The 2016 presidential election may test a theory. Do Americans like chaos – turning everything inside-out and upside-down, because what we have is somewhere between boring and stupid, and chaos is cleansing? That seems the premise of the Trump campaign. Donald Trump will break all the rules – and he does – and enough people love it so that he has a real chance to win it all. Hillary Clinton seems to be making the opposite bet, a bet that Americans don’t want to live in a world of perpetual chaos – people do get hurt for no good reason. There is, after all, a certain comfort in knowing what comes next, even if it’s not new and wonderful – and what’s entirely new often isn’t wonderful at all. It’s often worse. So far, more than half of the electorate feels that way. They prefer continuity to chaos.
That’s why Hillary Clinton just picked Senator Tim Kaine, of Virginia, as her running mate. John Cassidy explains why that’s an attempt to contain chaos:
There have been complaints from the left that Kaine isn’t progressive enough, which isn’t exactly surprising. (The Warren wing of the Democratic Party isn’t so-named for nothing: it wanted Elizabeth Warren to get the job.) Some Hispanic groups were sure to be disappointed if Clinton didn’t pick a Latino, which is understandable, too. And some journalists have complained that Kaine isn’t an exciting enough choice – a recent headline at The New Republic read, “Tim Kaine Is Too Boring to Be Clinton’s Running Mate.”
So what? She has her reasons:
The first is that many people associated with Clinton’s campaign believe that despite a recent narrowing in the polls she is well-placed to win in November. Were Team Clinton hugely concerned that Hispanics and other minorities won’t turn out in the numbers that they did for Barack Obama, it would surely have gone with a member of a visible minority -Julián Castro, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, or New Jersey’s Senator Cory Booker, say. If Team Clinton was seriously worried that Bernie Sanders’s supporters would defect to the Green Party in large numbers, or stay at home on Election Day, it might have taken a chance on Warren as Vice-President, despite the fact that the senator from Massachusetts and Clinton have long had a cool relationship.
But Donald Trump’s clinching of the Republican nomination has allayed many of the concerns among the Clinton campaign about turnout and Party unity. His role, in this regard, is not unlike the one played, during the Troubles in Ireland, by Sir Ian Paisley, the firebrand Protestant preacher and Unionist politician, whom an Irish Republican Army soldier reportedly described as “the best recruiting sergeant we’ve got.” As long as Trump’s name is on the ballot, Democrats will show up in droves to keep him away from the Oval Office.
And, in spite of the grumbling, the guy really is a solid old-school Democrat:
He comes from a swing state. He speaks fluent Spanish. He has strong ties to the African-American community, which date back to his days as a civil-rights lawyer and then as the mayor of Richmond, where about half of the population is black. And Kaine is the son of a welder who ran a shop in Kansas City, Missouri, so he has some understanding of the concerns of white working-class voters.
A second reason that Kaine is a good fit for Clinton is that they are cut from the same political cloth. Both are Ivy League-educated lawyers, as well as mainstream Democrats who express a strong commitment to righting social wrongs, but also speak the language of fiscal responsibility and enterprise.
When Kaine became the mayor of Richmond, in 1998, it was because a City Council with a majority of black members selected him for the job. (The office wasn’t decided by popular vote until 2004.) He rustled up money to build new public schools and used tax breaks to encourage businesses and homeowners to set up in the city. In 2005, when he ran to replace Mark Warner as the governor of Virginia, it was as a moderate who would cut taxes for homeowners.
He won that easily, and then moved on to be a sensible progressive:
Since entering the Senate, in 2012, Kaine has maintained his reputation as a moderate. According to the Web site Progressive Punch, which issues a “Progressive Score” for each senator based on his or her voting record, Kaine ranks fortieth in the Senate, with a score that is practically identical to Warner, his Virginia colleague. This record isn’t liberal enough for some progressive groups, which point to Kaine’s support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement, and for loosening regulatory restrictions on some large regional banks.
However, it really isn’t fair to portray Kaine as a closet conservative or old-school “Blue Dog Democrat.” In a state with a lot of gun owners, he has long pressed for more gun-control measures, a stance which earned him an “F” grade from the National Rifle Association. He also has a liberal record on issues affecting women, labor, and minorities. Brian Fallon, Clinton’s spokesman, pointed out on Twitter that since Kaine joined the Senate he has received very high ratings from Planned Parenthood, the AFL-CIO, and the NAACP.
And Kaine’s Senate record isn’t very different from that of Democratic senators in other states that elect a lot of Republicans. According to the Progressive Punch index, the four Democratic senators whose voting records are less progressive than his are Claire McCaskill, of Missouri; Joe Donnelly, of Indiana; Joe Manchin, of West Virginia; and Heidi Heitkamp, of North Dakota. Clinton, with her history in Arkansas, is well aware of the pressures that Democrats in red and purple states face, and she evidently sees Kaine as a fellow liberal realist and policy wonk.
In short, he’s on the right side of things, but he’s not going to blow things up just to see what happens, and there’s this:
A final reason that may have aided Kaine’s cause is his reputation as a consensus builder – a team player and an affable individual. A recent Washington Post story about him ran under the headline “What’s a nice guy like Sen. Tim Kaine doing in a campaign like this?” It is easy to view the selection of a Vice-Presidential candidate as purely the product of political calculus. But Presidential candidates are also picking someone with whom they might work closely for four or eight years, and, when considering a potential deputy, character matters.
All this is very sensible. Clinton and Kaine are the opposite of Trump and Pence, the wild man and the silent man, and then add this to the mix:
Michael R. Bloomberg, who bypassed his own run for the presidency this election cycle, will endorse Hillary Clinton in a prime-time address at the Democratic National Convention and make the case for Mrs. Clinton as the best choice for moderate voters in 2016, an adviser to Mr. Bloomberg said.
The news is an unexpected move from Mr. Bloomberg, who has not been a member of the Democratic Party since 2000; was elected the mayor of New York City as a Republican; and later became an independent.
But it reflects Mr. Bloomberg’s increasing dismay about the rise of Donald J. Trump and a determination to see that the Republican nominee is defeated.
Mrs. Clinton is seeking to reach out to middle-of-the-road swing voters and even moderate Republicans uneasy about Mr. Trump. Polls show that significant numbers of Republicans remain wary of Mr. Trump, and question his fitness for the presidency.
Mr. Bloomberg will vouch for Mrs. Clinton “from the perspective of a business leader and an independent,” said Howard Wolfson, a senior adviser to Mr. Bloomberg.
Bloomberg is short, solid, and far richer than Donald Trump – unhappy Republicans might consider that – and there’s this:
It is unusual, but not unheard-of, for a speaker who is not a member of a political party to address that party’s convention. Mr. Bloomberg is expected to speak on Wednesday, the same evening as President Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Mr. Bloomberg and Mrs. Clinton are not personally close but had a positive working relationship when he served as mayor and she as a senator from New York.
That matters. If you want to get things done, you can deal with someone like Hillary Clinton, and you don’t have to like her. Talk to her – she’ll listen if you listen. That’s how adults work things out, and that sure beats negotiating with a batshit crazy real estate guy who wants to humiliate you before he thinks you’ll humiliate him. Mayors from New York know this guy.
There will be no chaos with Hilary Clinton, but Matthew Yglesias covers the new chaos that was unavoidable:
On the eve of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz abruptly announced that she will resign her position after the convention as part of the fallout from emails leaked from the DNC on Friday night. Donna Brazile, the veteran Democratic operative and well-known television commentator, will serve as interim chair.
She says that she plans to “address our delegates about the stakes involved in this election not only for Democrats, but for all Americans” and then step aside. Just a few hours earlier the plan had been for Schultz, somewhat anomalously, to not be speaking at her own party’s convention. Now she is out entirely from the DNC, a key concession to Bernie Sanders and to his supporters and allies as Hillary Clinton tries to put a united Democratic Party behind her for the fall election.
Sanders called it the “right decision” in a statement, but said he’ll still work hard to get Hillary elected. His beef wasn’t with her. It was with Debbie Wasserman Schultz and those emails, part of the problem the party had to resolve:
None of the emails contained a smoking gun demonstrating that the primary was rigged for Clinton – or even that DNC officials set in motion any of the plans to derail Sanders’s candidacy. But the emails do strongly suggest that some DNC leaders personally regarded Sanders as an outside threat and that they wanted him to lose. The elected officials to whom the DNC is ultimately accountable don’t really care about that – they overwhelmingly supported Clinton too. But they do care about ensuring Sanders loyalists turn out for the Democrats in November, and standing by the embattled Wasserman Schultz looked like one way to ensure that wouldn’t happen.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz had to go:
The leaked emails have been the subject of a fair amount of overblown rhetoric about proof that the system was “rigged” or that the DNC somehow stole the nomination from Sanders. In truth, they don’t show anything of the sort. But it’s still it’s easy to understand why Wasserman Schultz has become so toxic to Sanders’s allies – and why the emails only tend to confirm hostility toward her.
The Democratic Party was officially supposed to maintain a neutral stance throughout the primary, and Wasserman Schultz failed at appearing credibly balanced. She got into bitter arguments with the Sanders camp about obscure Nevada caucus rules, made a mess of the debate schedule, fought over ballot access data, and may have helped Clinton skirt the campaign finance rules.
The woman had overplayed her hand:
The emails, though not incredibly damning on their own terms, certainly tend to confirm the main fears Sanders supporters offered about her management of the DNC and leant legitimacy to his complaints at just the time the Democratic Party was trying to bury the Sanders/Clinton hatchet.
Those fears introduced chaos into the system, but this was a big win for Bernie Sanders. That contained the chaos – mischief managed.
Cool, but some things were out of Hillary’s hands:
A top official with Hillary Clinton’s campaign on Sunday accused the Russian government of orchestrating the release of damaging Democratic Party records to help the campaign of Republican Donald Trump – and some cybersecurity experts agree.
The extraordinary charge came as some national security officials have been growing increasingly concerned about possible efforts by Russia to meddle in the election, according to several individuals familiar with the situation.
Late last week, hours before the records were released by the website WikiLeaks, the White House convened a high-level security meeting to discuss reports that Russia had hacked into systems at the Democratic National Committee.
Although other experts remain skeptical of a Russian role, the hacking incident has caused alarm within the Clinton campaign and also in the national security arena. Officials from various intelligence and defense agencies, including the National Security Council, the Department of Defense, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, attended the White House meeting Thursday, on the eve of the email release.
If the accusation is true, it would be the first time the Russians have actively tried to influence an election in this manner, analysts said.
Of course this could be something else:
Another possibility is that this is part of an information warfare campaign that involves the release of compromising materials, or what in Russian is called kompromat. “You release dirt on me. I release dirt on you,” Rumer said.
The Russians have made clear that they believe the United States is behind the release of the Panama Papers, which include material embarrassing to Putin. They are upset about the Olympics doping scandal, which they also believe was fomented by Western intelligence agencies.
“Whoever is behind this may feel, well, you people try to tarnish our leader, we’re going to dump this and show that your politics is no better than ours,” Rumer said.
And all signs do point to Russia:
Russia has intervened in other countries’ elections. For instance, in Ukraine in 2004, a Russian hacker group calling itself Cyber Berkut claimed it hacked and disabled the electronic vote-counting system of the Ukraine central election commission three days before the presidential election. The election followed the toppling of a pro-Moscow leader, a move that set off Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea.
Analysts have attributed the hack to the GRU, one of the same Russian military intelligence services said to have hacked the DNC. They said that the agency created Cyber Berkut, which portrayed itself as an independent hacktivist group but in reality was used to further Moscow’s political interests in Ukraine.
Yeah, so, what does the Ukraine have to do with any of this? Back in April, Anne Applebaum, who writes a biweekly foreign affairs column for the Washington Post and is also the Director of the Global Transitions Program at the Legatum Institute in London, did connect Trump and the Ukraine:
Donald Trump’s new campaign manager Paul Manafort returns to U.S. politics after many years spent working for Viktor Yanukovych, president of Ukraine until he fled the country in disgrace in 2014. We don’t really know what exactly Manafort did for his Ukrainian client. But we do know how Yanukovych won the Ukrainian elections in 2010, and how he ran the country. Perhaps Manafort can transmit some lessons from his experience for a would-be U.S. president.
To begin with, Yanukovych did undergo a profound “image makeover” strikingly similar to the one that Trump needs right now. Yanukovych was an ex-con, close to Russian-backed business interests in Ukraine. He had, in other words, “high negatives.” But he cleaned up his act, stopped using criminal jargon and presented himself as a “reform” candidate, as opposed to the crooked establishment. Since everybody was genuinely sick of the crooked establishment, he won – despite the fact that he was no more honest than the people he’d said he was trying to beat. This of course, is what Trump is going to try to do: persuade people to support him because he is an outrageous, truth-speaking “outsider,” even though in reality he’s as much of an “insider” as it is possible to be. Manafort, with his deep experience in this particular con trick, can help.
Perhaps Manafort did help:
On his way to power, and once in power, Yanukovych also became famous for the use of rented thugs, known as “titushki,” who could be used to intimidate opposition protestors, journalists, or whoever needed to be scared off. These weren’t police, and they weren’t security guards. They were just guys paid by Yanukovych to rough people up and scare them. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s party, Fidesz, has recently made use of a similar method, deploying skinheads to prevent their political opponents from registering for a referendum. We’ve seen prototype versions of this tactic already in use at Trump rallies.
And there’s this:
Some of Yanukovych’s tactics might be harder to deploy, such as falsifying election results (though it’s not like that never happened in the U.S.) or abolishing the right to protest (though Trump at times sounds like he wouldn’t mind passing such a law if he could). But others are already in use. Pro-Trump troll armies, for example – fake Twitter accounts programmed to tweet the same message, a very popular tactic east of the Dnieper – are already in the field.
The email hack makes sense now. It’s more of the same, and Josh Marshall connects the dots:
Over the last year there has been a recurrent refrain about the seeming bromance between Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. More seriously, but relatedly, many believe Trump is an admirer and would-be emulator of Putin’s increasingly autocratic and illiberal rule. But there’s quite a bit more to the story. At a minimum, Trump appears to have a deep financial dependence on Russian money from persons close to Putin. And this is matched to a conspicuous solicitousness to Russian foreign policy interests where they come into conflict with US policies which go back decades through administrations of both parties. There is also something between a non-trivial and a substantial amount of evidence suggesting Putin-backed financial support for Trump or a non-tacit alliance between the two men.
This isn’t just rumor:
Let’s start with the basic facts. There is a lot of Russian money flowing into Trump’s coffers and he is conspicuously solicitous of Russian foreign policy priorities.
I’ll list off some facts.
- All the other discussions of Trump’s finances aside, his debt load has grown dramatically over the last year, from $350 million to $630 million. This is in just one year while his liquid assets have also decreased. Trump has been blackballed by all major US banks.
- Post-bankruptcy Trump has been highly reliant on money from Russia, most of which has over the years become increasingly concentrated among oligarchs and sub-garchs close to Vladimir Putin. Here’s a good overview from The Washington Post, with one morsel for illustration… “Since the 1980s, Trump and his family members have made numerous trips to Moscow in search of business opportunities, and they have relied on Russian investors to buy their properties around the world. ‘Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,’ Trump’s son, Donald Jr., told a real estate conference in 2008, according to an account posted on the website of eTurboNews, a trade publication. ‘We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.'”
- One example of this is the Trump Soho development in Manhattan, one of Trump’s largest recent endeavors. The project was the hit with a series of lawsuits in response to some typically Trumpian efforts to defraud investors by making fraudulent claims about the financial health of the project. Emerging out of that litigation however was news about secret financing for the project from Russia and Kazakhstan. Most attention about the project has focused on the presence of a twice imprisoned Russian immigrant with extensive ties to the Russian criminal underworld.
Marshall documents much of that and provides context:
After his bankruptcy and business failures roughly a decade ago Trump has had an increasingly difficult time finding sources of capital for new investments. Trump has been blackballed by all major US banks with the exception of DeutscheBank, which is of course a foreign bank with a major US presence. He has steadied and rebuilt his financial empire with a heavy reliance on capital from Russia. At a minimum the Trump organization is receiving lots of investment capital from people close to Vladimir Putin.
Trump’s tax returns would likely clarify the depth of his connections to and dependence on Russian capital aligned with Putin. And in case you’re keeping score at home: no, that’s not reassuring.
And then there’s Trump’s team:
Manafort spent most of the last decade as top campaign and communications advisor for Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian Ukrainian Prime Minister and then President whose ouster in 2014 led to the on-going crisis and proxy war in Ukraine. Yanukovych was and remains a close Putin ally. Manafort is running Trump’s campaign.
Trump’s foreign policy advisor on Russia and Europe is Carter Page, a man whose entire professional career has revolved around investments in Russia and who has deep and continuing financial and employment ties to Gazprom. If you’re not familiar with Gazprom, imagine if most or all of the US energy industry were rolled up into a single company and it were personally controlled by the US President who used it as a source of revenue and patronage. That is Gazprom’s role in the Russian political and economic system. It is no exaggeration to say that you cannot be involved with Gazprom at the very high level, which Page has been, without being wholly in alignment with Putin’s policies. Those ties also allow Putin to put Page out of business at any time.
And finally there’s this:
One of the most enduring dynamics of GOP conventions (there’s a comparable dynamic on the Dem side) is more mainstream nominees battling conservative activists over the party platform, with activists trying to check all the hardline ideological boxes and the nominees trying to soften most or all of those edges. This is one thing that made the Trump convention very different. The Trump Camp was totally indifferent to the platform – so party activists were able to write one of the most conservative platforms in history. Not with Trump’s backing but because he simply didn’t care. With one big exception: Trump’s team mobilized the nominee’s traditional mix of cajoling and strong-arming on one point: changing the party platform on assistance to Ukraine against Russian military operations in eastern Ukraine. For what it’s worth (and it’s not worth much) I am quite skeptical of most Republicans call for aggressively arming Ukraine to resist Russian aggression. But the single-mindedness of this focus on this one issue – in the context of total indifference to everything else in the platform – speaks volumes.
This does not mean Trump is controlled by or in the pay of Russia or Putin. It can just as easily be explained by having many of his top advisors having spent years working in Putin’s orbit and being aligned with his thinking and agenda. But it is certainly no coincidence. Again, in the context of near total indifference to the platform and willingness to let party activists write it in any way they want, his team zeroed in on one fairly obscure plank to exert maximum force and it just happens to be the one most important to Putin in terms of US policy.
Add to this that his most conspicuous foreign policy statements track not only with Putin’s positions but those in which Putin is most intensely interested. Aside from Ukraine, Trump’s suggestion that the US and thus NATO might not come to the defense of NATO member states in the Baltics in the case of a Russian invasion is a case in point.
This does not look good:
There are many other things people are alleging about hacking and all manner of other mysteries. But those points are highly speculative, some verging on conspiratorial in their thinking. I ignore them here because I’ve wanted to focus on unimpeachable, undisputed and publicly known facts. These alone paint a stark and highly troubling picture.
To put this all into perspective, if Vladimir Putin were simply the CEO of a major American corporation and there was this much money flowing in Trump’s direction, combined with this much solicitousness of Putin’s policy agenda, it would set off alarm bells galore. That is not hyperbole or exaggeration. And yet Putin is not the CEO of an American corporation. He’s the autocrat who rules a foreign state, with an increasingly hostile posture towards the United States and a substantial stockpile of nuclear weapons. The stakes involved in finding out “what’s going on” as Trump might put it are quite a bit higher.
You want chaos, you got chaos:
There is something between a non-trivial and a substantial amount of circumstantial evidence for a financial relationship between Trump and Putin or a non-tacit alliance between the two men. Even if you draw no adverse conclusions, Trump’s financial empire is heavily leveraged and has a deep reliance on capital infusions from oligarchs and other sources of wealth aligned with Putin. That’s simply not something that can be waved off or ignored.
On the other hand, if Americans actually do like chaos – turning everything inside-out and upside-down, because what we have is somewhere between boring and stupid, and chaos is cleansing – then this will be waved off or ignored. Put Putin’s man in the White House. What could go wrong? At least it won’t be the same old thing.
It’s time to test that theory about what Americans want this year.