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Saturday, August 11, 2018

Do We Need an Avenatti?



A reminder as we strain to find some outside-the-box savior who can beat Trump in 2020.

We need to realize how exceptional 2016 was. In the absence of the types of factors HRC ended up facing, not only would she have beaten Trump, but likely any of our last four nominees (Clinton, Obama, Kerry, Gore) would have as well.

HRC was a perfectly good candidate. Clinton had to fight almost every media outlet, Cambridge Analytica, the FBI (if you read the IG report -- which I did so you didn't have to -- he couldn't figure out after months of investigating why in hell Comey, Page, Strzok, McCabe, etc were investigating HRC in the first place, why they continued three months after they'd realized there was nothing there, why Comey did the July press conference, and why they all have collective amnesia about anything that happened between the day they found out about Weiner's computer and when Comey issued his letter) and the Russians in 2016 and *still* would've won by what would've been considered a landslide had the Comey letter not dropped when it did.

The Russians and the Mercer/Bannon/ex-CA crew could still be very active in 2020, but at least we'll be aware of them.

Trump was incredibly unpopular (36%!) on Election Day 2016, but the Comey letter rode a wave generated by a perfect storm to swamp Hillary in the end. You can like her or not (and full disclosure, I think she's great and took two months off from work to volunteer for her and in fact watched the election results at her Brooklyn HQ), but by nearly every conventional measure of a campaign, hers was better than Trump's. We remember her "gaffes," but we remember them specifically because there were so few but they were so picked over by the media while Trump's could only be covered for 15 minutes before he threw out another shiny object. She gave three great performances in the debates, and had a solid GOTV effort that was built on Obama's and Trump had very little (though we found out later the Kochs were sending out busloads of volunteers). Other than the Russian-generated Sanders supporter meltdown at the DNC, put on the best, most positive convention I can remember. She ran on undeniably the most progressive platform of my lifetime and talked constantly about the issues, though you wouldn't know it because the TV networks would rather talk about her e-mails while showing an empty Trump podium for an hour on splitscreen.

No, she didn't go to Wisconsin or Michigan down the stretch, but we're not sure how much the candidate having rallies in a place actually matters (Republicans were telling us Romney had bigger turnouts than Obama in 2012; HRC put tons of time, money, and effort into Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania (for a lot of the stretch run, we didn't have enough seats to accommodate all of the buses the campaign was sending to canvas in suburban Philly) but didn't win them; and I remember laughing at the absurdity of Trump making appearances in deep blue Connecticut and New Jersey, which of course he lost. She had three times the field offices Trump did, and most of Trump's were ghost towns. Not as many as Obama's, but it didn't make sense to have that many when Trump barely had any. She had superstar surrogates like the Obamas, Biden, Bill, LeBron James, and Queen Bey, while Trump had, um, Jeff Sessions, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Flynn, and Pam Bondi. She did have a lot of very enthusiastic supporters -- on the night of the election, HQ was overwhelmed with volunteers. I was on tech support duty in the phone bank and I must've had to support 500 people, not just in the packed volunteer office, but in a huge overflow room and sitting on the floor lining the halls throughout HQ.

If the election had been held on October 25th, as far as conventional campaigns go, political scientists would've put hers right up there with Obama's. That 3-4 point Comey slide moved her from a 6-7 point popular vote margin and around 330 EVs, to a 3 point margin and losing the EV by 70,000 votes in three states.

With that pro-Hillary rant off my chest...

Other than the incomprehensible exception of the NYT, most of the media is doing a much better job than in 2016 (particularly CNN's prime-time lineup, most of whom have openly turned against Trump since Helsinki, and in some cases, before that).

Trump's approval is only staying afloat because the economy is doing well. The Obama economy appears to have crested; not that it couldn't potentially do better, but Trump's policies seem tailor-made to kill it. Even if we don't have a total collapse like 2008 (and I don't think it'll get that bad), I unfortunately think we'll be in undeniably worse shape two years from now. It'll suck for America, but at some point I'm guessing Trump, just on the economic merits, will be parked permanently in sub-40% approval territory.

Assuming Manafort goes down (and short of a member of the jury being paid off or threatened by Russians), Trump is not coming out of the Mueller investigation unscathed. I don't believe he'll be indicted, and I think more likely than not he'll serve out the rest of his term, but Mueller is going to be picking off people significant to Trump for at least the next year.

It's looking pretty damned likely that the Dems will take the House in November. If so, as many have pointed out, chairpeople like Nadler and Schiff are going to be dumping everything they can about Trump. Democratic members involved with the investigations in both houses have insinuated that there's a heck of a lot more there on Trump than we've seen, but that the Republicans are blocking it from coming out.

I didn't think liberals could build the energy we did in January 2017, let alone sustain it until November of 2018, but here we are less than three months before the midterms and we're still finding ourselves on the verge of winning R+11 congressional races. After Bush's fuckups became too terrible to deny, we had a pickup of progressive energy for a year or so until we all got knocked off our game by the "Tea Party;" I think Trump has fueled our fire much more than Bush did and he's not going to stop. As Bob Cesca says, "Trump always makes things worse for himself."

Trump's base is a collective primal scream that is so loud because conservative whites know that they need to take more and more desperate measures (colluding with a foreign power, increased voter suppression). I figured going into 2016 that as their numbers dwindled, those white Republicans would nominate someone like Trump, but that would be one or two more cycles away and at that point it would be too late for them... it turned out they were close enough for a Hail Mary to eke out a win in 2016, but those demographics aren't getting any better for them over four years.

Our 2016 field, outside of HRC and Sanders (before he turned into a petulant brat -- thank you Tad Devine), was shit. When your third-best candidate is Martin O'Malley? Yikes. Our 2020 field (and it's SO early still) feels like a cornucopia of riches, like 2008, when we had Obama, Clinton, Edwards (sans his dumb penis), and Biden, all of whom could've been great candidates. I mean, I'd enthusiastically get behind any of Warren, Gillibrand, Booker, Swalwell, Merkley, Harris, Holder, Patrick, Murphy, or Biden. I'd be OK with candidates I've had differences with in the past but who have improved as our party has moved left, like Cuomo or McAuliffe (both of whom the WaPo mentioned as potential candidates a month ago). The Trump crisis has turned all of these into household names (or at least names known by people who casually pay attention to politics), so they have a headstart. I'm pretty familiar with the Democratic presidential fields since 1988, and if the above is in fact the field, it's the deepest I've seen. We don't need a billionaire, Hollywood personality, or wild card.

I'm not being pollyannish; in fact, I'm scared as hell. I've been saying on Twitter for months that if any of these three things happen -- the Mueller investigation being shut down, Kavanaugh getting confirmed, or the Dems failing to win BOTH houses (yes, we need the Senate so we can stop further Trump nominees), our democracy will basically be over. But if come 2019 none of those things have happened, it's not looking for some dream candidate that we need to focus on -- it's making sure that a perfect storm like 2016 is not allowed to materialize.

First and foremost, we need to protect our democratic institutions. I really could foresee Trump declaring himself a dictator while the Republicans in Congress cheer him on and his packed court system decides that the original intent of the Founding Fathers was, in fact, to eventually put a clown king in power for life.

Then we need to combat the Russians and those who enable them, to make sure the media sees Trump for who he is and to fight "Dems in disarray" and mendacious Republican-invented teardown stories, to minimize voter suppression, and to keep up popular progressive momentum.

If we do those things, we will be starting to turn America around in 2021 with a pretty good President.

If not, well, um... fuck.

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