Foxconn and its Wisconsin Denemies

Wednesday’s White House announcement about Foxconn coming to Wisconsin brought with it predictable complaints from the Wisconsin left, which I have read so you don’t have to. (Warning: Hypocrisies ahead.)

First, Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair (because no one else wants the job) Martha Laning:

“I welcome new business and jobs to Wisconsin. After six years of seeing job creation promises go unfulfilled and watching major corporations shut down factories or move jobs elsewhere, it’s great to see Democrats like Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Rep. Mark Pocan encouraging new economic activity in the southeastern Wisconsin. 

“Democrats are laser focused on expanding the middle class and giving every Wisconsinite the opportunity to succeed and achieve the American Dream. But in order to have an economy that works for all us – not just the millionaires and billionaires – state-subsidized private sector jobs need to be a good investment that offers a living wage and ensures safe working conditions.

“While we are all thrilled at the prospect of new jobs coming to the state, it is entirely reasonable to be cautious of a scandal-plagued job creation agency handing over taxpayer funds to foreign investors that could potentially leave Wisconsinites with the bill decades into the future.”

Note that the statement includes no examples of what Baldwin and Pocan (whose district doesn’t include “the southeastern Wisconsin”; that would be the House district of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan) have done to encourage new economic activity.

Sen. Chris Larson (D–Milwaukee):

“It is with good reason that Wisconsinites are not yet willing to blindly put their faith, and money, in a feeble jobs promise. We’ve been deceived by Walker’s rose-tinted glasses before.

“Since taking office, Walker has left a trail of broken promises. His pattern of deception has resulted in our hard-earned tax dollars being handed over to campaign donors and companies that outsource, as well as some of the biggest tax breaks going to the richest people in the state, some of whom have used tax loopholes to avoid paying any state income tax for years.

“Our neighbors care about making sure this is a good deal for everyone in Wisconsin. Any move for Foxconn to locate in Wisconsin must also fit with the spirit of our great state. We look to partner with companies that will respect our state’s shared lands and waters. We should reward companies that pay our neighbors a living wage and treat them fairly. If they expect special treatment, they need to have a long-term commitment to our state so we know they won’t abandon Wisconsin as soon as a new enticement goes on the table from somewhere else.

“Wisconsin leaders should not commit to corporate welfare or anything that carves out special exceptions in our laws if it will unfairly hurt local businesses already in our state. Every small-business owner knows: with a billion dollar pinky swear, the devil is always in the details.

“Too many people in our state are struggling in low-wage jobs and living in fear that any day the security of health care could be pulled out from under them. They deserve leaders who will be looking out for their future.

“We demand fairness, and that’s what we’ll be looking for in this deal.”

Based on this Foxconn should feel free to delete any job applicants with Milwaukee home addresses. Larson’s job creation record is nonexistent.

Sen. Jennifer Shilling (D–La Crosse):

“While I welcome new businesses to the state, I want to ensure any state-subsidized private sector jobs offer a living wage and safe working conditions. As we look to expand Wisconsin’s middle class, Democrats will continue to focus on boosting small businesses, strengthening workplace protections and encouraging more locally-grown start-up companies.

“Communities and small businesses that could be at a competitive disadvantage deserve full transparency when it comes to Gov. Walker’s proposed tax breaks for Taiwanese investors. I am cautious of committing taxpayers to decades of economic costs and liabilities.

“The bottom line is this company has a concerning track record of big announcements with little follow through. Given the lack of details, I’m skeptical about this announcement and we will have to see if there is a legislative appetite for a $1 to $3 billion corporate welfare package.”

Numerous media outlets have highlighted a pattern of Foxconn’s misleading job claims and broken promises on economic development. The Washington Post detailed a series of “splashy jobs announcements” from Foxconn that promised thousands of jobs and billions in investments that never quite materialized in Pennsylvania, Indonesia, India, Vietnam and Brazil. With declining wages across Wisconsin and a stagnant economy, Gov. Walker has yet to produce the 250,000 jobs he promised to create by 2015.

Even the Democrats know they’re (accurately) viewed as anti-business when a news release starts with “While I welcome new businesses to the state …”

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D–Kenosha), as quoted by The Capital Times:

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said he met with Foxxconn representatives bout a week-and-a-half ago, and the company is looking at sites in Kenosha, Racine and Milwaukee counties.

It’s an “exciting opportunity” for southeastern Wisconsin, Barca said, but he wants to make sure the plant provides “long-term, family-supporting job opportunities.”

That must have just killed Barca to use the words “exciting opportunity.” (Barca was in the U.S. Small Business Administration, but as a political appointee, not someone who did important work.) Along with passing on this:

Democrat toadies Zero Wisconsin Now (boldface theirs):

One expert has described Foxconn’s approach to negotiations over public subsidies for their operations saying, “they extract everything they can.”

The company’s track record promising major investments in facilities and gaudy numbers of jobs versus the reality of what they do, or don’t, is well documented in both the U.S. and globally. In addition, serious questions have been raised about the labor practices of a corporation that installed “suicide nets” outside its Chinese operation after over a dozen employees killed themselves or attempted to by leaping from a plant rooftop.

A deal of this magnitude could rank as one of the largest ever public subsidies to lure a private corporation to a state. It demands significant scrutiny and prompt, detailed answers to questions including:

What specific incentives are being proposed for Foxconn, what government entities will be involved in providing them and what are the proposed funding sources? Will legislation be necessary at the federal, state and local levels?

What, if any, new revenue does the state expect to collect from this project in exchange for a multi-billion dollar public subsidy?

What, if any, financial commitments will Foxconn make in exchange for public subsidies? Will they provide funding for worker training, infrastructure upgrades or other community projects?

How many Wisconsin residents will be employed directly, full time by Foxconn at the proposed Wisconsin facility upon its completion versus temporary workers, workers from other states, international employees, and jobs being projected that are actually ancillary to the manufacturing plant operation?

What types of jobs will they be and what will they pay?

What assurances will be provided on labor conditions and benefit? Will the jobs offer comprehensive health care and retirement benefits? Sick time? Vacation? Family and medical leave? Will employees be allowed to unionize should they so choose?

Is this facility being proposed because of a commitment to investing and expanding operation in the U.S. or as part of a strategy to evade potential restrictions or tariffs on foreign based manufacturers of goods imported to the U.S.?

What are the benchmarks Foxconn must meet in order to receive subsidies and what, if any, clawback provisions are in place to recover expenditures of tax dollars if they are not met?

Will access to records associated with the negotiations be denied by Gov. Walker and others?

Are there assurances of environmental or other regulatory exemptions upon which the Wisconsin Foxconn project is based?

Most importantly: Why was this done in 100 percent secrecy?

Zero’s last question is the easiest: Given that we knew this was happening before it was officially announced, it wasn’t done in 100 percent secrecy. These details are negotiated away from public view — whether negotiated by Republicans, Democrats or nonpartisan politicians — because the business demands it. If state or local spending is involved, then the Legislature and county and/or municipal boards will have to approve them, and that won’t be in secret.

About tax credits, Scott Bauer of the Associated Press reports via tweet:

Foxconn tax credits are tied to performance, no credits given if Foxconn fails to invest capital or create jobs

The state would get zero money from Foxconn if Foxconn doesn’t move to Wisconsin. The actual cost of subsidies is zero, because they only exist because of Foxconn’s moving to the state. (Unless you believe, like Democrats do, that every cent of everyone’s and everything’s money belongs to government.)

The other questions … well, I’ve already asked the pertinent questions well before those trying to deflate partisan disadvantage. I have more objectivity about people I vote for than Democrats seem to have.

This GIF posted by a Facebook Friend sums up what Wisconsin Democrats really think:

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, neither a conservative nor z Republican, takes credit:

“Today’s announcement that a major global employer, and one of the largest manufacturers in the world, will be setting up massive operations in southeastern Wisconsin is a great example of what can happen when we all work together. It’s also a testament to the strength and appeal of our workforce and the commitment from many levels of government to devote the resources needed to invest in the kind of infrastructure that will attract and retain global talent.
“The Milwaukee area has been experiencing an unprecedented economic development boom, spurred largely by projects in the Park East, at the Couture, and on the County Grounds. This deal takes that development to another level and I believe represents the greatest opportunity in a generation to empower our job market, sustainably raise wages for our workforce, begin to address the racial disparities that exist in economic opportunity, housing, transportation, and employment, and show the rest of the world how effective and innovative our Wisconsin workforce can be.
“I’m excited to make sure our neighbors to the south in Racine and Kenosha counties will join Milwaukee County in driving the state’s economy forward and upward. A regional, and comprehensive, approach to workforce development is exactly what it will take to ensure that Foxconn has the skilled workforce and transportation infrastructure they need to thrive in Wisconsin for years to come.
“I congratulate the many partners representing diverse business, education, and labor interests who worked so hard to make this development a reality of which everyone can be proud.”

Labor interests? Education interests? Whatever.

As for the varied criticisms of the Walker approach to economic development, the Department of Workforce Development released this Wednesday afternoon:

The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) today released the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates of unemployment and employment statistics for metro areas, major cities, and counties in Wisconsin.  The estimates include updates for May 2017 and the preliminary estimates for June 2017. These numbers are not seasonally adjusted. In brief, the estimates showed: 

  • Metropolitan Statistical Areas: Preliminary June 2017 unemployment rates decreased in all areas when compared over the year to June 2016. The largest 12-month decline was 1.3 percent in Racine. The rates ranged from 2.7 percent in Madison to 4.2 percent in Racine. 
  • Municipalities: Preliminary June 2017 rates decreased in the state’s 32 largest municipalities when compared over the year to June 2016. The latest rates ranged from 2.7 percent in Fitchburg, Madison, and Sun Prairie to 5.2 percent in Beloit. 
  • Counties: Preliminary June 2017 rates decreased in all 72 counties when compared over the year to June 2016 rates. The largest over the year decline was 2.4 percent in Menominee county. The latest rates ranged from 2.6 percent in Dane and Lafayette to 6.5 percent in Menominee.

The release of the June 2017 local rates follows last week’s release of BLS monthly estimates showing a preliminary seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 3.1 percent in June 2017, maintaining its lowest rate since October 1999. Data also showed both total labor force and employment in Wisconsin remained at all-time highs in June.

Other indicators of the state of Wisconsin’s economy include:

  • Wisconsin’s labor force participation rate of 68.9 percent continues to outpace the national rate of 62.8 percent.
  • Wisconsin’s total labor force and employment remain at all-time highs.
  • Wisconsin’s seasonally adjusted employment change of 76,500 year over year is the largest since July 1995.
  • Wisconsin’s 3.1 percent unemployment rate for June maintains the lowest rate since October 1999.

I have indicated skepticism in the past with government-generated unemployment figures. The unemployment rate in this state is certainly higher than these numbers would have you believe. However, so is every other state’s and the nation’s unemployment numbers, so as measured by how the feds measure everyone, Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is still lower than most states and the nation as a whole, and that has been the case for the entire Walker administration.

A Walker news release said Foxconn’s $10 billion investment will create, it claims, 13,000 jobs, not counting jobs created by companies supplying Foxconn in LCD Valley, with, according to The Capital Times, $348 million in state and local tax revenues.

It is unfortunate that states and communities must give various incentives to get businesses to locate there. That is the fault of government that is too large, does too much and taxes too much. It’s also true that 100 employers of 100 employees each is preferable to one 10,000-job employer, because when that employer gets a cold, everyone there will get chills. But in our imperfect world, having that employer is better than not having that employer. Democrats know how to grow government, not the economy and not businesses.

The average household income in this state is $66,432, and the median household income is $52,893. The stated average wage of Foxconn jobs will equal the median household income of this state. (Democratic complaints about income inequality in 5 … 4 … 3 …) Those jobs are reportedly costing $100,000 in tax incentives, which would be made up in two years. (“Tax incentives” are another way of saying “cutting taxes you should not have to pay anyway.”) Democrats bitch, as you’ve already read, about insufficient jobs and pay and all that, and then bitch when an employer of vast size comes to the state, since they had nothing to do with that happening. If a Democrat was governor, you would not have read a single word you previously read from Laning, Larson, Shilling or Scot Zero. If only they were unemployed.


To save the planet, your life must suck

Last week it was revealed (or, more accurately, re-revealed) that environmentalists are socialists.

On the similar theme of making your life worse, Julie Kelly writes:

The Merchants of Misery — a.k.a., climate scientists — are working overtime to shame you about all the pleasures you’re enjoying this summer and how your selfish indulgences will cause the planet’s demise. Grilling your favorite cheeseburger? Glutton! Packing up your brood for a drive to the lake house? Monster! Hoping vacation sex will result in a new baby to add to the family? Hedonist! Even mowing your lawn earns a tsk-tsk.

A study from Sweden’s Lund University published July 12 lists many of the sacrifices you should make to reduce your carbon footprint. Most of the media coverage — and criticism — focused on the study’s recommendation to have one fewer child (as the mother of two teen girls, I have my own irrational reasons for sharing that same advice right now, but I digress).

Not only did the researchers consider more than three dozen scientific papers to compile their list, they also reviewed a handful of school textbooks and government publications to see whether the ruling class in Canada, Australia, the U.K., and the U.S. was appropriately indoctrinating the masses, particularly young people, about which “high-impact actions” will most effectively reverse global warming. But apparently, public authorities are falling short of that goal. (This will come as a surprise to anyone with school-age children, who are routinely admonished, in every subject from science to health class, about the dangers of manmade climate change.) “Textbooks overwhelmingly focused on moderate or low-impact actions, with our recommended actions mostly presented in a less effective form, or not at all,” the researchers found. “No textbook suggested having fewer children as a way to reduce emissions.” *Hint hint, McGraw-Hill*

The one-less-child policy was just one example of the study’s absurdity. Other suggestions include eating a plant-based diet, living car-free, and avoiding air travel. The paper also ranks other “low-impact” recommendations made in government guides and textbooks, such as keeping backyard chickens, letting your lawn grow longer, and hanging your clothes outside to dry. Thankfully, pet owners get a pass for now: “We originally hypothesized that two additional actions, not owning a dog and purchasing green energy, would also fit our criteria for recommended high-impact actions, but found both to be of questionable merit.”

So your life, according to the Merchants of Misery, should look something like this: stuck at home without a car, washing laundry in cold water and then clipping it on a clothesline while chasing down chickens and preparing locally grown vegetables for dinner. It’ll be just like Little House on the Prairie!

As if on cue, another study issued the following week warns about the price that extra child will pay should you be foolish and selfish enough to have one. James Hansen, known as the “father of climate-change awareness,” is the lead author of a paper published July 18 entitled, “Young People’s Burden: Requirement of Negative CO2 Emissions.” It’s not now sufficient to just limit CO2, we now need to remove it from the atmosphere: “Such targets now require ‘negative emissions,’ i.e., extraction of CO2 from the air.” “Continued high fossil-fuel emissions today place a burden on young people to undertake massive technological CO2 extraction if they are to limit climate change and its consequences,” the study’s authors conclude.

Hansen’s continued activism on climate and his growing hysteria about the future have nothing to do with staying relevant and everything to do with the children, of course. His latest study is intended to support a lawsuit he enjoined that was filed in 2015 by nearly two dozen young people, including his granddaughter, to sue the federal government over climate change. The lawsuit, Juliana et al. v. U.S. et al., claims that due to “the government’s affirmative actions that cause climate change, it has violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, as well as failed to protect essential public trust resources.” A trial date has been set for February 2018.

During a hearing last fall, Hansen told a U.S. district-court judge that “this lawsuit is made necessary by the at-best schizophrenic, if not suicidal nature of U.S. climate and energy policy.”

If you think that the Merchants of Misery have a preoccupation with death, you might be right. Now a few of them are just waiting (hoping?) for so-called climate deniers to die so they can get on with their misery message unchallenged. Here’s what climate catastrophist Bill Nye, aka The Science Guy, told the L.A. Times last week:

Climate-change deniers, by way of example, are older. It’s generational. So we’re just going to have to wait for those people to “age out,” as they say. “Age out” is a euphemism for “die.” But it’ll happen, I guarantee you — that’ll happen.

People are guaranteed to die — hey, science!

So while most of us are enjoying the fleeting delights of summer, the Merchants of Misery are ratcheting up their message of death, doom, and sacrifice. No wonder people are tuning them out.

I wonder which climate scientist will tell Muslims they need to stop reproducing so much. Muslim birth rates are far higher than European birth rates.

Coming to Wisconsin?

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel rereports:

The Wall Street Journal said Monday that Foxconn Technology Group could announce its U.S. investment plans this week, and implied the company will build a display-panel factory in Wisconsin.

Citing three people briefed on Foxconn’s plans, the newspaper said Foxconn is looking at producing display panels for large-screen televisions in Wisconsin.

Strictly speaking, that isn’t new. Other media, including the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, have reported for weeks that Wisconsin is a leading candidate for factories employing thousands that Foxconn is considering building in the United States.

The Wall Street Journal report, however, suggests that the Taiwanese electronics manufacturer has chosen Wisconsin. The newspaper also said Foxconn is looking at the Detroit area for an additional plant, but the report named none of the other states, including Ohio and Pennsylvania, that have previously been said to be in the running for the billions in investment the firm has said it is contemplating.

Foxconn officials have visited Wisconsin and other states in recent weeks to meet with top elected leaders as they mull their options.

Last week, Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said Gov. Scott Walker’s administration is working on a memorandum of understanding with the company.

Fitzgerald said he discussed the possibility of the firm coming here with Walker and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) last Wednesday as part of budget negotiations over rebuilding I-94 in Racine County.

The Journal Sentinel reported/opined last week that Foxconn’s interest in a U.S. facility might be as much politically driven as driven by business. Donald Trump has huffed and puffed and threatened tariffs on foreign-made products. One way to circumvent that is to make them here, as Volkswagen, Mercedes–Benz, Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Subaru and other manufacturers figured out by building U.S. plants. Beyond a certain cost point, building near your product’s target market can make more sense than building in CheapLaborLand and shipping.

I said on Wisconsin Public Radio Friday that I was a bit skeptical a deal would be made. (And technically I’m not incorrect yet.) That’s because Wisconsin is known for not having very many tax incentive tools, such as tax abatements that Illinois has and we don’t. Wisconsin has Tax Incremental Financing districts, which can get building projects done on blighted or undeveloped land, but that doesn’t reduce a company’s property taxes. (Although the Manufacturing & Equipment property tax exemption would.) The aforementioned Journal Sentinel piece noted that Foxconn demands huge incentives to locate somewhere (though to this point only in other countries), so one wonders what is prompting them to choose Wisconsin.

This comes at an interesting time because Gov. Scott Walker is presumably running for reelection next year. Walker has been hammered by Democrats (though apparently not voters) for failing to meet his 250,000-jobs-created pledge, despite the fact that Wisconsin’s unemployment remains lower than the national average, for which Democrats of course give Walker zero credit. Predictably Democrats will compare the Foxconn jobs, if they materialize, to Third World sweatshop labor because wages won’t be what Democrats think are appropriate. (Whatever that number is.)

One likely Democratic candidate, Mike McCabe, proclaims that Walker’s economic development policies are a failure, and that the state should be targeting companies like Epic Systems. This ignores the facts that (1) everybody wants companies like Epic, (2) Epic moved from Madison to Verona because of the capital city’s failure to provide enough tax incentives, and (3) hitching your wagon to the bazillion-job horse means that if the horse suddenly stops, you might fall off. (Large-screen televisions are not exactly a necessity, so what happens to Foxconn Wisconsin employment in the next economic downturn?) I could have sworn liberals weren’t in favor of company towns either, although now that I think about it they are perfectly fine with company towns as long as the company is one or more units of government.

McCabe’s stated position is rather limousine-liberalish as well in wanting to wash our hands of those icky, dirty manufacturers, despite the historical fact that manufacturing is something Wisconsin has done and continues to do well, and remains Wisconsin’s leading employer. (Read for yourself and decide.) It’s kind of ironic to have Democrats decry jobs for not supporting working families, and yet simultaneously shunning blue-collar jobs, as if every job should involve working in a business-casual office where no one needs to stay after 5 p.m.

Then there’s the premier of the People’s Republic of Madison, Paul Soglin, who thinks he can translate Madison’s economic growth to the entire state, ignoring the fact that a blind monkey as mayor of Madison would have exactly the same economic growth if said blind monkey mayor had both a state capital and world-class university within its borders. There’s also “entrepreneur” Andy Gronik, whose biggest policy pronouncement so far is that public employees should have to pay absolutely nothing for their Rolls–Royce benefits.

The conundrum about job creation is that it requires job creators, which we have too few of in this state, and have had too few of for a long, long time. One reason, I think, is that, perhaps unlike our neighbors in Minnesota, Wisconsin society doesn’t respect those who start new businesses and then fail at them. All of Wisconsin’s anti-Trump types pointed to his four business bankruptcies and not his employment of 23,000 people. That may be because they didn’t like Trump and/or found him unsuitable to be president, but a lot of people in this state seem to believe that people like Diane Hendricks, John Menard, Herb Kohler and others with several digits of wealth stole from or cheated someone to get that wealth, instead of creating products and services to serve customers. And as long as that attitude persists in this state, the state will continue to lag in job and business creation, through no fault of state government.

Even if you don’t make Kohler-level money, the fact is that no one ever gets rich (defined monetarily) working for someone else. There is always risk involved in potential reward. Businesses fail daily, more often than not because of problems running the business, not with the business’ product or service. But business does far, far, far more for this state than government ever has or ever will, something none of the likely Democrats running for governor, including Gronik, will ever acknowledge.

Nonetheless, be skeptical about Foxconn until the jobs show up.  (And preferably somewhere other than the southeastern part of the state, though that appears to be a done deal. Other parts of the state need the jobs more than southeastern Wisconsin.)


Trump, Congress and their critics

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D–New York) called on Republicans last week to fix ObamaCare in a bipartisan manner.

My opponent on Wisconsin Public Radio said the same thing about Republicans’ needing to be bipartisan on health care.

There is, of course, great hypocrisy and cynicism in the minority party’s asking the majority party to be bipartisan given that ObamaCare became disastrous law without one single Republican vote, and the passage of ObamaCare made the then-majority party the now-minority party.

Related is Ramesh Ponnuru‘s observation:

President Donald Trump’s critics view Republican congressmen as his enablers. James Fallows describes their behavior as the most discouraging weakness our governing system has shown since Trump took office. He singles out Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska for scorn, because “he leads all senators in his thoughtful, scholarly ‘concern’ about the norms Donald Trump is breaking — and then lines up and votes with Trump 95 percent of the time.”

Another journalist, Ron Brownstein, has written similarly. When various Republican senators objected to Trump’s attacks on MSNBC co-host Mika Brzezinski’s appearance, Brownstein asked what they intended to do about it. Other Trump foes echoed this critique: The Republicans’ stern words were empty.

Most of this criticism is unreasonable.

It fails, for one thing, to account for what the Republicans have done. That includes “mere” criticism, since words matter in politics. Some of those words — such as “we need to look to an independent commission or special prosecutor,” or “our intelligence committee needs to interview” Donald Trump Jr. — can have a fairly direct effect on what happens in Washington.

But it’s not just words. The Republican Congress held hearings about President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey. Most Republicans have supported sanctions on Russia the president opposes.

For the Republicans’ critics, these steps were the least they could do. But they weren’t. The Republicans could have, for example, not held hearings.

It’s unusual for senators to hold hearings into possible misconduct by 1) a president of their party 2) who is still fairly new in office and 3) supported by the vast majority of their voters. Perhaps the Republicans should have taken even more extraordinary action. But they’re falling pitifully short only if the baseline expectation is that they do whatever liberal journalists think it’s their duty to do.

And some things liberal journalists think it’s the Republicans’ duty to do make no sense. Take that 95 percent figure mentioned by Fallows. Was Senator Lindsey Graham really supposed to vote to keep regulations he considered unwise on the books because he opposes Vladimir Putin? Was Senator John McCain really supposed to vote against confirming Alex Acosta as labor secretary because the president tweets like a maladjusted 12-year-old?

When you complain about how often the senators vote with the president, that’s what you’re saying. Perhaps this is why the complaint is usually made by liberals, who would not want senators to be voting with President Marco Rubio or President John Kasich either.

Besides voting left, what would the Republicans’ critics have them do? Impeach the president? Not even Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, supports that.

“As evidence piles up pointing to the possibility that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, Republican lawmakers have largely ignored Democrats’ calls for urgent action and continued about their day jobs,” writes McKay Coppins. The urgent actions he mentions: holding more press conferences about investigations into Trump; voting with Democrats on some anti-Trump resolutions they devised last week; and “issuing subpoenas more aggressively.”

Maybe Republicans should subpoena some people they have not, although some specificity on who should get these subpoenas would be reassuring. I suspect that if the Republicans did issue more of them, the goalposts would just shift. The subpoenas, like the Comey hearings, would turn out not to count as “urgent action.”

None of this means that Republicans are doing all they can and should do to address the concerns that Trump’s presidency raises. Congressmen should, for example, be looking for ways to compel presidents to disclose their tax records, such disclosure being a useful norm that Trump has flouted.

But making a focused and reasonable demand and then building support for it is different from expecting congressional Republicans to sound like the opposition party.

What to pass

Kimberly Strassel:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at this point has busted pretty much every move in his effort to rally 50 votes for an Obama Care replacement. He’s listened. He’s negotiated. He’s encouraged. He’s cajoled. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Months later, still lacking a majority, the time has come for the Kentucky Republican to execute the final, clarifying move. It’s time for Mr. McConnell to make this all about his self-interested members.

Up to now, this exercise has been about trying to improve health care and the federal fisc. The House bill isn’t perfect—no bill ever is—but it amounts to the biggest entitlement reform in history. It repeals crushing taxes. It dramatically cuts spending. And it begins the process of stabilizing the individual health-care market and expanding consumer freedom.

None of this is good enough for a handful of senators, so now it’s time to make this exercise all about them. Mr. McConnell should make clear that the overwhelming majority of the Republican Party stands ready to make good on its repeal-and-replace campaign promise—and that it would have done so already were it not for a cynical or egotistic few. It’s time for some very public accountability.

That rests in Mr. McConnell giving his caucus a drop-dead date to broker a compromise, after which he will proceed to bring up the House bill. And any Republican who votes against moving forward, “a motion to proceed,” will forever be known as the Republican who saved ObamaCare. The Republican who voted to throw billions more taxpayer dollars at failing entitlement programs and collapsing insurance markets. The Republican who abandoned struggling American families. The Republican who voted against a tax cut and spending reductions. The Republican who made Chuck Schumer’s year.

And that’s only a short list of the real-world accountability. That vote might also provide home-state voters a new, eye-opening means to account for the character of their senators. Few things drive conservative voters battier than phony politicians, those who say one thing and do another to avoid hard choices.

Nearly every Senate Republican is on record having voted to repeal ObamaCare—back when they knew that President Obama’s veto made the vote consequence-free. And to be crystal clear, any senator who now votes against simply proceeding to debate is doing so for just one reason: To again avoid consequences, to again avoid accountability.

Because the good senators understand just how illuminating those votes would be. Under the Senate reconciliation process, anyone can offer endless amendments—with roll-call votes.

Voters would be able to see just how gigantic a Medicaid payoff Ohio’s Rob Portman, Nevada’s Dean Heller and West Virginia’s Shelley Moore Capito are demanding for their support. They’d watch supposed conservatives such as Tennessee’s Bob Corker vote against pro-growth tax cuts. They’d observe Utah’s Mike Lee offer up changes to ObamaCare mandates, muster not even a dozen votes, and realize how unpopular his position is. They’d witness Kentucky’s Rand Paul vote against all reform ideas—no matter how good—because they still weren’t good enough for Rand Paul.

They’d see Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski cynically vote against the very same repeal-only amendment she supported in 2015, back when it didn’t matter. They’d see South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham and Louisiana’s Bill Cassidy cast the only two votes for a bill they’ve been pushing—and confusing everyone with—for weeks.

Mr. McConnell can meanwhile count on a great deal of help in this accountability effort. Conservative grass-roots groups have tried to play a constructive role throughout this debate, but they have had it with Senate egos. They’re mobilizing to name names. The chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, Ralph Reed, sent a letter to every senator on Thursday, explaining that his group would be watching the voting and documenting any “no” votes on “tens of millions of congressional scorecards and voter guides to be distributed in 117,000 churches nationwide in 2018.”

A flood of other conservative outfits—the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks, Tea Party Patriots—are launching websites andTwitter campaigns to highlight holdouts. Some groups are planning primary challenges against those who refuse to debate a bill. The Murkowskis of the world may be hoping nobody will remember by the time they’re up for re-election, but they shouldn’t count on that.

What the Senate leadership most needs to stress these coming days is that senators who claim they can’t “support” debating a flawed bill are snowing voters. Don’t like the bill? Get it to the floor and offer amendments. But do it in the open. Do it with some accountability.

Maybe, finally under the public glare, Republicans will get their act together.

Start National Junk Food day with …

I will be on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Ideas Network’s Joy Cardin Week in Review segment today at 8 a.m.

As I keep saying, Joy Cardin and all the other Ideas Network programming can be heard on WLBL (930 AM) in Auburndale, WHID (88.1 FM) in Green Bay, WHWC (88.3 FM) in Menomonie, WRFW (88.7 FM) in River Falls, WEPS (88.9 FM) in Elgin, Ill., WHAA (89.1 FM) in Adams, WHBM (90.3 FM) in Park Falls, WHLA (90.3 FM) in La Crosse, WRST (90.3 FM) in Oshkosh, WHAD (90.7 FM) in Delafield, W215AQ (90.9 FM) in Middleton, KUWS (91.3 FM) in Superior, WHHI (91.3 FM) in Highland, WSHS (91.7 FM) in Sheboygan, WHDI (91.9 FM) in Sister Bay, WLBL (91.9 FM) in Wausau, W275AF (102.9 FM) in Ashland, W300BM (107.9 FM) in Madison, and of course online at

My opponent is former state Rep. Spencer Black (D–Madison), thus allowing me to indulge my loathing for my hometown.

This being public radio and a serious show, here is something you will not hear today, from Rick McNeal and Len Nelson of WAPL (105.7 FM) in Appleton, who each Friday morning present the Weenie of the Week (and sometimes second-place Cocktail Frank of the Week):

HELP! I’m having a hard time deciding who should be this week’s Rick and Len Show Weenie of the Week. Remember, to be WotW all you need is to do is to have donesomething “weenie-like” in Wisconsin or specifically affecting Wisconsin during the past week. This week we have six solid possibilities, so far, and I can’t make up my mind. What are your thoughts about which of the six should be our Weenie?

1. The captain who crashed his ship into the Ray Nitschke Bridge in Green Bay Sunday.
2. The still-at-large culprit who stole a rare Russian tortoise from the Menominee Park Zoo in Oshkosh.
3. The Manitowoc alderman who, after allegedly driving drunk, was arrested attempting to climb a 50 foot fiberglass cow.
4. The La Crosse man who called police to report the batch of meth he was sold was bad.
5. The Oshkosh man who reportedly broke into an Appleton home, drank their whiskey and ate their blueberry muffins before taking off his clothes and sleeping naked in the homeowners bed.
6. The reportedly drunk and stoned Manitowoc man who was standing naked in the street and allegedly threatening to “gut his neighbors with a knife” before having his facial and chest hair catch fire when police accidentally hit his cigarette lighter while attempting to taser him.

Your thoughts?

I posted that all six should be Weenies of the Week, not to give each Millennial-style participation trophies, but because each of the six by himself would deserve to be the WOTW. All six of these occurred in the same week. (Who do you call to report bad met, the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection?) It would be an offense against humanity if all six were not (dis)honored for their affronts to public decorum.

An inconvenient truth

James Delingpole reports what climate change hysteria is really all about:

Only the abolition of property rights can save us now from the horrors of ‘climate change’, argues an Australian academic.

Dr. Louise Crabtree, a researcher at the University of Western Sydney, makes her claim in a piece for the leftist academics’ favorite online watering hole, the Conversationtitled“Can Property Survive the Great Climate Transition?”

Her question is, of course, purely rhetorical. No, apparently, it can’t:

If our cities are to become more resilient and sustainable, our systems of property need to come along for the ride.


We might also need to start thinking about our claims not being static but dependent on the web of relationships we are entwined in, including with non-humans. Some say that First Peoples might have a grasp of property dynamics that is more suited to the times we are entering.

So, making cities green might be the easy part. It remains to be seen whether property law and property systems are up to the task of transition.

This might sound like obscure, pseudo-academic, sub-Marxist gobbledegook. As indeed it is.

It would be nice to console ourselves that this dangerous thesis was written by a left-wing research student of no account.

Unfortunately, as Eric Worrall points out at Watts Up With That? there are people who take this woman’s lunatic redistributionary jottings seriously.

Her bio may raise the question—are we actually paying for this?:

Louise was awarded her PhD in Human Geography from Macquarie University in 2007 and has been with Western Sydney University since 2007. Her research focuses on the social, ecological and economic sustainability of community-driven housing developments in Australia; on the uptake of housing innovation in practice and policy; on complex adaptive systems theory in urban contexts; and, on the interfaces between sustainability, property rights, institutional design and democracy. Her recent and ongoing projects focus on two practical areas funded by a series of competitive research grants—community land trusts and participatory mapping methodologies. Both are being used to simultaneously foster social innovation and equity outcomes on the ground, and explore and build theory on multi-stakeholder governance, decolonisation, property law, resilience and citizenship.

But the scary part is the last bit:

Louise’s work on resilience and governance in community housing was the basis for her receipt of the inaugural Housing Minister’s Award for Early Career Researchers in 2009; in announcing the award, the Hon. Tanya Plibersek described the work as ‘crucial’.

Yes, an actual minister in the Australian government once called this drivel “crucial.”

To most of us here, property rights are not negotiable, they’re one of the pillars of Western liberal democracy.

But to many members of the green movement including this “sustainability” expert Louise Crabtree, they are negotiable. Indeed, that’s what UN’s Agenda 21 is about—wealth redistribution and the erosion of property rights in the name of saving the planet.

Climate for these people is just the pretext. Really it is—and always has been—about global governance.

The irony, as P.J. O’Rourke pointed out in one of his books, is that the capitalist West has been much more environmentally responsible than the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact were. That requires an understanding of history, which apparently is unnecessary for the Gaia worshippers.


Impeach them all!

Back in May, opined:

To everything there is a season, the Bible and Pete Seeger told us. The season to impeach Donald Trump may come, or it may not. Trying to do it now would be like harvesting sweet corn before it’s ripe, yielding something stunted and indigestible.

But n0w, says:

Impeachment talk in the nation’s capital rose from a murmur to a dull roar in mid-May, thanks to a week jam-packed with Nixonesque “White House horrors.” On Tuesday, May 9, President Donald Trump summarily fired FBI director James Comey; on Thursday, Trump admitted the FBI investigation into “this Russia thing”—attempts to answer questions about his campaign’s links with Moscow—was a key reason for the firing; Friday found Trump warning Comey he’d “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations”; and the following Tuesday TheNew York Times reported the existence of a Comey memo on Trump’s efforts to get the FBI director to “let this go.” Along the way, Trump may have “jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State” while bragging to Russian diplomats about his “great intel,” according to TheWashington Post.

Still, the Beltway discussion of impeachment remained couched in euphemism, as if there was something vaguely profane and disreputable about the very idea. “The elephant in the room,” an NPR story observed, “is the big ‘I’ word—impeachment”; “the ‘I’ word that I think we should use right now is ‘investigation,'” House Judiciary Committee member Rep. Eric Swalwell (D–Calif.) told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

We don’t call it “the v-word” when the president signals he might veto a bill. Yet somehow, when it comes to the constitutional procedure for ejecting an unfit president, journalists and Congress members—grown-ups, ostensibly—are reduced to the political equivalent of “h-e-double-hockey-sticks.”

What’s really obscene is America’s record on presidential impeachments. We’ve made only three serious attempts in our entire constitutional history: Andrew Johnson in 1868, Bill Clinton in 1998—both of whom were impeached but escaped removal—and Richard Nixon, who quit in 1974 before the House could vote on the issue. Given how many bastards and clowns we’ve been saddled with over the years, shouldn’t we manage the feat more than once a century?

Well, the views were written by different writers. But Impeachm0ent Writer, the author of The Cult of the Presidency: America’s Devotion to Dangerous Executive Power goes on:

Impeachments “will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community, and to divide it into parties,” Alexander Hamilton predicted in the Federalist. That’s how it played out during our last national debate on the subject, during the Monica Lewinsky imbroglio of the late ’90s.

The specter of Bill Clinton’s removal from office for perjury and obstruction of justice drove legal academia to new heights of creativity. Scads of concerned law professors strained to come up with a definition of “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” narrow enough to let Bill slide. In a letter delivered to Congress as the impeachment debate began, over 430 of them warned that unless the House of Representatives wanted to “dangerously weaken the office of the presidency for the foreseeable future” (heaven forfend), the standard had to be “grossly heinous criminality or grossly derelict misuse of official power.”

Some of the academy’s leading lights, not previously known for devotion to original intent, proved themselves stricter than the strict constructionists and a good deal more original than the originalists. The impeachment remedy was so narrow, Cass Sunstein insisted, that if the president were to up and “murder someone simply because he does not like him,” it would make for a “hard case.” Quite so, echoed con-law superprof Laurence Tribe: An impeachable offense had to be “a grievous abuse of official power,” something that “severely threaten[s] the system of government.”

Just killing someone for sport might not count—after all, Tribe pointed out, when Vice President Aaron Burr left a gutshot Alexander Hamilton dying in Weehawken after their July 1804 duel, he got to serve the remaining months of his term without getting impeached. Still, Tribe generously allowed, in the modern era “there may well be room to argue” that a murdering president could be removed without grave damage to the Constitution.

In the unlikely event that Donald Trump orders one of his private bodyguards to whack Alec Baldwin, it’s a relief to know that Laurence Tribe will entertain the argument for impeachment. But does constitutional fidelity really require us to put up with anything short of “grievous,” “heinous,” existential threats to the body politic?

The Framers borrowed the mechanism from British practice, and there it wasn’t nearly so narrow. The first time the phrase appeared, apparently, was in the 1386 impeachment of the Earl of Suffolk, charged with misuse of public funds and negligence in “improvement of the realm.” The Nixon-era House Judiciary Committee staff report Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment described the English precedents as including “misapplication of funds, abuse of official power, neglect of duty, encroachment on Parliament’s prerogatives, [and] corruption and betrayal of trust.”

As Hamilton explained in the Federalist, “the true spirit of the institution” was “a method of national inquest into the conduct of public men,” the sort of inquiry that could “never be tied down by such strict rules…as in common cases serve to limit the discretion of courts.”

Among those testifying beside Sunstein and Tribe in 1998 was Northwestern’s John O. McGinnis, a genuine originalist, who argued that the Constitution’s impeachment provisions should be viewed in terms of the problem they were designed to address: “how to end the tenure of an officer whose conduct has seriously undermined his fitness for continued service and thus poses an unacceptable risk of injury to the republic.”

Contra Tribe, who’d compared impeachment to “capital punishment,” McGinnis pointed out that the constitutional penalties for unfitness—removal and possible disqualification from future office holding—went “just far enough,” and no further than necessary, “to remove the threat posed.” In light of the structure and purpose of impeachment, he argued, “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” should be understood, in modern lay language, roughly as “objective misconduct that seriously undermines the official’s fitness for office…measured by the risks, both practical and symbolic, that the officer poses to the republic.”

Today, even the president’s political enemies tend to set the bar far higher. Donald Trump has acted in a way that is “strategically incoherent,” “incompetent,” and “reckless,” Democratic leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi said in February, but “that is not grounds for impeachment.”

But incoherence, incompetence, and recklessness are evidence of unfitness, and when we’re talking about the nation’s most powerful office they can be as damaging as actual malice. It would be a pretty lousy constitutional architecture that only provided the means for ejecting the president if he’s a crook or a vegetable, but left us to muddle through anything in between.

Luckily, Pelosi is wrong: There is no constitutional barrier to impeaching a president who demonstrates gross incompetence or behavior that makes reasonable people worry about his proximity to nuclear weapons.

When Barack Obama was president, Trump once asked, “Are you allowed to impeach a president for gross incompetence?” Earlier this year, Daily Show viewers found that tweet funny enough to merit the “Greatest Trump Tweet of All Time” award. Still, it’s a valid question.

The conventional wisdom says no, largely on the basis of a snippet of legislative history from the Constitutional Convention. As James Madison’s notes recount, when Virginia’s George Mason moved to add “maladministration” to the Constitution’s impeachable offenses, Madison objected: “So vague a term will be equivalent to a tenure during pleasure of the Senate.” Mason yielded, substituting “other high crimes & misdemeanors.”

But the Convention debates were held in secret, and Madison’s notes weren’t published until half a century later. Furthermore, the language Mason substituted was understood from British practice to incorporate “maladministration.” Nor did Madison himself believe mismanagement and incompetence to be clearly off-limits, having described impeachment as the necessary remedy for “the incapacity, negligence, or perfidy of the chief Magistrate.”

Thus far, the Trump administration has been a rolling Fyre Festival of negligence and maladministration, from holding a nuclear strategy session with Japan’s prime minister in the crowded dining room of a golf resort to having the former head of Breitbart News draft immigration orders without the assistance of competent lawyers. Near as I can tell, James Comey’s verbal incontinence had a bigger impact on the 2016 election than Russian espionage, but liberals hold out hope for a “smoking gun” of collusion that’s unlikely ever to emerge. Meanwhile, the Trump administration was apparently clueless that firing the FBI director in the midst of the Russia investigation would be a big deal, and Trump himself was unaware that admitting he did it in hopes of quashing the inquiry was a stupid move.

As the Comey story emerged, pundits and lawbloggers debated whether, on the known facts, the president’s behavior would support a federal felony charge for obstruction of justice. But that’s the wrong standard. As the Nixon Impeachment Inquiry staff report pointed out: “the purpose of impeachment is not personal punishment. Its purpose is primarily to maintain constitutional government.” Even if, to borrow a phrase from Comey, “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring a charge of obstruction on these facts, the House is free to look at the president’s entire course of conduct and decide whether it reveals unfitness justifying impeachment.

The Nixon report identified three categories of misconduct held to be impeachable offenses in American constitutional history: “exceeding the constitutional bounds” of the office’s powers, using the office for “personal gain,” and, most important here, “behaving in a manner grossly incompatible with the proper function and purpose of the office.”

When Trump does something to spark cries of “this is not normal,” the behavior in question often involves his Twitter feed. The first calls to impeach Trump over a tweet came up in March, when the president charged, apparently without evidence, that Obama had his “wires tapped” in Trump Tower.

The tweet was an “abuse of power,” “harmful to democracy,” and potentially impeachable, Harvard Law’s Noah Feldman proclaimed: “He’s threatening somebody with the possibility of prosecution.” Laurence Tribe, of all people, agreed. Murder may have been a hard case, but slander? Easy call. Trump’s charge qualified “as an impeachable offense whether via tweet or not.”

I confess it wasn’t the utterly speculative threat to Barack Obama that disturbed me about Trump’s Twitter feed that day in March; it was that a mere two hours after lobbing that grenade, Trump turned to razzing Arnold Schwarzenegger for his “pathetic” ratings as host of Celebrity Apprentice. The Watergate tapes exposed much more than a simple abuse of power. They revealed a fragile, petty, paranoid personality of the sort you’d be loath to entrust with the vast authority of the presidency. And Nixon didn’t imagine that the whole world would be listening. Trump’s Twitter feed is like having the Nixon tapes running in real time over social media, with the president desperate for an even bigger audience.

As it happens, there’s precedent for impeaching a president for bizarre behavior and “conduct unbecoming” in his public communications. The impeachment of Andrew Johnson gets a bad rap, in part because most of the charges against him really were bogus. The bulk of the articles of impeachment rested on Johnson’s violation of the Tenure of Office Act, a measure of dubious constitutionality that barred the president from removing Cabinet officers without Senate approval.

But the 10th article of impeachment against Johnson, based on different grounds, has gotten less coverage. It charged the president with “a high misdemeanor in office” based on a series of “intemperate, inflammatory, and scandalous harangues” against Congress. In a series of speeches in the summer of 1866, Johnson had accused Congress of, among other things, “undertak[ing] to poison the minds of the American people” and having “substantially planned” a race riot in New Orleans that July. Such remarks, according to Article X, were “peculiarly indecent and unbecoming in the Chief Magistrate” and brought his office “into contempt, ridicule and disgrace.”

From a 21st century vantage point, the idea of impeaching the president for insulting Congress seems odd, to say the least. But as Jeffrey Tulis explained in his seminal work The Rhetorical Presidency, “Johnson’s popular rhetoric violated virtually all of the nineteenth-century norms” surrounding presidential oratory. Johnson stood “as the stark exception to general practice in that century, so demagogic in his appeals to the people” that he resembled “a parody of popular leadership.” The charge, approved by the House but not voted on in the Senate, was controversial at the time, but besides skepticism about whether it reached the level of a high misdemeanor, “the only other argument offered by congressmen in Johnson’s defense was that he was not drunk when giving the speeches.”

It’s impressive that Trump—a teetotaler—manages to pull off his “peculiar indecencies” while stone cold sober. Since his election, Trump has used Twitter to rail against restaurant reviews, Saturday Night Live skits, “so-called judges,” and America’s nuclear-armed rivals. The month before his inauguration, apropos of nothing, Trump announced via the social network that the U.S. “must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability,” following up the next day on Morning Joe with “we will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”

As Charles Fried, Reagan’s solicitor general, observed, “there are no lines for him…no notion of, this is inappropriate, this is indecent, this is unpresidential.” If the standard is “unacceptable risk of injury to the republic,” such behavior just may be impeachable. An impeachment on those grounds wouldn’t just remove a bad president from office; it would set a precedent that might keep future leaders in line.

If Trump is impeached, the next Democratic president unfortunate enough to have a Republican Congress surely will be impeached too. (Barack Obama should have been removed from office for Cash for Clunkers.) No president, of course, has ever been removed from office by Congressional vote following an impeachment trial.

The opposing view comes in one of the comments:

The problem isn’t Donald Trump. We have elections every four years – THAT’S how we get rid of “dangerous” presidents.

We have a Constitution with co-equal branches of government. We have a Bill of Rights.

The libertarian position is to get back to limited government so NO president can be dangerous.


There are none so deaf as those who will not listen

Matt Vespa:

Whether the Left realizes it or not, their favorite publications have been writing somewhat extensively how they can reverse their political fortunes. Seriously, in some cases, like The New York Times and Washington Post, they’ve all but constructed a massive banner explaining what needs to be done for 2018 and beyond: reclaim white working class voters. Yes, Democrats need to flip the very voters who rejected them in 2016 in order to retake Congress and the presidency. This is no easy task. Structurally, the party apparatuses in rural America have all but collapsed. There is no infrastructure. There are no candidates; the GOP rules supreme. In Appalachia, once a bastion of Democratic Party support, Hillary Clinton only won 21 of the 490 counties that dot the region—and those 21 counties broke for her for one simple reason: college campuses.

Yet, Franklin Foer of The Atlantichad a lengthy piece in their July-August edition, which analyzed the Democratic Party’s issues with white voter outreach, along with explicitly stating how winning them back is essential for the party’s future. There are some hard truths that he lays out for the archetypal liberal. Yes, Barack Obama won twice, but his party was utterly decimated in eight years. There are 1,000 fewer Democrats in office at all levels than there were in 2008-09. The GOP control Congress, the White House, 69/99 state legislatures, and two-thirds of the governorships. They are the dominant political force in the country. The notion of a permanent Democratic majority that was all the rage post-2008 was shattered by 2010. It may have received new life in 2012, but with Trump’s win—the Left is still reeling from such a stinging defeat.

Foer wrote that the Democrats have a huge division over the direction of the party concerning race and class. You have the landed urban professional elite that shuns white voters and adheres to identity politics. The other is the economic left, those who rail against big banks, rigged market systems, and elites who lobby and push for economic policy that usually ends up hurting the middle and working classes. There may be wings of comparable size within the Democratic Party, but the big wigs that are running the show right now are those who latch onto Black Lives Matter, transgender bathrooms, speech codes, safe spaces, and lectures about white privilege; a nicely packaged way for the Left to tell someone to shut up when they say something they disagree with. Yes, we’re dealing with eight-year-olds in many ways. The anti-law enforcement sentiment to appease communities of color is popular in these concrete bastions, but outside the beltways, law enforcement is one of the few jobs left where the non-college educated can find employment with a decent salary and good benefits. As Joan Williams wrote in Harvard Business Review, bashing police, along with other disparaging remarks about Middle America, comes off as one thing to rural Americans: it’s still okay to mock and denigrate those of a lesser economic class. That’s been a hotbed for resentment between the two Americas, or as Chris Arnade of The Guardian put it, the front row and the back row.

Maybe for a while Democrats did not know that their issue with white working class voters would be an issue due to Obama’s wins, but 2016 exposed a lot. Besides being a terrible campaigner, the Clinton operation rarely, if ever, reached out to working class whites. She wanted to copy Obama by winning the cosmopolitan coalition he built, but there were a few issues. One of them was the intense anti-elite sentiment that Clinton never really seemed interested in addressing. Millennials and a healthy number of young blacks were not fans of Hillary. Meanwhile, Trump was killing it with working class whites. As Foer noted, Clinton doubled down in trying to win over the urban elite to offset Trump’s gains with rural voters. In fact, Foer notes in his passages about the Clinton train wreck how ignoring a massive bloc of voters is an immensely stupid campaign strategy. Also, there was one person who knew the dangers of ignoring the white working class: Bill Clinton.

Bill Clinton had a premonition of how things could go very wrong. He revealed his foreboding—perhaps fittingly—at fund-raising events. He would hint at what he considered his wife’s glaring vulnerability: the roiling discontent of the white working class. The travails of the group—44 percent of eligible voters—preoccupied him.


Some in Clinton’s camp could clearly see that a large chunk of the country seethed against elites, yet the candidate could never quite understand the need to insulate herself from the ire, much less harness it.


…it was the mélange of minorities, Millennials, and white professionals that provided the basis for the so-called Obama coalition. And if Clinton had carried over any lesson from the 2008 race, it was the necessity of mimicking Obama’s tactics and methods, even if she sometimes produced only ersatz copies of them.


By the spring of 2016, one top Clinton adviser explained to me, the campaign’s own polling showed that white voters without a college degree despised Clinton. The extent of their loathing was surprising—she polled far worse with them than Obama ever had, especially in states like Ohio and Iowa. Trump compounded her challenge. From the moment he announced his candidacy, he aimed his message at the white working class. He pursued that group with steadfastness. The threat that he might capture an unusually large chunk of it persuaded Clinton to pursue professionals with even greater intensity in an attempt to offset Trump’s potential gains.

With hindsight, it’s possible to see the risks of her strategy. Her campaign theorized that dentists, accountants, and middle managers needed to fully understand how Donald Trump surrounded himself with bigots and anti-Semites. “From the start,” she argued in a sharply worded speech in August, “Donald Trump has built his campaign on prejudice and paranoia.” Her campaign ads against Trump emphasized his misogyny. The attacks highlighted Trump’s greatest weakness, but also played to his greatest strength. Trump had spent the entirety of his campaign trying to foment a culture war, and Clinton zealously joined it.

The end result would be focusing more on what Trump said in the past and present than beefing up a winning economic message. In the end, more people felt that Clinton cared more about transgender bathrooms than jobs, along with 42 percent of voters who voted for Obama but flipped for Trump supporting the Republicans because the felt the Democratic agenda favored the wealthy. For a liberal, that’s an epic failure in messaging—and one that’s usually a slam-dunk for the Left: We’re for you little people and the GOP is only for the wealthy. Well, her Wall Street ties undercut that a bit.

Foer added that unlike Clinton, Obama conducted excellent voter outreach, enough for him to win twice. MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough brought this up as well, the notion that reaching out to these people to reduce a drumming in the red districts was key. Instead of losing by 40 points, you lost by 20. That difference, coupled with winning the urban areas, is how Obama won his elections. He didn’t win white working class voters, but he did well enough where the score wasn’t run up in the way Clinton endured in 2016. Trump won rural voters by a three-to-one margin, if it was two-to-one—the election would have been different. He joined Stanley Greenberg who conducted focus groups for Democrats in Macomb County, Wisconsin, where Stanley Greenberg has been hosting focus groups for years. Besides the changing of racial attitudes in the region, which you can read on your own time, Greenberg points out something that should give the GOP some pause. These Trump voters are shiftable, and they’re not happy that President Trump is stacking some positions with Wall Street folks. At the same time, Foer recognizes how bad the Democrat’s have played the populism game:

The focus groups were designed to probe for weakness in Trumpism, to test lines of attack that might neutralize his appeal. Once Greenberg has earned a room’s trust, he introduces new ideas to it. His moderator asked the subjects whether it worried them that Trump had stocked his administration with Wall Street chieftains. That piece of news, it seemed, hadn’t traveled widely in Macomb, and it consistently rattled the groups. “It’s going to be a lot of the same old garbage,” one man groused. Concerns about Trump’s temperament did nothing to dislodge the participants’ support—the connection these voters felt with Trump was personal and deep—but the fact that he might align with traditional Republicans annoyed them to no end. (The groups reacted angrily when shown photos of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. People described them as “shifty” and “for the upper class.”) What many Macomb voters value about Trump is that he represents an unaligned force in American politics.

The spectacle of Democratic elites flagellating themselves for their growing distance from these voters has the whiff of the comic—the office-tower anthropologists seeking to understand Appalachia from their Kindles. But there’s another way of putting the problem. If the stagnation of the middle class and the self-reinforcing advantages of the rich are among the largest issues of our time, the Democrats have done a bad job of attuning themselves to them. The party that has prided itself on representing regular people has struggled to make a dent in the problem—and at times has given the impression of indifference to it. A healthy republic can’t afford for a seething populace to fall deeper into its hostilities.

Foer then discusses the future of the Democratic Party, the obstacles facing their road out of the political wilderness, and the 2020 election, where he describes Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) as those who a) might run; and b) are emblematic of the two wings that appear to be growing closer to all-out war.

There are in fact two different lefts in bloom today, with differing understandings of American politics. One strain practices what its detractors call identity politics—it exists to combat the bias and discrimination that it believes is built into the system. What it seeks isn’t just the protection of minorities’ and women’s rights, but the validation of minorities and women in the eyes of the national culture, which it believes has marginalized them.

The cultural left was on the rise for much of the Obama era (and arguably, with the notable exception of Bill Clinton’s presidency, for much longer). It squares, for the most part, with the worldview of socially liberal whites, and is given wind by the idea that demography is destiny. It has a theory of the electorate that suits its interests: It wants the party to focus its attentions on Texas and Arizona—states that have growing percentages of Latinos and large pockets of suburban professionals. (These states are also said to represent an opportunity because the party has failed to maximize nonwhite turnout there.) It celebrates the openness and interdependence embodied in both globalization and multiculturalism.

For Booker, he’s almost a carbon copy of Obama, albeit the discount version. Foer added the New Jersey senator has no problems with identity politics, but balances that out with his defense of Wall Street and Big Pharma.  He’s for criminal justice reform, disconcerted about the mass incarceration issue, and said that he would take his message to the most urban parts of America to the reddest—and whitest—parts of the country.

For Warren, Foer added she wasn’t a college radical attending protests, was a Republican, left the GOP when she found they weren’t faithful to the market system. It’s here that according to Foer, Warren splits with Sanders; she’s not a democratic socialist, nor is wealth redistribution a top ten-policy item.

Rather, Warren is most focused on the concept of fairness. A course she taught early in her career as a law professor, on contracts, got her thinking about the subject. (Fairness, after all, is a contract’s fundamental purpose.) A raw, moralistic conception of fairness—that people shouldn’t get screwed—would become the basis for her crusading. Although she shares Bernie Sanders’s contempt for Wall Street, she doesn’t share his democratic socialism. “I love markets—I believe in markets!” she told me. What drives her to rage is when bankers conspire with government regulators to subvert markets and rig the game.


At the core of Warren’s populism is a phobia of concentrated economic power, an anger over how big banks and big businesses exploit Washington to further their own interests at the expense of ordinary people. This fear of gigantism is a storied American tradition, descended from Thomas Jefferson, even if it hasn’t recently gotten much airtime within the Democratic Party. It justifies itself in the language of individualism—rights, liberty, freedom—not communal obligation.

Now, she also is a fake Indian, who became known within GOP circles for being the influencer for Obama’s “you didn’t build that” remarks at a speech in Roanoke, Virginia during the 2012 campaign. She may like markets, but the tax policy put in place would torpedo job creation and growth. Then again, the “phobia of concentrated economic power” is the type of mindset that’s needed to flip these Trump voters, most of whom are not die-hard Republicans.

Whatever the case, Foer sums up his article nicely with a call for Democrats to re-embrace populism, show empathy to those with whom they have deep disagreements, and realize that the so-called permanent Democratic majority never existed. In other words, be more humble, than the insufferably smug dispatches from the liberal bubbles that infest America’s cities. I disagree that there are any permanent majorities in our politics, public opinion changes often, but what should be gleaned from this is that Democrats have an elitism problem. They view those who do not agree with them as bigots, racists, sexists, or misogynists. There is a prevailing notion within progressive circles that perhaps they’re not out of touch, it’s just that the rest of the country is wrong. Well, you have folks saying otherwise.

To win again, the Democrats don’t need to adopt an alien agenda or back away from policies aimed at racial justice. But their leaders would be well advised to change their rhetorical priorities and more directly address the country’s bastions of gloom. The party has been crushed—not just in the recent presidential election, but in countless down-ballot elections—by its failure to develop a message that can resonate with people beyond the core members of the Obama coalition, and by its unwillingness to blare its hostility to crony capitalism.

The makings of a Democratic majority are real. Demographic advantages will continue to accrue to the left. The party needs only to add to its coalition on the margins and in the right patches on the map. Doing that does not require the abandonment of any moral principles; persuasion is a different category of political activity from pandering. A decent liberalism, not to mention a savvy party, shouldn’t struggle to accord dignity and respect to citizens, even if it believes some of them hold abhorrent views.

Victories in the culture wars of the past decade seemed to come so easily to liberals that they created a measure of complacency, as if those wars had been won with little cost. In actuality, the losers seethed. If the Democrats intend to win elections in 2018, 2020, and beyond, they require a hardheaded realism about the country that they have recently lacked—about the perils of income stagnation, the difficulties of moving the country to a multicultural future, the prevalence of unreason and ire. For a Democratic majority to ultimately emerge, the party needs to come to terms with the fact that it hasn’t yet arrived.

Fareed Zakaria echoed this notion about the cultural divide and how Democrats need to understand that white working class voters not only matter, but also have worth and are dealing with issues that are of equal standing in politics. Instead, we get these articles from Slate, in which the author of the article that deals with how to not be condescending to Trump voters, proceeds to call Trump a racist scam artist. The subject being interviewed is Joan Williams, the woman who noted how condescending liberals have become regarding the working class. Also, even lefty Michael Moore noted how racism played no part here. Millions of voters who back Obama (in some cases twice), flipped for Trump. As Moore noted, they voted for a man with “Hussein” as a middle name; this isn’t racism. Nevertheless, we still get questions like this:

If we have a country where 46 percent of people are willing to vote for a racist—again, I get the political strategy of not wanting to say to everyone, “you’re a racist,” but how are we supposed to talk about that? How are we supposed to think about that?

Gee—and you wonder why the Left keeps losing elections. The road to the majority will probably not occur in 2018. Democrats simply don’t have good candidates. The farm system they used to orchestrate their 2006 and 2008 campaigns has collapsed. They need to win red districts to retake the House, and even with high Democratic turnout, that’s not enough to win, as we saw the Jon Ossoff in Georgia’s sixth congressional race. Suburban districts are key too, but there are not enough of them to win, plus while Democrats faun over the 23 or so House districts that have a GOP representative, but voted for Clinton in 2016—Democrats have 12 races in areas that Trump won. Third Way, a center-left think tank, probably offered the most brutal assessment. Besides noting the differences between the various suburban districts, they noted that even if the Democrats were able to turnout every 2016 Clinton voter who backed a Republican congressional candidate for the 2018 midterms and had them flip, it wouldn’t be enough to win the House. This is going to be a long road, but one that centers on a huge segment of the population that’s anathema to the Left.

Hillary Clinton’s “Deplorables” comment is the gift that will keep on giving to the GOP for years. Are Democrats too stupid or arrogant to apologize to voters?


The sun sets in the east

The New Yorker manages to leave out the New Yorker snark in going to a Colorado political rally:

On January 20th, nearly two hundred people attended the Mesa County Republican Women’s DeploraBall. They watched a live feed of the Presidential Inaugural Ball, and they took photographs of one another next to cardboard cutouts of Donald Trump and Ronald Reagan, which had been arranged on the mezzanine of the Avalon Theatre. The theatre has an elegant Romanesque Revival façade, and it was built in the twenties, during one of the periodic resource-extraction booms that have shaped the city and its psyche. Grand Junction, with its surrounding area, has a population of some hundred and fifty thousand, and it sits in a wide, windswept valley. There are dry mountains and mesas on all sides, and the landscape gives the town a self-contained feel. Even its history revolves around events that were suffered alone. Residents often refer to their own “Black Sunday,” a date that’s meaningless anywhere else: May 2, 1982, when Exxon decided to abandon an enormous oil-shale project, with devastating effects on Grand Junction’s economy.

The region is a Republican stronghold in a state that is starkly divided. Clinton won the Colorado popular vote by a modest margin, but Trump took nearly twice as many counties. The difference came from Denver and Boulder, two populous and liberal enclaves on the Front Range, the eastern side of the Rockies—the Colorado equivalents of New York and California. “Donald Trump lost those two counties by two hundred and seventy-three thousand votes, and he won the rest of the state by a hundred and forty thousand votes,” Steve House, the former chair of the state Republican Party, told me. “That means that most of Colorado, in my mind, is a conservative state.”

It also means that Colorado’s economy and culture change dramatically from the Front Range to the Western Slope, on the other side of the Continental Divide. Between 2010 and 2015, the Front Range experienced ninety-six per cent of Colorado’s population growth, and the state’s unemployment rate is only 2.3 per cent. But Grand Junction lost eleven per cent of its workforce between 2009 and 2014, in part because the local energy industry collapsed in the wake of the worldwide drop in gas prices. Average annual family earnings are around ten thousand dollars less than the state figure.

Most Grand Junction Republicans initially supported Ted Cruz, and, in August, 2016, after Trump won the nomination, a young first vice-chair of the county Party named Michael Lentz resigned. Lentz decided that advocating for Trump would contradict his Christian faith; he was particularly bothered by Trump’s attacks on immigrants and on the press. “I spent a month trying to come to grips with it, but I couldn’t,” Lentz told me.

In October, Matt Patterson, who grew up in Grand Junction but now lives in Washington, D.C., returned to his home town to serve as the Party’s regional field director for the Presidential campaign. He lasted for four days. This was shortly after the “Access Hollywood” tape was leaked, and Patterson’s first act as field director was to propose that the Party hold a Women for Trump rally. But the county chairman refused. “His exact words were, ‘That’s picking a fight we can’t win,’ ” Patterson told me. He quit the campaign and organized the rally on his own. In his estimation, most Republicans would find Trump’s comments repugnant, but they would be even more resentful of the coastal media that was pushing the story.

The Women for Trump rally was a local turning point. More than a hundred people showed up, and it galvanized a group of activists. Like other grassroots supporters across the country, they named themselves after Hillary Clinton’s comment that half of Trump’s adherents were racists, sexists, and others who belonged in a “basket of deplorables.” The Deplorables’ approach to the election was fiercely unapologetic. Karen Kulp told me that Trump wasn’t racist; he was simply calling for immigrants to be held accountable to the law. She said she would never support a hateful candidate, because her childhood contact with extremist groups had made her sensitive to such issues.

For Kulp, who is in her mid-sixties and describes her income as limited, the campaign was empowering. Like many in Grand Junction, she believed that Trump would kick-start the local energy industry by reducing regulations. She told me that she had never shaken the sense that the country is under threat. “I think America is lost to us,” she said. “Because of the way I was raised, that is baggage that I will have for the rest of my life.” The Deplorables funded their own activities, and they pooled money in order to buy Trump shirts, hats, and buttons from Amazon, because the official campaign provided almost nothing. “I made about a dozen Amazon orders,” Kulp said, at the DeploraBall. “Every shirt you see here tonight, I bought.”

At the Avalon, the crowd fell silent while a woman prayed: “Thank you for giving us a President who will, with your help, restore this nation to her former glory, the way you created her.” Less than two weeks later, the Deplorables effectively took over the county Republican leadership, with members winning three positions, including the chair. Others looked farther afield. “If Trump won Wisconsin, he could have won Colorado,” Patterson told me. “The issues were here—immigration and energy.” He believed that without the infighting of the last campaign they could do better. In 2018, there will be an election to replace John Hickenlooper, the Democratic Colorado governor, who will vacate his seat because of term limits. At the DeploraBall, Patterson told me that the Republicans can win the governorship and then, two years later, deliver Colorado to Trump. He said, “We’re going to start on the Western Slope and do a sweep east and color it red.”

Like many parts of America that strongly supported Trump, Grand Junction is a rural place with problems that have traditionally been associated with urban areas. In the past three years, felony filings have increased by nearly sixty-five per cent, and there are more than twice as many open homicide cases as there were a decade ago. There’s an epidemic of drug addiction and also of suicide: residents of Mesa County kill themselves at a rate that’s nearly two and a half times that of the nation. Some of this is tied to economic problems, but there’s also an issue of perception. The decrease in gas drilling weighs heavily on the minds of locals, although few people seem to realize that the energy industry now represents less than three per cent of local employment. They’ve been slow to embrace other sectors, such as health care and education, which seem to have more potential for future growth.

During the campaign, Trump’s descriptions of inner-city crime and hopelessness often seemed cartoonish to urban residents, but not to rural voters—in Mesa County, Trump won nearly sixty-five per cent of the vote. Pueblo, another large rural Colorado county, has a steel industry that’s been on the wane since the nineteen-eighties. Its county seat now has the state’s highest homicide rate, and last election the county switched from blue to red. Far from Denver and Boulder, there are many places where an atmosphere of decline has lasted for two or more generations, leaving a profound impact on the outlook of young people. Matt Patterson told me that as a boy he had always hoped to escape his home town. In 1985, when he was twelve, almost fifteen per cent of the homes in Grand Junction were vacant, because of the effects of Black Sunday. …

Having acquired his G.E.D., he enrolled in classes at the University of Miami. The quality of Patterson’s writing impressed an instructor, who persuaded him to apply to Columbia. The year that Patterson turned thirty, he became an Ivy League freshman. He majored in classics. Every night, he translated four hundred lines of ancient Greek and Latin. In class, he often argued with professors and students.

“The default view seemed to be that Western civilization is inherently bad,” he told me. In one history seminar, when students discussed the evils of the Western slave trade, Patterson pointed out that many cultures had practiced slavery, but that nobody decided to eradicate it until individuals in the West took up the cause. The class booed him. In Patterson’s opinion, most people at Columbia believed that only liberal views were legitimate, whereas his experiences in Grand Junction, and his textbook lessons from magic, indicated otherwise. (“States of mind are no different than feats of manual dexterity. Both can be learned through patience and diligence.”)

“Look, I’m a high-school dropout who went to an Ivy League school,” Patterson said. “I’ve seen both sides. The people at Columbia are not smarter.” He continued, “I went to Columbia at the height of the Iraq War. There were really legitimate arguments against going into Iraq. But I found that the really good arguments against going were made by William F. Buckley, Bob Novak, and Pat Buchanan. What I saw on the left was all slogans and group thought and clichés.”

Patterson graduated with honors and a reinvigorated sense of political conviction. For the past seven years, he’s worked for conservative nonprofit organizations, most recently in anti-union activism. In 2013, the United Auto Workers tried to unionize a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, where Patterson demonstrated a knack for billboards and catchphrases. On one sign, he paired a photograph of a hollowed-out Packard plant with the words “Detroit: Brought to You by the UAW.” Another billboard said “United Auto Workers,” with the word “Auto” crossed out and replaced by “Obama,” written in red.

In Patterson’s opinion, such issues are cultural and emotional as much as economic. He believes that unions once served a critical function in American industry, but that the leadership, like that of the Democratic Party, has drifted too far from its base. Union heads back liberal candidates such as Obama and Clinton while dues-paying members tend to hold very different views. Patterson also thinks that free trade, which he once embraced as a conservative, has damaged American industries, and he now supports some more protectionist measures. His message resonated in Chattanooga, where, in 2014, workers delivered a stinging defeat to the U.A.W. Since then, Patterson has continued his advocacy in communities across the country, under the auspices of Americans for Tax Reform, which was founded by the conservative advocate Grover Norquist. “So now I bust unions for Grover Norquist with a classics degree and as a former magician,” he told me. …

Last October, three weeks before the election, Donald Trump visited Grand Junction for a rally in an airport hangar. Along with other members of the press, I was escorted into a pen near the back, where a metal fence separated us from the crowd. At that time, some prominent polls showed Clinton leading by more than ten percentage points, and Trump often claimed that the election might be rigged. During the rally he said, “There’s a voter fraud also with the media, because they so poison the minds of the people by writing false stories.” He pointed in our direction, describing us as “criminals,” among other things: “They’re lying, they’re cheating, they’re stealing! They’re doing everything, these people right back here!”

The attacks came every few minutes, and they served as a kind of tether to the speech. The material could have drifted off into abstraction—e-mails, Benghazi, the Washington swamp. But every time Trump pointed at the media, the crowd turned, and by the end people were screaming and cursing at us. One man tried to climb over the barrier, and security guards had to drag him away.

Such behavior is out of character for residents of rural Colorado, where politeness and public decency are highly valued. Erin McIntyre, a Grand Junction native who works for the Daily Sentinel, the local paper, stood in the crowd, where the people around her screamed at the journalists: “Lock them up!” “Hang them all!” “Electric chair!” Afterward, McIntyre posted a description of the event on Facebook. “I thought I knew Mesa County,” she wrote. “That’s not what I saw yesterday. And it scared me.”

Before Trump took office, people I met in Grand Junction emphasized pragmatic reasons for supporting him. The economy was in trouble, and Trump was a businessman who knew how to make rational, profit-oriented decisions. Supporters almost always complained about some aspect of his character, but they also believed that these flaws were likely to help him succeed in Washington. “I’m not voting for him to be my pastor,” Kathy Rehberg, a local real-estate agent, said. “I’m voting for him to be President. If I have rats in my basement, I’m going to try to find the best rat killer out there. I don’t care if he’s ugly or if he’s sociable. All I care about is if he kills rats.” …

After the turbulent first two months of the Administration, I met again with Kathy Rehberg and her husband, Ron. They were satisfied with Trump’s performance, and their complaints about his behavior were mild. “I think some of it is funny, how he doesn’t let people push him around,” Ron Rehberg said. Over time, such remarks became more common. “I hate to say it, but I wake up in the morning looking forward to what else is coming,” Ray Scott, a Republican state senator who had campaigned for Trump, told me in June. One lawyer said bluntly, “I get a kick in the ass out of him.” The calculus seemed to have shifted: Trump’s negative qualities, which once had been described as a means to an end, now had value of their own. The point wasn’t necessarily to get things done; it was to retaliate against the media and other enemies. This had always seemed fundamental to Trump’s appeal, but people had been less likely to express it so starkly before he entered office. “For those of us who believe that the media has been corrupt for a lot of years, it’s a way of poking at the jellyfish,” Karen Kulp told me in late April. “Just to make them mad.”

In Grand Junction, people wanted Trump to accomplish certain things with the pragmatism of a businessman, but they also wanted him to make them feel a certain way. The assumption has always been that, while emotional appeal might have mattered during the campaign, the practical impact of a Trump Presidency would prove more important. Liberals claimed that Trump would fail because his policies would hurt the people who had voted for him.

But the lack of legislative accomplishment seems only to make supporters take more satisfaction in Trump’s behavior. And thus far the President’s tone, rather than his policies, has had the greatest impact on Grand Junction. This was evident even before the election, with the behavior of supporters at the candidate’s rally, the conflicts within the local Republican Party, and an increased distrust of anything having to do with government. Sheila Reiner, a Republican who serves as the county clerk, said that during the campaign she had dealt with many allegations of fraud following Trump’s claims that the election could be rigged. “People came in and said, ‘I want to see where you’re tearing up the ballots!’ ” Reiner told me. Reiner and her staff gave at least twenty impromptu tours of their office, in an attempt to convince voters that the Republican county clerk wasn’t trying to throw the election to Clinton.

The Daily Sentinel publishes editorials from both the right and the left, and it didn’t endorse a Presidential candidate. But supporters picked up on Trump’s obsession with crowd size, repeatedly accusing the Sentinel of underestimating attendance at rallies. The paper ran a story about vandalism of political signs, with examples given from both campaigns, but readers were outraged that the photograph featured only a torn Clinton banner. The Sentinel immediately ran a second article with a photograph of a vandalized Trump sign. When Erin McIntyre described the Grand Junction rally on Facebook, online attacks by Trump supporters were so vicious that she feared for her safety. After three days, she deleted the post.

In February, a bill that was intended to give journalists better access to government records was introduced in a Colorado senate committee, which was chaired by Ray Scott, a Republican. The process was delayed for unknown reasons, and the Sentinel published an editorial with a mild prompt: “We call on our own Sen. Scott to announce a new committee hearing date and move this bill forward.” Scott responded with a series of Trump-style tweets. “We have our own fake news in Grand Junction,” he wrote. “The very liberal GJ Sentinel is attempting to apply pressure for me to move a bill.”

Jay Seaton, the Sentinel’s publisher, threatened to sue Scott for defamation. In an editorial, he wrote, “When a state senator accused The Sentinel of being fake news, he was deliberately attempting to delegitimize a credible news source in order to avoid being held accountable by it.” The Huffington Post and other national outlets mentioned the spat. When I met with Scott, he seemed pleased by the attention. A burly, friendly man who works as a contractor, he told me, “I was kind of Trumpish before Trump was cool.”

“We used to just take it on the chin if somebody said something about us,” he said. “The fake-news thing became the popular thing to say, because of Trump.” He believed that Trump has performed a service by popularizing the term. “I’ve seen journalists like yourself doing a better job,” Scott told me. He’s considering a run for governor, in part because of Trump’s example. “People are looking for something different,” he said. “They’re looking for somebody who means what they say.”

In late February, shortly after the exchange between Scott and Seaton, an entrepreneur named Tyler Riehl started a campaign against the Sentinel. He wrote on Facebook, “If I’ve learned one thing from Donald Trump’s election it’s that we can ignore the political pundits telling us we must play nice with the press—even when they’re crooked and dishonest.” Riehl announced a five-hundred-dollar reward for anybody exposing “local media malfeasance,” and he fashioned a hundred newspaper delivery boxes decorated with a “Ghostbusters”-style icon that read, “fake news.” Riehl distributed the boxes at a rally called Toast for Trump, which was dutifully covered by the Sentinel, along with a fact-checked head count (a hundred and twenty).

In Grand Junction, I learned to suspend any customary assumptions regarding political identity. I encountered countless strong working women, some of whom believed in abortion rights, who had voted for Trump. Cultural cues could be misleading: I interviewed one gentle, hippieish Trump voter who wore his gray hair in a ponytail. An experience like leaving a small town for an Ivy League college, which might lead some people to embrace more liberal ideas, could inspire in others a deeper conservatism. And so I wasn’t entirely surprised to learn that Tyler Riehl, like me, was a former Peace Corps volunteer.

He had served in Slovakia. “Every time you get to look at how somebody else lives, it gives you perspective that’s useful,” Riehl told me. In 2000, he was sent to a village in eastern Slovakia, where he advocated for bicyclists’ rights. Riehl told me that living in a post-Communist society strengthened his appreciation for freedom, truth, and the virtues of small government. Now he was applying that idealism to his current campaign. “I do unequivocally state that the Sentinel is full of fake news,” he said. …

We were at a coffee shop, and Patterson wore his goth look: silver jewelry, painted nails. “I’ve never been this emotionally invested in a political leader in my life,” he said. “The more they hate him, the more I want him to succeed. Because what they hate about him is what they hate about me.” ♦

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