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Eric Ferguson

Keith Ellison is no anti-Semite

by Eric Ferguson on December 7, 2016 · 0 comments

US Rep. Keith EllisonWhen I say Keith Ellison is no anti-Semite, I’m not just speaking as someone who leans left in my politics and likes a lot of his policy positions. I actually know the guy. I’m DFL chair of a state senate district within his congressional district and I’ve been working with him since he first ran for congress in 2006. He’s not an anti-Semite, nor is he anti-Israel. I’m not going to rehash his whole record and the debunking of the allegations being made. Vox has done that admirably. I’m looking to add the voice of someone who knows him.
 

American politicians are expected to show their pro-Israel bonafides by being one-sided. They’re not allowed to admit that both sides have legitimate points and painfully real security concerns. Keith has visited both Israel and Palestine, and I’ve heard him speak sympathetically of the plight of both sides. I distinctly recall, during one of the spasms of violence in the occupied territories, he explained how awful the Hamas rocket attacks were for Israeli civilians under constant threat of attacks, frequently forcing them to take shelter in case the rockets landed on them. This was in private, not just an attempt to say the right thing to a certain audience. No doubt the wingnuts trying now to swiftboat him would have jumped all over the sympathy he expressed for Palestinian civilians having their lives controlled in destructive, and sometimes even in petty ways, by the Israeli occupation, like restrictions on consumer goods intended merely to make life uncomfortable, not to improve security — because in America we can’t acknowledge there are two sides with valid points and their own suffering.
 
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An election about change — too fast not too slow

by Eric Ferguson on November 19, 2016 · 1 comment

I’m working on a longer post about lessons from this excruciatingly close and catastrophic election, but I wanted to make this point now, because a certain conventional wisdom is forming. I would think we just learned to have a little more skepticism about conventional wisdom, but maybe not.
 
We keep hearing this was a change election. Consider the possibility this was the opposite, an anti-change election. Trump voters aren’t unhappy because there’s not enough change. They’re unhappy because there has been too much change. They want it rolled back. When they feel left behind, sometimes they’re doing quite well but don’t like how the country is changing. They actually tried to tell us with all the talk of making America great again as if it no longer is, of how things were better back in the 1950’s.
 
This is a long read, but worth it: A new theory for why Trump voters are so angry — that actually makes sense.
 

Cramer’s recent book, “The Politics of Resentment,” offers a third perspective. Through her repeated interviews with the people of rural Wisconsin, she shows how politics have increasingly become a matter of personal identity. Just about all of her subjects felt a deep sense of bitterness toward elites and city dwellers; just about all of them felt tread on, disrespected and cheated out of what they felt they deserved.

 
This is in Wisconsin, where city dwellers run just about nothing, not even always their local governments since the GOP state government feels free to override any local ordinances they don’t like. Trump voters are feeling resentful that the country is less white, more foreign born, less Christian, and more metro than it used to be. Consider the possibility that what moves the left, like economic inequality, achievement gaps, and unpunished banksters just has no currency on the right. When they say they want change, they mean an America that’s more white, less metro, less tolerant of gays, more Christian, more native-born — like it used to be. Change has come not too slow, but too fast.

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The way forward

by Eric Ferguson on November 14, 2016 · 1 comment

We’ve had a few days to grieve. I know the process doesn’t end just like that, on a schedule. People we know, in our community, in our circle of friends, maybe us, are going to be directly harmed in the dark days to come. The deplorables are feeling free to indulge their prejudices. Before moping any further, remember the anecdotes of non-white and non-Christian children already being bullied in school, women being accosted in public by strange men who think trump rules apply everywhere, DREAMers whose legal status can be revoked in an instant once Trump can revoke Obama’s executive orders. People are about to lose their access to health care when Obamacare is repealed. They’re about to lose protection from the depredations of the big banks when financial reform is repealed. People are going to lose their voting rights, abortion rights, their right to organize and bargain collectively when hard-won rights come under unrestrained Republican attack.

 

People on the downside of life need us to be strong. Time to snap out of our melancholy and get moving.

 

And be aware there are bright spots, and there is a way forward.

 

Never forget, or let anyone else forget, that Hillary Clinton won. The loser gets to assume the presidency, but in terms of who got the most votes, which is what should count, we won — and we didn’t just beat Trump. We also took on the malpracticing mainstream media, a partisan FBI, the Russian government and it’s puppets at Wikileaks, and we beat them. The electoral college, this archaic election system, was one more opponent than we could beat. But we still got more votes, and that needs to be repeated until this bigoted fraudster is gone: he’s the loser. Hillary won.

 

Also keep this mind before despairing, and let the GOP despair for the future: once again, young adults were heavily Democratic, which has been the case several elections in row. The 18-year-olds who started going heavily Democratic in 2004 are only just now reaching 30, roughly the age where they start voting with regularity. Hispanics and Asians punch below their weight in turnout, but that’s unlikely to last forever and their numbers are rising. The fastest growing religious group is the “nones”, and they are heavily Democratic. Republicans are exultant now, but they’re also on a clock, with an utter fool as a leader. Look at the coming dysfunctional administration as entertainment, because otherwise it will be tragedy, and be glad we aren’t stuck with one of the Republicans who might have been effective at doing awful things.

 

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What can be said about the latest killing?

by Eric Ferguson on July 10, 2016 · 0 comments

revolver muzzleI won’t pretend to wrap it all in one neat package. The killings of police in Dallas, in retaliation for the killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, rub emotions raw and bring in more of the current conflicts within the country. Even just that phrase “in retaliation” implies a direct connection not everyone will want to acknowledge. Here are some thoughts on the subject, even if not with a neat bow around them.
 
There seems to be a contradiction between an attack made in the moment of anger over an incident, and something planned, but those two things can be simultaneously true. As obvious as it is the Dallas shooter was motivated by the killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, he had a small arsenal, obviously prepping for something like this. So it’s both an attack spurred by a specific event, and something planned in advance. That’s something those who think it a lie that the Benghazi attack was in response to a video should keep in mind.
 
Was the Dallas shooter walking around with his rifle, right out in the open? Texas has open carry. A man named Mark Hughes was misidentified as a suspect because he was walking around a non-violent protest with a rifle, apparently missing the whole point of non-violence. Police could tweet his photo but they couldn’t stop him. Did they see the shooter, and were unable to do anything because it was perfectly legal to carry a gun in a volatile situation? Were the deaths of these police officers basically inevitable when Texas instituted open carry? Maybe the shooter somehow stayed concealed and didn’t rely on being able to carry a gun openly, but odds are we’ll never know for sure. What difference might it have made if just carrying the gun was enough to allow police to stop him?
 
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Forget winning and go for a blue wave

by Eric Ferguson on June 28, 2016

Update: sorry about comments being closed. I don’t know how that happened, and no one has been able to figure it out how to enable them. I’ll just say our CMS system is very much not my favorite.
 
Hillary Clinton brushing her sleeve at Benghazi hearingIn this article on how the presidential election looks state by state, they spent a lot of pixels on Pennsylvania and Florida. There’s good reason, since Pennsylvania might be drifting right and Florida left. This perennial swing state Pennsylvania becoming friendlier for Republicans, and polling Hillary and Trump evenly is a legitimate story, as is Florida giving Hillary maybe they first sizable lead any presidential candidate has had there since the days of the “solid South”, but it’s also story of just two states. They buried the lead a bit. Sort of … they did put Pennsylvania and Florida in the title, but it seems the movement of two states isn’t the big story. This seems like the big story: they project Hillary has 279 electoral votes after they moved Florida to lean D and Pennsylvania to toss up, which means,

A presidential candidate needs 270 Electoral Votes to become president. In other words, if Clinton wins just the states leaning in her direction, she would be president without needing any of the toss up states — Colorado, Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio or Pennsylvania.

 
That’s not just a win. That’s a wave. The predictable caveats apply, like it’s still June and the election is months away. Anything could happen and some things will. We don’t know the effect of the voter suppression laws a bunch of Republican state governments have put in place since 2012. Maybe Trump is as smart as he claims to be and loads of new voters will be coming out to for him. Maybe the polls are grossly wrong and he’s really way ahead. Maybe Mexicans and Muslims really do love him. Nah, I don’t buy those last three either.
 
Different analysts might come up with different results on a state or two, but essentially, they all come up with the same result: Hillary is winning without even winning the toss up states, let alone flipping any light red states. Not only that, but some red states are looking a light shade of red. No, I’m not buying the close vote in Utah, and even Arizona and Georgia are likely to revert to their mean and come around to Trump, but the fact we’re even this conversation means we could be looking at a wave.
 
Not that a blowout is a wave. A big win for Hillary doesn’t necessarily entail coattails for downballot candidates to hang on to — but it could. It will be no surprise I’m happy to hear, given my plea for Hillary to compete for winnable congressional seats in this non-competitve state of mine, that she’s pursuing a 50-state strategy. It’s the same thing Howard Dean was pursuing when he chaired the DNC, and he’s working with Hillary on this.
 
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OK Now You Can Panic
Did Donald Trump even know what “Brexit” was when he was first asked about it? The answer seems obvious:

“And Brexit? Your position?” I ask.

“Huh?”

“Brexit.”

“Hmm.”

“The Brits leaving the EU,” I prompt, realizing that his lack of familiarity with one of the most pressing issues in Europe is for him no concern nor liability at all.

“Oh yeah, I think they should leave.”

Any bets on whether he was hoping the interviewer would clue him in on what the EU is? Probably lots of Americans had no idea what “Brexit” was, but they aren’t a major party’s nominee for president, and they probably didn’t form an instant opinion on something they knew nothing about. Trump, who knows nothing about what’s going on with arguably the most important nation in the world as far as America’s concerned, wants to be entrusted with American foreign policy.
 
So on the day after the vote, with Britons deeply split and financial markets in a panic, did he show he learned anything? Let’s put it this way: he tweeted “Just arrived in Scotland. Place is going wild over the vote. They took their country back, just like we will take America back. No games!”
 
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Hillary’s vice-president

by Eric Ferguson on June 22, 2016 · 3 comments

warrenI’m just going to start with the conclusion and say I think Hillary is going to pick Elizabeth Warren for vice-president, and the related point, that seems like a good choice. That’s admittedly doing some reading of the proverbial tea leaves, and tea leaf reading has such a poor record with predicting vice-presidential picks, that I make that prediction with low confidence. I can’t think of a strong counter-argument, so file that lack of confidence under “predictions are hard, especially about the future.”
 
And certainly, I’m not in Hillary’s confidence, at least not since trying to fool her with that Bill costume. You make just one bad decision, as I tried to explain to the Secret Service guy…
 
Warren is one of a number of people mentioned in reports based on leaks, or maybe claims of leaks, and reports based on anonymous whoever. For example, “Clinton has also begun to winnow a list of more than a dozen potential choices, another senior Democrat said.” Well, if “another senior Democrat” said it, who can argue? Hillary has met with Warren more than once. Warren endorsed Hillary in an interview with Rachel Maddow, and when asked if she would be ready to be president if she was vice-president and the worst happened to Hillary, she just out and out said yes. Maybe she’s just that self-confident, but that sounded like someone who had been seriously thinking about it.
 
Then there are the reports Senate minority leader Harry Reid is looking into Massachusetts’ unusual procedure for replacing a senator. Maybe he’s just idly curious. What a coincidence.
 
Vox looked at strength and weaknesses of list of candidates supposedly leaked. It seems a plausible list, and most names are popping up elsewhere. All the candidates have strengths and weaknesses, but what sticks out is that Warren has the strongest strengths, and the most addressable weaknesses. Others have weaknesses like lack of campaign experience, lack of governing experience, low name recognition, and to connect to my point about Reid, a bunch are incumbent senators whose replacements would be chosen by Republican governors. So if Hillary wins, a senate seat flips to the Republicans. I actually thought AL Franken and Amy Klobuchar would be considered, not just for what they might bring to the ticket, but because their replacement would be chosen by a Democratic governor. Warren’s replacement, though picked by a Republican, would be temporary since Massachusetts requires a special election 160 days after the vacancy occurs, not coincidental with the next even numbered general election like most states. In other words, picking Warren entails less risk of ceding a Senate seat than if several other rumored candidates were chosen.
 
And here’s an oddball reason for thinking Warren will get picked: Wall Street is convinced she won’t be.
 
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Should Hillary spend money on Minnesota? Just to cut to the chase, yes, but that’s admittedly a hard case to make given how Minnesota has voted for the Democratic nominee in every presidential election since 1956 except for 1972, when we made our what-the-hell-were-we-thinking mistake and voted for the one president who resigned in disgrace. I personally think of Minnesota not as a blue state, but as a purple state where the Democrats are good at GOTV (Get Out The Vote). But yeah, hard to argue with that presidential record. Or with how much better financed the DFL is than the MNGOP, or with the DFL record in statewide races. We’ve won every statewide race starting in 2006 except for governor in 2006, when Tim Pawlenty won by about 1% while a third party liberal took 5%. It was that close.
 
So OK, my purple state claim is resting pretty much on the way the legislature keeps changing hands, and the way we split US House seats 4-4 or 5-3. But that also gets to why we deserve some presidential campaign attention. We want to win the House, right? That seems incredibly optimistic to me, but the Republicans are fearfully talking about it as a plausible outcome, and I suppose they have to be right one day. Besides, if we want to win the House, we have to nibble away where we can, giving more Democrats the advantage of incumbency the next election — and Minnesota has more competitive districts than anyone would expect from a medium sized state.
 
As it happens, Minnesota isn’t gerrymandered. Really. Yes, we’re self-packed like every other state with a major metropolitan area. Liberals are comfortable with a big city’s density and proximity to public spaces, while conservatives like their big lawns and long drives. Like in almost every other state, this works to the advantage of conservatives since there’s no way to draw district lines to break up liberals unless we ignore the principle that municipalities should be kept together, and when those municipalities are big, self-packing it is. Fortunately, not being gerrymandered means our districts aren’t drawn in strange ways to get the most advantageous distribution of conservatives. Our process is each house of the legislature passes a redistricting plan, then a conference committee works out the differences, and the governor signs it, with one of the latter two steps never happening. Our state government has been split between parties something like the last five redistrictings, so a panel of judges eventually gives up on the other two branches and just makes its own plan.
 
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DFL state convention live blog

by Eric Ferguson on June 4, 2016 · 1 comment

Like I mentioned in a non-sequitor at the end of this post, I plan to live blog the DFL convention Saturday. That depends on The Uptake having a livestream as in recent conventions, since I can’t be there in person, due to medical issues I assume readers don’t care about the details of. Since anyone can watch the stream, I’ll try to focus on explanations and commentary. Open this post and refresh it once in a while. I’ll check the comments occasionally for questions. I’m still typing more slowly than usual so it could be tricky, but I’ll give a game effort. If you want to see the agenda, that’s on the state DFL web site. It doesn’t give a specific convening time, but from the ending time of training sessions, looks like it will start around 9 AM. I’ll add a Read More link when the convention starts, so click that, or else be content with reading this introduction over and over.
 
Yes, The Uptake has a live stream. This is what I’m watching.
 
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I’m starting to wonder if politics really does have rules, or merely guidelines where exceptions are rare, very rare … but not non-existent. One of the rules, or rarely to be departed from guidelines, is never argue from inside the other side’s frames. Avoid using their preferred words and phrases, because they chose those for how they evoke preferred framing in the listener.

 

Thus the caution about saying the phrase, “tax simplification”. Republicans like to use that. Frank Luntz advised using it to sell tax cuts when he wrote his messaging memo for Republican candidates in 2006, which Democratic persons managed to get a hold of, scan, and put into a PDF they called, “The Frank Luntz Rethug Playbook, Unauthorized Edition, How to Scare the American Public into Voting Republican *” Here’s one place to get a copy. Republican candidates commonly promise to simplify the tax code (Jason Lewis, the GOP endorsee in MN-02 for example), which of course means they’re going to make it easier for most of us to file our personal income taxes. Ha! Just kidding! They mean of course removing those pesky bits about rich people pay taxes too. Luntz was pretty blunt about how tax cuts at the top really don’t sell well, even though, at least in pre-Trump times before hating women and minorities became the organizing principle, cutting taxes at the top was more or less the Republican Party’s whole reason for existing.

 
That might not sell well, but tax simplification, everybody likes that! Whatever they think it means, and to be sure, the tax code is big and scary. Only a small part applies to any one of us, but which part? But if we could simplify the tax code, say make it ten percent smaller, then instead of a big intimidating tax code, we would have … a slightly smaller big intimidating tax code.
 
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