Presidential candidates should have to name their cabinet appointees before the election…. (More)

“There’s no difference between the two parties”

I wish I had a macadamia for every time I read that over the past eighteen months. No, that’s not true. If I had a macadamia for every time I read that, I’d be too fat to climb up into Árbol Squirrel. Then Chef and Mrs. Squirrel would work out an exercise program and Pootie P would chase me around New Venerable Hall for an hour every day … and then I’d be too tired to climb up into Árbol Squirrel.

I know it’s popular to blame the looming Trump presidency on Hillary Clinton, and specifically her focus on women, people of color, LGBTs, and other marginalized groups:

One of the many lessons of the recent presidential election campaign and its repugnant outcome is that the age of identity liberalism must be brought to an end. Hillary Clinton was at her best and most uplifting when she spoke about American interests in world affairs and how they relate to our understanding of democracy. But when it came to life at home, she tended on the campaign trail to lose that large vision and slip into the rhetoric of diversity, calling out explicitly to African-American, Latino, L.G.B.T. and women voters at every stop. This was a strategic mistake. If you are going to mention groups in America, you had better mention all of them. If you don’t, those left out will notice and feel excluded. Which, as the data show, was exactly what happened with the white working class and those with strong religious convictions. Fully two-thirds of white voters without college degrees voted for Donald Trump, as did over 80 percent of white evangelicals.
Finally, the whitelash thesis is convenient because it absolves liberals of not recognizing how their own obsession with diversity has encouraged white, rural, religious Americans to think of themselves as a disadvantaged group whose identity is being threatened or ignored. Such people are not actually reacting against the reality of our diverse America (they tend, after all, to live in homogeneous areas of the country). But they are reacting against the omnipresent rhetoric of identity, which is what they mean by “political correctness.” Liberals should bear in mind that the first identity movement in American politics was the Ku Klux Klan, which still exists. Those who play the identity game should be prepared to lose it.

That was Mark Lilla writing last month at the New York Times. Lilla is a white male, and apparently he’s oblivious to the white male identity politics that has long been at the heart of conservatism.

Fact is, those “white, rural, religious Americans” have been “think[ing] of themselves as a disadvantaged group whose identity is being threatened or ignored” since Brown v. Board of Education and Engel v. Vitale, the 1957 and 1962 Supreme Court cases that, respectively, prohibited racial segregation and mandatory prayer in schools. The ‘religious right’ organized as a political force to preserve the tax-exempt status of segregation academies: whites-only religious schools with mandatory daily prayers.

Back in the days when conspiracy theories spread by grainy photocopies and word-of-mouth, evangelical churches across the country rose up every year against mythical ‘Ban the Bible Bills’ – claims that Democrats in Congress were debating a bill that would make it a crime to own a Bible. Yes, really. No such bill existed, but year after year members of Congress were flooded with letters to vote against it.

The advent of Fox News and the internet spawned new persecution myths like the annual ‘War on Christmas,’ and among President-elect Trump’s many promises was that he would require retailers to say “Merry Christmas.”

Lilla would have us believe that decades-long persecution complex is not white Christian ‘identity politics,’ but was merely a reaction to black and Hispanic parents who wanted their children in good public schools, Jews and atheists and others who didn’t want their children forced to recite Christian prayers, parents who didn’t want their LGBT children to be bullied … you know … “those who play the identity game.”

That’s who Clinton stood up for, and New York Magazine’s Rebecca Traister was having none of Lilla’s victim-blaming:

Lilla argued that where Hillary Clinton – who did not repeat her husband’s Sister Souljah strategy and instead emphasized themes of feminism and racial equality throughout her campaign – went wrong was in not catering enough to white Americans. Citing the Ku Klux Klan as “the first identity movement in American politics” (yet failing to point out that it has flourished in response to gains made by nonwhites and non-Protestants), Lilla warned, “Those who play the identity game should be prepared to lose it.” As if the centuries’-long push toward enfranchisement, civil rights, equal pay, and reproductive autonomy, and against domestic, sexual, and police violence were a game, and as though those who dared to play it were virtually asking for the punishing reprisals they received for their trouble.

It is unconscionable, this know-better recrimination, directed at the very people who just put the most work and energy into defeating Trumpism, coming from those who will be made least vulnerable by Trump’s ascension.
And that would be the greatest shame of this shameful election cycle. Because the objects of the vitriol from the left, dirtbag and otherwise, are the hardworking heart of the Democratic Party, now the resistance: the grandmothers who left their houses every morning to get out the vote; the people who took buses and carloads of volunteers to knock on doors and ring buzzers and make endless phone calls; the Black Lives Matter activists who protest the killing of their children and targeting of their communities; the women and men who provide reproductive-health access, even as the government works to roll back that access; the abortion rights and gay rights and criminal justice reform advocates who didn’t write off Hillary Clinton, but instead asked her to be better.

All of these people are facing very dark and scary days, and instead of blaming them, I want to thank them. I’ll also thank Clinton herself, now an old woman, who worked her ass off for decades to do something no woman has ever done before; and President Barack Obama, who for eight years showed us a different picture of what leadership could look like in America. Neither of their careers would have been possible without the struggles of generations of “identity politics” activists that came before them.

And thus we turn to President-elect Trump’s cabinet nominees. Take it away, Steve M at No More Mister Nice Blog:

Nobody could have predicted that an incoming president who’s said climate change is a hoax would do something like this:

President-elect Donald J. Trump has selected Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general and a close ally of the fossil fuel industry, to run the Environmental Protection Agency, signaling Mr. Trump’s determination to dismantle President Obama’s efforts to counter climate change – and much of the E.P.A. itself.

Mr. Pruitt, a Republican, has been a key architect of the legal battle against Mr. Obama’s climate change policies….

“Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind,” he wrote in National Review earlier this year. “That debate should be encouraged – in classrooms, public forums, and the halls of Congress. It should not be silenced with threats of prosecution. Dissent is not a crime.”

In fact scientists do not “continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind,” or at least not in any policy-significant extent. Scientists may debate whether sea-level rises will be ten meters or merely three meters – enough to inundate Miami, for example – whether droughts and other severe weather will be cataclysmic or merely catastrophic … but Pruitt pretends that debate is about whether burning fossil fuels is a problem at all.

Steve M continues:

A lot of delicate souls told us all year that they couldn’t possibly vote for Hillary Clinton – and what difference would it make anyway, given how indistinguishable she was from the Republican nominee? Okay, so now that we are where we are, how indistinguishable was she? Who might have been her EPA secretary?

In August, Politico said that Clinton campaign chair John Podesta might have sought the job himself; a couple of months later, the Huffington Post, citing Wikileaks emails, noted that Podesta had twice recommended billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer to President Obama for the EPA job, and also put in a good word for former Colorado senator Tim Wirth, who organized Senate hearings on climate change (with NASA scientist James Hansen) back in 1988, and who led the U.S. negotiating team at the Kyoto Summit.

Trump vs. Clinton on the EPA? Yeah, I guess it’s a tossup.

He goes on to contrast Trump’s choice of Sen. Jeff Sessions as Attorney General with Clinton’s rumored choice, Labor Secretary Tom Perez. Again, the differences are stark … and horrifying if you care about whether the Department of Justice will enforce the Voting Rights Act … or harass Black Lives Matter activists, chase mythical voter fraud, and force transgender kids to endure bullying in school bathrooms.

Steve M concludes:

I don’t want to limit the blame to purist lefty voters. They get some of their information from like-minded voices in the left media, but they’re also exposed to the mainstream media, which regularly insists that Republicans really aren’t that bad, and are just a few millimeters to the right of dead center. And Democrats never runs against the Republican Party itself – they never attempt to portray the GOP as an existential threat to common decency (which is how Republicans routinely describe the Democratic Party to their voters). So maybe it’s understandable if the inevitable consequences of allowing a Republican into the White House come as a shock to so many people.

I agree, and I’ll point another finger of blame … at a campaign system that forces voters to buy a pig in a poke. I don’t mean merely that the media ignored Clinton’s policy speeches and then scolded her for lacking an economic message.

I mean that our campaign system doesn’t require candidates to reveal their most important policy decisions … their cabinet nominees.

Consider how different the general election campaign would have been if, after the parties’ conventions made their nominations officials, both Clinton and Trump had announced who they would tap for Attorney General and their proposed Secretaries of State, Treasury, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Interior, Health and Human Services … plus other key positions like EPA Administrator, National Security Advisor, and Director of National Intelligence.

Imagine if, having named their choices for those positions, we then had a series of Cabinet Debates leading up to the Presidential Debates:

  • National Security Debate – with each candidate’s panel comprised of the proposed Secretaries of State and Defense, National Security Advisor, and Director of National Intelligence.
  • Law Enforcement and Civil Rights Debate – with each candidate’s panel comprised of the proposed Attorney General and Secretary of Homeland Security.
  • Economy and Jobs Debate – with each candidate’s panel comprised of the proposed Secretaries of Treasury, Commerce, and Health and Human Services.
  • Environmental Debate – with each candidate’s panel comprised of the proposed Secretary of Interior and EPA Administrator.

Now imagine if the Presidential Debate moderators pressed the candidates to explain and defend the policies their nominees had advocated in those Cabinet Debates.

I’ll go out on a limb, because squirrels like to do that, and I’m fit enough to do it because I don’t get a macadamia every time someone says “There’s no difference between the two parties” …

… and speculate that, if the candidates were required to name their cabinet appointees, and if we had a series of Cabinet Debates leading up to the Presidential Debates …

… we wouldn’t hear “There’s no difference between the two parties” much, if ever.

There are huge differences between the two parties, but our campaign system is set up to conceal those differences until it’s too late. We make voters buy a pig in a poke … and then be shocked when the winner lets the cat out of the bag.

I just hope that cat doesn’t chase me. I get plenty of exercise.


Photo Credit: Matt McClain (Washington Post, Getty Images)


Good day and good nuts