after partisan gerrymanders in Southern states. That Justice Kagan got Justice Thomas not only to vote this way but to sign onto the opinion (giving it precedential value) is a really big deal.
From the L.A. Times:
Former Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. hailed Monday’s ruling as a “watershed moment in the fight to end racial gerrymandering. North Carolina’s maps were among the worst racial gerrymanders in the nation. Today’s ruling sends a stark message to legislatures and governors around the country.”
The Raleigh News and Observer quotes the leader of the renewed Poor People's Campaign and the Forward Together movement:
The Rev. William J. Barber II, head of the state NAACP which helped bring the lawsuit in the case, said the ruling highlights what he contends has been a pattern in the General Assembly since Republicans gained control of both chambers in 2011.

“Once again with this victory the courts have said that the NC General Assembly through apartheid-type redistricting engaged in systemic racism and cheated to win elections,” Barber said in a statement. “Over and over again our unconstitutionally constituted General Assembly is being proven to be the antithesis of justice, true democracy and the fundamental principles of equality.”
This decision will have ripple effects for voting rights cases still working their way to the court. Writing for the court majority about just one challenged district, Justice Elena Kagan found, "The evidence offered at trial ... adequately supports the conclusion that race, not politics, accounted for the district’s reconfiguration."

With race and politics in mind, I urge you to watch this address by Mayor Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans. In a time when ancient enmities are being roused from the pinnacles of American power, Landrieu led his city in removing four monuments erected to the "Lost Cause of the Confederacy," as he explained it. Of course Landrieu and others received death threats. (Post-racial death threats, to be sure.) Landrieu gave this speech last Friday as workers prepared to remove the last: a 16½-foot statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee atop a 60-foot pedestal. You'll be glad you watched this.

Transcript via The Pulse. (I highlighted a few standout lines.):

Thank you for coming.

The soul of our beloved City is deeply rooted in a history that has evolved over thousands of years; rooted in a diverse people who have been here together every step of the way – for both good and for ill.

It is a history that holds in its heart the stories of Native Americans: the Choctaw, Houma Nation, the Chitimacha. Of Hernando de Soto, Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, the Acadians, the Islenos, the enslaved people from Senegambia, Free People of Color, the Haitians, the Germans, both the empires of Francexii and Spain. The Italians, the Irish, the Cubans, the south and central Americans, the Vietnamese and so many more.

You see: New Orleans is truly a city of many nations, a melting pot, a bubbling cauldron of many cultures.

There is no other place quite like it in the world that so eloquently exemplifies the uniquely American motto: e pluribus unum — out of many we are one.

But there are also other truths about our city that we must confront. New Orleans was America’s largest slave market: a port where hundreds of thousands of souls were brought, sold and shipped up the Mississippi River to lives of forced labor of misery of rape, of torture.

America was the place where nearly 4,000 of our fellow citizens were lynched, 540 alone in Louisiana; where the courts enshrined ‘separate but equal’; where Freedom riders coming to New Orleans were beaten to a bloody pulp.

So when people say to me that the monuments in question are history, well what I just described is real history as well, and it is the searing truth.

And it immediately begs the questions: why there are no slave ship monuments, no prominent markers on public land to remember the lynchings or the slave blocks; nothing to remember this long chapter of our lives; the pain, the sacrifice, the shame … all of it happening on the soil of New Orleans.

So for those self-appointed defenders of history and the monuments, they are eerily silent on what amounts to this historical malfeasance, a lie by omission.

There is a difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it. For America and New Orleans, it has been a long, winding road, marked by great tragedy and great triumph. But we cannot be afraid of our truth.

As President George W. Bush said at the dedication ceremony for the National Museum of African American History & Culture, “A great nation does not hide its history. It faces its flaws and corrects them.”

So today I want to speak about why we chose to remove these four monuments to the Lost Cause of the Confederacy, but also how and why this process can move us towards healing and understanding of each other.

So, let’s start with the facts.

The historic record is clear: the Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard statues were not erected just to honor these men, but as part of the movement which became known as The Cult of the Lost Cause. This ‘cult’ had one goal — through monuments and through other means — to rewrite history to hide the truth, which is that the Confederacy was on the wrong side of humanity.

First erected over 166 years after the founding of our city and 19 years after the end of the Civil War, the monuments that we took down were meant to rebrand the history of our city and the ideals of a defeated Confederacy.

It is self-evident that these men did not fight for the United States of America, They fought against it. They may have been warriors, but in this cause they were not patriots.

These statues are not just stone and metal. They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for.

After the Civil War, these statues were a part of that terrorism as much as a burning cross on someone’s lawn; they were erected purposefully to send a strong message to all who walked in their shadows about who was still in charge in this city.


Should you have further doubt about the true goals of the Confederacy, in the very weeks before the war broke out, the Vice President of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, made it clear that the Confederate cause was about maintaining slavery and white supremacy.

He said in his now famous ‘Cornerstone speech’ that the Confederacy’s “cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”

Now, with these shocking words still ringing in your ears, I want to try to gently peel from your hands the grip on a false narrative of our history that I think weakens us and make straight a wrong turn we made many years ago so we can more closely connect with integrity to the founding principles of our nation and forge a clearer and straighter path toward a better city and more perfect union.

Last year, President Barack Obama echoed these sentiments about the need to contextualize and remember all of our history. He recalled a piece of stone, a slave auction block engraved with a marker commemorating a single moment in 1830 when Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay stood and spoke from it.

President Obama said, “Consider what this artifact tells us about history … on a stone where day after day for years, men and women … bound and bought and sold and bid like cattle on a stone worn down by the tragedy of over a thousand bare feet. For a long time the only thing we considered important, the singular thing we once chose to commemorate as history with a plaque were the unmemorable speeches of two powerful men.”

A piece of stone – one stone. Both stories were history. One story told. One story forgotten or maybe even purposefully ignored.

As clear as it is for me today … for a long time, even though I grew up in one of New Orleans’ most diverse neighborhoods, even with my family’s long proud history of fighting for civil rights … I must have passed by those monuments a million times without giving them a second thought.

So I am not judging anybody, I am not judging people. We all take our own journey on race. I just hope people listen like I did when my dear friend Wynton Marsalis helped me see the truth. He asked me to think about all the people who have left New Orleans because of our exclusionary attitudes.

Another friend asked me to consider these four monuments from the perspective of an African American mother or father trying to explain to their fifth grade daughter who Robert E. Lee is and why he stands atop of our beautiful city. Can you do it?

Can you look into that young girl’s eyes and convince her that Robert E. Lee is there to encourage her? Do you think she will feel inspired and hopeful by that story? Do these monuments help her see a future with limitless potential? Have you ever thought that if her potential is limited, yours and mine are too?

We all know the answer to these very simple questions.


When you look into this child’s eyes is the moment when the searing truth comes into focus for us. This is the moment when we know what is right and what we must do. We can’t walk away from this truth.

And I knew that taking down the monuments was going to be tough, but you elected me to do the right thing, not the easy thing and this is what that looks like. So relocating these Confederate monuments is not about taking something away from someone else. This is not about politics, this is not about blame or retaliation. This is not a naïve quest to solve all our problems at once.

This is, however, about showing the whole world that we as a city and as a people are able to acknowledge, understand, reconcile and, most importantly, choose a better future for ourselves, making straight what has been crooked and making right what was wrong.

Otherwise, we will continue to pay a price with discord, with division, and yes, with violence.

To literally put the confederacy on a pedestal in our most prominent places of honor is an inaccurate recitation of our full past, it is an affront to our present, and it is a bad prescription for our future.

History cannot be changed. It cannot be moved like a statue. What is done is done. The Civil War is over, and the Confederacy lost and we are better for it. Surely we are far enough removed from this dark time to acknowledge that the cause of the Confederacy was wrong.

And in the second decade of the 21st century, asking African Americans — or anyone else — to drive by property that they own; occupied by reverential statues of men who fought to destroy the country and deny that person’s humanity seems perverse and absurd.

Centuries-old wounds are still raw because they never healed right in the first place.

Here is the essential truth: we are better together than we are apart. Indivisibility is our essence. Isn’t this the gift that the people of New Orleans have given to the world?

We radiate beauty and grace in our food, in our music, in our architecture, in our joy of life, in our celebration of death; in everything that we do. We gave the world this funky thing called jazz; the most uniquely American art form that is developed across the ages from different cultures.

Think about second lines, think about Mardi Gras, think about muffaletta, think about the Saints, gumbo, red beans and rice. By God, just think. All we hold dear is created by throwing everything in the pot; creating, producing something better; everything a product of our historic diversity.


We are proof that out of many we are one — and better for it! Out of many we are one — and we really do love it!

And yet, we still seem to find so many excuses for not doing the right thing. Again, remember President Bush’s words, “A great nation does not hide its history. It faces its flaws and corrects them.”

We forget, we deny how much we really depend on each other, how much we need each other. We justify our silence and inaction by manufacturing noble causes that marinate in historical denial. We still find a way to say “wait, not so fast.”

But like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “wait has almost always meant never.”

We can’t wait any longer. We need to change. And we need to change now. No more waiting. This is not just about statues, this is about our attitudes and behavior as well. If we take these statues down and don’t change to become a more open and inclusive society this would have all been in vain.

While some have driven by these monuments every day and either revered their beauty or failed to see them at all, many of our neighbors and fellow Americans see them very clearly. Many are painfully aware of the long shadows their presence casts, not only literally but figuratively. And they clearly receive the message that the Confederacy and the cult of the lost cause intended to deliver.

Earlier this week, as the cult of the lost cause statue of P.G.T Beauregard came down, world renowned musician Terence Blanchard stood watch, his wife Robin and their two beautiful daughters at their side.

Terence went to a high school on the edge of City Park named after one of America’s greatest heroes and patriots, John F. Kennedy. But to get there he had to pass by this monument to a man who fought to deny him his humanity.

He said, “I’ve never looked at them as a source of pride … it’s always made me feel as if they were put there by people who don’t respect us. This is something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. It’s a sign that the world is changing.”

Yes, Terence, it is, and it is long overdue.

Now is the time to send a new message to the next generation of New Orleanians who can follow in Terence and Robin’s remarkable footsteps.

A message about the future, about the next 300 years and beyond; let us not miss this opportunity New Orleans and let us help the rest of the country do the same. Because now is the time for choosing. Now is the time to actually make this the City we always should have been, had we gotten it right in the first place.

We should stop for a moment and ask ourselves — at this point in our history, after Katrina, after Rita, after Ike, after Gustav, after the national recession, after the BP oil catastrophe and after the tornado — if presented with the opportunity to build monuments that told our story or to curate these particular spaces … would these monuments be what we want the world to see? Is this really our story?

We have not erased history; we are becoming part of the city’s history by righting the wrong image these monuments represent and crafting a better, more complete future for all our children and for future generations.

And unlike when these Confederate monuments were first erected as symbols of white supremacy, we now have a chance to create not only new symbols, but to do it together, as one people.

In our blessed land we all come to the table of democracy as equals.

We have to reaffirm our commitment to a future where each citizen is guaranteed the uniquely American gifts of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

That is what really makes America great and today it is more important than ever to hold fast to these values and together say a self-evident truth that out of many we are one. That is why today we reclaim these spaces for the United States of America.

Because we are one nation, not two; indivisible with liberty and justice for all, not some. We all are part of one nation, all pledging allegiance to one flag, the flag of the United States of America. And New Orleanians are in, all of the way.

It is in this union and in this truth that real patriotism is rooted and flourishes.


Instead of revering a 4-year brief historical aberration that was called the Confederacy we can celebrate all 300 years of our rich, diverse history as a place named New Orleans and set the tone for the next 300 years.

After decades of public debate, of anger, of anxiety, of anticipation, of humiliation and of frustration. After public hearings and approvals from three separate community led commissions. After two robust public hearings and a 6-1 vote by the duly elected New Orleans City Council. After review by 13 different federal and state judges. The full weight of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government has been brought to bear and the monuments in accordance with the law have been removed.

So now is the time to come together and heal and focus on our larger task. Not only building new symbols, but making this city a beautiful manifestation of what is possible and what we as a people can become.

Let us remember what the once exiled, imprisoned and now universally loved Nelson Mandela and what he said after the fall of apartheid. “If the pain has often been unbearable and the revelations shocking to all of us, it is because they indeed bring us the beginnings of a common understanding of what happened and a steady restoration of the nation’s humanity.”

So before we part let us again state the truth clearly.

The Confederacy was on the wrong side of history and humanity. It sought to tear apart our nation and subjugate our fellow Americans to slavery. This is the history we should never forget and one that we should never again put on a pedestal to be revered.

As a community, we must recognize the significance of removing New Orleans’ Confederate monuments. It is our acknowledgment that now is the time to take stock of, and then move past, a painful part of our history. Anything less would render generations of courageous struggle and soul-searching a truly lost cause.

Anything less would fall short of the immortal words of our greatest President Abraham Lincoln, who with an open heart and clarity of purpose calls on us today to unite as one people when he said:

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to do all which may achieve and cherish: a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Thank you.
The last time a Democratic politician stirred me with a speech like that, an unknown, funny-named senator from Illinois was speaking. We'll see more of Mitch Landrieu.

* For two decades, I had voted in NC-11, then after redistricting in 2011 I was in NC-10 where I voted in the primary last spring. By Nov. 8, 2016 I was back in NC-11. No telling where I end up after the next redraw.


Monday, May 22, 2017

 
Back to the future

by digby


Then:




Now:

President Trump asked two of the nation’s top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, according to current and former officials.

Trump made separate appeals to the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and to Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election.

Coats and Rogers refused to comply with the requests, which they both deemed to be inappropriate, according to two current and two former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private communications with the president.[...]

Trump sought the assistance of Coats and Rogers after FBI Director James B. Comey told the House Intelligence Committee on March 20 that the FBI was investigating “the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.”

In addition to the requests to Coats and Rogers, senior White House officials sounded out top intelligence officials about the possibility of intervening directly with Comey to encourage the FBI to drop its probe of Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, according to people familiar with the matter. The officials said the White House appeared uncertain about its power to influence the FBI.

“Can we ask him to shut down the investigation? Are you able to assist in this matter?” one official said of the line of questioning from the White House.

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Somebody get him a map. And a nap.

by digby

The Israel portion of the trip looks like it's even worse than the Saudi orb.

First, he screws the pooch by saying to Netanyahu in front of reporters that he never mentioned Israel when he was sharing their secrets with the Russians. I'm not kidding:




Then this: in remarks before meeting with Israeli President Rivlin, he says "we just got back from the Middle East."


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The Master Negotiator

by digby




Can you believe this?
Publicly, President Trump didn't seem overjoyed when, earlier this month, he signed a $1 trillion bill to keep the government open. Privately, his mood was much, much worse.

Behind-the-scenes: When the spending bill had been negotiated and finalized, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus phoned the former House Speaker John Boehner and told him the president doesn't like how the negotiation came out and is thinking about vetoing the bill. Boehner has told associates that Priebus asked him if he could talk Trump into signing the spending bill. Boehner said he would.

Ten minutes later, Boehner's phone rang. It was the President. Boehner made a couple different arguments to Trump about why he should sign the spending bill:


  • He told Trump he should be happy about the fact that he doesn't have to give a dollar of domestic spending in exchange for increases in military spending. And he got a substantial boost in military spending.
  • The most important argument Boehner made: the last thing you need right now is a government shutdown.


Why this matters: I'm not suggesting Boehner's conversation with Trump was determinative. It's telling, however, that the President hated the spending bill so much that his chief of staff felt the need to reach out to the former House Speaker

Trump was supposed to be the greatest negotiator in the history of the world. But apparently what he meant by that was that he wanted a showdown so he could prove his manhood. Of course.

He has said that he thinks we need a good government shutdown. It's unclear whether he understands what that means or why he believes it is a good idea. But it's telling that Priebus had to get him on the horn with John Boehner to convince him not to do it. It means there really isn't anyone in the White House who can convince the president not to be a destructive fool.  And truthfully, it's looking as if there are very, very few who either know that's what he's doing or want to stop him if they do.



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Not one protest!

by digby




Trump didn't mention human rights in his big Islam speech yesterday. Not that he knew what he was saying. But the effect is that the US is publicly declaring that human rights are no longer a factor in US foreign policy. Of course. (Well, unless Trump needs an excuse to bomb someone over chocolate cake to prove to a foreign leader that he's got big hands.)

Anyway, who needs human rights? They are so messy.

Here's Commerce Secretary Wilber Ross:

“There was not a single hint of a protester anywhere during the whole time we were there,” he said. “Not one guy with a bad placard.”

At this point, the CNBC host interrupted him and pointed out that there generally aren’t protests in Saudi Arabia because it does not allow public displays of dissent.

“In theory that could be true,” Ross conceded. “But there was not a single sign that there was any effort at incursion, there wasn’t anything. The mood was a genuinely good mood, and at the end of the trip, as I was getting back on the plane, the security guards for the Saudis’ side who had been helping us over the weekend all wanted to pose for a big photo op, and then they gave me two gigantic bushels of dates as a present… That was a pretty from-the-heart genuine gesture.”



They like him they really like him.

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Lock him up


by digby



"When you have your staff taking the Fifth Amendment, taking the Fifth so they are not prosecuted, when you have the man that set up the illegal server taking the Fifth, I think it is disgraceful --- Donald Trump

















 
The budget from hell 

by digby



President Donald Trump is exhausted. At least that’s what an aide told the press as an explanation for why he used the word “Islamic” rather than “Islamist” in his big speech in Saudi Arabia and ended up offending his hosts. After the speech, Trump canceled his appearance at the Tweeps Forum and had his daughter fill in for him.

He did manage to handle a weird glowing orb and swayed along to a traditional all-male sword dance along with Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and White House adviser Steve Bannon on the first night of his trip but none of that looked very arduous. And the team brought home a major arms deal, with the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner arranging a nice discount for the wealthy Saudi government, which will undoubtedly give the war in Yemen a big boost. But the administration didn’t come away empty-handed by any means. The Ivanka Foundation apparently scored a gift from gulf sources, which flies in the face of what Donald Trump once had to say about the Clinton Foundation:






For Monday’s stop in Israel, most Israeli government ministers were planning to boycott the airport ceremony until Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a fit and demanded that they attend. (The ministers were a little miffed that Trump gave away one of their intelligence operatives while swinging his yuge “intel” around for the Russians.) The White House had previously requested that Israel shorten the welcoming ceremony officials had planned at the airport because of the heat, which is lucky considering that Trump was falling apart just three days into his trip. It seems that our president is lacking in the strength and stamina required for the job. You might even call him “low energy.”

Still, it probably beats being back in Washington and dealing with the Russian investigation. The last two weeks have been historically bad. Even the best-run White House in the world would have had trouble carrying on with the normal business of governing under these circumstances — and I think everyone knows by now that this is not the best-run White House in the world. So it should not be surprising that for reasons that make no sense whatsoever, the Trump administration chose this moment to drop its proposed budget. And it is a bomb.

First of all, it’s bizarre to do this while the president is on his first big overseas trip. As Forbes’ Stan Collender observed, the production of the budget is normally a major political endeavor, choreographed in every detail over the course of at least a week. It usually begins with the State of the Union address, when the president would unveil his major policy proposals to the nation. Then administration officials would strategically leak specific details and issue trial balloons, after which top members of the economic team would hit the airwaves to sell the plan to the public. That’s just the beginning. Collender explained how things normally work:
The budget was then sent to Congress the next day. The president typically held a press conference to take a political victory lap for what he was proposing. Federal departments and agencies would do a briefing that same day for reporters. Cabinet members would appear the rest of the week at congressional hearings on their budgets. In one final gasp, the new president’s budget would then be the prime topic of conversation on that weekend’s talk shows.
None of this is happening. It is also true that even if members of Team Trump tried to follow that script it would be tough because of all the scandals and investigations. But they aren’t even trying. The president will be on the air all week, but he won’t be talking about this. As far as we know, the members of the economic team who aren’t traveling with the president aren’t booked for any TV this week. Even more problematic is the fact that they are dropping this budget during the same week that the Congressional Budget Office report on the Trumpcare bill is scheduled to be released — which will create another round of devastating headlines in local papers all over the country. And for obscure procedural reasons, the House may even have to go through the agony of voting on that toxic waste of a bill all over again.

Needless to say, the leaks we’ve seen suggest this budget is a nightmare that could have been written by the most conservative member of Congress advised by the Heritage Foundation. It is a full-fledged assault on children those who are poor or have disabilities and elderly people. According to Jonathan Swan at Axios, these are the bullet points:
Balanced budget: I am told Trump’s budget will balance over ten years. To get there, it will propose tough cuts on both the mandatory and discretionary sides — e.g. to the EPA and State Department — and will assume that the U.S. economy will grow at 3 percent instead of the 1.6 percent rate it grew in 2016. The 3 percent growth rate will be reached after a few years, not immediately. 
Where the entitlement cuts are made: From programs including SNAP (food stamps), CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program), and SSDI (Disability Insurance). The budget proposal will also assume that Trump can sign into law the American Health Care Act — the Obamacare repeal and replace bill that passed the House and is now being considered by the Senate. That bill makes substantial cuts to Medicaid. 
How the entitlement money will be saved: The source tells me there’ll be an “emphasis on work requirements for able-bodied people” to save money on these social welfare programs.
The new GOP populism looks an awful lot like the old conservative GOP’s politics after all. The only thing missing is the huge tax cuts we know are coming, but Trump will almost certainly insist on a really big show for his “reform” plan. He’ll be happy to go out and tell people how much they are winning. He’s obviously not so keen on owning up to all the losing.

The good news is that this budget is likely dead on arrival. It will bring a few days of very bad press for Republicans and could shave another point or two off the president’s already historically low poll numbers. It suffers from the same dynamic that has made Trumpcare into a giant albatross choking the life out of mainstream Republicans, but with one important difference. Since this austerity budget isn’t something they’ve all been running for office on these past few years (the way they did on repealing Obamacare), it may just die an early death. Which is very much preferable to all the humans who would do so if the bill were passed.

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Normalizing W 

by tristero

For a while, the question going around my social media was, "Don't you wish George Bush was president instead?" And my response was always the same, "You mean, would I prefer dying from pancreatic instead of liver cancer?"

But normalizing W - and by extension, the hideous caricature of an American political party that is the modern GOP - appears to be inevitable. Let's not mince words here:

What Posner and Bazelon wrote below is as Orwellian a lie as anything coming from Trump's mouth:

Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama flexed their executive muscles. Mr. Bush enhanced the president’s control over national security after the Sept. 11 attacks by opening Guantánamo, trying terrorism suspects before military tribunals, and authorizing warrantless wiretapping. Mr. Obama took unilateral aggressive actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reform immigration. 
They left the office stronger than when they arrived. Although their policies were controversial, both presidents were given deference because they made their judgments conscientiously and led the government professionally.

Bush is now conscientious. The president who famously refused to pay attention to a memo that was entitled "bin Laden Determined to Attack US" in the month before 9/11.

Bush is now professional. The president who praised the incompetent Michael Brown during Katrina with ""Brownie, "you're doing a heckuva job.""

Bush - the president who presided over the worst economic crash since his fellow Republican Hoover's regime.

Bush - the president who brought international shame to his office and the United States by kowtowing to right wing religious extremists during the grotesque, macabre Terry Schiavo horror.

Bush - the president who invaded a country on knowingly trumped up (yes, that's intentional language) lies, which led to Abu Ghraib, which led to ISIS, and to attacks to come against the US that will likely last for generations.

That is the President Bush who is now touted as a paragon of conscientious and professional governance.

Posner and Bazelon both know better. They should be ashamed of themselves.
 
Good morning

by digby

Guess what?


Enjoy your day.


 

Retreading Rahm

by Tom Sullivan

Democrats may be "rolling in cash" going into the 2018 midterms, but they'll need more than money to produce the Democratic wave they last saw in 2006. They'll need vision and a message. Republicans are awful isn't the message. Voters already know that.

Politico's coverage this morning suggests Democrats are rolling out a retread of Rahm Emanuel's 2006 strategy, even sending senior House Democrats to Chicago to seek Emanuel's advice:

“In 2006, there was a similar landscape, where Republican-controlled majorities in the House and Senate refused to do anything to hold George W. Bush accountable,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, one of the three Democrats planning the Chicago trip. “The 2006 blueprint will have to be updated and reloaded to reflect the environment of today, but there are some lessons that can be learned.”
Democrats haven't even finished learning their lessons from 2016. But it's easier to skip over them and party like it's 2006. Organizing For Action (OFA) wants to target Republican “Rubber Stamp Reps,” echoing Emanuel's 2006 effort to name a Republican “rubber stamp of the week.” Firedoglake organized in 2006 to send congressional Republicans actual rubber stamps reading Rubber Stamp Republican Congress. Cute stunt. But in 2018 will it move voters? Did it in 2006?
“The future, in a presidential election, a statewide election, or a congressional, is in the suburbs, where more moderate voters exist,” Emanuel said in last week's episode of POLITICO’s Off Message podcast. “I purposely recruited candidates who reflected the temperament, tenor and culture of their district. I didn’t try to elect somebody that fit my image. I tried to help elect somebody that fit the image and the profile of the district.”
To repeat: "Democrats rely on polling to take the temperature; Republicans use polling to change it." Democrats chasing public opinion aren't leading, they're following. Voters elect leaders, not followers. Emanuel's strategy turned candidates in the districts he selected from Democrats into Republican-lite. It boosted Democrats' numbers, but only over the short term. Where are the Blue Dogs now? That's what comes of chasing public opinion rather than molding it.

Emanuel's more conventional strategy of targeting swing districts received far too much credit for the sweep in 2006 and Howard Dean's 50-state plan too little. Dean put 3-4 professional organizers on the ground in states where Democrats were not considered competitive. What happened?

Governing looked back at Dean's strategy in 2013:
Here's how the Democrats fared in the reddest of red states between January 2005 and January 2009, the period when the 50-state project was in operation:
  • State House seats: Net gain of 39 seats, a 2 percent increase of all seats in the states analyzed
  • State Senate seats: Net loss of two seats
  • Governorships: Net loss of one
  • Attorney generalships: Net gain of one (elected seats only)
  • U.S. House seats: Net gain of three seats
  • U.S. Senate seats: Net gain of one seat
  • Presidential performance: In 15 of the 20 states, the Democratic nominee saw an increase in vote share between 2004 and 2008. In three other states, the vote share remained constant. It dropped in only two states.
Perhaps not so impressive until one considers the states in question were Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming. So what happened after Barack Obama pulled the plug on 50-state?
Now let's compare this record to the one between January 2009 and January 2013.
  • State House seats: Net loss of 249 seats, a decrease of 13 percent of the existing seats in those states
  • State Senate seats: Net loss of 84 seats, a decrease of 12 percent
  • Governorships: A decrease by half, from eight governors to four
  • Attorney generalships: A drop by two-thirds in elected AGs, from nine to three
  • U.S. House seats: A 40 percent drop, from 44 seats to 26
  • U.S. Senate seats: A drop from 11 seats to 8. (It could drop further by 2014: Of those eight remaining seats, three senators are retiring and another three face tough reelection contests.)
  • Presidential performance: Only two of the 20 states (Alaska and Mississippi) saw higher support for Obama in 2012 than in 2008. In most of the 20 solidly red states, Obama's 2012 vote fell back roughly to John Kerry's level from 2004.
Altogether, these post-2009 declines are, to put it bluntly, pretty catastrophic. In these 20 solidly red states, the Democrats controlled 13 legislative chambers in 2005, a number that fell to just three in 2013. Of the 40 chambers in these states, only two experienced a net gain of Democratic seats between 2005 and 2013; in the other 38, the Democrats lost ground.
Of course, that analysis fails to account for the backlash to Obama after 2008 and other factors. The South has some stiffer challenges, but those libertarian-leaning red states in the Great Plains and the West, and Montana currently, each get representatives and senators too. The map is the math. Rebuilding decayed party infrastructure builds the Democrats' bench. Shaving the margins out there is a win if it helps tip the balance in Congress and if Democrats take back legislatures from which future governors and congress members arise.

For years, however, Democrats have rarely had time for it. Dean got that. It is disheartening to think the DCCC is going back to Rahm's playbook. There's never enough time to rebuild, but always enough time to throw on another patch. The question that Dean's tenure as DNC chair posed was, do you expand the party by winning elections, or do you win elections by expanding the party? Detroit's resurrection didn't come from selling more of the same old cars. It came from selling better-designed cars made in newer factories. That takes investment. As Governing observed, Dean's experiment demonstrated how "modest investments in party infrastructure can pay tangible dividends -- and how those dividends can disappear once the investments dry up."

This is the most important election of our lives, as I heard once again at a dinner over the weekend. They say it every year. That's why all the party's energy and all its fundraising goes towards next November and never towards the two or three after that. It's a fundamentally defensive strategy.

If you don't show up to play, you forfeit. It's one thing Democrats do well.