Almost half of Republicans want war with North Korea, a new poll says. Is it the Trump Effect?

Aaron Blake writes: There was a pretty striking finding in Thursday’s Quinnipiac University poll: Fully 46 percent of Republicans — a plurality — said they would support a preemptive strike against North Korea.

That’s nearly half of President Trump’s party that is ready for war — today — with Kim Jong Un, his nuclear weapons and all. (Forty-one percent said they opposed a preemptive strike.)

It’s no surprise that Republicans are more hawkish on this than Democrats are; that’s generally the case on foreign policy. But basically nobody is talking about the prospect of a strike right now. Even when Trump talks about it, he’s responding to North Korea threatening the United States or its allies.

Yet it also seems possible that Trump’s ramped-up rhetoric on this could be having an effect on his base. Trump in August promised “fire and fury” if North Korea ran afoul of him. Last month, he threatened in his speech at the United Nations to “totally destroy” the country — a threat that seemed to tie average North Koreans to their government’s demise. He has repeatedly called Kim “Rocket Man” and generally proved fond of the kind of saber-rattling we expect from the other side of this standoff. [Continue reading…]

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By rejecting ‘inflammatory’ ad, Twitter gives candidate free publicity boost

Molly Roberts writes: By rejecting an ad for the Tennessee congresswoman’s fledgling Senate campaign that mentioned Planned Parenthood selling “baby body parts,” the platform provided Blackburn an early publicity boost.

“@Twitter continues campaign against @GOP,” former White House press secretary Sean Spicer tweeted.

“Here’s the Marsha Blackburn video Twitter banned. It would be a shame if this went viral & helped her win!” winked the alt-right activist known as Baked Alaska.

“The conservative revolution won’t be stopped by @Twitter and the liberal elite. Donate to my Senate campaign today!” the Blackburn campaign account implored.

Twitter did not, as some coverage has suggested, “ban” Blackburn’s ad entirely. It simply refused to sell her space for promotion. That means Blackburn’s ad is still viewable to anyone who searches for it, and the controversy Twitter has provoked means plenty of people will. The best part for Blackburn? She won’t have to pay a penny. [Continue reading…]

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Steve Bannon privately slammed Pence VP pick

BuzzFeed reports: Steve Bannon privately slammed the selection of Mike Pence as Donald Trump’s running mate a month before taking over the Trump campaign, according to emails obtained by BuzzFeed News.

The email exchange during Bannon’s first stint as executive chairman of Breitbart is of new relevance as Bannon — two months removed from his role as President Trump’s chief strategist — rolls out his plan for a wide-ranging attack against establishment Republicans in 2018. And it reveals that Bannon regarded the Pence pick as something of a deal with the devil necessary to bolster Trump’s standing in the GOP.

On July 15, 2016, the day the Trump campaign announced that it had selected Pence, Breitbart’s former technology editor Milo Yiannopoulos wrote to Bannon and Breitbart editor Alex Marlow.

“Seems like a bad pick. Should I tweet something ambivalent about him? People are telling me Trump likely didn’t want this. …What’s our party line on this?”

“This is the price we pay for cruzbots and #nevertrump movement,” Bannon responded. “An unfortunate necessity…very. feel free to do whatever u want. we, as always, will remain above it all.” [Continue reading…]

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Corker’s blast at Trump has other Republicans nodding in agreement

The New York Times reports: For nearly nine months, Senate Republicans have watched their new president with a mix of aggravation and alarm. But it took Senator Bob Corker to take those concerns public and confront President Trump with his most serious challenge from within his own party.

In unloading on Mr. Trump, Mr. Corker, a two-term senator from Tennessee, said in public what many of his Republican colleagues say in private — that the president is dangerously erratic and unstable, that he treats his high post like a television show and that he is reckless enough to stumble the country into a nuclear war.

Mr. Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, evidently feels liberated now that he has decided not to run for re-election, while other Republican senators with concerns keep quiet fearing the retaliation of a Twitter-armed president and his allies in the conservative media. But Mr. Corker’s passionate statements reflect growing troubles for a president attempting to govern with a narrow and increasingly disenchanted Republican majority. [Continue reading…]

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How computers turned gerrymandering into a science

Jordan Ellenberg writes: About as many Democrats live in Wisconsin as Republicans do. But you wouldn’t know it from the Wisconsin State Assembly, where Republicans hold 65 percent of the seats, a bigger majority than Republican legislators enjoy in conservative states like Texas and Kentucky.

The United States Supreme Court is trying to understand how that happened. On Tuesday, the justices heard oral arguments in Gill v. Whitford, reviewing a three-judge panel’s determination that Wisconsin’s Republican-drawn district map is so flagrantly gerrymandered that it denies Wisconsinites their full right to vote. A long list of elected officials, representing both parties, have filed briefs asking the justices to uphold the panel’s ruling.

Other people don’t see a problem. Politics, they say, is a game where whoever’s ahead gets to change the rules on the fly. It’s about winning, not being fair.

But this isn’t just a politics story; it’s also a technology story. Gerrymandering used to be an art, but advanced computation has made it a science. Wisconsin’s Republican legislators, after their victory in the census year of 2010, tried out map after map, tweak after tweak. They ran each potential map through computer algorithms that tested its performance in a wide range of political climates. The map they adopted is precisely engineered to assure Republican control in all but the most extreme circumstances. [Continue reading…]

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An exodus from Puerto Rico could remake Florida politics

The New York Times reports: Every day dozens of Puerto Ricans straggle into the Orlando area, fleeing their homes and lives ravaged by Hurricane Maria. In the months to come, officials here said, that number could surge to more than 100,000.

And those numbers could remake politics in Florida, a state where the last two presidential and governor’s races were decided by roughly one percentage point or less.

There are more than a million Puerto Ricans in Florida, a number that has doubled since 2001, driven largely until now by a faltering economy. But their political powers have evolved slowly in this state, and the wave of potential voters from the island could quickly change that calculus.

If the estimates hold, and several officials said they might be low, the Puerto Rican vote, which has been strongly Democratic, could have rough parity with the Cuban vote in the state, for years a bulwark for Republicans in both state and national races.

“What’s clear is that this is going to be a more powerful swing group,” said Anthony Suarez, a lawyer here, who has run for office as both a Republican and a Democrat. “Just like everybody has to go to Miami and stop in Versailles to have coffee to court the Cuban community, that is going to start happening here.” [Continue reading…]

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The partisan divide on political values grows even wider

Pew Research Center: The divisions between Republicans and Democrats on fundamental political values – on government, race, immigration, national security, environmental protection and other areas – reached record levels during Barack Obama’s presidency. In Donald Trump’s first year as president, these gaps have grown even larger.

And the magnitude of these differences dwarfs other divisions in society, along such lines as gender, race and ethnicity, religious observance or education.

A new study by Pew Research Center, based on surveys of more than 5,000 adults conducted over the summer, finds widening differences between Republicans and Democrats on a range of measures the Center has been asking about since 1994, as well as those with more recent trends. But in recent years, the gaps on several sets of political values in particular – including measures of attitudes about the social safety net, race and immigration – have increased dramatically. [Continue reading…]

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Republicans cannot disown Trump without repudiating themselves

Edward Luce writes: Republicans are paralysed on two counts. First, the party cannot disown what Mr Trump is doing without repudiating themselves. His victory was the logical outcome of the party’s “southern strategy”, which dates from the late 1960s. The goal has been to siphon off southern whites from the Democratic party. Most Republicans have preferred to keep their tactics genteel. The signal of choice has been the dog whistle rather than the megaphone. Thus, in one form or another, most Republican states are reforming their voter registration systems. The fact that such laws disproportionately shrink the non-white electorate is an accidental byproduct of a colour-blind crackdown. Even without proof of widespread fraud, voter suppression has plausible deniability. Over the years, the same has applied to various wars on crime, drugs and welfare fraud, which were never discriminatory by design. Mr Trump has simply taken that approach into the open. He is the Republican party’s Frankenstein. The age of plausible deniability is over.

The second Republican problem is fear. Because of gerrymandering, most Republicans — and Democrats — are more vulnerable to a challenge from within their ranks than to defeat by the other party. As the saying goes, American politicians choose their voters, rather than the other way round. Unfortunately that gives the swing vote to the most committed elements of each party’s base. Though Mr Trump’s approval ratings are lower than for any president in history, he still has the backing of most Republican voters. Any elected Republican who opposes Mr Trump can be sure of merciless reprisal. It is a rare politician who would invite vilification from their own side. [Continue reading…]

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Donald Trump is a racist — there is no mystery

Yesterday, CNN reported:

A coalition of major civil rights and faith groups on Sunday called on President Donald Trump to “directly disavow the white supremacists” who participated in violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, this weekend — a reference to Trump’s remarks condemning the deadly clashes on Saturday.

“It represents a failure of leadership from the nation’s chief executive,” the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, an umbrella group, said in a statement. “It is long past time for Trump to personally and unequivocally denounce white supremacy, violent extremism, and hate in all its forms.”

The group also called for the ouster of White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and deputy assistant Sebastian Gorka, who have drawn criticism from civil rights organizations for their associations with the alt-right, a hodgepodge of far-right, white nationalist groups that drafted off the President’s 2016 campaign to rise to national prominence.

For Trump to disavow white supremacists — to claim he has no connection with their current rise even while selecting the likes of Bannon, Gorka, and Stephen Miller as close advisers — would be dishonest. For him to denounce them after having persistently courted their support would be disingenuous.

What civil rights leaders are calling on Trump to do is something he cannot with credibility claim: that he is not a racist.

The unpalatable truth is that when Donald Trump was elected president, he won the support of voters who either welcomed his racism or at the very least were willing to turn a blind eye to it.

Just over a year ago, during the presidential campaign when Donald Trump repeatedly attacked Gonzalo Curiel (the Indiana-born judge presiding over a case against Trump University) who Trump believed couldn’t be impartial because of his Mexican ancestry, House Speaker Paul Ryan had no difficulty in describing Trump’s remarks as the “textbook definition” of racism.

Long before then and up to the present day, Trump’s racism has been no harder to detect than the odor of a man with insufferable foul breath.

And yet, in spite of this and in spite of a mountain of evidence that no one can dispute, Trump’s racism is still treated by many politicians, journalists and pundits like one of those ultimately unanswerable questions — like whether a dog has a soul.

This issue is sustained as a question on the basis that we lack enough knowledge about Trump’s interior life, which is to say that in order to know whether he is a racist we would supposedly have to be able to gain insight into what animates his very being. Only God knows whether Trump is a racist, so the implicit argument seems to turn.

This is nonsense.

Why?

To determine whether someone is a racist is a determination, first and foremost, about behavior.

To doubt, for instance, whether the birther campaign that Trump led was anything less in substance, appearance, and intent, than a racist attack on Barack Obama is a form of denialism — a refusal to accept the implications of evidence that very few people ever had any difficulty in interpreting.

Even though racism is defined in terms of beliefs, it is clear that in practice we only attach significance to such beliefs if they result in some kind of tangible expression.

If somewhere there are racists who racism leaves no discernible trace in the world, such a subtle form of racism would hardly be worthy of the name.

Since Trump on countless occasions has acted like a racist, we don’t actually have to know anything about what he thinks in order to say unequivocally that he is indeed a racist.

Under pressure or political guidance, any statements that he might make now to distance himself from the hatred he has with such determination fomented, will be utterly hollow words.

The real question is for the Republican party itself: whether it chooses to remain America’s white party, or whether it’s ready break away from the many currents of bigotry it has harbored for so long.

If it chooses the latter, it’s time for the Republicans to dump Trump.

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Poll: Half of Republicans say they would support postponing the 2020 election if Trump proposed it

Ariel Malka and Yphtach Lelkes write: Critics of President Trump have repeatedly warned of his potential to undermine American democracy. Among the concerns are his repeated assertions that he would have won the popular vote had 3 to 5 million “illegals” not voted in the 2016 election, a claim echoed by the head of a White House advisory committee on voter fraud.

Claims of large-scale voter fraud are not true, but that has not stopped a substantial number of Republicans from believing them. But how far would Republicans be willing to follow the president to stop what they perceive as rampant fraud? Our recent survey suggests that the answer is quite far: About half of Republicans say they would support postponing the 2020 presidential election until the country can fix this problem. [Continue reading…]

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McCain: ‘We are not the President’s subordinates. We are his equal!’

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No one cares about Russia in the world Breitbart made

Joshua Green writes: The revelation that Donald Trump’s son, son-in-law and campaign manager met with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer promising information that would “incriminate” Hillary Clinton was a true bombshell in an era when we have become almost inured to them. Here was proof that members of Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign had, at the very least, been eager to collude with Russia to influence the 2016 election.

No one could gainsay the facts: Mr. Trump’s own son published them on Twitter.

As recently as five or 10 years ago, every major news outlet would have treated this set of facts as front-page news and a dire threat to Mr. Trump’s presidency. The conservative press and Republican voters might disagree on certain particulars or points of emphasis. But their view of reality — of what happened and its significance — would have largely comported with that of the mainstream. You’d have had to travel to the political fringe of right-wing talk radio, the Drudge Report and dissident publications like Breitbart News to find an alternative viewpoint that rejected this basic story line.

Not anymore. Look to the right now and you’re apt to find an alternative reality in which the same set of facts is rearranged to compose an entirely different narrative. On Fox News, host Lou Dobbs offered a representative example on Thursday night, when he described the Donald Trump Jr. email story, with wild-eyed fervor, like this: “This is about a full-on assault by the left, the Democratic Party, to absolutely carry out a coup d’état against President Trump aided by the left-wing media.”

Mr. Dobbs isn’t some wacky outlier, but rather an example of how over the last several years the conservative underworld has swallowed up and subsumed more established right-leaning outlets such as Fox News. The Breitbart mind-set — pugnacious, besieged, paranoid and determined to impose its own framework on current events regardless of facts — has moved from the right-wing fringe to the center of Republican politics. [Continue reading…]

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Vladimir Putin’s Republican soul mates

The New York Times reports: Years before the words “collusion” and “Russian hacking” became associated with President Vladimir V. Putin, some prominent Republicans found far more laudatory ways to talk about the Russian leader.

“Putin decides what he wants to do, and he does it in half a day,” Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor and longtime friend and adviser to President Trump, gushed in 2014.

Mr. Putin was worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize, K. T. McFarland said in 2013, before going on to serve a brief and ill-fated stint as Mr. Trump’s deputy national security adviser.

“A great leader,” “very reasoned,” and “extremely diplomatic,” was how Mr. Trump himself described Mr. Putin that same year.

Though such fondness for Mr. Putin fell outside the Republican Party’s mainstream at the time, it became a widely held sentiment inside the conservative movement by the time Mr. Trump started running for president in 2015. And it persists today, despite evidence of Russian intervention in the 2016 American election and Mr. Putin’s increasingly authoritarian tendencies at home.

The veneration of Mr. Putin helps explain why revelations about Russia’s involvement in the election — including recent reports that members of Mr. Trump’s inner circle set up a meeting at which they expected a representative of the Russian government to give them incriminating information about Hillary Clinton — and Mr. Trump’s reluctance to acknowledge it, have barely penetrated the consciousness of the president’s conservative base. [Continue reading…]

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Why Republicans won’t work for the Trump administration

The Washington Post reports: The array of legal and political threats hanging over the Trump presidency has compounded the White House’s struggles to fill out the top ranks of the government.

Trump’s firing of FBI Director James B. Comey last month and the escalating probe into Russian interference in the presidential election have made hiring even more difficult, say former federal officials, party activists, lobbyists and candidates who Trump officials have tried to recruit.

Republicans say they are turning down job offers to work for a chief executive whose volatile temperament makes them nervous. They are asking head-hunters if their reputations could suffer permanent damage, according to 27 people The Washington Post interviewed to assess what is becoming a debilitating factor in recruiting political appointees. [Continue reading…]

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How we became bitter political enemies

The New York Times reports: Last year, for the first time since it began asking the question in 1992, the Pew Research Center reported a majority of Democrats and Republicans said they held “very unfavorable” views of the opposing party. Since Pew published those findings last summer, that extreme distaste has receded a bit: So far this year, 45 percent of Democrats and 46 percent of Republicans hold “very unfavorable” views of the opposing party.

That conclusion follows a sweeping 2014 Pew study that found that “partisan antipathy is deeper and more extensive” than at any point in the last two decades.

That negativity appears to have fed a growing perception that the opposing party isn’t just misguided, but dangerous. In 2016, Pew reported that 45 percent of Republicans and 41 percent of Democrats felt that the other party’s policies posed a threat to the nation.

The fear of what harm the other party could cause appears to be a major motivator behind party affiliation. “It’s at least as much what I don’t like about the other side as what I like about my own party,” said Jocelyn Kiley, associate director of research at the Pew Research Center.

When asked why they identified as Republican, 68 percent of respondents told Pew that a major factor was the harm that Democratic policies posed, just surpassing the 64 percent who cited the good that could come of their own party’s policies. Among Democrats, 62 percent said fear of Republican policies was a major factor for their affiliation, while 68 percent cited the good of their own party’s policies. [Continue reading…]

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‘A tipping point’: Record number of Americans see global warming as threat

The Guardian reports: A record number of Americans believe global warming will pose a threat to their way of life, new polling data shows, amid strengthening public acceptance that rising temperatures are being driven by human activity.

“I think a shift in public opinion and consciousness has been underway for several years now,” Michael Mann, a prominent climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University, told the Guardian.

A spokesman for 350 Action, the political arm of climate activist group 350.org, said meanwhile that politicians who cast doubt on climate science would soon have to take such polling into account. Republicans, he said, “are going to be screwed if they don’t change their tune”.

Polling firm Gallup, which has been tracking public sentiment on the topic annually since 1997, found that 41% of US adults feel warming will pose a “serious threat” to them during their lifetimes. This is the highest level recorded by Gallup, a 4% increase on 2015. [Continue reading…]

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In political leanings, Catholics mirror average Americans

Since Catholics make up the largest religious denomination in the U.S. (69.5 million members, which is 22% of the population), it makes sense that their political leanings would be close to the average among Americans of all and no religious affiliations.

Still, since in the media there is a tendency to associate religious with right-wing, it’s worth noting that Catholics lean Democratic rather than Republican — 44% vs. 37% — by exactly the same proportions as do all U.S. adults.

Pew Research breaks down the numbers for all religious groups:

The political preferences of U.S. religious groups

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The more Donald Trump defies his party, the more his supporters cheer

The New York Times reports: Mark Jebens, a veteran of 22 years in the Marine Corps, found no fault with Donald J. Trump’s scathing criticism that President George W. Bush “lied” about weapons of mass destruction while leading the United States into war in Iraq.

“At the end of the day, a lot of good Marines and sailors and airmen died over something that wasn’t there,” said Mr. Jebens, who served three combat tours in Iraq. “So you’ve got to ask tough critical questions. In the military we called it a debrief or a hot wash.”

Mr. Trump’s hot wash of Mr. Bush in a debate on Saturday, including a suggestion that he did not heed intelligence warnings before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, convinced many Republicans that Mr. Trump had finally gone too far, tarring a former president who is popular in military-friendly South Carolina, and uttering charges that Rush Limbaugh, for one, called “liberal Democrat lingo.”

But numerous military veterans interviewed at Trump rallies in South Carolina this week, including Mr. Jebens, said they had no problem with Mr. Trump’s comments, even if they did not entirely agree with him. [Continue reading…]

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The conservative playbook for keeping ‘dark money’ dark

By Robert Faturechi, ProPublica

How do you stop states and cities from forcing more disclosure of so-called dark money in politics? Get the debate to focus on an “average Joe,” not a wealthy person. Find examples of “inconsequential donation amounts.” Point out that naming donors would be a threat to “innocents,” including their children, families and co-workers.

And never call it dark money. “Private giving” sounds better.

These and other suggestions appear in internal documents from conservative groups that are coaching activists to fight state legislation that would impose more transparency on the secretive nonprofit groups reshaping U.S. campaign finance.

The documents obtained by ProPublica were prepared by the State Policy Network, which helps conservative think tanks in 50 states supply legislators with research friendly to their causes, and the Conservative Action Project (CAP), a Washington policy group founded by Edwin Meese, a Reagan-era attorney general.

Dark money is the term for funds that flow into politics from nonprofit groups, which can accept donations of any size but, unlike political action committees, are not required by federal law to reveal the identities of their donors. The anonymity has been upheld by courts that cite as precedent a 1958 Supreme Court ruling that the state of Alabama could not demand that the NAACP turn over a list of its members.

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