DNC Day 4 Liveblogging: Hillary And the Convention’s Best Moment

8:27: Barack and Michelle were transcendent, Biden was magnificent, the apolitical John Allen is right now driving the military into a frenzy, and Bernie brought down the house. But the finest moment of the week was just a few minutes ago, when the parents of Khizer Khan, a Muslim soldier who gave his life to save his comrades, spoke about what America truly was. And what it wasn’t, and what it cannot be. The best and truest moment was when the father offered Trump, who he was calling out by name, a copy of his ragged, dog-eared pocket Constitution.

He finished, though, with a call for anyone who cares about immigrants, who cares about religious plurality, and who cares about the rights of minorities, to vote. That they can’t sit this one out. Who knows the subtlety of his politics, but to me it was an implicit criticism of “Bernie or Bust” types. So what if you didn’t get every single thing you want? If Trump wins, some people will get nothing. They’ll be shut out, castigated, and demonized. The sacrifice of his son will be negated. The message is that you don’t have that right. You don’t have the right to sit this one out because your feelings are hurt. You don’t have the right to sit this out because more people voted for another candidate. If you do, if you arrogate unto yourself that right, then you are not progressive. You represent a party of one. You only represent your feelings.

More after the jump.

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Erick Erickson and the Obama Lookingglass

The GOP offered a vision of doom, despair, and division. Tonight the President I think divides us offered optimism. I hate this year.

There’s a tell here in Erick “Erick” Erickson, Son of Erick’s, baffled shoulder-shrug of a tweet. The tell is “I think”.  There are of course two ways to read that: the assertive, and the tentative, backpedaling way. It all depends on the inflection. If you emphasize the “I”, you’re taking ownership over the thought, claiming that this opinion is yours, and by dint of agency, you are transubstantiating it into fact. Imagine saying “Actually, your honor, I think that you’re the one drunk in court.” Bold, yes?

The second way is the emphasis on “think”. It’s hedging. It’s what you say when you are deeply unsure of something, and don’t want the responsibility for being wrong. “I think I can land a blimp?” It’s also used when the world is crashing around you, and the edifice of unreality you’ve been creating is knocked over. For Erick, Son of Erick, think he intended his tweet to be the former, but it is, almost unwittingly, the latter.

Last night’s DNC speech by The President of the United States Barack Obama was pretty much universally well-received, except by Donald Trump. On Twitter, at least, conservatives were calling it great, unifying and optimistic, in stark contrast to the “last call at Ragnarök” vibe we got in Cleveland. There was a certain teeth-gnashing about how Obama was using the language of hope and uplift, taking it from Reagan, whereas their party was one of doom and despair. Part of it was a sort of rueful pride and maybe even unconscious politics: see, they win only by acting like us. But I have to think there was also a bit of shock and even awakening. After all– this was not new.

It seems disingenuous for them to pretend that the Obama message, that of an imperfect union where we work together, strive together, look failure straight in the eye and learn from it, and reject the calls of demagoguery and hatred, is new. He’s always said these things, from his first major speech until last night. He’s tied the liberal values of community and togetherness, of not letting people be crushed by an invisible hand, into the theme of what America was founded on, and what it has too often failed to be. He’s always been the best at tracing that jagged, crooked, and often-broken line between who we want to be and who we can be, recognizing who we are, but not despairing. You can fairly say that the line shouldn’t lead to liberalism, or statism or whatever, and that’s fine. But to pretend he hasn’t always been who he was last night is incorrect.

I said “seems disingenuous” instead of “is, in fact, wildly and comprehensively disingenuous” because I think the level of cognitive dissonance was so great that it took a Trump to break it. They were so deeply vested in the idea of Obama being a divisive President, for reasons that go from normal (for our elevated and rabid times) political disagreements to a vast well of newly-tapped racial hatred. The thinking went. A) There are a lot of people who hate him partly or largely because he’s black.  B) Those people are on “our” side, therefore, I can’t say they are racist. C) I myself don’t like his idea of government, and let’s be honest, don’t love the idea of a successful black liberal, because then what does the party have. D) Therefore, the hatred isn’t coming from our side, but because he’s divisive.

Everything was contained in that shattered lookingglass. The whole theory of Obama- aloof, American-hating, jihad-loving, police-killing, Panther-adjacent, the real racist– had to spring from the idea that he was the divisive one. It was raw cynicism, and the opposite of any of his deeds and actions. Yes, he wanted Democratic policies to succeed. He was a Democrat. But they had to pretend that every action and every statement was so far beyond the pale that he was shattering every norm. And that left them deeply emotionally and intellectually unprepared when the caricature of Obama they created– a dumb, shallow, callow, vain, divisive, narcissistic, thin-skinned, hateful racist authoritarian demagogue– took over their party.

So yeah, that must have been tough for Erick “Erick” Erickson. This was the real Obama, the one whose has always moved to unite. The imperfect President with whom they can have serious and substantive disagreements, but who is clearly thoughtful, clearly intelligent about America and American history, and who clearly cares deeply about the country. They are forced to pretend that this is a reaction to Trump and that Obama is stealing from Reagan and all that, but I’d like to think that for a moment, before the gauzy veil of political hatred fell back down again, that they recognized, for a moment, the lies of the last eight years. And maybe they were saddened for a bit that hatred, paranoia, and petty small-brained bullshit made them miss entirely the most remarkable politician of our lifetime.

Tim Kaine and President Barack Obama Liveblogging



Kind of neat.

9:04 Softball tonight kept me away from some of the convention. I heard Biden bring the house down on the radio, though. He sounds really good on the radio. He’s got that ol’ timey confidentiality, even when he’s shouting. He pulls you in. And there is no one who sounds more sincere than he does when saying he can’t believe that Donald Trump has a shot at being the next President.  Man, I love Joe Biden. I’m glad he didn’t run, though. He deserved to go out beloved, not losing to Hillary.

Kaine’s here. More after jump.

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Julian Assange Casts His Vote


His vote will ultimately be worth more than yours.

When you’re thinking free and open society, you’re thinking Donald Trump, right?

Six weeks before the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks published an archive of hacked Democratic National Committee emails ahead of the Democratic convention, the organization’s founder, Julian Assange, foreshadowed the release — and made it clear that he hoped to harm Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the presidency.

(The Times immortally invaluable Charlie Savage put this all together)

So, one could have initially, if one ignored the Russian angle cast this as an attempt to throw a corrupt and evil “democracy”, the world’s great evil and enemy of freedom, into a state of real higgedly-piggedly. But that’s clearly not the case.

Mr. Assange replied that what Mr. Trump would do as president was “completely unpredictable.” By contrast, he thought it was predictable that Mrs. Clinton would wield power in two ways he found problematic.

First, citing his “personal perspective,” Mr. Assange accused Mrs. Clinton of having been among those pushing to indict him after WikiLeaks disseminated a quarter of a million diplomatic cables during her tenure as secretary of state.

“We do see her as a bit of a problem for freedom of the press more generally,” Mr. Assange said.

I’m going to ignore the middle part, where he is mad at Mrs. Clinton for moving to indict him after, you know, breaking the law. I get why he sees her as an enemy, but did that really come as a surprise? Regardless of what you think of the justice or efficacy of the Wikileaks diplomatic dump (and I think they are a different type than Snowden’s heroism), it stands to reason that the US government would be miffed. I get why Assange sees her as an enemy, but really, shouldn’t take it so personally.

It’s the first and third bits that are either idiotically naive or completely sinister, depending on where you stand on Assange. Seeing Clinton as “a bit of a problem for freedom of the press” is fair: the Obama Administration has a terrible track record on press freedom, and Hillary has never been known for her openness, exactly. I think being peeved at the cable dumping, in which legitimate diplomatic communication was exposed and lives were put in danger, doesn’t in and of itself mark her as an enemy. But I get it.

However, the contrast is, and was known at the time Assange made these statements (about six weeks ago) Donald Trump. Donald Trump. Donald Trump. He’s made it…very clear where he stance on the media, the role of antagonistic journalism, and the role of the press in a free society, which is: fuck the press. If they aren’t subservient to him, they are useless. He’s shown it in his willingness to excommunicate anyone who is “unfair” (by which we mean fair) to him.  He’s shown it on his ravaging Twitter feed, where he demonstrates that trying to keep the media in line is a bigger goal than talking about policy or anything else. This tweet— “I was at and met Juan Williams in passing. He asked if he could have pictures taken with me. I said fine. He then trashes on air!”– is a perfect example of his childish authoritarianism.

Not all his authoritarianism is childish and petulant (though really, aren’t those the emotions at the heart of tyranny?). He has made it very clear that he intends to, or at least wants to, “open up libel laws” so that he can sue unfriendly press out of existence. He’s been trying to do that for decades. One could argue the pursuit of this power is one of the driving goals of his Presidency. So even he won’t be able to open up libel laws, as that wouldn’t come close to holding up in court, he’s clearly a man who wants to quash press freedom, either de facto or de jure, in order to burnish his own heroic image. Not exactly an ally of an open society.

So when Assange says Trump is “completely unpredictable”, he’s lying, or else he’s not paying any attention, which doesn’t strike me as plausible. Trump has made it very clear he’s a huge fan of waterboarding, and of even more torture. He’s been clear about that his entire run. That Assange chooses to ignore that, and, worse, accommodate it, raises a few questions about motivations.

The charitable interpretation here is that Trump is an agent of chaos, will rattle America, will end the neoliberal agreement that is underpinning much of the world’s immorality. He’s ignorant about who Trump actually is, and underestimates the racism and nativism that undergirds the campaign, focusing on globalization and isolationism.

That’s actually dovetailed with the uncharitable interpretation, which is that Assange sees the US/EU as the real enemies, and any of their enemies– including the ruthless and literal-press-murdering Putin regime– as his friends. That’s pretty sinister, but when someone sets himself against one party, in this case the war-mongering, trade-hawking, and press-stifling US (and all these are legitimate charges!), he tends to cling to any port in the storm.

You are free to question if he is pro-freedom, merely anti-West and pro-Russia, pro-authoritarianism if it’s the right person, or anywhere in between. I don’t think there is a cut-and-dry answer, though I lean toward him being a bit of an authoritarian creep with libertarian clothes. All I know for sure is that with friends like these, freedom doesn’t need the many enemies it already has.

Talking DNC Blues: Dems Walk Fine Line Between Optimism and Anger


And as through your life you travel, Yes, as through your life you roam, You won’t never see an outlaw Drive a family from their home.

So, the Democrats were in a weird position last night. After the gotterdammerung of the RNC last week, with it’s “last night in a Pompeii whorehouse” vibe, they were eager to make them the Republicans look like panicky chumps, those who saw a mouse in the corner and imagined Godzilla. It was a strange turnabout for the party of Reagan: Dems were basically saying, you guys hate Springsteen, and now you’re singing his songs?

Of course, to do so ignored that the driving energy in the Democratic Party this year was the anger of Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown and others, especially Bernie Sanders, against the rigged system, the idea that the most powerful controlled the system and shut everyone else out. This idea is correct, and they’ve been beating that drum for decades, only to be derided as leftist jobkilling goons. So it must have been particularly galling to hear their language appropriated by Trump and the rest of the Republican Party, for whom words like “inequality” and “rigged system” sounded as foreign and distasteful as, well, I guess any actual foreign words would be.

So that was the trick yesterday, and that tension was a parallel track to the Bernie/Hillary debate. After all, saying “everything is fine and we’re great” ignored the driving force behind the Sanders campaign. To pretend that the newfound GOP distaste for the rich and powerful (which, we have to be reminded, is not sincere) was somehow incorrect or misdiagnosed would not just be wrong, but it would be politically idiotic. That’s why an uplifting speech like Cory Booker’s fell flat.

I feel that no matter what had happened, of course, there would have been a very small portion of Bernie supporters who would have been livid, and rightfully so. They would have booed and chanted regardless. That chanting “We trusted you” at Elizabeth Warren shows a complete disconnect from reality almost doesn’t matter: they had the energy, and that energy had to be recognized.

And, I think, by the end of the night it was. Sarah Silverman, of all people, broke the ice and said what a lot of people were thinking. She elegantly pointed out the stakes here, and used her brilliant with and reputation as a serious thinker to perfect advantage. It was a beautifully honest moment, an unscripted bit of theater that helped bring the convention back to script. I say “of all people” not because I am surprised she had the chops, but because if you had “Sarah Silverman” in the “who’ll save the party” pool, then my hat is off to you.

But there was still some tension, and still some Hillary hate. Then Michelle came on, and gave a stirring speech– really, one of the best most of us have ever heard. She sliced and diced the Trump campaign, but also the childishness of #BernieorBust. There are real stakes here. Her optimism, and her story of America’s arc, brought the night in focus. The White House was built by slaves. But now her daughters (“two beautiful, intelligent black young women”, in the proudest and most touching line of the night) played on it. It was a great way of showing that things can be truly and genuinely awful, but that the people can make a difference.

That set the stage for Warren and Sanders. They didn’t shy away from the problems of America, and didn’t build a sunny backdrop. They weren’t triumphant. They were fighters, and most importantly, they were partisans. They were saying, listen, sometimes the Dems can be be bad, but the Republican basically always are. If you care about this, you’ll kick the Democrats in the ass by pushing them to to left, but fighting and agitating, and by voting so that the Republican will lose. That’s the only way to continue any progress. That’s the way to make the marches and the energy and the tears and the hopes and frustrations mean something. It was a Woody Guthrie song. It was angry and determined, and it was what I think the majority of the holdouts needed.

It is sad that the Bernie Sanders campaign is over. The America ad, which they cannily played, reminded me of why I voted for him. He had a vision for America. What’s amazing is that his vision is winning. It is in a flawed vessel, but think of what he accomplished. Almost no one was at his announcement last year. He moved from that to controlling the platform, moving the party, and getting a 5-minute standing ovation at the DNC. The fighter may be done, but the fight continues.

They’ll have one last shot at catharsis today with the roll call. And I think they’ll be fine. The blade is sharpened, and the real enemy is known. Hillary might not be inspiring, but the cause is. I think through the final three speakers, they accomplished the difficult task of showing that they weren’t rose-tinted, but saw the problems clearly, and unlike the lipservice blowdried phonies in Cleveland, they actually have a plan to fight it.

Booing Bernie, Self-Inflicted Wounds, And the End of Revolution


‘Indict the DNC.’

Image from the Guardian


First Story: The DNC is, if not corrupt, certainly skewed toward boring centrism, and staffed with hacks and dopes who send idiotic, if ineffective, emails to each other plotting against Bernie Sanders and any real progressive change. Their little plots might not have come to fruition, but it was symbolic of the attempt to stifle a move toward the left. At the worst, the nomination was stolen from Bernie Sanders, and given to a warmongering neoliberal. Undemocratic superdelegates were just part of that.

Second Story: Hillary would have won anyway. She had the support of Hispanics, blacks, women, and other important parts of the Democratic Coalition. She beat Bernie Sanders by more votes, and more pledged delegates, than Obama beat her by in 2008. The dopes at the DNC didn’t matter. They could have supported Bernie, and he still would have lost.

Third Story: Regardless of DNC perfidy and juvenile grabassery, Bernie supporters have to come around. And the polls say most of them are. Like, 90%. It’s not even close. But the optics are terrible. The media is salivating for a “both sides in disarray!” story. Getting rid of the unexplainable Debbie Wasserman Schultz should be good. Having the most progressive platform in Democratic history should be a huge win. You’ve pushed the DNC as far to the left as can possibly be expected. Even Bernie Sanders is saying that booing is going to be terrible optics, and the stakes are too high. (a Bernie text, via Digby)

And yet, he was booed by some of his own supporters.

Let’s be clear: this is a minority of a minority, and in a very real sense, they are being crazily selfish, hoping for an impossible purity rather than accepting that they have, in a real sense won. The party has moved in their direction, and not even incrementally. If they raise a panic, stomp out, and think that the revolution can only be won by getting everything all at once or nothing at all, then nothing will win. Every amazing thing Sanders accomplished would be ruined.

And yet…they have every right to be angry. What happened at the DNC is not surprising, but it is still maddening and terrible, probably more so for all that. It was a self-inflicted wound by the DNC, in an election that should not be close, that cannot be close.

So the DNC hurt themselves, in an inexcusable way. The lesson for Bernie Sanders supporters is to not do the same fucking thing. Chanting “lock her up”, militating against Hillary, working actively for Trump is a betrayal to everything that every one of us who voted for Bernie voted for. It’s a betrayal of hope. It’s more than a self-inflicted wound. It’s progressive suicide.

So yes, it sucks that you are being asked to be “silent”. I get it. But you’ve already accomplished so much, and the stakes are too high. There is a legitimate honest-to-god fascist running. Your feelings are literally the least important thing here.



“How many times have I failed at this job?” 


Well, it took catastrophic stupidity to finally end the DNC tenure of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, but since that’s what it clearly took to appoint her, and to keep her in after 2014, I suppose that’s fitting.  A few quick thoughts.

  • The main take from the emails– that the DNC was pulling for and maneuvering in favor of Hillary– is not surprising. Not surprising in the sense that we already knew this, but also not surprising in tone. Political people think like political people and talk like them. There wasn’t going to be any neutrality. Remember this when you see people talking about the rigged Democratic leadership who were wondering when the Republican leadership was going to step up to stop Trump. It’s always ok when Republicans do it.
  • That said, this is terrible. It’s another example of DWS’s disastrous “leadership”, in which we managed to lose the Senate, virtually every possible statehouse, and fall backward in the House. It’s like she saw Rahm ignoring the successful lessons of Howard Dean, and saying “I think we should do more of this.” The organization followed. Were in not for the once-in-the-lifetime skills of Barack Obama, and the energy of the resurgent left giving new life to the party, it would be total disarray.
  • I’m not worried about this electorally. Bernie will still be speaking tonight, calling for unity. There will be protests, and a lot of #neverhillary people yelping on TV, but these people weren’t going to vote for her anyway. This is cover, not a reason.
  • That they are right– the system was set up against Bernie– should, in theory, give them even more resolve to push the party to the left. Look at what they accomplished with (admittedly incompetent) enemies. And now DWS is gone! This is a great chance to keep pushing one of the only two viable parties more toward their goals. I know that’s what I am hoping for: an actually progressive in the DNC chairperson role. Why not bring back Howard Dean under whom we were, remember, wildly successful. In the short, medium, and long run, this idiocy could be hepful. (It’s Donna Brazille, at least through the election, which is fine.)
  • A lot depends on the speech tonight, and how well the convention goes. The press would love to have a “both parties in turmoil” story, based on the equivalence of jumped-up fundraisers and college interns at the DNC acting like their venal boss and the rise of American fascism. It’s going to take a hell of a convention to turn that tide. If so, and the story is “a week that started in disarray ended with great unity”, that’ll be a rising tide. I think having Bernie and Michelle and Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden and Barack Obama speak makes it a decent bet.
  • Really, the big story is the Russian connection. It looks more and more likely that they were officially behind the hack, in whatever way the Russian intelligence services work. Trump and Putin are clearly sympatico, though I don’t think Putin sees it as a gathering of equals. Trump does a lot of business in Russia, and needs Russian money, since American banks don’t trust him. His top advisors are intimately intertwined with Russia, and its goals of using energy to dominate their regional rivals. They are vested in the dissoltuion or Europe, the weakening of NATO, and an isolationist agenda. And hey, those are all Trump stances! This could get really interesting…