Open Thread

The Open Thread for November 4, 2018

Max Boot: “President Trump’s more sophisticated supporters in places such as Washington and New York claim that his presidency is a raging success because he has appointed conservative judges, cut taxes and turbocharged the economy. Trump himself evidently disagrees, because he is not running the midterm campaign based on his supposed achievements. Instead, Trump and his fellow Republicans are closing the election with the most naked appeal to racial prejudice since the dark days of Jim Crow when Democrats in the South would compete to display their fervor for segregation…”

“It is not shocking that Trump would stoop so low. With him, there is no bottom. What is shocking, if no longer entirely surprising, is that the Republican Party would so readily follow him into the gutter. The prominent Republicans denouncing his hate-mongering are mostly those such as Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ.), Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Gov. John Kasich (R) who are not seeking reelection. The rest of the GOP is complicit in this disgraceful demagoguery. Republicans who do not denounce Trump’s racist tactics — and even imitate them — will never escape the stench of this year’s campaign as long as they live.”

New York Times: “A consensus is emerging among Democratic and Republican strategists — based on public and private polling, early voting and likely turnout — that Democrats are on track to pick up about 35 seats in the House of Representatives in Tuesday’s elections. Republicans now have a 23-seat House majority.”

“There’s anxiety about that number on both sides. Democrats don’t want expectations rising for a massive wave which many in the party still doubt is coming. And Republicans don’t want a mood of despair to set in when they believe there’s still a chance they could hang on.”

“But the number does reflect the reality of polls in suburban districts as well as the tenacity of some Republicans in exurban districts, who would have to lose in order for Democrats to win more than 40 seats.”

“We have our military on the border. And I noticed all that beautiful barbed wire going up today, barbed wire used properly can be a beautiful sight.” — President Trump, quoted by ABC News.

“Democrats in Kansas who have had to sit on the political sidelines for the better part of a decade are hoping for a blue wave on Election Day that could help them break the Republican grip on power and are optimistic about their chances in several races, including the one for governor,” the AP reports.

“Democrats in Kansas who have had to sit on the political sidelines for the better part of a decade are hoping for a blue wave on Election Day that could help them break the Republican grip on power and are optimistic about their chances in several races, including the one for governor.”

A super PAC aligned with House Republican leadership is mounting a surprise final-weekend effort to save Rep. Don Young (R-AK) from defeat on Tuesday, Politico reports.

“The move underscores just how far Republicans are being pressed to defend red turf. Young has held his at-large seat since 1973, and President Trump won Alaska in 2016 by nearly 15 percentage points. But this week, a poll showed Young leading his Democratic opponent, public education advocate Alyse Galvin, by a single point.”

Axios notes that some economists foresee not an economic slowdown, but a recession:  “Key economic indicators are flashing red.  Worker productivity is sluggish. The third quarter marked the “32nd straight quarter of yearly growth below 2%, a long and consistent stretch of anemic growth that hasn’t happened before in the post-World War II era,” the WSJ reports.

Manufacturing activity has stalled for the first time in two years, possibly the result of President Trump’s multi-front trade war.  Business investment is laggardly. Rather than using their $1.2 trillion tax cut on capital spending, companies are on track for the biggest-ever year of stock buybacks, possibly reaching $1 trillion….

Megan Greene, chief economist at Manulife Asset Management, expects a recession after 2021.  Mark Yusko, founder of hedge fund Morgan Creek Capital, forecasts recession next year, and puts the odds at 100% — thanks to trade tensions.”

“The Supreme Court is allowing a trial over the decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census to go forward over the Trump administration’s objection,” Politico reports.  “More than a dozen states and big cities, among others, have sued over Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ decision to add a citizenship question to the census for the first time since 1950.”

“The lawsuits argue that Ross acted improperly and that the question will discourage immigrants from participating, diluting political representation and federal dollars for states that tend to vote Democratic.”

“The Supreme Court [also] on Friday night refused to halt a novel lawsuit filed by young Americans that attempts to force the federal government to take action on climate change, turning down a request from the Trump administration to stop it before trial,” the Washington Post reports.

“The suit, filed in 2015 by 21 young people who argue that the failure of government leaders to combat climate change violates their constitutional right to a clean environment, is before a federal judge in Oregon. It had been delayed while the Supreme Court considered the emergency request from the government.”

“In normal political times, a glowing report on the nation’s economy just before Election Day would be a gift to the party in power and a uniform talking point for its candidates. But entering the final weekend before Tuesday’s midterm vote, President Trump’s blistering message of nativist fear has become the dominant theme of the campaign’s last days, threatening to overshadow the good economic news,” the New York Times reports.

“This is a political bind Republicans did not envision. They spent the final months of 2017 working on a package of sweeping tax cuts they hoped could be the centerpiece of their 2018 campaign message, buttressed by a soaring stock market and a low unemployment rate. And they got what they wanted, passing a $1.5 trillion tax bill last December.”

“A new jobs report released Friday highlighted the continued strength of the economy, as employers added about 250,000 jobs in October while the unemployment rate remained at 3.7 percent, a nearly 50-year low.”

“But Mr. Trump, again, has upended the traditional political playbook.”

“The Senate intelligence committee has asked the National Rifle Association to provide documents on its connections to Russia—including documents related to a 2015 trip some of its top leaders made to Moscow,” the Daily Beast reports.

“The NRA’s Russia connections have drawn growing public scrutiny after a key figure in Russian outreach to the powerful gun lobby, Maria Butina, was indicted in July on charges of being an undeclared Russian operative connected to the country’s intelligence apparatus. Butina sought to use guns as a lever to tilt the Republican Party in a pro-Kremlin direction, creating a political firestorm for the NRA in the wake of her arrest. The intelligence committee’s document request is just one part of the aftermath.”

New York Times: “For most of the last two years, he stewed about it in private, only occasionally speaking out. But as he hit the campaign trail this fall, Mr. Obama has vented his exasperation loud and often, assailing his successor in a sharper, more systematic way arguably than any former president has done in three-quarters of a century.”

“Although some admirers believe he remains too restrained in an era of Trumpian bombast, Mr. Obama has excoriated the incumbent for ‘lying’ and ‘fear-mongering’ and pulling ‘a political stunt’ by sending troops to the border. As he opened a final weekend of campaigning before Tuesday’s midterm elections, Mr. Obama has re-emerged as the Democrats’ most prominent face, pitting president versus president over the future of the country.”

“President Trump and his allies have crafted a face-saving plan if Democrats trounce their way to a House majority — tout Trump as the savior of Republicans in the Senate,” Politico reports.

“In public and private, Trump and advisers are pointing to the president’s surge of campaigning on behalf of Republican Senate candidates — 19 rallies alone since Labor Day — as evidence that nobody else could have had a bigger impact in the states. The argument is classic Trump, who despite making the midterms a referendum on his own presidency, has a history of personalizing and then dwelling on his victories while distancing himself and diverting attention from his losses.”

Washington state Rep. Matt Shea (R) acknowledged he had distributed a four-page manifesto titled “Biblical Basis for War,” which describes the Christian God as a “warrior,” details the composition and strategies of a “Holy Army” and condemns abortion and same-sex marriage, the Seattle Times reports.

The document is organized in 14 sections with multiple tiers of bullet points and a smattering of biblical citations. Under one heading, “Rules of War,” it makes a chilling prescription for enemies who flout “biblical law.”

A video ad tweeted by President Trump is incorrect in suggesting that Democrats are solely responsible for an immigrant cop killer’s presence in the U.S., Marketwatch reports.

“Records in Arizona show Luis Bracamontes was arrested on drug charges in Phoenix in 1998, but released for reasons unknown by the office of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the former Republican law enforcement official for Maricopa County who has styled himself as America’s Toughest Sheriff.”  Arpaio was pardoned by Trump.

A federal judge ruled Friday that Georgia’s “exact match” rules for voter registration will not apply for next week’s midterm, allowing people who have seen their voter registration held up to vote, The Hill reports.

The “exact match” law used by Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office marks an applicant’s registration as “pending” if the personal information on their voter registration form doesn’t exactly match the information on the state’s Department of Driver Services or the Social Security Administration.

“Former President Obama has recorded dozens of last-minute messages for Democratic candidates across the country, a below-the-radar push to get voters to the polls ahead of next week’s midterm elections,” The Hill reports.

“Obama has recorded more than 50 messages — some robocalls, some videos that campaigns can spread through Facebook or text messages. A few have already been sent to voters, and others are likely to be sent in the final days before Tuesday’s elections.”

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