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Trump escapes chill of Washington for Florida holiday

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Friday was escaping the chill of Washington and his impeachment to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s in sunny Florida with family and friends.

One thing he isn’t celebrating is the delay in his Senate impeachment trial.

It’s got him “mad as hell,” according to one ally.

The Senate adjourned until January with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic leader Chuck Schumer unable to agree on trial procedure. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she wants to know how the trial will be handled before she sends two House-passed articles of impeachment against Trump to the Senate.

Trump, who was due to arrive at his private Palm Beach resort late Friday, has been looking forward to a trial in the friendlier Republican-controlled Senate and is riled up about the delay, according to Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who is close to the president.

“He’s mad as hell that they would do this to him and now deny him his day in court,” Graham told Fox News Channel after meeting with Trump at the White House on Thursday night.

A likely avenue for Trump to vent his frustration over being impeached — though he has said he doesn’t feel like he has been — will be his scheduled address Saturday to conservative student activists attending the Turning Point USA conference in West Palm Beach.

The House voted Wednesday to impeach Trump for withholding military aid while pressuring Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who served on the board of a gas company there while the elder Biden was vice president.

The House also said Trump sought to obstruct its investigation.

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Elizabeth Warren Fails Her Own Public Education Purity Test –

In last night’s Democratic presidential debate, Mayor Pete Buttigieg warned Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) against “issuing purity tests you cannot yourself pass.” He was talking about the senator’s millionaire status, but his statement applies just as much to her education plan. 

The plan, released on October 21, is radically anti-choice. It calls for ending federal funding for public charter schools, banning for-profit charter schools, increasing regulations for all charter schools, and making it more difficult to start new charter schools. Warren wants to stop private school choice programs such as vouchers or tuition tax credits.

At last night’s debate, Warren declared her desire to “do even more for our public schools” with a “historic $800 billion investment.” Though the phrases “charter school” and “school choice” did not come up on stage last night, Warren solidified her anti-choice stance in a previous debate when she said “money for public schools should stay in public schools, not go anywhere else.” And she told the president of the National Education Association last month that families should stay put in their failing public schools.

That was a purity test that Warren and her family cannot pass. In October, I discovered that Warren sent her son to elite private schools starting in the fifth grade. Less than a month later, Warren was caught on video speaking misleadingly to a voter about her decision to send him to private schools.

The next generation of the candidate’s family has continued to benefit from private education. Warren’s three grandchildren attended last night’s debate, and at least two of them attended an elite private school in Los Angeles. According to the school’s online newspaper, Octavia Tyagi graduated from Harvard-Westlake School earlier this year. Lavinia Tyagi is currently a freshman at the same school. The tuition at Harvard-Westlake School is $39,700, so a full high school education at Harvard-Westlake costs over $158,000 in tuition alone. According to Niche, a website that grades schools, Harvard-Westlake School is the second-best private high school in the state and the sixth-best private high school in the nation. 

So Warren’s daughter and son-in-law have chosen to send their kids to an elite private school, just as Warren chose to send her son to one. And that’s fine! Parents should pursue what’s best for their kids. If that means pulling them out of the public schools to get a better education elsewhere, they should have every right to do that.

The problem comes when politicians like Warren try to deny that opportunity to parents who do not have as much money as they do. All families, not just the rich and powerful, should be able to send their children to the schools of their choice.

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The debate that didn’t matter

What if they held a debate and no one cared?

Don’t get me wrong: For political junkies like me, the Democratic debate in Los Angeles Thursday night was lively, enlightening, and at times highly entertaining. Going down from ten to just seven candidates was a big improvement, giving each more time to make their points and allowing for a greater range of questions to be asked. The moderators from PBS News and Politico did an excellent job of provoking discussion and sometimes heated exchanges. And the candidates themselves did well. Joe Biden didn’t have any mental meltdowns. Andrew Yang got to display more of his intelligence and charm than in any previous debate. And even Tom Steyer got in a good line or two.

But none of it will matter. In that respect, all of the debates have been the same. I’ve watched them. My journalistic colleagues have watched, too, and expressed strong opinions about the performance of various candidates within them. A few million have tuned in to each as well. And the effect? Not much.

The biggest, most consequential moment in all of the Democratic debates so far was Kamala Harris’s clash with Biden over busing in late July. The result? Harris doubled her polling for a short time before falling back down to Earth and then ultimately out of the race altogether.

Other than that? Elizabeth Warren rose steadily over several months and has now fallen back somewhat in the polls, but there’s no reason to think her performance in the debates has been a big factor in those changes. The professional debate critics at major media organizations have repeatedly pronounced Biden an inarticulate, doddering dud, even as he’s maintained his solid lead. Over and over again, Cory Booker has been called a rising star, the underdog who’s overdue for a breakout moment. But the moment never came, and he didn’t even make the debate stage this time. They’ve said similar things about Amy Klobuchar — and some said it again on Thursday. And it’s true, she had a good night. Just like she did the last time, and the time before that. For all the good it’ll do, which is not much. (She currently stands around 3 percent in the polls, which is 24 points behind Biden.)

The fact is that there isn’t much evidence that the debates have made any significant difference to the shape of the race. Which, again, doesn’t mean that those of us who are paid to watch, or who do so out of sheer, inexplicable perversity, weren’t rewarded on Thursday night for our devotion to political competition.

The greatest heat of the night by far was generated by a pair of duels involving South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg — first with Warren and then with Klobuchar. Mayor Pete has surged in the polls over the past couple of months, and clearly some of the competition is becoming antsy to knock him down a peg. Warren went after him over a recent exclusive fundraiser at a “wine cave.” Buttigieg hit back hard, claiming that he’s happy to receive support from anyone, because all Americans need to band together to defeat President Trump next November. Warren countered with a variation of her trademark left-wing populism, insinuating that if he takes money from the wealthy, he must be owned by plutocrats.

Klobuchar’s beef with Buttigieg seemed to be motivated solely by irritation that he’s managed to more than lap her in the polls when he has so much less political experience, including an extremely modest track record of winning elections. (As Nate Silver pointed out on Twitter, she may also have been inspired to go after Mayor Pete because polls often show that she’s the second choice of a lot of his supporters in Iowa, where she needs to do well if she has any hope of staying in the race after the voting commences.) To Klobuchar’s claim that there’s no evidence Buttigieg can win a major political contest, the South Bend mayor mostly deflected with deliberative, gravely intoned expressions of civic earnestness.

These were interesting, illuminating exchanges that revealed new dimensions to those involved in them. But will anyone besides professional political tea readers care? I seriously doubt it.

Biden will stay in the lead. Warren will continue her slow fade. Bernie Sanders will keep consolidating his position as the great left-populist alternative to the frontrunner. Buttigieg will settle in as the fallback option for centrists if Biden has a complete meltdown. Klobuchar will still fail to light anyone’s fire. Yang will remain the true wild card. And Steyer will continue to be the guy who bought himself onto the debate stage. (Perhaps Michael Bloomberg will eventually figure out a way to do the same.)

Another debate in the can. Maybe it’s time to finally start voting.

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Nancy Pelosi on Trump: ‘He’ll be impeached for ever’ – live | US news

Trump accepts state of the union invite

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Bernie Is the Candidate Who Can Beat Trump. Here’s Why.

In the race for the Democratic nomination, one figure towers above the field: the large, misshapen form of President Donald Trump. The trauma of Trump’s shock victory in November 2016, and the reign of greed, brutality, and arrogance that has followed — seemingly impervious to organized opposition — has given Trump a special standing among Democrats.

The polls are unanimous: a healthy majority of Democratic primary voters (between 60 and 65 percent) say that it is more important to find a candidate who can beat Trump than one who they agree with on the issues. This is not a standard view for voters opposed to an incumbent president. On the eve of his 2004 re-election campaign, for instance, fewer than half of all Democrats said the same about George W. Bush.

Across the primary campaign, Bernie Sanders and many of his supporters have argued that it is not enough to defeat Trump: we need to organize to transform the abysmal economic conditions that produced Trump, too. This is all very true.

But in the meantime, there are elections to win. America simply cannot afford another Trump victory at the polls, or another four years of rapacious right-wing government. To prevent this nightmare, we must convince anxious voters that Sanders can and will throttle Trump in a general election.

The truth is that Democrats genuinely like Bernie: he has the highest favorability rating in the primary field, and among Democratic voters who prioritize “issues” — that is, what a president might actually try to do in office — Sanders leads the pack. Yet among the Democrats most concerned with beating Trump, Sanders currently trails. A hostile party establishment and an unfriendly media appear to have convinced many voters that Sanders is “too extreme” or “too far left” to win a general election.

And as Sanders gains steam in the early primary states, you can expect Beltway consultants and talking heads to double down on this warning. Much of the work here is done by analogy, with Sanders cast as George McGovern, Jeremy Corbyn, or whichever distant historical character or faraway foreign leader seems most convenient.

Of course, we don’t need to cross oceans or generations to find counter-examples: this is the same Democratic establishment that engineered the most disastrous and humiliating election defeat in US history, just three years ago, on our own soil. But you can hardly blame the centrist pundits and party insiders for taking up this line of attack. They know that their own watered-down brand of politics doesn’t speak to voters’ needs or hopes or desires. The only thing they have left is fear. And the prospect of another Donald Trump victory may be terrifying enough to convince thousands of voters to swallow whatever sour oatmeal the party leadership serves them.

But this primary season, anxious Democrats should trust their guts. It turns out that the candidate they like best, Bernie Sanders, is also the candidate with the best chance to knock Trump out of the White House.

While every other general election matchup seems likely to descend into the bleak and muddled culture clash of 2016, a contest between Sanders and Trump would present American voters with a stark choice: the populist who wants to win you health care and cancel your debt, or the rich prick who doesn’t care if you live or you die so long as your boss gets paid.

Trump’s true electoral weakness is not his loutishness, his congenital lying, or even his personal corruption. It’s his function as a tool of the rich man’s Republican Party, and his blatant disinterest in making life better for the vast majority of Americans living paycheck to paycheck.

Over the last forty years, no politician in America has focused as frankly or relentlessly on the unnecessary economic hardship faced by ordinary people as Bernie Sanders. This bread-and-butter emphasis is part of what has made Sanders the most popular presidential candidate in the field, especially among independent voters. And in a general election — on a scale far larger than any primary contest — no one is better prepared than Sanders to use that popular economic weapon to annihilate Donald Trump

For Democrats still scarred by the memory of November 2016, it is easy to imagine that Donald Trump is an electoral juggernaut, endowed with awesome and occult powers. But the truth is closer to the opposite: Trump is a historically unpopular leader who won a narrow electoral college victory over an equally unpopular rival.

Beyond a core of die-hard Republicans, most Americans don’t like Trump at all. Since his first few months in office, Trump’s overall approval rating has hovered between 38 and 42 percent, making him by far the most consistently disliked president in modern US history. George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter, the last two incumbents to lose an election, had much better numbers than Trump over their first three years in office.

Even in the key swing states where he defeated Hillary Clinton — Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania — Trump’s approval rating has been consistently underwater for over a year now.

Trump can be beaten, and the way to do it involves winning three key groups of voters in these Rust Belt battlegrounds: first, the Democrats and independents who backed Obama twice before turning to Trump; second, Obama voters who declined to vote in 2016; and third, the even larger group of Americans who do not typically vote at all.

There is reason to believe that on purely hard-headed electoral grounds, Sanders is the Democrat with the best chance to win back disaffected Obama supporters in the Rust Belt. Targeted polling of Obama-Trump voters shows Sanders and Joe Biden with a significant edge over Elizabeth Warren in Michigan and Wisconsin; while Biden still seems strongest in Pennsylvania, the differences are small.

But the real kicker is that in the 206 counties that went for Obama in 2008 and 2012 and then Trump in 2016, Sanders has out-fundraised all of his competitors — by a long shot. By September 2019, he pulled in 81,841 individual donations from 33,185 donors in these flipped counties. That’s roughly three times as many as Biden, Warren, or Pete Buttigieg.

This high volume of individual small-dollar donations in Obama-Trump counties (and the “sticky support” it indicates) shows that Sanders has strong grassroots support in those places — which makes sense, given that his political message is targeted to people whose lives get harder as elites grow richer. That captures the experience of many working-class people in the deindustrialized Rust Belt, abandoned by corporations in search of cheaper labor and higher profits elsewhere.

The most detailed study of these decisive swing voters comes from two Johns Hopkins political scientists who recently confirmed what other analysts have understood for a while: “economic anxiety” did, in fact, play a crucial role in the 2016 election. A close look at the American National Elections Survey data shows that Obama-Trump voters in 2016 were, on average, more worried about their “current financial situation” than either Romney-Trump or Obama-Clinton voters.

Obama-Trump voters were also far more likely than party-line Republicans (and just as likely as party-line Democrats) to believe that “rich people buy elections,” and to support higher taxes on the rich. And they were more likely than both Republicans or Democrats to oppose free-trade agreements that cost American jobs.

Trump wooed and won these Obama voters, the Johns Hopkins authors conclude, with a combination of “bandwagon bigotry” and “economic populism.” In 2020, Republicans will surely attempt to fire up the bigotry machine again. If Democrats cannot answer with a credible alternative economic agenda — one that spells real change — they are doomed to lose these voters all over again, and probably the election too.

Despite his residual popularity among Democrats stemming from the Obama years (now fading fast), Joe Biden cannot deliver this message.

He opposes strong measures to tax the ultra-rich; it is no coincidence he has more billionaire donors than any candidate in the race, Trump included. Worst of all, Biden has no credibility as an economic populist: he has devoted much of his political life to supporting free trade, including NAFTA, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and permanent normal trade relations with China.

In a general election, Biden’s long record as a friend to banks and outsourcing businesses — not to mention his son’s lucrative service on the board of a Ukrainian gas company — will surely suffocate any Democratic attempt to battle Trump on economic grounds. Instead, a Biden-Trump contest stands every chance of offering a glassy-eyed sequel to the 2016 charade that put Trump in the White House. Of the two candidates polling competitively in the Rust Belt swing states, only Bernie Sanders can actually make the economic case Democrats need to win.

Just as important as Obama-Trump voters are the millions of Obama voters who did not cast a ballot in 2016. Any good autopsy of the last presidential election will emphasize that turnout in key states was dismal. In Wisconsin, for example, turnout was down 3 percent from 2016, and in Ohio it was down 4 percent. In order to win, those margins need to be recovered or exceeded by Trump’s opponent in 2020.

Some commentators are quick to attribute low turnout in 2016 to restrictive voting laws, implying that nothing can be done to bring voters back to the polls. But then how to explain the fact that 1.7 million people cast incomplete ballots in these states and others, declining to vote for any presidential candidate — far more than had been the case in 2012?

In Michigan, Donald Trump won by about ten thousand votes, while seventy-five thousand people cast ballots but declined to register a presidential preference. Meanwhile, nearly 3 million eligible voters didn’t even bother to go to the polls.

The Pew Research Center found that, nationwide, non-voters’ top reason for abstaining in 2016 was that they “did not like candidates or campaign issues.” Twenty-five percent of nonvoters cited distaste for both candidates as their rationale for staying home, compared to only 13 percent in 2012 and 8 percent in 2000.

The truth is that many people in swing states — including many otherwise loyal Democratic voters — were not sufficiently excited by Hillary Clinton, who they rightly associated with business-as-usual politics. And the very real “economic anxiety” that helped turn some white Obama voters toward Trump, as Malaika Jabali’s reporting has shown, helped dissuade many black Obama voters from casting a ballot in 2016, especially in battleground cities like Milwaukee, Detroit, and Philadelphia.

The Obama voters who stayed home in 2016, one targeted survey has found, are focused overwhelmingly on bread-and-butter issues, with a larger share (64 percent) emphasizing the economy, health care, Medicare, and Social Security than registered voters as a whole (55 percent), or even the famously precarious Obama-Trump voters (58 percent).

If you think this suggests that these critical voters might be receptive to Bernie Sanders’s message of healthcare, education, and good jobs for all, you are right: Bernie’s favorability among this group (+38 percent) far surpasses Elizabeth Warren’s (+16 percent) and exceeds Joe Biden’s (+35 percent).

But perhaps the strongest argument for Bernie Sanders concerns a much larger group than any slice of disaffected Obama voters: the tens of millions of people, over 40 percent of the country, who typically do not vote in presidential elections.

American nonvoters, including nonvoters in the battleground states, are disproportionately young, non-white, and working-class. Bernie is distinctly popular with all of these groups, suggesting that he is by far our best shot to mobilize this vast slumbering army in a general election against Trump.

In the 2016 primaries, more people under thirty voted for Sanders than Trump and Clinton combined. Today, Sanders is the overwhelming favorite in the Democratic Party primary among young people. Trump’s approval rating among people under thirty is pathetic, but as we learned four years ago, that’s no guarantee that every young person who scorns Trump will show up to vote against him.

Democrats have a choice: either nominate a challenger who excites young people and can turn them out en masse, or hand the nomination to someone who doesn’t motivate them, greasing the wheels for a Trump victory.

Young black and Latino voters are especially enthusiastic about Bernie. Although he currently trails Joe Biden among older black primary voters, these voters are reliable Democrats and will likely come to the polls no matter the nominee. In Rust Belt and Sun Belt swing states alike, the crucial margin of victory may come down to the Democratic candidate’s ability to bring young people of color who are typically less inclined to vote to the polls. No politician in America is better suited to do that than Sanders.

And finally, an umbrella category: Sanders is the candidate of the working class, which encompasses most young and non-white people but also plenty of older white people too.

His supporters are the least likely of all the Democratic primary candidates to have a college degree. In the primary field, Sanders receives the lion’s share of individual donations from nurses, teachers, retail workers, servers, tech workers, truck drivers, and construction workers.

By contrast, Biden gets the most donations from company presidents, attorneys, real-estate developers, and investors.

People who work for a wage make up the majority of the US population, and low-wage workers make up the majority of people who don’t vote. Nearly three quarters of nonvoters in 2016 had a family income of less than $75,000.

If we want the sometimes- or never-voters in swing states to turn out on election day, that candidate needs to have broad working-class appeal. That candidate needs to be Bernie Sanders.

Sanders has been crushing Trump in head-to-head polls for years now, and his lead is especially strong among lower-propensity voters. A recent SurveyUSA poll showed that in a matchup with Trump, Bernie actually runs a few points better than Biden (and much better than Warren) among voters making less than $80,000, and with voters who describe themselves as “poor” or “working class.” And those are just people who are already registered. Of the major Democratic candidates, Sanders clearly has the best chance to awaken the sleeping giant of young and working-class nonvoters and bring them into the electorate.

The United States has some of the lowest voter turnout in the world. Given the pervasive political alienation of the working class here, no single election is going to put us on par with nations like Belgium or Sweden, where over 80 percent of the voting age population casts ballots, compared to our paltry 55 percent in the 2016 presidential election. But precisely because the proportion of nonvoters is so large in the US, an uptick in turnout among people who don’t usually vote could be a decisive factor in 2020.

Bernie Sanders can draw people who don’t normally vote out of the woodwork. Nobody else can.

Our enthusiasm about a possible Sanders versus Trump contest isn’t confined to the prospect that Sanders will win. How Sanders can beat Trump has enormous implications for the future of American politics.

First, we should remember a simple fact of scale, easy to forget if you follow politics as a vocation or an obsession: general elections are much, much larger than primaries.

About 31 million people voted in the 2016 Democratic primary, one of the most hotly contested nominating contests in U.S. history. Over 136 million voted in the general election. The same ratio applies to campaign spending: together, Clinton and Sanders spent about $445 million in their primary race. In the general election, Clinton and Trump spent about $1.8 billion.

Using the 2016 primary race as his platform, Sanders was able to demonstrate that “radical” left-wing ideas like Medicare For All, tuition-free public college, and a $15 minimum wage actually had an enormous base of support, far beyond any niche of self-defined progressives. This revelation has already left a deep imprint on the Democratic Party — which has absorbed much of Sanders’s program, either in fact or in rhetoric — and will probably shape American politics for years to come.

A Sanders general election campaign would present an opportunity of the same kind, but on a scale roughly four times as large.

Huge swaths of the American public, who barely pay attention to primary politics, would suddenly find themselves considering the basic elements of Bernie’s politics for the first time: his unvarnished portrait of the war between the 1 percent and the 99 percent; his vow to deliver guaranteed health care, education and jobs to all Americans at the expense of corporate profits, CEO bonuses, and shareholder returns.

This kind of basic class politics — and this kind of simple social-democratic platform —  have been absent from the Democratic Party for over half a century, and silenced in major TV and print media for at least as long. But if Sanders is the party’s nominee, these arguments will be presented to the public on a scale that we can barely comprehend.

What happens when a major party candidate speaks not simply to political junkies but to 136 million voters  — or 200 million possible voters — and the message is a new kind of “Yes We Can”: not yes we can elect an inspiring fresh-faced candidate to office, but yes we can ensure the fundamental dignity of every American, and yes we can do it by breaking the tyrannical stranglehold of the billionaire class?

Perhaps the most promising feature of this scenario, though, is the vivid contrast made possible by a binary choice between Sanders and Trump. (Yes, other candidates may run, but the structure of our two-party state, and the current depth of American party polarization, will drive them rapidly into insignificance.)

Because Bernie’s politics emphasize class conflict, a Trump-Sanders contest promises to be not a mere clash of values and norms, of milieus and manners, but a referendum on the role of the rich and the rest in our society, with each contender representing different sides of the divide.

Sanders has already given us a preview of what this will look like. When he launched his campaign in March, he contrasted his upbringing to Trump’s, saying, “I did not have a father who gave me millions of dollars to build luxury skyscrapers, casinos, and country clubs. I did not come from a family that gave me a $200,000 allowance every year beginning at the age of three.”

He continued, “Unlike Donald Trump, who shut down the government and left 800,000 federal employees without income to pay their bills, I know what it’s like to be in a family that lives paycheck-to-paycheck.”

In a rhetorical flourish that underscored the social implications of Trump’s profiteering and juxtaposed them to his own lifelong commitment to equality, Sanders added, “I did not come from a family that taught me to build a corporate empire through housing discrimination. I protested housing discrimination, was arrested for protesting school segregation.”

With Trump, Democrats have been handed a golden opportunity to agitate against the ultra-rich, personified by the billionaire who managed to bulldoze his way to the White House. But they have repeatedly dropped the ball, electing instead to focus on Trump’s buffoonery and rule-breaking at the expense of almost everything else.

The current impeachment hearings — narrowly focused on Trump’s skullduggery in Ukraine rather than his obscene efforts to enrich himself and protect his class from the White House — exemplify the limits of this approach. The Democrats’ political emphasis fails to target Trump’s weakest point: the way his administration has functioned, like almost every Republican administration, as a machine to transfer wealth from working people to their bosses.

In the 2016 campaign, Clinton left out the bread and butter and chose to wage a war of table manners against Trump. Since then, the Democratic establishment and its media allies have continued to put temperament, character, and stability at the center of their opposition strategy. If you restrict your viewing to MSNBC, you would get the impression that the main problem with the orange menace is that he’s a uniquely obnoxious dinner guest, rather than a plutocrat in a country ruled by plutocrats.

Establishment leaders and pundits have even made a habit of needling Trump for being less wealthy than he claims, the implication being that he’s an embarrassingly bad businessman. They delight in calling him a loser, when indeed Trump’s career arc is the very picture of victory in a system designed to concentrate wealth at the top and alchemically transform it into political power.

Trump is the perfect symbol of the perversity of our failed capitalist economy, his presidency the ultimate grotesquerie produced by a grotesque political order. And nobody can be trusted to make this case as vividly as Bernie Sanders.

While Biden waxes nostalgic for abandoned norms, and Warren celebrates the sanctity of rules, Sanders talks meat and potatoes. His independence from the donor class make it possible for him to do what Clinton didn’t and Biden won’t: leverage Trump’s presidency into an indictment of the bipartisan pro-corporate establishment. Only Sanders can say: this stops now.

This strategy holds potential not only for short-term victory, but for the return of a healthy dose of class antagonism to the American political discourse. And that’s precisely what we need to build a real fight against the economic and political system that produced Trump in the first place.

You wouldn’t know it from mainstream media commentary, but Sanders has been relatively tender with his primary opponents so far. That’s because the rules of primary elections are different from those of general elections: primary candidates run the risk of alienating would-be supporters with harsh criticism of their opponents in a way that general election candidates typically don’t.

In a general election, we might expect Sanders to behave a bit more like he did during his first Senate race against Republican megamillionaire Rich Tarrant.

By 2006, Vermont was clearly trending Democratic, but just six years earlier, Republican Senator Jim Jeffords had won re-election by 40 points. Sensing an opportunity, Tarrant poured millions of his own money into the race, aiming to label Sanders — still a socialist curiosity on the national stage — as an out-of-touch Burlington radical.

But Bernie too took the gloves off against “Richie Rich,” activating his base of small donors and lambasting his opponent’s effort to buy the election as a symptom of the rigged economy. In the most expensive Senate campaign in Vermont history, Sanders won by 33 points.

If Sanders brought that kind of unbridled energy to a general election against Donald Trump, it would amount to perhaps the most high-profile spectacle of class conflict in the modern history of American electoral politics.

The campaign ad practically writes itself. In 1940s New York City, two boys were born only a few years and a few miles apart.

One, the son of a real-estate tycoon, grew up in a white-pillared mansion, literally doing his paper route from the back of his father’s limousine.

The other, the son of a penniless immigrant whose family was killed in the Holocaust, grew up in a cramped Brooklyn apartment, sleeping on a trundle bed in the living room.

One, educated in the best private schools money could buy, devoted his life to the pursuit of profit and power, abusing tenants, stiffing workers, and flaunting his wealth in New York’s highest society circles.

The other spent his life working in the trenches on behalf of the vast majority — protesting segregation in Chicago, protecting poor tenants in Burlington, fighting for workers in Washington, and taking aim at the pampered elite who rule the economy from their penthouses.

This is a dynamic that we’ve never seen before in a presidential election. In fact, we’ve rarely seen anything like it in modern US history at all, so submerged has class politics been beneath the bipartisan pro-corporate consensus and its pablum about meritocracy and the marvels of capitalist free enterprise.

The self-seeking billionaire versus the lifelong crusader for the working class: it would be potent, resonant, and emblematic of the deep economic divide that people intuitively understand but don’t yet have the language for. It would be the kind of epic symbolic rivalry in which you can imagine people taking a side for the first time in their lives.

When people say that Sanders is a risk, they usually mean that his platform and his rhetoric are too far outside the Democratic political mainstream for comfort. But at this juncture in history, comfort itself is a risk. The Right has taken advantage of the public’s appetite for transformation in order to further enrich the masters of the universe. His opponents will have to take advantage of that same appetite to do the very opposite.

Sanders’s ambitious agenda represents a dramatic departure from the neoliberal Democratic consensus, and that’s exactly what we need to win. If we want to beat Trump and build a countervailing force capable of taking on the systems and institutions that produced him, we can’t afford not to nominate Bernie Sanders.

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Why Impeachment Matters

Imagine a socialist magazine leading an article with advice from the likes of Mitch McConnell, Republican majority leader of the US Senate. That was Brother Doug’s point of departure, the burden of which was, “Don’t bother impeaching. This Senate will never vote to remove.”

One may be excused for suspecting that McConnell would just as soon the House Democrats stand down because he believes impeachment would not be good for his party, even though Doug is doubtless correct that the Republican majority in this Senate will never abandon the president.

This is a tip-off that the impact of impeachment is not in the end result — the removal of Trump from office — but the politics leading up to that point: who said what, and who voted how. Doug reduces the proceedings to therapy for MSNBC hosts and revenge for the national security state. He seriously underestimates the political import of the process.

Properly speaking, the value of impeachment is the political impact of restraining the president’s more egregious impulses and reducing his chances of reelection. My view is that the Left can contribute to this project, and it should because it has no task more urgent than doing everything possible to ensure the defeat of Trump in 2020.

I fear we are in an “After Trump, Us” moment. Sure, Trump is not Hitler. Trouble is, by the time it became clear that he was Hitler, it would be too fucking late. Because HITLER. We have not seen a revival of the fatal attack on Social Democrats by the German Communist Party, the “social-fascist” slur. Today we have “corporate Democrat” or “centrist,” which sound more levelheaded but reflect a similar gloss.

The fact, sad though it may be, is that we will need all Democrats, corporate and otherwise, to beat Trump in 2020. Criticism of centrist ideology is well-taken. I’ve done little else for my entire career. The question is, at what point does such critique harden into an ultra-left abstention from the 2020 elections?

I’ve been a Bernie booster since his previous campaign, during and after. I also think highly of Elizabeth Warren. One of them will surely get my vote, but a little foresight ought to be exercised. Joe Biden could win the nomination. Are you ready to suck it up and vote for him, if it comes to that? I have to think that failure to see the difference between Biden and Trump is just whistling past the graveyard, a refusal dressed up in militant leftism to confront rising neofascism.

The other day, a town hall commemorating the Armenian genocide staged under the auspices of Rep. Adam Schiff was broken up by about a dozen Trump hooligans. If you Google “2nd amendment sanctuary counties Virginia,” you can find photos of a series of well-attended mass meetings around the state, of gun owners fixing to oppose gun control measures threatened by our newly ascendant Democratic state legislature and governor.

I used to think the Left would be the first to see fascism coming around the corner. No longer. Now there is a prevalent inability to distinguish the Trumpist Republican Party from Democrats, and an apparent acceptance of Trump’s reelection. Doug contrasts impeachment unfavorably with debates about Medicare for All, asserting that only the latter is real politics.

Doug ends thusly: “Impeachment doesn’t strike at the sources of right-wing power, from the Koch network and private equity to the think-tank and propaganda machine and the neo-Nazi underside.” He seems to overlook the actual leader of this formation, one Donald Trump.

To the contrary, the struggle against Trump and the forces he leads, of which impeachment is the leading edge, is as real as actual politics gets.

Will the Left sit back and cede leadership of the fight against fascism to centrist Democrats?

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Pelosi and McConnell step into impeachment abyss

That’s pretty much everything the Constitution has to say about the impeachment process. And because there have been just two impeachments prior to this week — Andrew Johnson’s in 1868 and Bill Clinton’s in 1998 — the precedents lawmakers are eyeing are paper-thin, flexible and built for different eras and alleged “high crimes.” Another first: the Trump impeachment is taking place under a divided Congress, with one party in control of the House and the other running the Senate.

So if the House impeaches the president but delays sending the articles to the Senate?

“It’s just weird,” said Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who has clerked for two federal judges and litigated before the Supreme Court.

“I think I had kind of an idea of what it might look like until the speaker announced her weird little plan,” Lee added. “I’m not quite sure what to make of that. It remains in suspended animation.”

Some legal scholars say the Senate can simply declare that the president has been impeached — citing the House’s approval of two articles charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — and hold a trial without delay. Conversely, some Trump allies say perhaps the brouhaha about transferring articles means the president technically hasn’t been impeached yet; if he already is, the thinking goes, the Senate wouldn’t have to wait on the perfunctory transfer of articles from the House to begin a trial.

A hitch in that argument is the Senate’s own 1,500-page manual of rules of procedure, which declare that an impeachment trial can’t begin until the House names “impeachment managers” to deliver the case to the Senate. Though the Senate has the power to change that process, so far there’s been no effort or energy to do so. The remaining Senate procedures on the books spell out the conduct of the Senate trial once it begins.

The House, which has its own 1,500-page manual, offers only limited answers about the process of sending articles to the Senate. Once the House adopts articles of impeachment, according to the manual, there is no timeframe for when it must name managers to formally notify the Senate. Typically, this is done in a resolution after the impeachment vote, which names the managers, informs the Senate and authorizes manager to begin preparing for trial.

Pelosi alluded to that separate resolution during her press conference Thursday. “There is a bill made in order by the Rules Committee that we can call up at any time, in order to send it over to the Senate and to have the provisions in there to pay for the impeachment,” she said. “And then, the next step, whatever you want to call it, the trial. That is where you put the managers. I was not prepared to put the managers in that bill yet because we don’t know the arena that we are in.”

Some lawmakers believe Pelosi is adopting this stance to make the Senate sweat and infuriate Trump, who’s desperate to put on his impeachment defense, even though she’ll ultimately deliver the articles soon after the two-week Christmas recess. All of the discussion would become moot if McConnell and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer strike a deal on trial procedures in the meantime. But on Friday, the two sides were still in conflict, with little optimism for a breakthrough anytime soon.

That’s led to howls of protest in both chambers. Trump and McConnell accuse Pelosi of being afraid to send her case to the Senate, where they believe it will be blown to smithereens by the president’s defenders. Pelosi, meanwhile, says she won’t send her best allies into a Senate ambush and will wait to see the rules before naming impeachment managers. Americans, the speaker and her allies are betting, won’t punish Democrats for demanding impartiality in the trial.

“It was definitely the right thing to do knowing you were sending it to what looked like … an unfair trial,” said Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.). “So if she can help us get a fair trial that’s what we want to do.”

For the most part, rank-and-file lawmakers shrug their shoulders when asked about how this constitutional confrontation will work out, and they acknowledge that they’re witnessing precedent-setting maneuvers in real-time.

“There’s very little written about impeachment, very few rules and you kind of make them up as you go along,” said Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.), a member of the Judiciary Committee. “I guess in 20, 30 years we’re probably going to have some precedent to look back at.”

In the meantime, Correa and other Democrats are putting their trust in Pelosi’s judgment about how to wield the House’s power in this ongoing and unpredictable fight.

“This morning, my Republican colleagues and I were talking and some of them were saying, ‘Thank god this is over,’” Correa said. “And I thought, it’s just the beginning. This thing is just beginning.”

Burgess Everett contributed to this story.

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Factbox: After impeachment, who might argue the case against Trump in the Senate?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – When the U.S. Senate begins the trial to consider impeachment charges against President Donald Trump, a handful of lawmakers from the House of Representatives will act as prosecutors to lay out the case against the president.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with U.S. Representative Jeff Van Drew, a Democratic lawmaker who opposed his party’s move to impeach Trump, after Van Drew announced he was becoming a Republican, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., December 19, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has yet to name those “managers,” as they are formally known. But here are some of the lawmakers seen as leading candidates, all of them Democrats:


The House Judiciary Committee chairman, 72, has been a Trump antagonist since he opposed a Trump real estate development in Manhattan decades ago as a New York state assemblyman.

Nadler’s committee crafted the two articles of impeachment against Trump, which were approved by the House on Wednesday.


The House Intelligence Committee chairman, 59, has been a leading figure in the impeachment inquiry that preceded the vote.

Schiff spearheaded an investigation that featured testimony from U.S. officials about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, both in private and on national television. He also been a favorite punching bag for House Republicans.

A former federal prosecutor, he represents a district in the Los Angeles area.


Jeffries, 49, is considered a rising star in the party and a potential future House Speaker. An African-American lawyer from Brooklyn, he was the top House Democrat behind a bipartisan criminal-justice reform bill that Trump signed into law last year.


Demings, 62, is the former chief of the Orlando, Florida police department. As a member of both the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, she has been involved in the impeachment investigation for months and knows the case against the president well.


Like Demings, the 39-year-old Californian sits on both the Judiciary and Intelligence committees. He briefly ran for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination earlier this year.

A former deputy district attorney, Swalwell is described by aides as being close to Schiff.


A former constitutional law professor, the 57-year-old Maryland Democrat has played a prominent role in the House Judiciary Committee. Raskin, whose father was an aide to former President John F. Kennedy, filled in for Nadler to shepherd the articles of impeachment to the House floor.


Krishnamoorthi, 46, was born in India and came to the United States at the age of three. He worked as a state prosecutor before he was elected in 2016 to represent a suburban Chicago district.

During the impeachment hearings, Krishnamoorthi came to the defense of one of the star witnesses, Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman, who faced insinuations of disloyalty because he was born in Ukraine and immigrated as a child to the United States.

“From one immigrant American to another immigrant American, I want to say that you and your family represent the very best of America,” Krishnamoorthi told Vindman.


Lofgren, 71, has deep experience with impeachment.

She began her Washington career as a House Judiciary Committee aide when it held impeachment hearings against Republican President Richard Nixon in 1974. Elected to the House in 1994 to represent a northern California district, she has served on the Judiciary Committee while it drafted impeachment articles against both Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1998 and Trump this year.


An outspoken progressive, Jayapal, 54, became the first Indan-American woman to serve in Congress when she was elected to represent a Seattle-area district in 2014. She was a civil-rights activist before she was elected.


A member of the Intelligence Committee, Castro, 45, also chairs his identical twin brother Julian Castro’s presidential campaign.

He was first elected to represent his San Antonio district in 2012.

Reporting by David Morgan, Susan Cornwell and Richard Cowan; Editing by Andy Sullivan and Chizu Nomiyama

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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Why “High Hopes” Is the Perfect Dance Song for the Buttigieg Campaign

It’s a meritocratic fantasy.

Compared to his competitors, Buttigieg’s hopes don’t really seem that high. He wants to cancel some student debt; Sanders wants to cancel all of it.

A new dance craze is sweeping New Hampshire. Call it “The Buttigieg,” a team-building bop performed by staff and volunteers on Mayor Pete’s presidential campaign. Videos of the dancers, set to “High Hopes” by Panic! at the Disco, have been making the rounds on social media, shared enthusiastically by Pete fans and mocked mercilessly by his critics.

The song, which Buttigieg also uses at events, is something of a campaign anthem. And that’s fitting: Its lyrics express something dangerously awry about Mayor Pete’s worldview.

“High hopes” is about the lone individual succeeding against the odds: “I didn’t know how but I always had a feeling / I was going to be that one in a million.”

One reading would be that Buttigieg and his campaign see themselves as optimistic underdogs, scrappy aspirers to the American Dream. But while “underdog” may superficially fit the 37-year-old mayor of a town of 100,000, it does not fit the rest of Pete’s profile. Buttigieg, the son of academics, is a Harvard graduate and Rhodes scholar who was earning six figures by the age of 26. He has outraised every Democratic candidate except Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and outraised everyone among big-money donors. His current polling surge required help in high places.

So let’s hope it’s not Pete himself whose successes we’re singing. Charitably, then, Team Pete may see in the song a metaphor for the country—the mayor has high hopes for America.

If so, that metaphor goes to a very dark place in the first verse: “Manifest destiny / Back in the days / We wanted everything, wanted everything.” Were I running for U.S. president, I would probably not embrace a song that positively invokes Manifest Destiny, a stain on our nation’s past, when “we wanted everything” meant pillage and conquest. The 19th century saw tens of thousands of Native Americans displaced, thousands more killed and an unjust war against Mexico, all so that America could stretch from sea to shining sea. To this day, success in America still means competition and exploitation—whether you’re a corporate CEO, a Wall Street banker, or a consultant at a big firm like McKinsey.

If the lyrics are troubling, the music video is worse.

A white man in a suit (the band’s lead singer) exits a Lyft and begins walking up the outside of a building, defying gravity. A multi-racial crowd gathers to cheer him on from below. They applaud him all the way to the top, where he steps onto the roof and finds his band. We never see the crowd again.

Let’s break this down: A white man, publicly breaking the law (of gravity) with no repercussions, is supported in his climb by a diverse working class, then parties with those who are already at the top. It’s not clear if those at the bottom even get to enjoy the concert. The lyrics exhort, “Stay up on that rise and never come down”—no mention of solidarity or bringing others up with you.

Cultural critic John Weeks has argued that the song and its video offer a perfect narrative of white male privilege: “The prophecy to be fulfilled in ‘High Hopes’ is that of the white man’s privileged place within the symbolic order.” “High Hopes” tells us if you’re talented, if your hopes are high, you can be the “one in a million” who succeeds.

I am not saying the man in the video represents Buttigieg himself. But the video does represent Buttigieg’s worldview: Mayor Pete, a privileged white man whose talent, ambition and class background propelled him to academic and professional success, is precisely the kind of person to believe that hard work and vision pay off—it worked for him, right?

Recent comments of Buttigieg’s suggest that he is a true believer in meritocracy. The progressive group People’s Action asked candidates how the government should address inequity. Buttigieg’s answer focused on “uneven distribution of opportunity”; the government’s role is “to ensure equality of opportunity,” he said, through unspecified “federal programs” that “eliminat[e] barriers.” The implication is that if everyone got a fair shot, justice would be achieved. Unlike Sanders and Julián Castro, he did not mention the need for a social safety net or secure economic rights. Unlike Sanders, Castro, Warren or Kamala Harris, he did not assign any blame to corporations or the wealthy.

In fact, compared to his competitors, his hopes don’t really seem that high. He wants to cancel some student debt; Sanders wants to cancel all of it. He opposes a job guarantee, and his proposed version of a Green New Deal is slimmer than Sanders’ or Warren’s.

And his meritocratic vision, focused on equality of opportunity, ignores that so long as some achieve wealth and power and others are left behind, those who succeed will pull the ladder up behind them. His message, and his theme song, are ultimately fine with inequality so long as those at the top can convince themselves they earned it.

So when Buttigieg volunteers dance along to lyrics like “didn’t have a dime, but I always had a vision”—as their candidate stands awash in rich donors’ dimes—they’re dancing to a fairy tale.

The views expressed are the author’s own. As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, In These Times does not support or oppose candidates for political office​.

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‘Family feud’: Trump still grumbling about witness-free impeachment trial

“We don’t want a quick technical acquittal but complete exoneration,” said an outside adviser who speaks to the president.

Trump’s desire to fight — a constant inclination — is at odds with Senate Republican leaders, who are working to convince him that a quick trial with no witnesses will suffice. Even some White House aides have been trying to explain the benefits of a speedy, no-frills process. In interviews, though, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell insists he is working in lockstep with the White House on shaping the impeachment trial.

“There’s a family feud under the water between what Trump and McConnell think is the best strategy,” said Dan Eberhart, a major Republican donor and CEO of the drilling services company Canary, LLC.

The Senate will likely take up Trump’s impeachment trial in January, though the House has postponed sending over the articles until after the new year. Trump on Thursday night lashed out at the postponement, incidentally revealing in the process his simmering yearning for eye-catching witnesses.

“The reason the Democrats don’t want to submit the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate is that they don’t want corrupt politician Adam Shifty Schiff to testify under oath, nor do they want the Whistleblower, the missing second Whistleblower, the informer, the Bidens, to testify!” he tweeted.

The House on Wednesday night approved two articles of impeachment in a mostly party-line vote, charging Trump with abuse of power for soliciting foreign interference in the 2020 presidential election and obstruction of Congress for blocking the House’s efforts to investigate.

Democrats say Trump conditioned a much-desired White House meeting for Ukraine’s leader, as well as millions in military aid, on Kyiv launching an investigation into Biden, a potential 2020 rival, and his son Hunter. Trump and his allies counter that the desired probe was part of a broader effort to eradicate corruption and uncover foreign wrongdoing in the 2016 presidential race.

The Senate has not yet set rules for its trial, which is likely to take place in January, after lawmakers return from their holiday recess. It takes only a simple majority of senators to approve a rules package, which would determine whether witnesses will be called.

With 53 Republicans senators, McConnell can get his preferred rules package through if he avoids too many GOP defections. To this point, most Republican leaders, including those close to Trump, have expressed a desire to move the Senate trial along swiftly.

“I hope the White House agrees with us on bringing this thing to a conclusion, not dragging it out,” said Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.).

It would take a two-thirds vote in the Senate to remove Trump from office, a remote prospect.

Trump declined to participate in the impeachment proceedings in the Democratic-controlled House, where his legal and political aides advised that his involvement would only legitimize the process. But he and his aides have been talking for weeks about what Trump wants in a Senate trial, including witnesses and a role for his staunchest House allies.

Trump is eager for Americans to hear evidence that he believes will show the Bidens are corrupt, the House Democrats rigged the impeachment investigation and that he never pressured Ukraine, according to the people who have spoken with him.

Trump has obsessed over the whistleblower both on Twitter and to confidants. He blames the individual for drawing undue attention to the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which Trump pressed Zelensky to investigate the Bidens.

“I wouldn’t mind the long process, because I’d like to see the whistleblower, who’s a fraud,” Trump told reporters recently, when asked about the Senate trial.

“For many Trump allies, the whistleblower is really priority one, two and three,” said Jason Miller, a senior adviser on Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Trump and his allies think there’s another benefit to a prolonged trial — it could hurt Democrats running for election 2020.

They are targeting 30 House Democrats who represent districts that voted for Trump in 2016. And there’s five Senate Democrats running for president — Michael Bennet, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — who will have to remain in D.C. for the impeachment trial, depriving them of campaign time just before the all-important Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary.

Still, McConnell has said he is opposed to having witnesses, arguing that Democrats would use the opening to turn the trial into “a kind of mutual assured destruction.”

“The president’s not going to be removed from office,” he said during a radio interview on The Brian Kilmeade Show. “The only issue is how long do we want to take to get the final decision. I think that we’ve heard enough. We’re going to listen to arguments, but my view is it’s time to vote and move on.”

McConnell already dismissed Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s request for four administration witnesses to testify during the Senate trial: acting White House staff chief Mick Mulvaney, his deputy, Robert Blair, former national security adviser John Bolton and Office of Management and Budget official Michael Duffey, who apparently had a role overseeing the Ukraine aid.

It’s a stance shared by other GOP senators, including key Trump allies.

“I am not going to support witnesses being called for by the president,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, (R-S.C.), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee and is close to the president. “I am not going to support witnesses being called for by Sen. Schumer. We’re going to vote on the same product the House used.”

Trump hasn’t openly contradicted McConnell and Senate Republicans.

“We did nothing wrong. So, I’ll do long, or short. I’ll do whatever they want to do. It doesn’t matter,” Trump told reporters last week.

“The Senate is very very capable. We have great senators, Republican senators,” he reiterated on Thursday. “I’m going to let them decide what to do.”

But he has continued to discuss witnesses behind closed doors. After emerging from a Senate GOP lunch with Trump aides Eric Ueland and Kellyanne Conway Wednesday, Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) said he was hopeful Trump was reconsidering that position.

“I think there’s been a transformation over time, simply because now I think there’s a realization that witnesses are a double-edged sword and adds to the time,” Braun said. “Somewhere there’s been a rethinking of that.”

Some Trump allies predict Trump will eventually go along with McConnell because the president has come to respect his command of the Senate’s rules after watching him push through the president’s legislative priorities, including a tax overhaul bill and a record number of judge confirmations.