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Trump’s Re-elect Strategy: Fear BLM More than Covid

Saturday, August 29th, 2020

trumpspeech (2)Now we know Donald Trump’s strategy for re-election: use pure, un-distilled racism to overcome Joe Biden’s multi-national coalition. It’s George Wallace on steroids.

“Your vote will decide whether we protect law-abiding Americans or whether we give free rein to violent anarchists and agitators and criminals who threaten our citizens,” Trump said in his final speech to the Republican National Convention. “And this election will decide whether we will defend the American way of life or allow a radical movement to completely dismantle and destroy it.”

It’s the suburbs versus the inner city, homeowners versus vandals, white versus black.

Early in the RNC convention, Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA, a pro-Trump student organization, described Trump as “the bodyguard of Western Civilization.” This was the single most succinct distillation of the racist message of the convention – that Trump is the only thing standing between God-fearing, white, suburban Americans and the dark-skinned, anarchist, rapist plunderers who seek to overrun your peaceful neighborhoods, rape your daughters and burn your houses to the ground.

In the face of a pandemic that threatens the lives of every family, urban and suburban — an actual attack that Trump has utterly failed to defend against — Trump and the RNC are trying to get white voters to believe that the real threat comes from Black Lives Matters and the dark-skinned hordes who threaten your neighborhood, your family and your home.

Look away, as the Dixie anthem urges, from the 180,000+ deaths that I have allowed because of my incompetence, Trump argued. Focus, instead, on the “drug overdoses, depression, alcohol addiction, suicides, heart attacks, economic devastation, job loss” created by Biden and the “vandals, arsonists, anarchists, looters and rioters” he supports.

Be afraid. Be very afraid. Because Biden, Bernie and Black Lives Matters are coming to get you.

Trump has no interest in or ability to expand his vote beyond the coalition that in 2016 captured the traditional Republican states and barely squeaked out an electoral college victory by winning Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

This time, his goal is to maintain those states and keep Wisconsin. That would give him a two-vote victory in the electoral college. So, using Kenosha to scare voters in Milwaukee – and suppress the black vote there – is all that matters to him.

Why Trump’s Convention Will Be Purely Negative

Monday, August 24th, 2020

buchananIn 1992, at the GOP national convention, Patrick Buchanan declared, “There is a religious war going on in this country. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we shall be as was the Cold War itself, for this war is for the soul of America.”

It was a bone-chilling call to fascism. If you were in the hall in Houston, your hair stood on end. It was a terrifying vision and it backfired: by November, Bill Clinton and Al Gore had won that war. And the rabid forces Buchanan had set loose went into hibernation for 24 years as “regular” Republican and Democratic administrations governed in Washington.

Then came Donald Trump in 2016, who — tapping into those racist, misogynist, xenophobic and authoritarian impulses that had been tamped down all those years — eeked out a win in the Electoral College by the narrowest of margins in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, setting loose the screeching, flying monkeys, snarling beasts and poisonous insects that had been stashed away in America’s Pandora’s Box.

Principled conservatives — those who believe in freedom, personal responsibility, free markets, protection of American interests and government by compromise and negotiation – have fled the Republican Party, leaving it hollowed out of ideas and dedicated only to the adoration and preservation of its leader. That is who will rally tonight and throughout the week.

Donald Trump will speak all four nights but not as president. Joe Biden stole that platform from him last week with a remarkable presidential address at the DNC, in which he flipped the narrative, turning himself into the incumbent and Trump into the challenger.

Trump – although he has been in the White House for three-and-a-half years – has been reduced to gripe, grievance and whinge while Biden is laying out purpose, program and possibilities. Trump’s party has literally abandoned is platform, replacing it with a manifesto for the pitchfork brigade that seeks only to crush the liberals, infuriate the news media and exult the loose-screw conspiracies of Qanon.

Trump has proved he will not or – as the malignant narcissist that he is – cannot expand his base of voters. All that is left as a strategy is to reduce the overall vote and the Biden-Harris vote in hopes of turning his 40-45% base into a majority in the Electoral College. Trump cannot add; he can only subtract.

philjerryPat Buchanan’s culture war is upon us but this time without the deep-seeded principles that guided Buchanan himself. This time is it just a bloody pitched battle between decency and indecency.

For a full-fledged discussion by your Calbuzzers looking forward to the GOP convention, click here.

Biden Should Go Positive — Decency for a Change

Wednesday, August 12th, 2020

decencyNow that he’s got California Sen. Kamala Harris for his running mate, former Vice President Joe Biden has one key task: Sell himself to voters in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. With a Harris as his running mate, hopefully he’ll boost the black vote in Milwaukee, Detroit and Philadelphia over Hillary Clinton’s disappointing showing in 2016.

To that end, Phil and David Trounstine have produced a positive ad with the goal in mind of attracting the attention of the Biden campaign to the message it hammers home: Hard head. Soft heart, Joe Biden for President. Decency for a Change.

This is not an ad for TV. Pros should put that together. It’s a suggestion for how an ad might be shaped and what its fundamental message should be. Calbuzz is pleased to show it to our readers and, hopefully, to the Biden campaign. Here’s a link to the ad.





Why Joe Biden Should Pick Kamala Harris for Veep

Wednesday, August 5th, 2020

bidenharrisThirteen Tuesdays before Election Day (that’s 91 days until Nov. 3, for those keeping score at home) the most intriguing political question of the week is who will become Joe Biden’s Joe Biden.

The Veep Speculation Sweepstakes is in high gear, with the former Vice President and presumptive Democratic challenger to Donald Trump having signaled he will announce his selection of a running mate soon. So Newsmakers reached out to ace California political analyst Phil Trounstine, our partner at Calbuzz, to join in a workout of heavy duty punditry.

Biden pledged in his last primary debate with Bernie Sanders that he would select a women for vice-president and, since the police killing of George Floyd ignited the Black Lives Matter protests, he has come under increasing political pressure to choose a Black woman, who also would represent the most loyal cohort among Democratic voters
We’ve been out of the prediction racket since the early days of the President Hillary Clinton Administration, so rather than forecasting who Biden will choose, we kicked around the question of who he should choose, based on a series of oft-used criteria of choice for a running mate who can aid in victory, variously, by:
  • Helping win a state or a region (as elite Easterner John F. Kennedy chose the Texan Lyndon Johnson in 1960).
  • Healing an ideological rift in the party from the nominating campaign (as when conservative Ronald Reagan selected the more moderate George H.W. Bush in 1980).
  • Juicing turnout among a particular demographic (viz. Walter Mondale’s bold, if wildly unsuccessful, pick of Rep. Geraldine Ferraro in 1984).
  • Buttressing a weakness in the presidential nominee (Biden bolstered Barack Obama in 2008 with both Washington experience and foreign policy chops).
  • Doubling down on a strength (with Al Gore on the ticket, Bill Clinton in 1992 sent a clear message that the Democratic Party was moving towards the center and away from traditional liberalism).
  • Doing no harm (the most important qualification of all, famously ignored when Bush I inexplicably opted for Dan Quayle in 1988 and John McCain even more improbably decided on Sarah Palin in 2008).

Based on those touchstones — and the more ineffable standard of being prepared to take over as president in an emergency — the Calbuzzards ended with this ranking of the nine women most widely reported to be on Biden’s list:

Kamala Harris. The California Senator notoriously tried to rip Biden’s face off on the issue of school segregation during a primary debate, and some among the nominee’s inner circle fear she’d be more focused on advancing her own 2024 ambitions than pitching in as a team player. But Harris’s substantive if brief presidential bid makes her one of the few among the veep field who’s been scrutinized seriously by the national media, a process that showed her record as a professional prosecutor can play as both a strength and a weakness, depending on the ideology of the voter looking at her.

Close readers of Calbuzz will note that in recommending Harris as Biden’s No. 1 pick, we are cutting directly against our longtime critique of Harris as a politician with positions, not convictions, a successful climber who has almost always done only what is best for herself at virtually every turn. We don’t retract any of that. But it’s  also our view that from the standpoint of electing Biden, Harris is the most useful pick. And with the right seasoning — acting as No. 2, taking direction from the president and handling tasks given her — Harris could develop into someone who is a believable president. She’s the right age, demographic and gender; she has a national following and reputation; she’s experienced and deft on the campaign trail, and she just might help boost the Black vote in Milwaukee, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

Karen Bass. The Los Angeles congresswoman, the first African-American woman to serve as Speaker of the California Assembly, who now heads the Congressional Black Caucus, emerged as a surprise contender in recent weeks, buoyed in large part by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other allies in the House. Bass is a model inside legislator and bridge-builder, but she came up as a lefty community activist in the Rodney King era and her days as a fanboy of Fidel Castro could prove dicey in Florida, where Biden could snuff Trump’s re-election hopes, and the headline of an introductory interview on network TV this week – “I am not a communist” – won’t likely help her chances.

Keisha Lance Bottoms. The mayor of Atlanta has won high marks nationally, not only for her leadership during the Covid-19 pandemic, including her widely-publicized clash with Georgia Governor and Trump acolyte Brian Kemp over the issue of requiring face masks in public, but also during the protests that erupted in her city after the death of George Floyd. She endorsed Biden early, but going from serving two-and-a-half years as a mayor to one heartbeat from the presidency is a stretch, particularly for someone who’s never been examined on the national political stage.

4-Susan Rice. The former UN Ambassador and National Security Advisor under President Obama has more foreign policy credentials than all the other candidates combined and if Biden was looking for a governing choice exclusive of politics, Rice would top the list. But she’s a longtime inside player in Washington who has zero experience in exercising the very different skill set of a candidate, not to mention that, along with Hillary Clinton, she was the public face of the Administration amid the fallout from the terrorist attack that killed the U.S. Ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya in 2012, a debacle that Republicans and Trump would love to re-litigate in the last three months of the campaign in an effort to change the subject from the pandemic, the protests and soaring unemployment rolls.

5-Val Demings. A House member from Florida, Demings has an inspiring personal story of working herself up from poverty to a distinguished career in law enforcement, including service as the first woman to become chief of the Orlando Police Department. She served as one of the Democrats’ managers of the Senate impeachment trial of Trump, but like Harris, her long record as a cop not only might help Biden with moderate and conservative voters but also could turn off younger and more progressive parts of the Democratic party, not least because of a record of excessive force allegations in the Orlando department, and a lack of transparency about them, some of which occurred during her tenure as chief.

Gretchen Whitmer. The governor of Michigan was widely touted in the media as a possible running mate in the early days after Biden clinched the nomination, but has faded as the Black Lives Matter protests seem to have made it more likely he will choose a woman of color. Although her leadership during the pandemic earned generally high ratings from state voters, she also has been the focus of angry protests against her stay-at-home orders, and her lack of testing in national politics might represent too high a risk for a politician from a state Biden absolutely can’t lose in his bid for 270 electoral votes.

Michelle Lujan Grisham. The governor of New Mexico, Grisham is a former member of Congress who, amid the Democrats’ 2018 “blue wave” election, became the first Latina of her party in history to be elected a state’s chief executive. A strong advocate of abortion rights, climate change action and gun control, Grisham potentially could help boost Latino voter turnout in Arizona and other key states, but Biden would likely face considerable disappointment from Black voters if he passed over Harris, Bass, Bottoms, Rice and Demings to choose her.

8-Tammy Duckworth. The Illinois Senator lost both her legs in combat as an Army helicopter pilot during the Iraq war and her extraordinary personal story also includes being the first woman with a disability elected to Congress and the first U.S. Senator to give birth in office. Daughter of an American father and a Thai mother, she was born in Thailand, and Republicans could be expected to try to raise “birther” arguments against her candidacy, which could prove a distraction to the Biden campaign.


Elizabeth Warren. The Massachusetts Senator ran a spirited Democratic primary race against Biden, but her progressive platform on issues from taxes to health care and climate change make her popular with the party’s left-wing, so she could help turnout among those who backed her or Senator Bernie Sanders. Biden has adapted some of her stances since the primary, but despite polling that shows her pick would be popular, she’s a long shot, not least because she is close in age to the 77-year old Biden, throwing light on one of his big weaknesses.


Watch the Calbuzz conversation by clicking below and…the podcast version is here.

Images: Karen Bass and Kamala Harris have (oneblog.com); Harris (NBC News); Bass (ballotpedia); Bottoms (Atlanta Magazine); Rice (Wikipedia); Demings (Wikiepedia); Whitmer (michigan.gov); Grisham (twitter); Duckworth (Wikipedia); Warren (Twitter).


Why Police Must Be Brought Under Civilian Control

Tuesday, June 16th, 2020


By Phil Trounstine and Garry South
Special to the Sacramento Bee

In our many collective decades of covering and engaging in local, state and national politics, we have been frustrated by the failure of city councils, boards of supervisors, state legislatures and Congress to effectively eradicate abusive behavior by the minority of law enforcement officers who are nurtured and protected by a culture of corruption in many jurisdictions.

While we respect the dedicated men and women who serve and protect our towns, cities, counties and states, we have zero tolerance for those who, under the color of law, harass, beat, maim and murder our fellow citizens. Most often the victims are poor, black, brown and Asian. Too often, the perpetrators go unpunished.

What is to Be Done? The question facing communities across the country is this: How can civilians at the local level gain control over law enforcement agencies in the same way the Constitution subjects the armed forces to civilian command?

Of course, many social service interventions that police now handle should be re-allocated to other agencies along with funding. But the answer to “What Is To Be Done?  is decidedly not “defund the police” – a frightening slogan that suggests a naïve belief that we would be better off without law enforcement. Rather, we should be advocating community control — independent and empowered civilian review of police conduct.

Sadly, the principal obstacle to independent civilian review are police associations, which see “outside” interference as a threat to standards and practices, chain of command and especially collective bargaining for wages, pensions, promotions and job security.

Beyond Collective Bargaining Police associations are essentially labor unions, just like carpenters, teamsters, steel workers and teachers. In most places, having the imprimatur of the police unions remains critical to electoral success, often creating enormous conflicts for elected officials. This is particularly true for Democratic candidates, who are routinely derided by their Republican opponents as being “soft on crime.” Being able to boast of the endorsements of rank-and-file police officers through their police associations is often viewed as an antidote to these attacks.

But such endorsements are often based not on legitimate law enforcement issues, but rather the candidates’ support — expressed publicly or often in closed-door meetings or in undisclosed questionnaires — on union issues such as binding arbitration, the right to strike, working conditions and pensions. And being in political debt to police unions can cause Democratic officeholders, who would normally be expected to speak out most strongly against unfair treatment of minorities, to mute their criticism or hedge their responses when such incidents occur.

One thing we are both sure of: Given the times we are in, with massive public support for policing reforms after the killing of George Floyd, candidates and elected officials, regardless of party, should come down on the side of supporting the public interest, not pandering to police unions for fear of being branded as weak on public safety by an opportunistic opponent. That means supporting civilian control of the police.

Various Reforms One community that has addressed the issue of civilian control is New Orleans, with its Office of the Independent Police Monitor, created in 2008 after six years of meetings and study that researched more than 100 U.S. cities with some form of civilian oversight of police.

Sunnyvale, California, doesn’t have a police department per se but a fully integrated Office of Public Safety, in which police, fire, and emergency medical services are provided by officers trained in all three disciplines.

Democrats in Congress have recently proposed the Justice in Policing Act that would ban chokeholds, limit qualified immunity for police officers, create national misconduct registry, end use of no-knock drug warrants and make lynching a federal crime

Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York has proposed “Say Their Name” legislation to make public all police conduct records, criminalize false police reporting and more.

These kinds of reforms and approaches to community control are all worthwhile. But whatever form it takes, the single most important principle and practice ultimately is civilian control.

To make that happen, state legislatures and Congress should condition funding on establishment of some form of independent civilian review of police behavior with – despite almost certain police union opposition – the authority to discipline and/or discharge police officers proved to have engaged in abusive behavior.

This piece was originally published in the Sacramento Bee on June 16, 2020.

Phil Trounstine served as political editor of the San Jose Mercury News, communications director for Gov. Gray Davis, founder of the Survey and Policy Research Institute at San Jose State and now is editor and publisher of Calbuzz. Garry South, a veteran Democratic political strategist, has managed four California campaigns for governor and two for lieutenant governor, and played leading roles in three presidential campaigns.