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Trump cornered: Thoughts on the Democratic victory and the enormous dangers ahead

Trump at his press conference today

By David Futrelle

We won yesterday, and won big. It might not feel like much of a victory, because we lost some Senate seats and a couple of longshot races that I and a lot of other people had half-convinced ourselves we were going to win. It might not seem like much of a victory because it was incomplete, and because as long as Trump is in the White House we’re fighting a defensive battle. But the fact is that yesterday we pulled this country back from the abyss.

Had the GOP kept control of the House, we would have seen a newly emboldened Trump, convinced his racist “nationalism” was the key to victory, with no one willing or able to check him. I think we would have seen an almost immediate descent into “nationalist” authoritarianism, if not outright fascism.

But now, with control of the House, we have our first institutional check on Trump. No, the Democrats are not the heroes we need right now; as a party they’re cowardly and craven and even after everything we’ve seen they cling to ridiculous fantasies of bipartisanship. But they can block his worst excesses, and, more importantly, they can investigate him.

And we won back the House — and many other crucial races, defeating Scott Walker, Kris Kobach and Dana Rohrabacher — despite voter suppression, despite gerrymandering. This was a huge repudiation of Trump, and he knows it.

Last night Trump, or whoever had control of his iPhone at the time, tweeted about what he called the Republicans’ “[t]remendous success tonight.” But today it was abundantly clear he doesn’t believe that. In his press conference today he was even more unhinged than usual, visibly angry and upset, lashing out petulantly at reporters asking obvious questions. His firing of Sessions is an attack on democracy but it’s also a desperate move by a man who knows he’s cornered.

Wounded animals are dangerous, and things are likely to get pretty dicey pretty quickly as Trump does everything he can think of to protect himself and to go after his long list of those he considers his enemies — whether these are individuals like Mueller or entire categories of people. He and the GOP are going to pull every trick they can in the lame duck session before the newly elected Dems move into the House. Things are going to get worse, possibly much worse, before they get better.

But if we hadn’t won back the House I think we would have been facing utter catastrophe. So let’s give ourselves some credit for what we accomplished — and give our thanks to those who did the hardest work in the most difficult of places. And then let’s gird ourselves for what’s going to come.

Here are a bunch of tweets about our current situation — and some info on protests scheduled for tomorrow.

https://twitter.com/KatzOnEarth/status/1060035406266335232

https://twitter.com/maxberger/status/1060064874422829059

https://twitter.com/owillis/status/1060306898111619072

https://twitter.com/ChloeAngyal/status/1060235172912738306

I’ll get back to normal blog posts tomorrow but I have been obsessing about the elections — and people’s reactions to the elections — all day and felt the need to say something.

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Buttercup Q. Skullpants
Buttercup Q. Skullpants
3 years ago

Oh boy. The next 60 days are going to be interesting.

If Mueller is fired, the House Dems are free to rehire him as an independent investigator, and/or invite him to testify. He’s also outsourced a lot of work to the state-level AG offices (mostly the RICO and money laundering stuff). Trump can’t block or pardon his way out of that.

The House also controls the budget, and could potentially starve a hostile executive branch (DOJ, ICE, etc.) of funding. I hope they’ll consider using that as leverage to put a check on Trump’s vengefulness and obstruction.

As for disproportionate representation, it’s not just the Senate that has a problem. The number of congressional districts has been capped at 435 ever since 1913 (the number of reps the chamber can physically hold). Districts get reapportioned (and gerrymandered) based on the census every 10 years. Since urban areas are increasing in population, but rural areas always have to have at least one rep, the number of urban people represented by one MoC necessarily goes up with each passing year, while the ratio stays about the same in rural areas. The average district now is about 700,000 people, up from 40,000 in the 1840’s. We need more reps, especially in densely populated areas.

The fact that the Democratic gains were so tepid despite massive engagement just shows how much gerrymandering and voter purging have distorted the results. There was a blue wave, but it met a red seawall. Things have gotten so bad that Dems now need +10 on the generic ballot just to gain 25 seats, where fifteen years ago +4 would have sufficed. It’s only going to get worse if we don’t put a stop to it. The Democratic party needs to start paying more attention to local elections, not just the marquee national horse races.

Local elections not only determine who gets to draw up the rules and the electoral maps, they also create a deep bench of candidates with experience and name recognition for the bigger seats. Republicans have understood this for decades. Many of them run unopposed, because the Democrats don’t even bother to field a candidate. We should be contesting every single seat, from dog catcher on up.

weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
3 years ago

Red R Lion,

The Democrats ran on healthcare and equal rights. The Republicans ran on nothing but racist fear mongering.

You’re really going to suggest that’s it the fault of Democrats that old white people are racist? And ignore how much suppression there was in order to rig the vote for the Republicans?

Cheerful Warthog
Cheerful Warthog
3 years ago

“See, when you win and give us healthcare and maybe once in a blue moon raise taxes in a way that’s fairly easily loopholed away and suggest that we maybe should voluntarily stop being vile to everyone not us, and that’s if we don’t control EVEN ONE veto point to stop us, we’re no more violent than usual! (Which is very.) Remeber that when next WE win and start up the automated shredder-walkers on the border and any majority-Black area!”

Charlie Kirk doesn’t even do enough good that laughing at him for the Nappy Incident balances out how extremely irritating he is. I hope Dems take the Senate in 2020 and it makes him so distraught he spends the rest of his life as an itinerant monk doing spot labour for donations.

I’d worry more about how horrible they could be in backlash if it wasn’t for my doubt that they’d be any less horrible in victory. Still, I hope Not The Worst People In The World (whose side I am on because of their opposition to The Worst People In The World) use the power they have to maybe hold back the horribles, maybe see what they can do about starting a global swing AWAY from fascism.

Alan Robertshaw
Alan Robertshaw
3 years ago

@ WWTH

Don’t know if this is any use to you; but there’s some things in here that tally with the points you’ve made in the past about the reluctance of some in the media to call Trump et cronies out.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/nov/08/us-press-corps-trump-journalists-press-conferences

Red R. Lion
Red R. Lion
3 years ago

@WWTH

The difference between my argument and your argument was that I was attacking voter suppression directly, while you were also arguing that the Senate itself was bad. (Possibly arguing that the Connecticut Compromise that split the US legislature into 2 is itself a problem?)

What are you saying? What are you suggesting we do different?

The Senate and the House were meant to balance each other out* . For example, MA has more representatives than AK because it has more people. As is fair. Does that mean that it’s fair for Massachusetts to have entirely more say inside the federal government than Alaska? I don’t think so. At the same time, Texas has way more representatives than Massachusetts because it has a larger population. As is fair. However as a LGBT person in MA, I can sure as HELL tell you that I’m glad that TX (or FL, or whatever large red state of your choice) only has 2 senate seats, the same as my state.

This particular election was always going to be an uphill battle because there are only ever a third of Senate seats up for grabs, and this time it was more Democrats defending than Republicans.

You’re really going to suggest that’s it the fault of Democrats that old white people are racist?

Not it all. Not any more than you’re suggesting that the non urban vote consists entirely of racist old white people. Get rid of voter suppression and the Democrats would do fine in the Senate as the system stands today.

*Ideally. There are a lot of problems with the House right now.

Aaron
Aaron
3 years ago

Regarding the Senate as an institution, yeah, I can see the argument against it. I can also see the argument for it, and honestly I think the latter is stronger. The two-tiered structure of Congress was a strategic masterstroke on the part of the Founders, because the fact is that unless one party controls both branches, they can’t pass much legislation without serious compromise. So it inoculates the country against both tyranny of the majority and tyranny of a minority – like (let us say) rural white voters. Since the House is based on proportional representation, the national popular will is – in theory – always given veto power at the very least.

(Note that I’m setting aside gerrymandering here, which is indeed a problem. But it’s not a problem with the structure of Congress.)

Red R. Lion
Red R. Lion
3 years ago

@Aaron

As the old saying goes; “Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for lunch”. ?

Checks and balances are a good thing.

Gaebolga
Gaebolga
3 years ago

So the current vote totals in the Florida governor’s race are currently within the range that triggers an automatic recount.

Gillum is down by less than 42,000 votes, and apparently there are a nimber of uncounted early voting and mail-in ballots in Broward, which is heavily Democratic.

And Nelson is down by less than 22,000 votes, which is within the range that triggers an automatic hand recount.

So…interesting.

No one important
No one important
3 years ago

I think it will become significantly harder for women and minorities to vote going forward. Wounded animals are dangerous.

Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
Surplus to Requirements, Observer of the Vast Blight-Wing Enstupidation
3 years ago

The Senate is a holdover from when diversity in America was regional: a different culture meant a different state.

That’s no longer the case. So what about changing the Senate to, say, a body representing the various races, LGBTQ identities, genders, and the like in the populace at large? Then it really becomes a bulwark against tyranny of the majority.

Aaron
Aaron
3 years ago

The Senate is a holdover from when diversity in America was regional: a different culture meant a different state.

I’ve found this to be one of the most convincing arguments against the Senate, and it’s true that we have it in part due to the perceived importance of “states’s rights” + a deep-seeded suspicion of federal government. But I still mostly disagree. First, one could argue that that LGBT people, nonwhite people, etc. are spread out all over the country, and hence their interests will ideally be represented in the House. Having a Senate that represents them too (the argument goes) would be redundant. But there’s only one place where Alabamans live.

That’s a bit weak, though – you could say that since marginalized people are minorities just as surely as small states, they should have the extra representation that the small states currently have. But:

1) How exactly would an “Oppression Senate” for marginalized identities work in practice? Would only black people be allowed to vote for the designated black seats? Only men for male senators? (And what about black male senators?) It seems hopelessly complicated and impossible to implement.

2) The Senate doesn’t really exist to represent some “identity” in the social justice sense – it’s merely an acknowledgment that people living together will have specific practical, mundane, day-to-day concerns, and that those concerns should at least be heard. I’m not so sure you could say the same thing about, say, LGBT people – they are connected by a shared cultural experience, but not by (say) the impact of Obamacare on their insurance markets, or the localized effect of an education spending bill, or whatever.

Catalpa
Catalpa
3 years ago

The American Senate is definitely something that can be subjected to criticism, but I’d much, much rather have the American Senate systen applied than the current system we have in Canada. Which consists of: the Prime Minister appointing whoever he likes to the Senate and then them staying on for life and being unable to be removed. (Even if they’re racist fucks like Lyn Beyak.)

Red R. Lion
Red R. Lion
3 years ago

Culture is still very much regional in the US. Otherwise the electoral maps of the US would always be a solid color. The sharp divides between urban/nonurban is the product of political gaming, but the US is still very much a regionally diverse place.

If you really want to know the problem with US politics, it is THIS -we don’t vote, by choice and by force. When only a third of the US population actually votes, then the results are going to be heavily skewed towards whoever those third are.

I actually think that counting absentee votes as “nobody” is a good idea. Any seats that “nobody” wins would be filled with a random British person for the term. Any bets as to how long it would take for the US to be fully back under British control? ?

Red R. Lion
Red R. Lion
3 years ago

On second thought, let me clarify that last joke was aimed ONLY at Americans who can vote but choose not to. It was pretty sloppily said.

opposablethumbs
opposablethumbs
3 years ago

Any seats that “nobody” wins would be filled with a random British person for the term.

Speaking as a Brit, I can imagine that this would be … quite the motivator! 🙂
But interesting. Could it come with a stipend?

srsly though I can see from so many recent posts and comments that voting is made massively, arbitrarily and deliberately difficult for people in the USA. Checking you are registered is very easy here, you don’t need to present photo ID, and the typical distance you have to travel to get to your polling station (like, a 5-minute walk if you live in an urban area), and the opening hours (7am to 10pm, iirc) all help (and I wish we went a lot further, like Australia). We still have serious issues with gerrymandering, though. And of course misinformation …

weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee
3 years ago

The problem with the argument that a bicameral legislature protects us against both the tyranny of the majority and the minority is that it’s not working that way in practice.

Because the courts, which are not supposed to be partisan, have become so. The Senate, currently representing the white supremacist, patriarchal, Christian dominionist minority have all the power when it comes to approving judges. This is a Senate that blocked Obama’s appointments and are busy now packing all federal courts, not just SCOTUS with extremist right wingers that don’t represent the population and don’t have a mainstream view of constitutional law. We’re swiftly reaching a point where liberals won’t be able to vote and blue states won’t be able to implement laws. The courts will give us permanent tyranny of the minority before long.

The system is broken. Maybe it always has been. Low voter participation is a symptom of that, not a cause. Getting rid of the Senate wouldn’t fix it entirely, but it might help.

I’m also not clear on why the popular vote needs any check and balance other than courts disallowing laws that violate the constitution.

Aaron
Aaron
3 years ago

I’m also not clear on why the popular vote needs any check and balance other than courts disallowing laws that violate the constitution.

Because tyranny of the majority is a thing, especially in a country as large and diverse as America. It is important to hear, acknowledge and accommodate minority perspectives; on this, the Founders and modern liberal activists agree. And it’s the genius of the Founders – who I do genuinely believe to be brilliant – that they designed a democratic system that accounts for the possibility of tyrannical majority rule while simultaneously guarding against the possibility of minority takeover.

I mean, look: I can see the argument that the Senate should be (at least partially) stripped of its judiciary privileges, but that’s not an argument for abolishing it entirely. Congress isn’t perfect, but insofar as it’s failing, it’s not because of any underlying structural issue. It’s due to issues with implementation, like the gerrymandering laws – which in fact work to subvert the spirit of the House.

Gaebolga
Gaebolga
3 years ago

I think we could go a long way to solving a lot of this crap by converting judicial appointments to terms rather than lifetime appointments.

As I understand it, the whole “lifetime appointment” thing was supposed to keep the judiciary independent of political influence, and since that sure as hell hasn’t worked out, I don’t really see much of a down-side to making judgeships – including SCOTUS appointments – 6- or 8-year terms. Hell, go nuts and make ’em 12-year terms just to keep some stability going, but we need to be able to keep the judiciary more closely aligned to the public will than waiting for the current gang of 30- to 40-year-old Alt-Clown fuckstains to die of old age can possibly allow…

L Jean CAMP
3 years ago

“as a party they’re cowardly and craven and even after everything we’ve seen they cling to ridiculous fantasies of bipartisanship”

This is wrong.

As a party and as individuals they voted on health care under weeks of a personal, intense, day-in and day-out barrage of hate. Spouses, children, and employees of Democrats were living in hotels during the vote because of personal, specific death threats.

I was working in an office on The Hill in 2010. We all received death threats on the phone. People would yell and weep in rage and hysterics about Obamacare. Many of them voted for it knowing it would end their careers. Every single Member could identify one person, usually a child, whose changed life circumstances made the vote worth it.

Pelsoi passed it in the House *twice*.

These people are not craven, and it shameful to call them that.

littlem
littlem
3 years ago

I’m not sure we lost as much even as that. We might have a chance to challenge for majority control of the U.S. Senate in the wake of Kristen Sinema’s win (which means we could do things like actually get rights-protecting legislation passed) — but only if we beat the certification deadline for the election results in MO and IN.

We have to be like Stacey Abrams.

Why Aren’t Democrats Pursuing ‘18 Midterm Full Senatorial Control in When There’s Mounting Evidence of Republican Interference With U.S. Electronic Electoral Systems Since At Least 2004?
https://backtalk.kinja.com/policy-wonk-tuesday-why-aren-t-democrats-pursuing-18-1830409080

https://twitter.com/WBAI/status/1062117952114302982
https://twitter.com/Greg_Palast/status/1059906779033694208
https://twitter.com/Greg_Palast/status/1061683979319951360
https://twitter.com/Greg_Palast/status/1061788922152402944
https://twitter.com/Greg_Palast/status/1061970874704818176
https://twitter.com/litbrit/status/1062126571576836096

Red R. Lion
Red R. Lion
3 years ago

@WWTH

“I’m also not clear on why the popular vote needs any check and balance other than courts disallowing laws that violate the constitution.”

The popular vote doesn’t need any checks and balances, democracy itself does. Hence why we have 3 branches of government.

It’s pretty counterproductive to talk about preserving the US Constitution while at the same time attacking the Senate; the US Constitution is pretty clear in laying out that every State should have two votes in the Senate.

I don’t exactly understand what you’re talking about with the “Senate popular vote”. The only popular votes in Senate races are the ones that occur within States. And in that regard, the three seats that Democrats lost to Republicans lost in the popular vote. So from my vantage point, you’re championing the popular vote, while at the same time trying to delegitimize the results of a popular vote? We agree that voter suppression is a problem, but as far as I can tell, that’s not what we’re arguing about here.

A nationwide popular vote cannot exist in Senate races because not every state conducts senate races during every cycle, and any “nationwide” popular vote needs to be, well, nationwide . Therefore talking about which party got more Senate votes “nationwide” is about as productive as talking about how the Republicans stole the Senate using centaurs.

Let me explain what I feel is at stake here- faith in the foundation of US Democracy itself. The Rethuglicans can’t begin the autocracy of their dreams while Americans on either side still have faith in the system. Yes, there are problems with voter suppression- there have ALWAYS been problems with voter suppression. And yes they should have been solved yesterday, but quite frankly this country WILL NOT survive a complete loss of faith in our voting system and rule of law. We need to focus on the suppression of votes happening- for example Trump’s (and Congress’s) reneging of the promise to support Puerto Rican statehood if that’s what the Puerto Rican people want. But first of all we need to put country before party, and we won’t do that by crushing the concerns of small states (including many Democratic leaning ones) in the House by 86ing the Senate.

Off Topic, but I’ve been dealing with the fallout of an immediate family member’s psychotic episode over the last several weeks. This person is deeply angry due to their persecutory delusions, barely sleeps, eats, or showers, and believes that they are the completely sane victim of a widespread conspiracy to get them involuntarily committed, among other things. (Which they have been before due to a manic episode with psychotic features). This person can become emotionally abusive when agitated and has ZERO insight into their condition. All the advice I’ve gotten from experts is to pursue an involuntary commitment, which I am very reluctant to do considering how badly it went for this person last time. Does anyone have any experience with this? Or any advice on how to talk this person into seeking help voluntarily?

Diptych
Diptych
3 years ago

Why is the Senate important? Are there really fifty distinct possible cultural manifestations in American society that deserve equal representation?

Red R. Lion
Red R. Lion
3 years ago

@Diptych

Honestly the way the 50 States were drawn up was haphazard at best and gerrymandered at worse. But at least the statelines were set in stone a long time ago, and the Senate isn’t gerrymandered to within an inch of its life every 10 years like the House is. (Not to mention the misrepresentation in low population states, and the capping of how many house representatives that is skewing things).

But it would be interesting to discuss whether the House should be decided on some sort of nationwide popular vote rather than by a district by district popular vote!

As to whether there are really different cultural and practical concerns state to state that deserve equal representation and respect, yes. The US is a nation of immigrants and different religions, and all have left their DNA imprinted on the areas that they have settled in.

Hope this makes sense it’s 3am. :/

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