Email #337: “a wake-up call”

Many Republican have acknowledged the seriousness of Tuesday’s elections.

Rep. Dent said yesterday: “If this isn’t a wake-up call, I don’t know what is. Voters are taking their anger out at the president, and the only way they can do that is by going after Republicans on the ballot.”

Former Virginia Governor McDonnell said: “The enthusiastic left showed up tonight in big numbers, and that really determined the outcome.”

Republican Party of Virginia chair Whitbeck said: “I will be blunt: last night was a terrible night for our Party. We must quickly regroup and prepare for next year.”

Former Washington State Republican Party chair Chris Vance said: “Republicans are being obliterated in the suburbs. I don’t think the Republican Party has a future in any state like Washington or Virginia, or Oregon or California, or many other places, where the majority of the voters are from urban or suburban areas…  Among college-educated suburbanites, [Trump] is a pariah.”

While recounts will determine the final breakdown, it appears 15 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates have already shifted to Democrats. If Democrats win two of the contested recounts, they take control. In August, the liberal websites Blue Virginia and the Daily Kos considered this nearly impossible: “The problem Democrats have with this map isn’t that they have to hit a bullseye, it’s that they have to hit a bullseye many times in a row, with no margin for error. That’s why, as things currently stand, I’m rating the Virginia HoD Safe R.”

Regardless of the final outcome, the Democratic upsets are linked to President Trump and his policies and rhetoric.

Vietnamese immigrant Kathy Tran won a GOP seat by campaigning against the President’s anti-immigrant stance: “This was a clear rejection of racism and bigotry and hateful violence. People are hungry for a government that reflects the diversity of our communities.”

The President reversed military policy to prohibit transgender people from serving, and the transgender Democratic candidate Danica Roem defeated 13-term incumbent and self-declared “chief homophobe” Robert Marshall, who introduced a bill banning transgender people from using public restrooms of their choice. Roem said in her victory speech: “Discrimination is a disqualifier. This is about the people of the 13th District disregarding fear tactics, disregarding phobias . . . where we celebrate you because of who you are, not despite it.”

Of the 15 new seats won by Democrats, 11 were by female candidates, nearly doubling the total number of women in the House from 17 to 30. The President has been accused of sexual harassment by over 16 women, all of whom the President has called liars. Regarding the most recent allegation, he responded last month: “All I can say is it’s totally fake news. It’s just fake. It’s fake. It’s made-up stuff, and it’s disgraceful, what happens, but that happens in the — that happens in the world of politics.” Delegate-elect Jennifer Carroll Foy said she ran because of the “fear and anger and frustration” she felt toward the President.

Republican candidate Ed Gillespie attempted to distance himself from the President. According to Politico, Donald Trump “is the first president since Richard Nixon, who at the time was in the throes of the Watergate scandal, not to campaign in [Virginia’s] governor’s race.” But Gillespie still lost by 9%.

GOP strategist Mike Murphy said: “Donald Trump is an anchor for the GOP. We got that message in loud volume in Virginia. The ­canary in the coal mine didn’t just pass out; its head exploded.”

So far I haven’t heard anything from your office about the landslide election in your own state. Your press release yesterday instead bragged about your committee forwarding legislation to the House floor. Did you notice the election? Did you get the message too?


Email #336: “This is a tidal wave”

Your fellow Virginian Republican Rep. Taylor said of yesterday’s election results:

“I don’t know how you get around that this wasn’t a referendum on the administration, I just don’t. Some of the very divisive rhetoric helped prompt and usher in a really high Democratic turnout in Virginia. We need to have some looking in the mirror.”

The President tweeted early yesterday about the governor’s race:

“Ralph Northam will allow crime to be rampant in Virginia. He’s weak on crime, weak on our GREAT VETS, Anti-Second Amendment….and has been horrible on Virginia economy. Vote @EdWGillespie today! @EdWGillespie will totally turn around the high crime and poor economic performance of VA. MS-13 and crime will be gone. Vote today, ASAP!”

When it was clear that Northam had won by 9%, the President tweeted:

“Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for. Don’t forget, Republicans won 4 out of 4 House seats, and with the economy doing record numbers, we will continue to win, even bigger than before!”

But in Virginia, Republicans lost big. Not only did the full Democratic ticket win the three statewide elections, Democrats claimed historic victories in the House of Delegates.

Republicans currently dominate the House 66 to 34. Because of gerrymandered advantages, they were only expected to lose six seats this year, compared to the single seat they lost in the last election. Instead Democrats have taken 14 seats, with another three too close to call and headed for recounts. That means the best-case scenario for Republicans is only a 52 to 48 majority. The worst case: they drop to a 49-seat minority.

According to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report: “This is a tidal wave. It’s hard to look at tonight’s results and to conclude anything other than that Democrats are the current favorite for control of the House in 2018.”

President Trump claims Gillespie lost because he did not “embrace” him. But he lost because he could not distance himself enough from the President. Rep. Taylor says the Republican Party needs some looking in the mirror.

What do you see in yours right now?

Email #324: Least Popular President in Modern History

How do you think President Trump is going to influence the coming election?

Begin by comparing his approval levels to his predecessor’s. According to the conglomerate polling data at Real Clear Politics, in October of his first year in office President Obama’s approval rating was 52% and his disapproval 42%. The low point of his two terms didn’t come till December 2013, when his approval dropped to 43% and his disapproval rose to 53%.

In contrast, President Trump has been consistently polling below Obama’s lowest marks since May, with a current approval of 39% and disapproval of 56%.

In fact all Presidents but one since 1946 had higher approval ratings in the October of their first year. The exception is President Ford, who took office after Richard Nixon resigned rather than face removal through an impeachment conviction, and Ford’s approval plummeted after granting Nixon a pardon.

Even President Clinton had climbed out of his June low of 38% and had begun his slow climb to his high mark of 72%.

Prior to President Trump, the lowest average approval rating at this point in a first term was President Truman’s 45%.

President Trump’s current average is 39%.

That’s not going to help Republican candidates running on November 7th. Perhaps President Trump will reverse his slow downward trend before the following election on November 6, 2018.

According to the National Review, the party of a President has maintained a House majority only four times since 1952, while the other party won twelves times. Democrats lost 48 seats in 1966, but still held onto their majority. That’s because they started with a 70-seat advantage. Currently Republicans have a 24-seat advantage.

According to Gallup records, the party of Presidents with 50% approval or higher have lost an average of 14 House seats in mid-term elections, while Presidents with approval below 50% have averaged a loss of 36 seats.

Gerrymandering by Republican state legislatures will help offset the President’s low approval—but only to a degree. And there’s also an unprecedented complication for Republicans. According to a CBS survey, 39% of Republicans think you and other House Republicans “don’t like” the President and want to undermine him, and another 37% think you only “pretend to” to like him in order to pass your own agenda. That means that even if the President’s base stops shrinkinfg, those voters support him, not you and the rest of the GOP Congress.

Also, according to a Quinnipiac survey, 29% blame Democrats for legislative gridlock but 46% blame Republicans. While that’s already bad news for you, only 15% blame the President and only 4% of Republican voters blame him. In short, President Trump is objectively the least popular president in modern history, and his small but loyal base openly rejects the Republican party establishment.

Finally, in the past month, five Republicans—Rep. Reichert, Rep. Dent, Rep. Tiberi, Senator Flake, and Senator Corker—have announced that they will not be running for reelection. A total of 19 Republicans but only 10 Democrats are stepping down.

Why do you think that is?

Email #322: “historic mistake”?

Senator McCain criticized the President in a speech he delivered on Monday:

“To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain “the last best hope of earth” for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.”

Senator Corker criticized the President during an interview yesterday:

“I would have hoped that he would rise to the occasion and bring out the best in our nation, Charlie. Hopefully, what presidents do is to try to bring the country together to unify around common goals, not to debase our country if you will, and that has not happened. I’m beginning to believe that’s not going to happen, and I think that’s what President Bush, President Obama, many others are concerned about, as it appears to be the governing model of this White House to purposely divide. I mean that’s what happened after the Virginia incident. It’s to consolidate the base, not to bring people together and bring out the better angels of those people in our country.”

And Senator Flake criticized the President when he announced his retirement yesterday:

“When the next generation asks us, ‘Why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t you speak up?’ What are we going to say? … We must stop pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal. They are not normal. Reckless, outrageous and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as telling it like it is when it is actually just reckless, outrageous and undignified. And when such behavior emanates from the top of our government, it is something else. It is dangerous to a democracy.”

These are deep criticisms by three Republican Senators over two days. But the content of their criticism isn’t new. We heard it well before the election:

“Making Donald Trump our commander in chief would be a historic mistake and it would undo so much of the work that Republicans and Democrats alike have done over many decades to make America stronger and more secure. It would set back our standing in the world more than anything in recent memory, and it would fuel an ugly narrative about who we are, that we’re fearful, not confident, that we want to let others determine our future for us instead of shaping our own destiny. That’s not the America I know and love.”

Hillary Clinton said that in June 2016. I understand why Republicans ignored her at the time. I ignored what the Trump campaign was saying about her too. But now Republicans are agreeing with those criticisms—or at least Republicans who are not seeking reelection. Flake and Corker will leave office after next year, and though McCain’s term extends another four years, he was diagnosed with cancer over the summer.

Are death and retirement the only ways for Republicans to acknowledge the nature of the Trump presidency? I understand that you support much of the same agenda and therefore have political reasons to ignore the President’s flaws. I have overlooked the flaws of past Democrats for similar reasons. But no sitting Democratic president has ever been rebuked by senators of his own party as unpatriotic, half-baked, purposely divisive, debasing, dangerous, reckless, outrageous, and undignified.

Do you sincerely disagree with any of these assessments?

Email #320: “season of war”?

Karl Rove, former chief strategist to President Bush, wrote in the Wall Street Journal last week: “Steve Bannon, the failed presidential adviser and alt-right sympathizer, has declared war on incumbent Republicans.”

Rove then mocked Bannon’s selection of primary challengers, including Michael Grimm, “who was forced to resign his New York seat in 2015 after pleading guilty to tax fraud. Recently released after seven months in the federal pen … Presumably Mr. Grimm won’t campaign in his orange prison jumpsuit”; Senate challenger Danny Tarkanian, “a perennial candidate who has lost five races for four different state and federal offices”; and gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo, “a nativist who once said President Obama was ‘a more serious threat to America than al Qaeda,’ and who earlier this year accepted a speaking invitation from a white-nationalist group.”

Bannon refered to Rove’s “very unfriendly” op-ed during a speaking engagement on Friday: “I don’t like punching down, so I’m not going to say anything.”

Bannon instead attacked former President Bush for his speech last week that, while not referring to him by name, has been read across the political spectrum as criticizing President Trump. Bannon said President Bush “embarrassed himself” and “didn’t understand anything he was talking about” as he read the “high falutin” speech prepared by his writers while having “no earthly idea of whether he’s coming or going … just like it was when he was President of the United States.”

I’m no fan of President Bush either, but it is surreal to hear President Trump’s former chief strategist describe Bush in the same manner that so many describe President Trump, as someone mentally incapable of understanding the complexities of the Presidency. More surreal, Bannon attacked Bush and the Republican establishment while simultaneously imploring his Republican audience “to hold that coalition together.” And more surreal still, while openly dividing the GOP and promising what he has termed a “season of war” in the primaries, he mocked Democratic the “fools” who “are going to drag [their party] so far to the left that we’re going to hold those districts. And Nancy Pelosi is not going to get the chance to impeach the President of the United States.”

But it’s not former Speaker Pelosi who will be impeaching President Trump. It will be you. While you have refused to open House Judiciary Committee investigations into the Trump administration, four other House and Senate investigations are underway, plus special counsel Mueller’s. While your inaction has the appearance of politically motivated obstinacy, it has one benefit. It will require you to respond swiftly when these five investigation reports are released early next year since you will not have the excuse of having to conclude your own investigation first. If any of the reports include evidence of impeachable offenses, you will have to either proceed with articles or openly thwart that constitutional process.

You will also be facing reelection and Bannon’s “season of war” with a potential June primary. Do you know yet whether Bannon has identified a challenger for you? Although your quarter century in Congress makes you a defining example of what Bannon calls “the permanent political class that runs this country” and that he says “is one of the great dangers that we face,” so far your selective silence and inaction has allowed you to avoid the wrath of the alt-right voters that Bannon represents here in Virginia’s 6th district.

But when the eye of impeachment centers on you as chair of the House Judiciary Committee solely in charge of the process, you will no longer be able to avoid that scrutiny. Will you place your reelection before the duties of your office? Have you drafted your explanation for why you won’t be impeaching the President yet?

And regardless of your own nationally televised choice, how do you think these multiple investigative reports–including the likely indictments of at least two former Trump campaign and administration figures, Manaforte and Flynn–will affect the “fools” of the Republican party demanding “to hold that coalition together” while simultaneously declaring war on it? Will you be siding with Rove and your “permanent political class” or Bannon’s “alt-right sympathizers”? If your only concern is reelection, which do you think will better serve your personal interests?

Email #311: “protecting our electoral system”?

Do you know who your Friends are?

Your Facebook page has 14,098 likes and 15,549 followers. Your Twitter account @bobgoodlatte6 has 1,758 followers. I would have assumed they were all legitimate supporters, the vast majority of them constituents living right here in Virginia’s 6th Congressional District. But the Senate Intelligence Committee warns otherwise.

Though its full report will not be completed for months, the Committee reinforced the federal intelligence community’s unanimous conclusion that Russia did attempt to sway last year’s election—and that they will continue to do in this coming election and next year’s too.

Republican co-chair Senator Burr said last week: “The Russian intelligence service is determined — clever — and I recommend that every campaign and every election official take this very seriously. You can’t walk away from this and believe that Russia’s not currently active.”

Virginia Senator and co-chair Warner added: “There needs to be a more aggressive whole-of-government approach in terms of protecting our electoral system. Remember, to make a change even in a national election doesn’t require penetration into 50 states. You could pick two or three states in two or three jurisdictions and alter an election.”

This is why Russia focused its Facebook ads so aggressively in Wisconsin and Michigan, two of the three upset states that elected President Trump by margins of 0.7 (22,748 votes) and 0.2 points (10,704 votes). You, in contrast, defeated your Democrat challenger with a total of 225,471 votes to his 112,170. If you add in the votes from the third upset state of Pennsylvania, the President’s margin of victory was still only 77,000 votes. Yours was 113,301. You took your single district by more votes than the President took the forty districts in the top three battleground states combined. That’s how close the election was and how vulnerable future elections remain.

There is now conclusive evidence that Russia used Facebook and Twitter through ads and fake user accounts. The Senate Intelligence Committee is examining over 3,000 Facebook ads purchased at a cost of $100,000 by Russian agents disguised as U.S. citizens to influence the election. After creating fake news websites to disseminate anti-Clinton propaganda, Russians then used social media to promote them. Their fake U.S. identities included Facebook user “Melvin Redick,” an apparent father in Harrisburg, PA who posted: “These guys show hidden truth about Hillary Clinton, George Soros and other leaders of the US. Visit #DCLeaks website. It’s really interesting!” Other Russian agents targeted Bernie Sanders’ Facebook page with comments like: “Those who voted for Bernie, will not vote for corrupt Hillary! The Revolution must continue! #NeverHillary.” Twitter is even more vulnerable with hundreds of fake accounts, including automated bots that drove the Russian propaganda hashtag “#HillaryDown” into a trending Twitter topic.

The Senate Intelligence Committee warns that many fake accounts are still active and new accounts are spreading across multiple social media platforms. What steps are you taking to ensure that your own Facebook pages and Twitter posts are not being used by foreign agents to heighten political discord? What steps are you taking to verify the legitimacy of your 15,549 followers? Facebook has removed “Melvin Redick” and dozens of other fakes. It’s a simple process. You look at the user’s homepage and if there’s something suspicious about it, you inform Facebook who sends a request to verify their identity. If the user ignores the request, as fake-identity users do, the account is closed. And, more importantly, our country is one more degree safer from foreign influences trying to profit from our political polarization.

Or are you disregarding the Committee’s warning because fake users would aid your election prospects as they aided the President’s last year?

Email #304: “62%”?

According to Suffolk University-USA Today polling, last March the GOP had a 48% unfavorable rating. According to Real Politics poll averages, President Trump had the same. In June, the President’s and the GOP’s unfavorable ratings both rose to roughly 55%. The President later peaked at 57% and now has settled back to its current 55%. But the GOP’s unfavorable rating has continued to rise, now hitting 62%.

That’s not the GOP’s worst polling news. According to the Wall Street Journal and NBC News, last April 47% wanted Democrats to control Congress while 43% wanted Republicans. Now 57% of those polled by USA Today want the next Congress to stand against President Trump while only 33% want a Congress that shares his agenda.

The 4% gap of six months ago has widened to 14%.

Fortunately for the GOP, you and the rest of the House of Representatives are not up for reelection this November. You have a year to correct course. You could heed the public and move toward a moderate, bipartisan agenda. Or you could continue on the path you’ve been on, pushing legislation that appeals to your far-right base.

As a Democrat, I’m torn too. A part of me would like to see you continue exactly what you’ve been doing because it raises the already high probability of a mid-term landslide in 2018. But I also wish to see our two parties work from the center together. Democracy is possible only through compromise. Our current political climate is anti-compromise, and I sincerely believe that political polarization is damaging our country. Prioritizing that principle, I can see that achieving a unifying centrist agenda would do more overall good right now–even though it would fall short of and at times violate my own progressive preferences.

You have a cynical reason to support moderate legislation too. It’s the best chance you and your party have of remaining in power. But you have no interest in my opinions, and so you will almost certainly continue promoting a divisive, right-wing agenda. Though that short-sightedness will benefit Democrats in November 2018, I regret the long-term damage it inflicts on our country as a whole.