Posts by Paul Constant

Donald Trump Is the End Result of the Republican Party’s Exclusionary Tactics

Donald Trump Is the End Result of the Republican Party’s Exclusionary Tactics

Adam Serwer’s excellent assessment of the Trump campaign—it’s titled “ The Antidote to Trump “—is absolutely worth your time. Here’s the thesis statement: The force that can scour Trumpism from the Republican Party for good is the same one that gave Truman the ability to defy the Dixiecrats: a diverse base. Not the feel-good diversity of tokenism or having “black friends,” but the division of power. This is absolutely true. Trump’s rise to popularity in the Republican Party could only have happened with the help of a homogenous base. And the only way to stop this kind of exclusionary talk is by diversifying that base. On the face of it, this seems to be a catch-22, but Serwer correctly points out that both Democrats and Republicans have successfully incorporated more diverse viewpoints at multiple times in their histories. More to the point, the diversification often came after demagogues single-handedly drove the parties to their worst moments. Nobody can seriously deny that the party of Trump is at a low point. Unless you’re a straight white male, the Republican Party has likely overtly offended you in the last few years. In this primary alone, politicians have worked to exclude, vilify, or outright deny the rights of every minority imaginable. This is not sustainable. Diversity, as Civic Skunkworks co-founder Nick Hanauer has said , is the key to innovation of all kinds: “The more cognitive diversity we have — the more people simultaneously approaching the same problem from as many different backgrounds and perspectives as possible — the greater the rate of innovation.” And yes, that includes political innovation. Without diversity, your answers become more and more myopic, until finally the solutions to all your problems start to look remarkably like Donald Trump: hateful, exclusionary, and cruel. Donald Trump is the end result of the negative feedback loop that Hanauer
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Scott Walker Hopes You Won’t Notice Him Quietly Killing Voter Rights in Wisconsin

Scott Walker Hopes You Won’t Notice Him Quietly Killing Voter Rights in Wisconsin

In a private ceremony far away from the prying eyes of the media, Wisconsin Governor (and failed presidential candidate) Scott Walker signed two new bills into law. The first strips power from a nonpartisan elections panel and instead creates two new partisan committees to oversee elections. And the second, in the words of Amanda Terkel at the Huffington Post … …relaxes campaign finance rules, doubling the limit for individual contributions, eliminating the requirement that donors must identify their employer and allowing corporate donations to political parties and legislative campaign committees. Yep. If you asked me how to destroy a democracy as quickly as possible, those are pretty much the steps I’d outline: remove nonpartisan oversight and give outsize power to big money interests. These kind of policies have been enacted in Republican strongholds across the country, and they are incredibly detrimental to democracy. Walker signed those bills in secret, which is telling: it indicates to me that he knows what he’s doing isn’t in the public’s interest. Unlike most conservative pushes against voter rights, he can’t even hold up a bogus claim of voter fraud as a reason for these policies. What he’s doing will strip the electorate of their voice, and devalue that quintessential American idea of one vote for every citizen. Instead, poor people, minorities, and other populations will lose their chance for equal representation. Meanwhile, Walker might not have won the presidency—in fact, he made a total hash of his presidential campaign—but you can bet he’ll retire from his governorship into a fancy high-paying position for one of the companies that supported the anti-voter legislation that he signed into law. The ugliness is so overt; opponents of election equality aren’t even trying to hide their goals behind euphemism and coded language anymore. They’re just trying to get what they want and sneak off like thieves into the night.

The Republican Debate Was Alternately Horrifying and Boring

The Republican Debate Was Alternately Horrifying and Boring

I stand by my prediction from this morning : tonight’s Republican debate was all about fear. Candidates proposed war with just about every country we’re currently not friendly with, including Russia. They implied that terrorists and criminals were behind every rock and around every corner, ready to leap out and take everything we hold dear. They accused all refugees and Muslims and immigrants of being criminals or murderers or worse. It was a horrifying display. Even stranger, tonight’s debate was a bizarre blend of deadly dull and horrifying—there was a point when the candidates were jostling over who would be most eager to kill innocent children that I felt an alarming blend of boredom and shock that I’ve never quite felt before. I guess you can get used to anything. So if you’re still keeping track: Trump and Cruz probably “won” the debate, insofar as they projected their message of fear and hatred as clearly and as relentlessly as possible. Marco Rubio sweat it a little bit; he’s not going to lose his favored son status with the establishment, but a few Rubio fans might have walked away from the debate on shaky feet. Jeb Bush had the best debate of his campaign, but it won’t matter. His stammering closing statement was still ugly, and he didn’t make a case for why anyone should pass Rubio over for him. Christie was strong enough to pick up a point or two in New Hampshire. Rand Paul was about as good as he’s ever been, but it won’t help him at all, either. Kasich, Carson, and Fiorina all failed to justify their continued existence on the debate stage. But really none of that matters. What matters is that the candidates didn’t discuss the economy at all. They barely mentioned climate change, or guns. They talked about Americans feeling unsafe, but they
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The Winner of Tonight’s Republican Debate Will Be…

The Winner of Tonight’s Republican Debate Will Be…

You’ll probably scroll past a lot of previews for tonight’s Republican presidential debate on Facebook and Twitter today. They’ll theorize about how many candidates will try to attack Ted Cruz (many of them) and who will “win” (probably Rubio) and who will “lose” (probably Paul and Bush) the debate. This is fine. I like to speculate about presidential debates as much as the next person—probably more. But the thing is, we’ve long since passed the point where this kind of speculation was useful. There have been four Republican debates so far, and they’ve all roughly followed the same pattern: Trump starts with a bang and disappears for the middle part of the debate after humiliating one or two of his opponents. Rubio follows his script and is praised for it. A few of the fringe candidates get to say a thing or two. Jeb Bush flails around and is visibly uncomfortable. Maybe Cruz does a little better or a little worse, depending on the day. This pattern is probably not going to change on any significant level between the last four debates and now. But here’s what has changed. In the month since the last debate, we have seen the Paris and San Bernardino terror attacks. We’ve seen that Republicans are interested in changing the conversation from economics to terror , because they believe they have a better shot at winning that way. Donald Trump has led the field on a ridiculous escalation of anti-Muslim statements that eventually led to a proposed unconstitutional (and unenforceable) ban on all Muslim travel into the US. In the time since the last debate, Trump has also proposed an automatic death penalty for all convicted killers of police officers. Since we’ve already established that the Republican presidential field is taking its orders from Trump, and since this debate is hosted by Wolf Blitzer, who is one of the least capable TV news hosts in the business, this
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Today, the City Council Is Considering a Bill That Would Let Rideshare Drivers Unionize

Today, the City Council Is Considering a Bill That Would Let Rideshare Drivers Unionize

Corey Fedde at the Christian Science Monitor says : Seattle City Council member Mike O’Brien has proposed a bill to help Uber and Lyft drivers to unionize in Seattle. The proposed bill would provide a route to collective bargaining and could have dramatic impact on the ride-service and taxi industries. If passed, Seattle would be the first city in the nation to legally mandate the right to unionize for drivers using ride share web applications. The bill is being discussed today in Council chambers. This is a big deal. Mike Isaac, Nick Wingfield, and Noam Scheiber explain why it’s important in the New York Times . They open their story with a driver named Don Creery who invested in a new car because his work for Uber and Lyft was paying so well. Of course, things went awry: Since then, Uber and Lyft have cut the rates they charge passengers for rides and ended the incentives used to recruit drivers. Mr. Creery said he now has to drive 10 to 12 hours a day to make the amount of money he once did working six to eight hours. It’s because of experiences like Creery’s that the bill is being disussed. Civic Skunkworks co-founder Nick Hanauer was quoted in the same New York Times article, calling the bid to unionize a “step in the right direction in terms of trying to bring some sanity and balance to these new business models.” Of course, if you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know that Hanauer and SEIU 775NW president David Rolf also proposed another solution for the problem of the sharing economy. It’s called a Shared Security System , and it would ensure that workers in the sharing economy would enjoy the same benefits and pay as workers in more traditional circumstances. This isn’t a punitive measure for businesses in the sharing economy, it’s a way to
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You Should Be a Candidate

You Should Be a Candidate

I was a skeptic about Gawker’s recent refocus on politics, but I’ve enjoyed what they’ve done so far. This piece, by Tom Scocca, is the best political piece that I’ve read there: You can run for office, too. Yes, you. Why not? Why worry about how to send a message as a passive consumer of politics, when you can be an active participant? Democracy isn’t people arguing about how best to vote between foreordained options. Democracy is people running for office. You are a person. Scocca’s mainly agitating for people to run for Congress, and primarily in places where candidates are uncontested, but it’s true on every level. Politics works better when more people are involved. The conservative side of the spectrum enjoys a full complement of potential candidates, from the humblest of local posts to the highest office in the land. Until we see more progressive volunteers, we’re not going to get the kind of progressive candidates that we need. Speaking of running for office, the newest episode of former Mayor Mike McGinn’s podcast, You, Me, Us, Now features an interview with three first-time city council candidates who lost their races. Michael Maddux, Tammy Morales, and Jon Grant discuss the various problems they encountered as they tried to face off against better-funded candidates. It’s an interesting conversation, and it also makes clear the fact that none of these candidates are polished, perfect robots who come from some political factory somewhere. They’re people, same as you and me, and they care enough about the way things are going to take a stand. That’s all it takes. As these candidates proved, you don’t have to win to cause change——sometimes getting involved is all it takes to help alter the conversation.

It’s Been a Good Week for Syrian Refugee Inclusion

It’s Been a Good Week for Syrian Refugee Inclusion

Yesterday, our founder Nick Hanauer published an editorial in the Seattle Times advocating for the inclusion of Muslim immigrants in general, and Syrian refugees in particular. Turns out, yesterday was a very good day for the cause of accepting Syrian refugees in America. President Obama left a comment on a Humans of New York Facebook post * profiling an unnamed Syrian refugee, currently living in Turkey, who is about to relocate to Michigan. Here’s what the Commenter-in-Chief said: As a husband and a father, I cannot even begin to imagine the loss you’ve endured. You and your family are an inspiration. I know that the great people of Michigan will embrace you with the compassion and support you deserve. Yes, you can still make a difference in the world, and we’re proud that you’ll pursue your dreams here. Welcome to your new home. You’re part of what makes America great. From all appearances, Obama is right: the man is an inventor, and one of his inventions is “being used right now on the Istanbul metro to generate electricity from the movement of the train.” He also says he has sketches of “a plane that can fly for 48 hours without fuel.” Of his new home, the man says “I just hope that it’s safe and that it’s a place where they respect science. I just want to get back to work.” Today is another great day for Syrian refugees in America. Ian Millhiser at ThinkProgress writes : Last week, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) filed a lawsuit seeking to halt “any and all activities of the [United States] regarding placement of Syrian refugees in Texas,” at least until the Obama administration complies with a list of demands made by the state. Among other things, they sought a temporary order suspending Syrian refugee resettlement until Judge David Godbey, a George W. Bush appointee, had more time to consider the case. On Wednesday, Godbey
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Texas Pro-Gun Groups to Stage a Mock Mass Shooting

Texas Pro-Gun Groups to Stage a Mock Mass Shooting

Yeah. You read that right. A pair of pro-gun organizations are going to have an open carry march to protest gun-free zones, and then they’re going to stage a mock mass shooting. From Asher Price at the Austin Statesman : The Open Carry Walk and Crisis Performance Event will involve actors “shot” by perpetrators armed with cardboard weapons, said Matthew Short, a spokesman for the gun rights groups Come and Take It Texas and DontComply.com. “It’s a fake mass shooting, and we’ll use fake blood,” he said. He said gun noises will be blared from bullhorns. Other people will then play the role of rescuers, also armed with cardboard weapons. Supposedly, this fake mass shooting will demonstrate that last week’s San Bernardino shooting could have been stopped if someone in attendance was armed with a gun. Which is, of course, bullshit . And get this: the fake mass shooting will take place at University of Texas’s Austin campus, which is where Charles Joseph Whitman killed 14 people and injured 32 others in 1966, decades before America’s new mass-murder trend kicked off. Here, via the New Republic , is the poster for the event: Price quotes a spokesman for the group as saying they’re staging the protest because “We love freedom and we’re trying to make more freedom.” There is so much wrong with this, on so many levels, that I literally don’t know where to start. I don’t even want to think about this anymore, it’s so wrong-headed. But, okay, let’s talk about it. This isn’t about freedom. You know what I call a mob of heavily armed people roaming through a public place shouting? I call that tyranny. You know what I call a staged mass murder? Sounds like they’re terrorizing people to me. The thing about guns is that they’re scary, because they can kill you. They kill lots of people. Thousands of people this year . (Have you tried this tool from The Trace that
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This Is the Dumbest Thing Rand Paul Has Ever Said

This Is the Dumbest Thing Rand Paul Has Ever Said

We here at Civic Ventures have been kind of quiet about Donald Trump lately. That’s because the internet is overflowing with opinions about Donald Trump, most of them entirely unnecessary. There’s no point in adding any more noise to that cacophony. And reasonable people understand that what Trump is pushing is outright bigotry. Reasonable people also understand that giving Trump a whole lot of airtime in exchange for his statements is only making matters worse. And reasonable people understand that when Donald Trump says something outrageous, he’s normalizing it for a large segment of Americans. But presidential politics, right now, two months from the start of voting, is not about reasonable people. It’s about attention, and clicks, and eyeballs. But there’s a little sideshow to this particular circus that I wanted to focus on for a moment. Remember Senator Rand Paul? The fellow that TIME called “The Most Interesting Man in Politics?” Yeah, his campaign never really took off. It launched with some support left over from Ron Paul’s two viral presidential campaigns, but those people started sloughing off the minute the younger Paul started talking about, well, much of anything. It’s been a downhill slide in the polls ever since. We’ve documented his decline on this blog , but then, like pretty much everyone else on earth, we forgot about him. Luckily, New Hampshire radio station WGIR remembered that Paul existed. They asked him what he thought about Donald Trump’s recent statement on immigration. Paul’s response, as recorded by the good folks at Talking Points Memo , is astounding: “I think it’s a mistake to base immigration or moratoriums based on religion,” Paul said. “But you know, I’ve called for something similar, which is a moratorium based on high risk.” Look at that. Just read that quote again. Paul says something right—although it’s more than “a mistake” to base immigration or moratoriums on religion, it’s downright “unconstitutional”—and then
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Panicking In Response to Mass Shootings Does Not Help Anyone

Panicking In Response to Mass Shootings Does Not Help Anyone

Hamilton Nolan at Gawker has been doing particularly excellent work lately. This morning, he published a wonderful post titled “ You Will Not Die in a Mass Shooting .” It addresses the fact that as mass shootings increase in frequency, Americans are terrified that they’ll be caught in a mass shooting situation. And when people get scared, they do stupid things. In particular, people who are scared of mass shootings will frequently buy guns. This is the dumbest thing you could do: if you really fear getting shot, having a gun in your house is much more risky for you and your loved ones than, say, going to the movies. I’ll let Nolan explain it: …Mass shootings are very scary. And very visible. But in all likelihood they are not going to happen to you. You are more likely to die in a mass shooting than to win the Powerball drawing, but the truth is that you are not going to do either. That does not stop people from buying lottery tickets, and it does not stop people from fearing being killed in spectacular acts of terrorism. It is true that guns kill tens of thousands of Americans every year—the majority of them from suicide. Of the fraction that are homicides, only a vanishingly small fraction of those are high profile mass shootings of the type that make people fear to go to office parties, or to movie theaters. If gun violence itself is what you fear, the most prudent action you can take is to not have a gun in your home. This is a negative feedback loop: more mass shootings happen, so people buy more guns to feel safe, which cause more people to be killed or injured by guns, which inspires more fear and causes more people to buy guns in order to feel safe
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