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Republicans fear Kamala Harris can win the election for the Democrats

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Having received President Biden’s endorsement to run as the Democrat’s presidential candidate, Vice President Kamala Harris said she would seek the nomination, adding: “Together, we will fight. And together, we will win.”

Harris can unite the Democrats to beat Donald Trump. She has had critics for not being progressive, likable, or charismatic enough. However, she is articulate, moral, and thoughtful beyond what Trump has displayed. If she can focus her energies on reaching out to liberals and independents without scaring conservatives, she will win the election. 

What should Joe Biden do now?

Biden’s endorsement of Harris was critical but was not enough. He must reach out to his 3,850 delegates, who were pledged but not legally bound to vote for him as the Democratic candidate. He must tell them that Harris will continue the values that led their administration to pass historically significant progressive legislation.

Biden needs to talk personally to the other politicians who were mentioned as possible candidates. He must ask them to support Harris and advise her on policy issues and campaign strategies. In other words, the Democrats must demonstrate similar party solidarity around Harris as the Republicans have shown toward Trump. 

President Joe Biden’s withdrawal from the 2024 presidential race demonstrates the core values that separate Donald Trump from Biden and those of the Democratic Party. The nation’s welfare is more important than loyalty to any elected official, including the president. 

What Kamala Harris must do now.

She must demonstrably respect all of the other potential presidential candidates. They must feel included in her campaign and, if she wins, have an opportunity to be included in her administration. 

Harris must also contact Biden’s delegates, perhaps in a formal joint statement with Biden assuring them of her commitment to pursuing pragmatic progressive policies. This statement would be a perfect medium for Biden to release his delegates, encouraging them to vote for Harris.

Why Harris should be the Democratic presidential candidate.

Harris might not have been the best candidate if the Democrats had begun an effort to select a candidate through the presidential primaries and caucuses. However, many Democrats resisted that, feeling comfortable with Biden continuing as president. Biden’s decline in health altered that acceptance. 

But history cannot be rerun; the Democrats must accept the cards dealt. 

Harris has access to the $95 million campaign fund. If she were not selected, the Democratic National Committee would receive the funds and decide how to spend them. By inheriting the Biden-Harris reelection campaign infrastructure, she may have more state offices operating than what Trump’s campaign has currently. Any other Democratic presidential candidate would not necessarily obtain all Biden campaign offices.

Any other candidate wanting to be selected must secure a minimum of 300 delegates, which no one has now. With no single state being allowed to provide more than 50 delegates, it would be difficult for any candidate to challenge Harris if she receives the bulk of Biden’s delegates.

Gavin Newsom, a top possibility to replace Biden, has yet to signal whether he plans to seek the presidency or vice presidency this year. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer intends to do everything she can to elect Democrats and stop Donald Trump. So, as of Sunday, the two top contenders are not pushing to be candidates.

Early polls show that Harris does slightly better against Trump than any other candidate. According to the Washington Post – ABC poll, she is also the clear favorite among other possible presidential Democratic candidates.

In response to the question, If Biden did step aside, who do you think should be the Democratic nominee for president in his place? (Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents), Harris received 29%, Newsom came next with 7%, and Whitmer was at 3%.

Republicans were desperate to keep Biden as the Democratic presidential candidate.

Right after the debate, Bulwark’s reporter Marc Caputo reported that Trump’s team believed it was best for him to lie low to avoid interfering with the drumbeat of coverage of Biden’s debate implosion, initially believing that Biden wouldn’t be forced out. Even after the debate, a top Trump super PAC, MAGA Inc., bashed the idea that Biden could be replaced on the ticket because of campaign finance laws’ restrictions. 

After the debate, Trump’s campaign fundraised off speculation that Vice President Kamala Harris could replace Biden: “Biden is dropping out!” and “President Kamala Harris?” read two fundraising email subject lines.

Speaking at the Republican Convention, Donald Trump’s co-campaign manager, Chris LaCivita, said that choosing a candidate after the Democratic primaries was “literally a coup” in trying to halt an effort of  Harris replacing Biden. He intends to bring that charge to the Democrats whenever they mention Jan. 6 and Trump’s threat to democracy.

Republicans seem intent on keeping Biden in the race and not being replaced. Before Biden withdrew from the race, House Speaker Mike Johnson discussed a legal strategy to save Trump from running against another Democrat.  

He said it might be against the legal electoral process in some states for the winner of a major party’s primary election to be replaced on the ticket by another candidate. Johnson suggested that Republicans look into filing legal challenges in states where it could be contested.

Johnson tried another tactic on the day of Biden’s announcement. He said Biden must resign immediately. He conflated not running for president with not being fit to serve as president and then continued the narrative that the Democrats should not be allowed to choose someone other than Biden. 

Democrats must be prepared to face an onslaught of Republican attacks on Biden being replaced. Johnson says they “invalidated the votes of more than 14 million Americans who selected Joe Biden as the Democrat nominee for president.” 

In defending Biden as the presidential candidate, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez warned Democrats that some Republicans would legally challenge Biden’s replacement, leading to “a presidential election being decided by Clarence Thomas and the Supreme Court,” like in 2000.

When she made that point, she accused “the donor class” and party “elites” of pushing Biden to leave the race. Expect the Republicans to cut and slice her comments into ads to push progressive Democrats not to trust their party’s leadership.

The Republicans face a more difficult election with Biden gone.

Republicans’ messaging about protecting our democracy reveals that they are not sure Trump would win the election against another candidate. They have spent the last year attacking Biden and only started mentioning Harris more frequently. 

Republicans are now scrambling for a way to denigrate Harris personally. That will be a tricky maneuver. How do they avoid alienating Black and women voters? And since she is 19 years younger than Trump, they must be aware that he is now the doddering old man that he accused Biden of being.  

Republican New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu’s prediction of what would happen to the Republicans if Biden dropped from the race is unfolding. Replacing Biden would not simply energize the Democratic Party; it would also win back some swing voters who dislike the elderly candidates currently on offer. 

Trump may regret his comments about Harris made at his rally in Doral, Florida, two weeks before Biden passed the baton to Harris: “You have to give him credit for one brilliant decision—probably the smartest decision he’s ever made: He picked Kamala Harris as his vice president.” He’ll find out if he was right in November.

Nick Licata is the author of Becoming A Citizen Activist and Student Power, Democracy and Revolution in the SixtiesHe is the founding board chair of Local Progress, a national network of over 1,300 progressive municipal officials.

Subscribe to Licata’s newsletterCitizenship Politics.

Biden and Harris can enable the Democrats to win in November

Biden and Harris must place the interests of their party and nation first.

Biden clings to the classic belief that only he can save the world. He declared to a meeting with Democratic governors, “No one’s pushing me out. I’m not leaving.” He followed up in an interview with George Stephanopoulos, saying only “the Lord Almighty” could drive him from the race. 

Biden and Harris can allow the Democrats to win in November by relinquishing their candidate mantels and campaign funds. Importantly, they must take leadership in organizing their party to avoid internal discord. In doing so, they can guarantee their supporters that the principles they pursued in office will continue under the new Democratic presidential administration since they will help select those candidates and consider retaining Harris.

They have worked well as a team. Their mission is to avoid the Democrats stumbling into a brokered convention. They have the prestige, the ground support, and the discipline to lift the Democrats out of their befuddlement about how to win the presidency, given Biden’s health and poor polling.

Biden’s debate performance shook the ground under the Democrats.

To understand why this scenario is the best solution for the Democrats, it is necessary to know how Biden’s terrible debate performance altered the Democratic party’s election plans. The debate exposed the weaknesses of both candidates. The Democrats can now unite around a new candidate, while the Republicans are stuck with a very beatable Trump, particularly if he is running against someone other than Biden.

In the recent NYT poll, the response to the question: How well do you think Joe Biden and Donald Trump did in the presidential debate? Biden got trounced by Trump. A whopping 57% thought Biden did “not well at all,” while only 27% had that same impression of Trump. 

Meanwhile, 53% of respondents agreed that Joe Biden is just too old to be an effective president, while only 22% would agree with that assessment for Trump.

Biden narrowly won 2020 against Trump when 36% of voters thought he was too old. Just before the debate, that opinion jumped to 69%. After the debate, which Biden’s advisors pushed as a means to reverse this trend, it climbed to 74%, double from four years ago.

Now, here’s the thing: although being old may slow one’s movements, it does not necessarily hinder one’s ability to think clearly. However, viewers witnessed a confused and muddled Biden. His staff attributed his condition to fatigue from a couple of long world trips filled with meetings just prior to the debate. 

A possible severe medical condition has not been addressed.

There is one excuse for Biden that may be real and even provable. It could account for why New York Times’ reporters heard from interviews with “current and former officials and others who encountered him behind closed doors” that they “noticed that he appeared confused or listless, or would lose the thread of conversations,” over the last couple of months.

Biden could be suffering from a series of mini-strokes, aka TIA (transient ischemic attacks), occurring in middle-aged and older adults brought about by higher levels of stress. The results of such strokes are the type of behavior reported to the reporters. 

A person can suffer multiple TIAs and never know it. They do not last long, and while they do not immediately result in any permanent damage, over time, there can be cumulative effects on the brain’s health and physical and mental abilities. 

These attacks are not full-out strokes like the one that sent John Fetterman to the hospital. Fetterman recovered and won his election, but then again, he is 25 years younger than Biden. 

TIAs can be detected after the fact through an MRI, which is often done after a significant stroke. Unfortunately, according to the Mayo Clinic, about 1 in 3 people who had a TIA will eventually have a stroke, with about half occurring within a year after its occurrence. 

This possibility might loom on the horizon if Biden had a TIA, which I assume his physician has checked, given his behavior. If he had one or more, Trump supporters could use the news to attack Biden’s ability to serve as president. However, if Trump found out before the Democratic convention, he might not release that information, fearing that he could face a stronger alternative candidate chosen by a united convention. 

Regardless of Biden’s specific medical concerns, the public perceives him as unfit to continue as president. The debate helped to bolster that view, according to a national poll taken of registered voters by the NYT/Siena shortly after the debate. 

The public and Democrats are rejecting Biden.

Despite the Biden campaign investing $50 million in advertising the month before the debate, a CNN poll conducted by SSRS found that three-quarters of all US voters say the Democratic Party would have a better chance of winning the 2024 presidential election with someone other than President Joe Biden. The CNN poll also showed that most Democrats and Democratic-leaning registered voters (56%) say the party has a better shot at the presidency with someone other than Biden, while 43% say the party stands a better chance with him.

These findings reflect the reality that if Trump won every state where he leads right now, he would receive enough electoral votes to win. This is not a recent trend. Trump has led the national polling averages almost every single day this year. He also beats Biden in the swing states Biden took to win the presidency. 

The bottom line is that other than Biden’s 2024 opponent, former President Donald Trump, no incumbent has trailed this far behind in the polls since Jimmy Carter’s reelection bid 44 years ago, in which he was stomped by Ronald Reagan. 

If you like this piece, become a Patreon patron or make a single contribution to help me reach others.  – thank you, Nick 

A brokered democratic convention could be fatally divisive.

Carter was smart and levelheaded, like Biden. He also had the Democrats’ last contested nominating convention, which occurs when the convention opens without one candidate having captured a majority of delegates. Although Biden is a hair short of a majority, if his delegates begin to drop away, a fight begins to select the presidential candidate, which is a brokered convention. The last Democratic brokered convention was won by Adlai Stevenson in 1952, and he lost to Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Biden can avoid a brokered convention by shifting his focus from being the presidential candidate to being the ultimate negotiator who successfully brings people together. 

Rep. Jamie Raskin’s comments to MSNBC significantly recognized that Biden’s future role is not tied to being the presidential candidate when he said: “One thing I can tell you is that regardless of what President Biden decides, our party is going to be unified . . . He will be the figure that we rally around to move forward.” 

V.P. Kamala Harris is the most critical player in the Democratic Convention.

Raskin signaled that Biden must initiate the decision not to run again to avoid a brokered convention. Biden needs V.P. Kamala Harris, the only politician with the influence, to work with him in accepting the withdrawal and formulating a smooth succession.

She has been Biden’s chief surrogate on the campaign trail and the co-owner of their two hundred-million-dollar campaign fund. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) and no other candidate cannot use it. 

To convince Biden to select another candidate, Harris would have to join Biden in allowing a whole new ticket to be formed. She would not have to reject being on it, but she could enable party leaders to help choose the Vice Presidential and the presidential candidates. 

Her gesture would magnify the fact that Democrats winning the presidency comes before any one individual’s political interests. Senior sources at the Biden campaign, the White House, and the DNC have told Reuters that the vice president was the top alternative to be their presidential candidate.

CNN poll found in a matchup against Trump, Harris received 45% to Trump’s 47%, whereas Biden got 43% and Trump 49%. Harris’s gain was partly due to broader support from women and independents.

However, only two to three percentages behind Harris in a matchup with Trump were California Gov. Gavin Newsom (48% Trump to 43% Newsom), Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (47% Trump to 43% Buttigieg), and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (47% Trump to 42% Whitmer). They are all within the error margin. In other words, unless there is a unified agreement on the ticket, divisions among delegates could surface on the convention floor. 

Roughly half of the public has no opinion on Buttigieg and Newsom, with about two-thirds offering no opinion of Whitmer. This is good news because it allows their campaigns to present a new image rather than trying to defend an old one.

The clock is ticking to implement a succession plan.

The DNC moved up its formal nomination process to a “virtual roll call” scheduled for August 7 to meet Ohio’s deadline to get the Democratic nominee on the ballot for November’s election. However, on the day of the DNC’s vote, Ohio Gov. DeWine signed a bill giving the DNC until September 1 to register their candidates’ names, which is after their August 19-22 convention.

This change allows the Democrats an additional three weeks to agree on new candidates to secure the majority of delegates votes on the first balloting. Biden could request that the virtual vote be dropped to allow this additional time to unify the party around a new ticket. 

The biggest hurdle in selecting new candidates is convincing a majority of delegates that their favorite candidate and their community are respected and their interests addressed. That is why Biden and Harris, as the President and Vice President, must take the lead in organizing their party to promote the best ticket possible to defeat Trump. 

Trump can be defeated. Most of the attention on the debate focused on Biden’s poor performance. However, if one reads the debate transcript, one will see that Trump comes across as more rambling than Biden. Also, when registered voters polled by the NYT last spring were asked in electing Biden or Trump for president who is a safe or risky choice for the country, they registered within one percent of each other as being risky.

When asked this July, 56% thought Trump was more risky, and 63% thought Biden was. A new Democratic candidate must convince the majority of voters that they would be less risky to the country than Trump. Convention delegates should ask themselves, which new candidate can meet that threshold? My guess is that any of them could.

NOTE: The information for this piece was gathered from reviewing 31 articles and websites, some of which are linked above. 

If you like this piece, become a Patreon patron or make a single contribution to help me reach others.  – thank you, Nick 


Nick Licata is the author of Becoming A Citizen Activist and Student Power, Democracy and Revolution in the SixtiesHe is the founding board chair of Local Progress, a national network of over 1,300 progressive municipal officials.

Subscribe to Licata’s newsletterCitizenship Politics.

Is anti-Zionism same as antisemitism?

Protestors of Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza are accused of being anti-Zionist and, therefore, antisemitic. Those defending the protestors argue that they don’t have a grievance against Jews but against Israel’s government for letting its military kill thousands of innocent civilians. 

According to Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, former President of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejects compromises with Palestinians because he is beholden to ultra-Orthodox parties and extremist religious settlers in the West Bank.

With their support, Netanyahu got Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, to pass the Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People bill with a margin of only seven votes. It formally adopts a type of Zionism that treats Jewish citizens differently than other ethnic and religious groups. 

Minister Yariv Levin, a leader in Netanahu’s Likud Party, called it “Zionism‘s flagship bill… it will clarify that it is the nation-state of the Jewish people.” However, many, if not most, Jewish citizens also see Israel as a democracy, as the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel intended. 

Although the word “Democratic” is absent throughout the Israeli Declaration of Independence, it explicitly states that the State of Israel would “ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education, and culture.” 

Nevertheless, a large portion of Israelis, Jews, and non-Jews opposed the law proclaiming Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People. Several groups in the Jewish diaspora believed it violated Israel’s self-defined legal status as a “Jewish and democratic state” in exchange for adopting an exclusively Jewish identity. 

Arab and Druze Israeli citizens see this new law just as the Likud leader Avi Dichter explained, “We are passing this bill to avoid even a scrap of thought or effort to turn Israel into a state of all its citizens.’’

How Israel defines Zionism will determine its future either as a democracy or a theocracy with democratic trimming.  

The type of Zionism, as promoted by the conservative Likud Party and its allies, moves Israel closer to making it operate within a tribal framework similar to Arab countries. In 23 of them, Islam is the state religion. Although Israel does not formally have Judaism as a state religion, it took the notable step of declaring that it is a “Jewish State.”

The First Zionist Congress in Basel in 1897 did not use the phrase “Jewish State” when Zionists sought to “establish a home for the Jewish people.” Instead, according to Professor Sari Nusseibeh at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, the Zionist Organization preferred at first to use the description “Jewish homeland.”

When President Joe Biden said, “I’m a Zionist. Where there’s no Israel, there’s not a Jew in the world to be safe,” he was referring to Israel as a safe homeland for Jews, of which  870,000 Jews have left Islamic countries over a period of twenty years. 

Some left due to expulsion or fearing a change in their status after Israel became an independent nation. But Israel also encouraged Jews to immigrate by providing better living conditions than what they had in the Arabian countries.

The result is that the six Arab states adjacent to Israel all have less than one percent Jews. About half of Israel’s population are descendants of those refugees and immigrants. Meanwhile, the Muslim population of Israel is about two million; it had been one million in all of Palestine, current Israel, and the occupied territories before 1947. Arabs represent 18% of all Israeli residents; in 1944, they represented 61% living in that territory.

Roughly the same number of Palestinians left Israel as the number of Jews that departed from Islamic countries, however, over a much shorter period. While Israel did create conditions that pushed some Palestinians to leave, others left at the urging of the Arab leaders.

 In the Memoirs of Haled al Azm, the Syrian Prime Minister in 1948-49, he wrote that “we ourselves are the ones who encouraged them to leave.” Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Said declared as the war began: “We will smash the country with our guns and obliterate every place the Jews seek shelter in. The Arabs should conduct their wives and children to safe areas until the fighting has died down.” 

The Secretary of the Arab League Office in London, Edward Atiyah, wrote in his book, The Arabs: “This wholesale exodus was due partly to the belief of the Arabs, encouraged by the boastings of an unrealistic Arabic press that it could be only a matter of weeks before the Jews were defeated.”

Middle Eastern countries, regardless of whether they call themselves democracies, have some aspects of a theocratic or tribal-oriented state. The primary one is that the government or their society’s culture treats citizens along religious and ethnic lines. That orientation occurs in both Israel, Arab, and Muslim countries.  

While some Islamic countries guarantee freedom of religion, the practice is often at odds with that promise. For instance, Iran describes itself as an Islamic theocratic democracy. In its legislative body, one seat is reserved for its small Jewish community and three other seats for other minorities. However, they have no adequate power since a higher body, the 12-member Guardian Council, all appointed Islamic jurists, can veto legislation and disqualify candidates for office if they are not true to the Islamic faith. 

Unlike most Muslim countries, which do not have Jews in their legislative bodies, Israel has 15 Arab members in the 120-seat Knesset who were voted into office. Most are Muslim Arabs, with Druze and non-denominational members making up the rest.

However, they do not have the same rights as Jewish citizens in Israel, which critics would describe as a two-class system that has been called apartheid by Human Rights Watch.

An HRW report mentions how Israeli authorities revoke Palestinian residency rights and expropriate privately owned Palestinian land. Unfortunately, HRW did not identify whether these practices were in Israel, the West Bank, or Gaza. 

Mainstream international and Israel/Palestinian human rights groups consider Israel practices apartheid in the West Bank. Since no Jews live in Gaza, apartheid doesn’t apply there. 

However, Israel has enforced a 17-year siege of Gaza by which Israel effectively controls its airspace and its shorelines. As a result, it exerts strict control of what goes in and what goes out of that territory, making Israel the occupying power in Gaza. In critical ways, Israel has more control over Gaza than Hamas.

As for the treatment of Arabs within Israel, HRW makes no mention of any similar practices by Muslim countries against Jews. Their website does not list countries that practice apartheid, so a comparison of Israel’s practices to Muslim countries is not possible. And while the U.N. has a legal definition of apartheid, there is no list of countries that meet it. 

The form of Zionism that Israel has leaned into since the 1967 war is now the Likud Party’s policy, declaring that “The land of Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people, in which the State of Israel was established.” 

Critics of Likud believe that this wording could be used to justify Israel annexing all of the West Bank. That action would eliminate a two-state solution. Even now, Israel directly controls 60 percent of the West Bank and can send military throughout it at will. 

The Israel-Hamas War has highlighted the connection between anti-Zionist and antisemitic. Israel contends that criticizing Israel’s war against Hamas is equivalent to being antisemitic. 

Jewish American political scientist Norman Finkelstein argues that anti-Zionism and often just criticism of Israeli policies have been conflated with antisemitism. The Jewish-American linguist Noam Chomsky argues: “There have long been efforts to identify anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in an effort to exploit anti-racist sentiment for political ends.”

Nevertheless, Republicans and many Democrats defend Israel’s invasion of Gaza by characterizing an attack on Israel’s government as an existential attack on Israel as a Jewish nation-state. 

Consequently, Republicans pushed through House Resolution 894, which rightly condemns the drastic rise of antisemitism in the United States. However, point four of the resolution reads, “The House of Representatives clearly and firmly states that anti-Zionism is antisemitism.”

Although the resolution is not a law, it condemns anyone opposing Israel’s war with Hamas as being anti-Zionist and hence antisemitic.  While 95 Democrats voted for it, more either didn’t vote or were absent, leaving only 13 to vote against it. All but five Republicans voted in favor. 

Israel and its supporters must understand that criticism of Israeli actions in Gaza is not an existential threat. It is a reality check on how a government of any country must be held accountable for needlessly contributing to civilian deaths by violence or famine. 

Democratic Representative Jamaal Bowman voted against H.R. 894 because it “conflates criticism of the Israeli government with antisemitism and ignores one of the greatest threats to the Jewish community, white nationalism.” Due to that vote and his outspoken support for making Israel accountable for its actions, AIPAC, the largest pro-Israel PAC in America, has led a $8 million campaign to unseat Bowman.

Sophie Ellman-Golan, the communications director at Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, came to his defense, saying he was a “leader for decades in fighting antisemitism and all forms of hate, as a principal and in Congress.”

This is just one example of how our Congressional leaders have come under pressure to swing toward equating anti-Zionism to antisemitism. All politicians have felt that tug, including Joe Biden when he served as a Senator. AIPAC donated twice as much to Biden than the next recipient of their funds since 1990.

While polls have shown that most Americans from both parties have supported an independent Israel nation-state, the same is not true for an independent Palestinian state. The last Pew Survey poll, taken in 2011, showed that more than 40% favor (42%) than oppose (26%) the United States recognizing Palestine as an independent nation, while nearly a third (32%) express no opinion.

However, since President Clinton, all presidents have supported the development of an independent Palestinian state. The UN passed a resolution intended that the West Bank, Gaza, and other lands be an independent Palestinian state, which 138 countries currently recognize.

A future for peaceful Israeli–Palestinian relations will be slim if the nation-states of the Middle East treat each other as enemy tribes by emphasizing that the “nation” within each state is the dominant ethnic/religious group.  The US can stand as a model of a democracy where freedom of religion and the protection of ethnic minorities are accepted and protected. 

At its core, Zionism is about sustaining an independent Israel nation-state. To define it as an Israel expanding its boundaries or dividing its citizens along tribal lines will not lead to any peace in the Middle East. 

Being anti-Zionist can be without prejudice against Jews and supportive of Israel serving as a homeland for Jews. And importantly, it allows for the recognition that Palestinians have a right to create a democratic nation-state for their homeland. 

NOTE: The information for this piece was gathered from reviewing 35 articles and websites, some of which are linked above. 

If you like this piece, become a Patreon patron or make a single contribution to help me reach others.  – thank you, Nick 


Nick Licata is the author of Becoming A Citizen Activist and Student Power, Democracy and Revolution in the SixtiesHe is the founding board chair of Local Progress, a national network of over 1,300 progressive municipal officials.

Subscribe to Licata’s newsletterCitizenship Politics.

Republicans woo Libertarians, Democrats ignore them – at their peril.

If you like this piece, become a Patreon patron or make a single contribution to help me reach others.  – thank you, Nick 

Former President Donald Trump spoke to the Libertarian Party’s Annual Convention on Saturday, May 25, 2024. Fox News reported that he was met with a crowd of repeated booing during his speech. The Nation’s National Affairs Correspondent John Nichols described Trump’s Outreach to the Libertarians as an Absolute Train Wreck.

But Fox also noted that some Republican supporters wore “Make America Great” hats and T-shirts cheering “USA! USA!” It’s unclear if they were libertarians or just Republicans attending the convention.

In brief, Trump didn’t make any friends with his typical self-aggrandizement. Nevertheless, his instinct that libertarians were voters, which he needed, was correct. In twenty polls spanning thirteen years, Gallup found that 17 to 23% of the American electorate voters see themselves as libertarians. They are a substantial chunk of voters. 

Libertarian voters can tip the presidential election in the swing states.

It’s easy to ignore or even belittle the Libertarian Party’s past election results. Admittedly, the Libertarian presidential candidate’s performance has been minuscule. They’ve been at one or three percent of the popular vote in the last three presidential races. 

Nevertheless, they are the best-organized independent party, having their presidential candidate on every state’s ballot in five of the last eight presidential elections and more times on the ballot than any other third party. 

Libertarian Party members will most likely vote for their candidate in any presidential election. However, if the Democrats and Republicans make a pitch that appeals to their values, some may vote for Biden or Trump. Those voters could make a crucial difference in the swing states that narrowly went to Trump in 2016 when he carried more independent voters than Clinton.  

Trump lost them in 2020 when third-party 2016 voters went 53%-36% for Biden over Trump. On a larger scale, among all independents and those affiliated with other parties, Biden led Trump by 52%-43%, according to the Pew Research Center.

In 2024, independents may return to Trump since he leads Biden in the six swing states Biden won in 2020 with the assistance of independent voters, many of whom are libertarians. These tightest contested states are Arizona, Georgia, Nevada (Trump ahead by >4%), and Pennsylvania (Trump ahead by >3%), with Biden behind by less than 1% in Michigan and Wisconsin.

Libertarian votes could provide Biden another win if he can attract more of them again than Trump. 

For instance, in Arizona and Georgia, if 20% of the Libertarian 2020 voters went for Biden, it would equal or exceed the number of votes that was Biden’s margin of victory. 

In Michigan and Wisconsin, where Biden has the best chance of winning, the Libertarian vote accounted for about 70% of all independent votes. The votes are there; Biden needs to reach out to them.

Republicans have allies within the Libertarian Party.

The doctrinaire conservative Mises Caucus has held the Libertarian Party leadership positions since being elected at its convention two years ago. Mises retained the presidency and secretary positions this May. The elected vice president is not with Mises.  

The Mises Caucus and the Mises Institution, which preceded it, are little known outside libertarian circles. Their beliefs stem from the economist and social philosopher Ludwig von Mises. The institute praised von Mises for being uncompromising, radical, and rigorous, and it hopes to capture these qualities by pursuing his principles through the Libertarian Party.

Mises taught that the only viable economic policy was unrestricted laissez-faire, free markets, and the unhampered exercise of private property rights. The government was strictly limited to defending persons and property within its territory.

As of 2022, the Mises Caucus is the largest caucus of the Libertarian Party and controls 37 state affiliates. Its members support Trump’s policies as being closer to their beliefs while downplaying their differences. 

For instance, while the published Libertarian Party platform supports the unrestricted movement of people across national borders, the Mises Caucus aligns with Trump in opposing open borders. The LP platform states: “Individuals own their bodies and have rights over them that other individuals, groups, and governments may not violate.” Mises accuses libertarians of being leftists when they apply this clause to allow women to have abortions.

These Mises positions lead other libertarians to accuse the caucus of acting like a Republican lobby promoting Trump and his policies that violate personal liberties. 

The Mises Caucus on X echoes Trump’s claim that his conviction as a felon is an instance of the U.S. justice system being weaponized against the people. Through their leadership positions, the caucus orchestrated the invitation to Trump to address their convention. Trump libertarian supporters got to the venue early and occupied the front-row seats chanting “USA.” 

Many libertarians still reject Trump, as they did in 2020.  This hostility was on display when he spoke. One member held up a sign reading, “No wannabe dictators!” 

The party’s presidential candidate, Chase Oliver, who beat the Mises candidate at the convention, said of Trump’s appearance, “The truth is, I don’t like having a war criminal on this stage, I don’t feel he deserves a spot on this stage.”

Right-Wing Libertarians are moving away from their Presidential Candidate toward Trump.

Even though Oliver calls for the closure of all overseas military bases and ending of military support to Israel and Ukraine, Mises leaders accuse him of being woke. Mises Caucus advisory board member Dave Smith said he would not vote for Oliver because he is woke by accommodating some immigration and COVID restrictions.

Others outside the party magnify that message. Jim Geraghty, National Review’s senior political correspondent, wrotethat “Oliver wants a path to citizenship for 8 million people who entered the country illegally, which is just another way of rewarding people for breaking the law.”

Oliver takes the mainstream libertarian position that personal rights are just as important as property rights. They include women having control of their bodies, like having abortions or access to contraception. 

Mises downplays protecting personal rights as posted on X: “Federally-mandated access to contraception isn’t even Constitutional, let alone Libertarian. Supporting it under the guise of “women’s right to healthcare & autonomy” is Woke Progressive, not Libertarian. The only real rights are property rights”

As a result of these criticisms of Olive, Smith encourages right-wing libertarians to “abandon this clown show and work on influencing the GOP… and stop trying to win over the leftist social club.” He and similar thinking libertarians are sending a nuanced message for party members to vote for Trump, not Oliver.

Converting the Libertarian Party to a Right-Wing Organization is underway.

The Libertarian Party has been undergoing an effort by the Mises Institute since 2017 to move its beliefs to a more fundamentalist economic perspective. That effort, at times, has become linked to white nationalism.

For instance, Mises Institute president Jeff Deist began the effort when he wrote a blog calling for a “new libertarian” to replace the LP’s establishment leadership. He wrote that libertarians should not ignore “blood and soil … still matter to people.” The term “blood and soil” was a Nazi slogan and was chanted by white nationalists, along with ‘Hail Trump,” ahead of the deadly Charlottesville rally.

According to David Valente, a former alternate member of the Libertarian National Committee (LNC) and LP member since 2012, the Mises Caucus has a plan in motion. “The purpose of what is going on with the MC … is to sabotage the LP to sideline it over the next few years for Donald Trump.” 

Last month’s race for a Kentucky state house seat points to a close relationship between Mises and Trump’s far-right base in opposing incumbent Republican politicians. Kentucky Republican T.J. Roberts,  a former libertarian Mises Caucus member, beat an incumbent Republican this past May. Roberts had the support of Congressional Rep. Thomas Massie, who seconded the motion to oust Speaker of the House Republican Mike Johnson.

More importantly, Massie joined 13 Freedom Caucus members voting against a resolution condemning Myanmar’s general who violently overthrew elected leaders. They supported the military coup because the military said that 16% of the ballots had “voter irregularities.” The military rejected the country’s election commission, which called the election fair. In response, the military instituted media and internet blackouts. This is an authoritarian approach to limiting personal freedoms, not a libertarian approach to protecting them. 

The right-wing effort to control LP opens the door for the Democrats to hammer home the point that a second Trump presidency will snuff out LP’s support for personal rights and could destroy the party’s independence.

Democrats protecting personal freedoms will appeal to libertarians.

Democrats must not only understand why attracting libertarian voters is essential but also how to reach them. 

Democrats must take into account that the Mises Caucus is trying to turn the Libertarian Party away from protecting personal freedoms as a core libertarian belief. The MC has labeled stances that appear to be pro-migration, pro-choice, and pro-LGBTQ positions as leftist and anti-libertarian. Since they have not secured the LP candidate for a Mises member, they appear to have moved from capturing the Libertarian Party to siphoning off members to vote for Trump as president. 

Democrats need to wake up to this strategy and respond by appealing to libertarians that their party could be diverted to a narrow right-wing agenda. This is particularly true if Trump is elected and appoints a Mises Caucus member to his administration as promised at the LP convention this May. 

Having a right-wing libertarian in the Trump cabinet will encourage billionaires to fund Mises to make LP more to their liking. Two of those billionaires are registered Libertarian, options trader Jeff Yass and former CEO of Overstock Patrick Byrne.

Since 2017, Yass has been a generous supporter of Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, who is more aligned with Libertarian views than any member of Congress. Since 2018, Yass has contributed $18 million to the super PAC Protect Freedom, which is directly linked to Paul. Protect Freedom funds independent advertising campaigns to elect conservative candidates, such as Senators Michael Lee and Ron Johnson, who are staunch supporters of Trump.

Byrne is mentioned in a social media screenshot of private Mises Caucus-linked groups saved by John Hudak, an LP member and former member of the Mises Caucus. Michael Heise, the MC chairman from Pennsylvania, claimed on social media to have received donations and solicited advice from Byrne. He authored a book based on an election fraud that cost Trump the 2020 election. Byrne was also the main financier of the audit of Arizona’s Maricopa County election results, which failed to prove fraudulent voting.

Democrats should realize that most libertarian-oriented voters sympathize with protecting individual liberties, which is closer to Democratic policies than Republican policies concerning the rights of women, ethnic minorities, gays, and trans citizens. Pew Research Polls from 2015 and 2014 showed that 22% of Democratic voters identified themselves as “libertarian,” whereas only 12% of Republicans did.

If Trump is elected, the Libertarian Party’s future independence from either major party may vanish and could become more subservient to the Republican’s right-wing agenda. That should motivate libertarians to consider which presidential candidate presents the more existential threat to their party. The writing is on the wall for all to see who presents that threat.  


 
NOTE: The information for this piece was gathered from reviewing 38 articles and websites, some of which are linked above. 
 

If you like this piece, become a Patreon patron or make a single contribution to help me reach others.  – thank you, Nick 
 
Nick Licata is the author of Becoming A Citizen Activist and Student Power, Democracy and Revolution in the SixtiesHe is the founding board chair of Local Progress, a national network of over 1,300 progressive municipal officials.

Subscribe to Licata’s newsletterCitizenship Politics.

Extremism of Student Protests Today and in the ’60s

About 5% of college campuses are experiencing protests. This is not the ’60s again; their size and scope are smaller. However, they follow the same arc of drifting from pursuing their initial objectives to having a few with extreme views and engaging in violence capturing the headlines.

Protestors are motivated by legitimate outrage at the government’s actions. If there is little or no response, over time, impatience sets in, and for a growing number of protestors, a perfect solution overshadows more achievable solutions. 

Experiencing the 60’s Student Protests

I was a 1960s protestor at my conservative public university in Ohio. The anti-war protests were peaceful for a couple of years, and eventually, protestors briefly occupied the administrator’s office. There was no violence on that campus. 

When the WTO (World Trade Organization) held its conference in Seattle, I marched with 50,000 others to protest their policies. It was an organized, peaceful march until a small faction suddenly broke off from the designated route, breaking store windows and damaging cars. The media covered the violence, not the protestors’ organized open forums with knowledgeable speakers discussing how the WTO was trampling local laws.

In addition to my experience, I traveled to other campuses and talked to student activists. Overwhelmingly, they supported our democracy, yet a few attacked it as the enemy, as I describe in Student Power, Democracy & Revolution in the Sixties.

When I compare how student protests are unfolding now to the ’60s, I see that each experience the growth of extremist beliefs and aggressive strategies.  

The Growth of Extremism

Extremism results from a zeitgeist shared by the left and the right, which continues today. It is the spirit of achieving absolute success at any cost. Protests moving in this direction are fueled by the media’s coverage of a savage war that America either is directly engaged in or contributes to. 

Barry Goldwater could be credited with ushering in the spirit that saving the good sometimes demands extreme measures. In his 1964 acceptance speech at the Republican Convention as their Presidential candidate, he released that temperament. 

His speech writer, Karl Hess, a libertarian and self-declared anarchist, included the now famous lines, “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue.” Extremism is not limited to one side of the political spectrum in believing that the ends justify the means. 

In the 1960s, the largest American activist student organization, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), was born out of the desire to extend the democratic process to multiple facets of life. 

Less than ten years after its founding, SDS was torn apart not by outsiders but by its leaders arguing how best to achieve a perfect solution. Today, if extremist messages are their banners, a similar dynamic could develop among the protestors. 

The loudest and most aggressive protestors against Israel’s invasion of Gaza ignore the advice of Ahmed Fouad Akhatib, a Gaza-born Palestinian Analyst. He criticizes those exercising “maximalist activism” as doing nothing positive. He told CNN News, “Use your Western privilege to actually help Palestinian people and promote a pragmatic path forward by engaging Israeli and Jewish audiences.” 

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A Slow Student Response

All Americans were stunned by Hamas’s brutal incursion into Israel on October 7, killing 1,200; almost all civilians, and kidnapping others. Hamas was not capable of conquering Israel. They knew this action invited a retaliation that Israel had long promised if attacked. 

The personal brutality that Israelis suffered was soon overshadowed in the world’s eyes by their retribution. As Israeli bombs and ground troops tried to destroy Hamas in Palestine’s Gaza, the Americans saw collapsed buildings and bodies strewn. According to Gaza’s Health Ministry, at least two-thirds of the dead are children and women.

Although Israeli troops and tanks invaded Gaza two weeks after Hamas violently attacked Israel, it was only after many thousands of Palestinians had been killed during Israel’s six months of occupying and bombarding Gaza that the student protests erupted. 

This slow student response on campuses was probably due to two factors. 

First, within days after the Hamas attack, there was initially universal American sympathy for Israel being attacked first. In the first ten days of the war, the Crowd Counting Consortium, an academic project tracking and sharing data on political crowds in the United States, recorded 180,000 demonstrators across roughly 270 events in solidarity with Israel and 200 in support of Palestine.

Second, the few campus protests before mid-April were limited to demanding a ceasefire and an end to the Israeli occupation. They also criticized US military and diplomatic support for Israel’s invasion of Gaza, but they were not focused on attacking Israel as a nation-state or supporting Hamas. 

Overall, two months after Israel’s invasion of Gaza, public support dramatically shifted from supporting Israel to protecting Palestinian civilians from being killed. By December, more than 1 million Americans had participated in protesting the war, with the events sympathetic to Palestine outnumbering those that were pro-Israel five to one.

Some of those carrying placards with anti-Israel slogans may be antisemitic. Still, by far, most protestors at rallies or occupying school buildings are just angry at the government for not responding to their pleas to try to end the war.

Deconstructing Student Protests 

I’ve found that the activist students consist of two major clusters regarding political issues that initiate protests. The extremists promote far-reaching demands, reject flexible strategies, and confront authorities through leading direct actions, from destroying property to fighting police.  These folks are most likely to embrace violence.

Another cluster, many times larger than the extremists, are those who sympathize with many of the first cluster’s demands but are strategically more flexible and support non-violent disobedience to avoid violence. 

They may occupy a building or set up a tent camp on the campus quad, usually not leaving until their demands are met. If they follow Martin Luther King’s strategy, they will not resist being arrested since it distracts them from their central message. 

Student protests were few before April 18 when 100 Columbia University students were arrested for tent camping on campus. By April 28, 77 campuses of the nation’s 2,828 4-year colleges were experiencing protests. A quarter of students were arrested for some infraction, most for non-violent illegal activities. 

Four of the ten campuses with the most demonstrators were at prestigious schools, and the other six were large public state universities. Still, the protests were on campuses spread across the nation. States west of the Mississippi had 26, while there were 38 east of the river, minus the old Confederacy states, which saw 13 campus demonstrations.

Over 2,950 protesters, including faculty members and professors, were arrested in less than a month on over 60 campuses. Most arrests have occurred at encampments and sit-ins at the more than 130 universities hosting them.

Antisemitism

The current protests have seen antisemitic views expressed, unlike the anti-Vietnam War protests. Both protest movements blamed our government for the killing of innocent civilians in a foreign land. In the 60’s, the U.S. was officially fighting an ideologically driven enemy, communists. Our ally was, supposedly, a democracy.  But the populations of each side were Vietnamese. It was not a tribal war. 

The current demonstrations are distinctly different from the 60s because they create a tribal-like attitude that could tear open this nation along ethnic-religious lines supporting two different countries. 

The U.S. has always financially and militarily supported Israel. With Palestine, we have provided only humanitarian assistance and vetoed its recognition as a sovereignty eligible for membership in the U.N. 

In the Israel–Hamas war, the Gaza branch of the Ministry of Health reports that more than 35,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed by the Israeli invasion. Israel acknowledges that 16,000 civilians have died because of the war.  

Since mid-April, student protestors have introduced demands that universities cut their economic ties with Israel because of their military tactics. Critics see these demands as antisemitic since they could endanger Israel’s existence by hurting its economy.  Advocates see it akin to the same strategy used to in the past to pressure South Africa to abandon apartheid.  

Demonstrators now wave Palestine’s national flag. Critics wrongly accuse them of carrying the Hamas flag, which is different; it has no strips and consists of white Arabic calligraphy on a green background.  

The media, and in particular the conservative outlets, tag demonstrations as pro-Hamas because of this false identification of flags – that represent the Palestinians, not Hamas.

Hamas is the recognized governing party of Gaza, while the PLO rules the West Bank. These two areas comprise the Palestinian state, recognized as a sovereign state by 143 nations in the United Nations.

Nevertheless, since mid-April, extremists have gained prominence for wanting to abolish the Israel state, which is the position of Hamas. This is interpreted as antisemitic since it would deny Jews a democratic homeland. On the other hand, Arab Muslims have multiple state homelands where the laws enforce Islamic practices on all their citizens. 

Some extremist activists verbally abuse or threaten Jewish students. Muslim students have also reported receiving similar treatment from pro-Israel activists. The most publicized threats have been toward Jewish students. This may be due in part because the pro-Palestinian demonstrations far outnumber pro-Israel ones.

Congressional Republicans, pointing to this situation, launched a national investigation into what groups are participating in anti-Israel campus demonstrations. They see a conspiracy afoot because some social justice non-profits fund advocate groups, including Jewish peace groups, with their members engaged in protests. Finding or fabricating a conspiracy that financially supports participants on either side is not helpful for securing a peaceful settlement.   

To achieve peace and protect our democracy, political leaders and protest organizers must condemn all extremism. They need to speak above the chants and accusations by asserting that we are all American citizens with the right to free expression and the responsibility to protect others from danger.  This approach will produce solutions, something that slogans cannot. 

If you like this piece, become a Patreon patron or make a one-time donation help me reach others.  – thank you, Nick 
 
Nick Licata is the author of Becoming A Citizen Activist and Student Power, Democracy and Revolution in the SixtiesHe is the founding board chair of Local Progress, a national network of over 1,300 progressive municipal officials.

Subscribe to Licata’s newsletterCitizenship Politics.

Banning TikTok – concerning National Security, Civil Rights & Investments 

In the last week of April, Congress passed, and President Biden signed, a law banning TikTok in the United States if its parent company, ByteDance, did not sell it to an American company within 12 months. 

The New York Times Senior writer David Leonhardt provides a good summary of why this bill was passed. It is a highly unusual step since TikTok is a popular social media platform. About one-third of Americans under 30 regularly get their news from it, and Congress rarely punishes a single company for a suspected or possible behavior.

Christopher Wray, the director of the F.B.I., articulated the main reason for taking this action. He told Congress, “This is a tool that is ultimately within the control of the Chinese government,” since under President Xi Jinping’s rule, private companies are treated as extensions of the state.

The argument for banning TikTok seems straightforward – protect national security. 

Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham Law School professor, argues in the Atlantic that America has a long history of shielding infrastructure and communication platforms from foreign control. Beginning with the Constitutional Convention in 1787, the Framers feared that foreign powers would exploit America’s open form of government to serve their interests. 

As recently as 2011, that concern was expressed in our judicial system. As a Circuit Judge, Judge Brett Kavanaughwrote in Bluman vs. FEC that the country has a compelling interest in limiting the participation of foreign citizens in such activities, “thereby preventing foreign influence over the U.S. political process.”

Those who argue that this law violates constitutional rights have opposed it, relying on past court decisions on Constitutional Rights. In 2020, President Trump tried to force a sale or ban of the TikTok app, but federal judges blocked the effort because it would have shut down a “platform for expressive activity.”

More recently, a federal judge blocked a Montana law banning TikTok from going into effect because it likely violates the First Amendment. 

The A.C.L.U. sent a letter to Congress to vote against the bill, citing that decision and also arguing that the law applied a “prior restraint” preventing access to receiving speech on TikTok. To exercise a prior restraint, a court must determine that the ban is necessary to prevent serious, immediate harm to national security. None was provided for passing the law.

Leonhardt referred to a Network Contagion Research Institute report that said TikTok likely promotes and demotes specific topics based on the Chinese government’s perceived preferences.  He and others have concluded that TikTok is thus a propaganda tool for China. It may be, but does that meet a level of presenting an immediate harm to national security?

The conservative-libertarian CATO Institute labeled that report a misleading study based on flawed methodology. Jeff Yass, a former board member at the Cato Institute and a major Republican campaign donor, is a prominent TikTok defender. He needs to be because, as the founder of Susquehanna, it owns roughly 15 percent of ByteDance, according to an article by an NYT reporter. 

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Although ByteDance is a private Chinese company, American businesses have been investing in it since its formation in 2012, a year before it started TikTok. Susquehanna and investment firms General Atlantic and Sequoia Capital have collectively poured billions into ByteDance.

Three of the company’s five board members are Americans, with the heads of GA and SC having two of those seats. Other U.S. investors include the private equity firms KKR, the Carlyle Group, and the hedge fund Coatue Management.

When you think of TikTok as a Chinese company, realize it is run by an American Board of Directors and funded by American investments. It has 600 million users outside the U.S., generating about $10 billion in global ad revenue in 2022. It doesn’t exist in China.

While ByetDance owns 100% of TikTok, it is 60% owned by global institutional investors. Its founder owns 20%, the Chinese Government owns 1%, and the remainder is owned by its 150,000 employees based in nearly 120 cities globally. Byte Dance is a global business network valued at $225 billion as of March 2024. 

TikTok is a creature of global capitalism likely subservient to an authoritarian Communist government because ByteDance is domiciled there. Therefore, U.S. TikTok is subject to its regulatory rules, which serve China’s interests, not America’s.

This condition has caught the attention of politicians, academics, and reporters. Their explanations and resolutions revolve around a dialectical world of two clashing objective truths: nation-states seek to secure their existence, and they also seek the wealth generated by the internet’s social media platforms in the global marketplace. 

As I’ve previously described, the internet heralded a historical increase in the security threat to nations. However, the Internet’s global market also significantly contributes to economic growth in China, America, and other countries.  

The struggle to define and control TikTok’s impact on their national security and wealth is at the core of how China and America’s governments have responded in trying to manage the global internet social media octopus.

And it is a growing giant. As of January 2024, 66.2 percent of the global population were internet users, of which 94% were social media users. China ranks first for the highest number of those users, followed in the following order by India, the U.S., Indonesia, Brazil, and Russia. It’s apparent that social media, even if state-controlled, has tremendous participation regardless of the government’s tight management of the internet. 

Access to a nation’s population is a lucrative revenue source for whoever has the resources to build a massive website infrastructure. Investors have pumped billions into social media companies, with the market values of Alphabet, Amazon, and Meta each over $1 trillion. Digital commerce is growing in Communist and Capitalist countries alike. China’s Tencent, which owns WeChat and QQ, is the fourth-largest internet company in the world, with a market capitalization of $351.2 billion, and ByteDance is not far behind. 

China’s approach to TikTok is typical of how it and other governments, like Russia and Iran, deal with social media’s benefits and dangers. All three have banned major foreign-owned internet social media platforms, such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, YouTube, and most other sites on the mainstream Western internet. However, they do allow apps that are controlled domestically or submit to censorship.

For instance, TikTok is not offered in China, but ByteDance does provide its sister app, Douyin, which has no presence outside China. Acquiescing to the government’s censorship has not hurt its sales. The research firm eMarketer estimated that Douyin took in $21 billion in advertising revenue in 2023, or about two-thirds of Alphabet’s ad revenue from YouTube.

That attraction of large profits from China’s huge population has led some major U.S. internet companies to make serious compromises. Apple receives a fifth of its total sales from within China. However, a New York Times investigation found that Apple has risked its Chinese customers’ data and aided the Chinese government’s censorship. As a result, since 2017, roughly 55,000 active apps have disappeared from Apple’s App Store in China, while most of them have remained available in other countries.

China also demands that “golden shares” be acquired to allow government officials to be directly involved in private business decisions, including having a say in the content they provide. Chinese officials acknowledge their existence but have not described how they are used. 

In addition, every website on China’s internet goes through one of three companies, all owned by the state. Hence, all web searches can be subject to substantial restrictions, and the results can be censored.

The U.S., in comparison to China and similar states, provides a wide-open internet for social media apps to exist. Overall, Freedom House ranks the U.S. as the 9th most open to internet freedom, ranked just below the democracies of Canada, the U.K., Japan, and Germany. 

As noted, our courts have used the Constitution’s First Amendment to curtail state interference with accessing information on social media apps. According to the Congressional Research Service report Free Speech and the Regulation of Social Media Content, which reviewed court decisions, social media has been treated “like news editors, who generally receive the full protections of the First Amendment when making editorial decisions.”

This interpretation means that social media apps, like newspapers, have the right to express their opinions but are not obligated to print or post others’ views. Hence, social media can bar statements endangering public health, like hate speech that incites violence toward citizens or disinformation that exposes the public to a killer pandemic.

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Constitutional rights also protect private property. Republican Senator  Paul, writing in Reason, accuses the government of violating the Fifth Amendment right to due process by taking the property of the current American owners of TikTok through its ban or the forced sale of TikTok to an American company. For the courts to uphold these government actions, TikTok would have to be accused and convicted of a crime.

However, there is no obvious protection for companies that lose money by freely choosing the businesses they invest in. Hirsch’s NYT article notes how TikTok investors could lose billions if the courts decide the government can ban TikTok as a security risk. Selling it to an American company may not be an option since China stopped a prior such sale, and its foreign minister condemned the current proposal as unacceptable. China passed a new law denying the export of technology similar to the algorithm that TikTok uses.

The TikTok kerfuffle arises because of the overwhelming domination of the internet’s social media platforms by China and the U.S. However, future conflicts will occur between nations over controlling the internet’s social media. The emergent digital age has exposed existential conflicts between securing a nation’s sovereignty, protecting citizens’ rights, and maximizing the global marketplace’s profits.

Authoritarian and democratic governments are testing the two paths to effectively resolving these conflicts. At the heart of their approach is how they manage domestic decision-making.

 Internet access is denied or censored in countries without independent judiciaries and where the legislative branch is subservient to the executive branch of government. In democratic republics with these three branches not controlled by one party or executive branch, access is open and subject to varied, limited regulations.  

The difference between these two approaches is that one allows for public debates on managing access to the Internet. In this manner, social media apps that challenge the status quo of institutions and the marketplace will enable a society to respond rationally and not have a response decided by a select few. 

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Nick Licata is the author of Becoming A Citizen Activist and Student Power, Democracy and Revolution in the Sixties.He is the founding board chair of Local Progress, a national network of over 1,300 progressive municipal officials.

Subscribe to Licata’s newsletterCitizenship Politics.
 

The Digital Era Will Ignite Revolutions – as Did the Print Era

The breakthrough technologies of the printing press and data digitization allow the masses to access information. That flood of new information crumbled the legitimacy of the established political orders. 

Will great powers fall again due to the greater information flow in the new digital media era?

Over 500 years have separated the invention of the Guttenberg Press and the creation of digital data. Each begat substantial social and political upheavals. Those changes could come sooner since the speed and breadth of the digital era’s impact dwarfs that of the printing press.

The spread of mechanical, printed information, from its inception in 1440, took 70 years to embolden challenges to the power of kings, elites, and the Catholic Church. In 1977, when computers became accessible to the public, digitized information took less than 30 years to create a robust Artificial Intelligence (AI) and social media on the Internet. Authoritarian governments weaponized it to manipulate democratic governments’ elections, while the Internet’s social media facilitated domestic rebellions against autocratic governments.

Two societal conditions make the digital era more threatening to all governments:  how each era’s culture measures time and their literacy level. 

The Culture of Time

The sense of time was different at the start of each information era. Medieval Europe was an agrarian society, with 80 to 90 percent of the population tied to the seasons for growing crops or raising livestock. Time was measured in months, not days, hours, or minutes, as is the twenty-first century. 

Watches were invented during the Renaissance after the printing press. Nevertheless, they were primarily decorative ornaments that could be wrong by several hours a day, so accurate timekeeping was of very minor importance.

The printing revolution did not speed up time but worked within the Medieval understanding of time. The digital revolution is an essential commodity in the modern sense of time. The importance of news about politics or economics is determined by how timely it is. 

The printing era occurred when there was more time to read and think about what was read. Social movements and politics moved at a slower pace than now. 

The digital era is speeding up the production, distribution, and consumption of information, including news, to meet popular demands. It sets a high expectation that those demands will be met quickly, and nations are under pressure to meet them. As a result, there is a greater urgency to consume information and find solutions in the digital era than in the printing era. 

Social media platforms like X and Facebook do not deliver long tracts explaining the conditions and causes behind what made something newsworthy. That information cannot be summarized in a tweet, which may or may not be accurate.

Readers begin to expect to have information delivered quickly and easily understood. Conclusions are then more straightforward to reach, regardless of scant information. 

Rumors provide misinformation when they innocently pass on incorrect information. They distribute disinformation when they are used with the intent to push the instigator’s agenda through unverifiable facts.

Consider that rumors travel faster than thoughtful analysis. They point to victims and offenders with unreliable anecdotal information. They make for captivating narratives, which then are woven into conspiracies to explain reality. 

This trend negatively impacts democracies because citizens are responsible for appointing their leaders based on being informed voters. Receiving half the truth or a distorted truth leads to poorly informed choices about how a democratic government should function. 

Manipulating digital information allows Russia and China to weaken American democracy to benefit their foreign policies. Their strategy is to spread disinformation to cause confusion and distrust of our institutions, as described in How Russia and China Pursue a Soft Regime Change in America.

Authoritative governments are not as vulnerable as democracies to disinformation campaigns. They feed their citizens a consistent line of censored domestic information and filter foreign-generated internet news.

China, Russia, Iran, and other autocratic governments recognize that information on the internet can quickly foment powerful political movements that threaten their authority. 

They do not want to experience what happened to Iran in 2019, when protests at peaceful gatherings spread to 21 cities within hours, as videos of the protest circulated online. The government forcibly shut them down, only to see 25,000 protestors gather months later, calling for the overthrow of the government and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Iran finally blocked the sharing of information showing the protests and the deaths of hundreds of protesters on social media platforms—their solution: foisting a near-total internet blackout of around six days.

The second condition that separates the printing and digital eras is the extent of a population’s literacy. 

The extent and depth of literacy

Access to information is much greater today than during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. 

Minimal literacy never rose above 30% before 1500, and it took 200 years for the printing press to raise Europe’s literacy rate to 48%. Since books were the primary source of information, the audience was severely limited to the social elite of nobility or wealthy gentry who owned them. 

Still, for the 10% of the European population that lived in cities and were literate, the printed word led to the development of pamphlets. Briefer than books and focused on just one issue, they punctured papal infallibility and the divine rule of monarchs. 

Martin Luther, a professor of moral theology, printed his Ninety-five Theses in 1517. These condemned the Roman Catholic Church and ignited the Protestant Reformation against the Pope. In France, so many insurrectionary pamphlets supported the Reformation that government edicts prohibited them.

The printing press overturned the Roman Catholic Church’s thousand-year political domination in Europe, but it took decades and spread over a hundred years.

Long-established political hierarchies also crumbled due to the efforts of print media.

Pamphlets’ influence was potent in the 18th Century. Two contributed to the overthrow of the French monarchy and a successful revolt against Britain, the greatest power in Europe: JeanJacques Rousseau’s pamphlet, On the Social Contract or Principles of Political Right in 1762, and Thomas Paine’s Common Sense in 1776.

Pamphlets are comparable to social media’s present danger to governments by empowering individuals to proliferate news through the internet that exposes their faults, weaknesses, and corruption.  

Although the Internet became functional in 1983, less than 2% of the world’s population used it before the World Wide Web (WWW) was opened to the public in 1991. Sixteen years later, 65% of the world’s population uses the Internet for instant information, entertainment, news, and social interactions.

Consequently, literacy is no longer confined to just reading material; it extends to learning through observing videos on social media. With citizens of every country on the Internet, Digital information has greater power to inform and influence people’s beliefs than the printed press ever did. 

The digital age is seeing autocracies and democracies globally challenged from outside and inside their boundaries within a fraction of the time the printed press did so on just one continent. 

A democratic government’s role in the digital age is to keep information accessible to everyone. The challenge for democracies is avoiding having the internet become a weapon to destroy democracies that make open access to information possible. 

A path forward is to teach each generation that citizenship should protect individuals’ freedoms and the community’s welfare, as described in Citizenship—Bridging Individualism & Community to Sustain our Democracy. If we act as thoughtful, responsible citizens, the digital age can strengthen democratic governance, not threaten it. 

Nick Licata is the author of Becoming A Citizen Activist and Student Power, Democracy and Revolution in the Sixties.He is the founding board chair of Local Progress, a national network of over 1,300 progressive municipal officials.

Subscribe to Licata’s newsletterCitizenship Politics.

How Russia and China Pursue a Soft Regime Change in America

Both Russia and China are manipulating our democratic election process to benefit their foreign policies.

Russia has been attempting a soft regime change in America by ushering out the liberal Democratic administrations and replacing them with conservative Republican ones. It is a soft approach because they are not using physical force like in Ukraine. 

However, both Russia and America have physically instigated regime changes in other countries through brute force for over a hundred years, most often on nations in their immediate sphere of interest. 

Russia, whether as a monarchy, communist state, or autocracy, has repeatedly intervened in Eastern Europe and the Caucuses. Likewise, America has done the same in Central and South America. Their efforts are well documented in the context of U.S. and Russian actions.

Since WWII, America’s military presence and financial investments have been more global than any other nation. Consequently, our government has pursued replacing the leadership of countries that obstruct our military and economic interests. That effort often conflicts with China’s and Russia’s ambitions. 

Despite Russia’s more extensive nuclear arsenal, Russia is far weaker economically and militarily than us to have a global impact. While China has a larger army and an economy growing faster than ours, it is also disadvantaged in seeking regime change in other countries. 

Compared to America, they lack our military and financial clout. We have around 750 U.S. military bases in at least 80 countries, and the dollar is the world’s reserve currency, which allows the U.S. to impose unilateral, effective sanctions against other countries.

Although Russia and China eye each other suspiciously over their shared border, they have a common interest: clip the American eagle’s wings. Ideally, they would love to see it in a birdcage rather than soaring above them.

Their shared goal of having America retreat from the world stage dovetails with the Republican party’s support of an America First isolationist foreign policy. 

This is most obvious as Russia opposes the Democrats’ support for military aid to Ukraine and questions America’s participation in NATO. China has not been so partisan in recent years, but it has leaned more toward criticizing Biden than Trump in weighing who would be less obstructive to their foreign policies. 

Thanks to the internet, Russia and China are penetrating our democracy’s open portal of social media to support electing politicians who don’t obstruct their goals.  America cannot reciprocate similarly since these countries tightly control access to their domestic internet and do not hold democratic elections.

Russian electoral interference first came to light in the 2016 presidential election.

If you like this piece, become a Patreon patron or make a one-time donation help me reach others.  – thank you, Nick 

In 2020, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a bi-partisan report that they had worked for over three years. They reviewed over a million documents from U.S. spy agencies and interviews of Republican and Democratic government officials.

The bi-partisan committee concluded that Russia conducted a sophisticated and aggressive campaign to influence the U.S. election to help Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton. They also identified folks on Team Trump as willing to accept help from the Russians. 

Afterward, former FBI director Robert Mueller led a special counsel investigation and released his Mueller Report. It concluded that Russian interference was “sweeping and systematic” and “violated U.S. criminal law.” 

Mueller then indicted three Russian organizations, which also led to the indictments and convictions of Trump campaign officials. 

President Donald Trump had appointed Mueller as deputy attorney general, and the U.S. Senate confirmed him with only 6 Democrats voting against him. After the report was released, Trump called Mueller a “true never-Trumper” and said his report was “horrible.”

Mueller showed that the Russian-controlled Internet Research Agency (IRA) sought to “provoke and amplify political and social discord in the United States” to Trump’s advantage. In the 2016 election, sham Facebook groups were created by IRA supporting Trump or attacking Clinton on over 3,500 advertisements. 

The director of Columbia University‘s Tow Center for Digital Journalism found that 470 phony Facebook accounts tied to Russia were active during the 2016 campaign. Six of them were shared at least 340 million times, according to Jonathan Albright, research director for Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism

However, China’s effort to influence the 2016 presidential election, according to the Brookings Institute’s October 2018 report,  found that “there is no public evidence that China has sought to leak private information or access electoral systems to manipulate U.S. elections.” However, they warned that as relations with China deteriorated, they may become as aggressive as Russia.

While Former President Donald Trump accused China of manipulating the 2020 election, the Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, concluded that China did not interfere; however, they “considered but did not deploy influence efforts intended to change the outcome of the U.S. Presidential election.”

Instead, they found that the Russian government meddled in the 2020 election with an influence campaign “denigrating” President Joe Biden and “supporting” Trump.

However, China and Russia are working to influence the 2024 presidential race. They appear to be taking different approaches. China is more focused on weakening the democratic process than Russia, which is more actively pushing for a Biden loss in November. 

China employs one of the oldest and most effective strategies for winning a dominance war: creating chaos in the opposition’s domain. This disrupts domestic social cohesion and, hence, causes government functions to fail. 

For instance, this month, an Institute for Strategic Dialogue report identified a Chinese influence campaign known as SpamouflageIt uses AI and a network of social media accounts to amplify American discontent and division ahead of the U.S. presidential election. 

Meta announced in August it had removed nearly 8,000 accounts attributed to Spamouflage in the second quarter of 2023, while Google, owning YouTube, shut down more than 100,000 associated accounts in recent years, 

By describing the U.S. as rife with urban decay, homelessness, fentanyl abuse, and gun violence, China pushes the idea that the November vote could damage and potentially destroy our democracy. Coincidentally, it’s the same message the Republican party’s candidates use against the Democrats.

 Speaking of these problems, Trump claimed in a March 2024 speech to Ohio supporters, “If we don’t win this election, I don’t think you’re going to have another election in this country.” 

China’s efforts amplify a traditional distrust of big government’s failure to address widespread concerns. According to a 2023 survey from the Pew Research Center, 55 percent of Americans say they are angry with the U.S. political system. 

More disturbing, a recent PRC survey showed that American support for democratic institutions has slipped over the last decade. Thirty-two percent would support an authoritarian government in which a strong leader can make decisions without interference from parliament or the courts. 

These folks might not object if Trump became a dictator for a lot longer than a day. 

While China and Russia use social media to undermine the tedium of holding democratic elections, they also highlight the benefits of a single strong leader who can make quick and decisive decisions to reflect some popular sentiments.   

Meanwhile, the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights report on the November election’s digital risks said the leading cause of authoritarian leadership’s growth was the distribution of false, hateful, and violent material. The report noted that this inflammatory content was more prevalent because “major social media platforms have retreated from some of their past commitments to promote election integrity.”

Russia is more creative than China in pushing false information seamlessly into our tapestry of open media sources. 

New York Times reported that researchers and government officials uncovered a string of Russian-controlled “local” sounding newspapers: D.C. Weekly, the New York News Daily, the Chicago Chronicle, and the Miami Chronicle. 

Reviewing the researcher’s findings, Myers wrote that these entities mimic actual news organizations, interspersing false stories about crime, politics, and culture. The goal is to lend an aura of credibility to social media posts that spread disinformation that undermines support for policies like providing Ukraine military assistance. 

According to Professors Darren Linvill and Patrick Warren, co-directors of Clemson University’s Media Forensics Hub, Russia has also crafted the art of narrative laundering. These narratives spread false or misleading information by concealing their source. 

Consequently, public perception of an issue or a candidate is swayed by planting fake news stories on domestic and foreign news websites to magnify fake social media accounts and fake news websites using artificial intelligence. For instance, Russians fabricated a story to weaken American support for Ukraine. The news website The Nation picked up their fake posting of Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s wife spending $1,000,000 on Cartier jewelry. 

The most brazen example of Russian manipulation of our democratic process was their use of an FBI informant, Alexander Smirnov, to link President Biden to alleged criminal actions involving the Ukrainian business dealings of his son Hunter. 

Smirnov admitted that “officials associated with Russian intelligence” were involved in passing an unsupported story about Hunter Biden. He told the FBI that the Russian Intelligence Service intercepted several cellphone calls placed at a hotel “by prominent U.S. persons the Russian government may use as ‘kompromat’ in the 2024 election.” No tape recording was provided.

Government prosecutors believe that Smirnov had peddled the Russian lies without question, which could have impacted U.S. elections. Smirnov has been charged with felony false statements and obstruction crimes for providing allegedly false information about President Biden and Hunter Biden. 

Republicans had counted on his upcoming testimony to Congress to provide evidence that Biden must be impeached because of taking a bribe from a corrupt Ukrainian official. Republicans subsequently had to drop Smirnov from being a witness. The Russians lost a lethal effort to defeat Biden’s reelection.

At the end of March, blogger Heather Cox Richardson identified an essay from the Study of War explaining how Russia’s disinformation operation is the key to winning the war against Ukraine: the objective is to get Americans to believe in a false reality.  

November voters will be deluged with an onslaught of disinformation. Such as the fake stories about President Zelenskyy’s wife and Biden’s son, to discredit those in power that obstruct authoritarian aggression.

As Linvill and Warren concluded, it is becoming more difficult for people to discern which news stories are fake because advancing technology distorts the face of reality.

If you like this piece, become a Patreon patron or make a one-time donation help me reach others.  – thank you, Nick 

As previously noted, Russia and China cannot win a global economic or military contest with America. However, they can create social conditions within America that convert legitimate policy concerns into a movement that rejects a democratic process for governing. It is easier for them to sow domestic confusion about the legitimacy of America’s elected leadership than to overpower America’s resources. 

Describing their strategy as promoting a soft regime change may seem exaggerated. Pushing for a particular party to win presidential elections undermines our democratic process, but there has always been another election to adjust our political course. 

America has continuously had a peaceful transfer of executive power, allowing policy changes to occur. However, an authoritarian regime could emerge when a nation’s executive refuses to leave office. 

In March, during a CNN town hall, Trump refused to commit to accepting the results of the 2024 presidential election.He says that the last election was rigged despite no evidence provided. Unfortunately, more than 40 percent of Republicans believe there is evidence that Biden didn’t legitimately win enough votes to be elected.

Trump has again set the stage to claim the presidency was stolen from him if he loses the November election. How would his supporters react? 

Russia and China would love if Trump were right about a possible bloodbath should he lose again and his supporters take the advice he gave at the end of his January 6 speech asking them to march to the Capitol and “fight like hell.” And so, the American eagle would no longer be soaring. 

Nick Licata is the author of Becoming A Citizen Activist and Student Power, Democracy and Revolution in the Sixties.He is the founding board chair of Local Progress, a national network of over 1,300 progressive municipal officials.

Subscribe to Licata’s newsletterCitizenship Politics.

Biden vs Trump Administration on creating jobs and better wages for blue-color workers

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While immigration and abortion are the two hottest issues driving voters’ passion, the national economy has remained one of the public’s top three concerns for years. 

More recently, in three 2023 polls the Wall Street Journal conducted from April to December, the economy ranked as the top issue out of twelve.

Those surveyed were asked: What issue is most important to you when thinking about who you will vote for in the 2024 Presidential Election? Republicans have been hammering Biden’s administration for soaring inflation and hurting our economy even while they contributed to it.  

At the end of his first year in 2021, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accused Biden of causing inflation,saying, “The last thing we need to do is pile on with another massive, reckless tax and spending spree.”

McConnell ignored that both parties were responsible for the consumer price index (CPI) increasing at a 5% annual rate for the first half of 2021. 

Congressional Republicans and Democrats overwhelmingly passed over $2 trillion of economic stimulus legislation in response to COVID in Trump’s last term in office. The legislation stopped the economy from collapsing when the pandemic threw millions of workers out of work and halted many business operations.

Trump signed the legislation and took credit for providing $1,200 checks to individuals and $790 billion in low-interest loans to small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) when the program ended in the fifth month of Biden’s first year in office, 96% of those loans had been forgiven. 

These federal funds saved the economy but also triggered inflation, stoked further by the Federal Reserve Board, significantly increasing bank borrowing rates. 

However, the U.S. was not alone in having to deal with inflation. It climbed to the highest level since 2008 in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s 38 member countries. It was also due to COVID shrinking the labor force and stimulating consumer demand as the pandemic receded. 

Former President Donald Trump ran a TV campaign ad just before Biden gave his State of the Union address, saying that “Biden refuses to talk about the unfairness of his disastrous, failed ‘Bidenomics’ policies,”

Trump’s hyper-accusation is faulty. Nevertheless, food costs were relatively flat under Trump’s administration before the economic impact of COVID kicked in during the last half of Trump’s final year.

In the first year of Biden’s term, food costs soared to over 6%. That increase was directly due to COVID’s impact on reduced labor and materials supplies, as more dollars were pumped into the economy bidding for fewer goods.

The politics of blaming Biden for many of the economic problems spawned by COVID may have pushed the polls toshow that their economic welfare fell under President Joe Biden’s administration.  

In the eight polls that WSJ conducted from March 2022 to February 2024, just over half of the respondents strongly disapproved of how Biden handled the economy, specifically inflation and rising costs. Those who strongly approved never exceeded 19% until the last poll in February, when they hit 23%. This is good news for Biden, but he still faces a 50% strong disapproval rate.

Trump’s campaign capitalized on these findings. “President Biden, the polls are accurate. Americans just don’t like you for destroying our economy,” said Jason Miller, a senior Trump campaign adviser. 

It is essential to note which party the WSJ poll respondents are affiliated with. Until February, Republican-affiliated respondents were 31%, and Democrat-affiliated respondents were 34%. Independents have remained constant at nine and ten percent. The percentages of Republicans and Democrats flipped in the last poll, which showed 31% for Democrats and 34% for Republicans. 

There is some evidence that independent voters might be inclined to support Biden. In a pre-speech poll of Biden’s State of the Union, independents who believed his economic policies would move the US in the right direction jumped from 41% to 61% afterward.

A Biden information campaign could resonate with independent voters if they are swayed more by data than party allegiance. If so, independents might look closely at what both campaigns are saying to see if it aligns with reality.  

The most significant slice of the populace, regardless of party affiliation, are wage workers. They are concerned with having a job and making enough to keep up with inflation. In their State of the Union (SOTU) speeches, both Trump and Biden made a pitch to them.

Job Creation 

In his last SOTU, Trump said seven million new jobs had been created since his election.

When Trump spoke, he was correct. However, the coronavirus was already spreading across the globe, and within weeks, the U.S. economy was shut down, throwing millions of people out of work. As a result, Trump ended up with more than 3.1 million jobs in the hole because of pandemic employment losses. 

In his STU, Biden disputed Trump’s claims by presenting good economic news from the first three years of his administration. He proudly said that during this time, “15 million new jobs in just three years — a record, a record!”

Delivering federal money to aid businesses to continue operating during COVID played a significant role in that expansive number. It may be that up to eleven million of those new jobs were due to workers returning to jobs they had lost. 

Nevertheless, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that Biden created more jobs over a shorter period than Trump. 

Trump’s peak of non-farm employment in February 2020 was 152 million; it took him three years to add 6 million workers since he started his presidency. After that February, the pandemic struck the economy, and employment plummeted to 109 million by April 2020. 

Biden’s peak of non-farm employment was 158 million in February 2024; it took him three years to add 15 million workers from when he started his presidency. 

The bottom line is that job creation expansion occurred under both administrations, but it contracted sharply when COVID hit the entire population. 

The emergence of COVID, or any natural disaster, goes beyond any president’s control. 

However, how they respond and how funds are used determines their effectiveness in dealing with these events. Biden responded very well by creating more jobs faster than before the pre-COVID economy under Trump’s administration. 

If you like this piece, become a Patreon patron or make a one-time donation help me reach others.  – thank you, Nick 

Blue Color Wages

Democrats are distressed by their blue color voter base swinging over to the Republicans. 

They lean on Republicans’ cultural war against the “elites,” i.e., liberals and Democrats, for an explanation. 

There is some truth on how the liberal cultural agenda threatens many established conservative values by promoting affirmative actions, more accessible admittance for asylum seekers, and institutional protections for all minorities – including race, gender, and sexual identification. 

However, in the field of economic welfare, Democrats cannot understand how working-class families could support a narcissistic billionaire who gives out-sized tax benefits to corporations and comparatively meager ones to working families. The answer may rest in the fact that under the Trump Administration, paychecks rose.

A president’s chance of winning reelection is often based on how most voters have experienced the economy during the last four years. A good economy is whether paychecks grow faster than prices in “real” (inflation-adjusted) terms.

The average weekly earnings of all private-sector workers, in “real” terms, rose 8.7% in Trump’s four years. More germane for Democrats is that the blue-color wages for rank-and-file production and nonsupervisory workers — who make up 81% of all private-sector workers — went up 9.8% under Trump.

Workers probably don’t care that those gains were an extension of a trend that started after the 2007-2009 recession. During the last Democratic term, the Obama years, real weekly earnings rose 4.2% for all workers and 4% for rank-and-file. However, what workers do care about are the last four years under the Biden Administration. 

Unfortunately for Biden, as Matt Bruenig, writing for the socialist magazine Jacobin, explains, real wages have declined under Joe Biden’s Presidency. Bruenig writes, ” It’s clear that most workers saw their real wages decline throughout nearly all of 2021 and 2022.

His chart shows that the median usual weekly real earnings of full-time workers rose from the beginning of 2018 to the spring of 2020 while Trump was in office. Afterward, they fell dramatically for the next 24 months and only then began a modest rise. By December 2023, real wages were only $3 higher than when COVID started four years earlier.

In brief, Bruenig makes it “clear that most workers saw their real wages decline throughout nearly all of 2021 and 2022.” That fact bolsters explains how the cultural war alone does not account for most blue-colored workers supporting Trump. 

Biden’s way forward

It is easy to understand why WSJ’s polls showed many workers felt better off under the Trump administration. The steady rise in their real wages contracted during Biden’s administration when the brunt of COVID’s constraints on business activity landed. 

While economic stimulus funds, supported by both parties, softened COVID’s impact on most workers, they also fed inflation, which the independent Federal Reserve Bank contributed to by increasing interest rates. Rising inflation reduced the margin between stalled wages and rising consumer costs. 

History shows that both Trump and Biden supported government intervention in the marketplace, pouring historically high amounts of federal dollars into it to avert an economic recession. Inflation and job fluctuations resulted in both cases. 

If Biden tries to validate his economic policies by explaining complex data, he will lose his audience to Trump, who has spent his life promoting his successes, real or not. He ignores critical details that compromise their importance because he knows how to captivate an audience through extravagant feats against a common enemy. 

The Democratic message should be that Biden, as the helmsman, steered this country back into calmer waters. He successfully managed the most significant sudden infusion of federal funds and regulations the U.S. had seen since the Great Depression. Biden’s economic policies followed up on the bi-partisan effort to avoid a financial collapse due to COVID. And he did so without blaming others for our condition.

If you like this piece, become a Patreon patron or make a one-time donation help me reach others.  – thank you, Nick 

Nick Licata is the author of Becoming A Citizen Activist and Student Power, Democracy and Revolution in the Sixties.He is the founding board chair of Local Progress, a national network of over 1,300 progressive municipal officials.

Subscribe to Licata’s newsletterCitizenship Politics.

Haley Could Threaten Trump’s Hold on the Republican Party

Former United Nations ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley will not be the Republican presidential Candidate. But she could still threaten Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. 

The indisputable numbers show why Trump will be the Republican nominee. 

Winning the GOP nomination requires at least 1,215 out of 2,429 delegates to win the convention vote to become the Republican nominee.  After winning the South Carolina and Michigan primaries, Trump has 138 delegates, and Haley has 24. 

The six-to-one ratio of delegates between them will likely be the same after Super Tuesday on March 5. That’s when 15 states hold Republican primaries, which account for nearly half of all delegates to their convention.

Unfortunately for Haley, most state Republican primaries award most or all of their delegates to the winner. That’s why Haley received only 6% of her home state of South Carolina’s delegates but received 40% of the votes.

Nate Cole, the chief political analyst for The New York Times, is betting that Trump could easily win more than 90 percent of the total delegates at stake on Super Tuesday. Before the end of March, Trump could secure the nomination to be the Republican presidential nominee.

The Trump-run Republican Party is not a home for Haley.

Haley’s political future will be over if Trump controls the Republican party. Her prior half-hearted support of Trump as the Republican candidate will not spare her. Trump’s narcissistic modus operandi for revenge will likely lead him to hinder, if not block, Haley from winning any political office in the future.  

Haley has gotten under his skin more than the other primary contenders. Her refusal to abandon the fight until late in the game has driven him to often attack her rather than President Joe Biden. 

If you like this piece, become a Patreon patron or make a one-time donation help me reach others.  – thank you, Nick 

Does Haley attend the Republican convention? 

The Republican convention audience will be overwhelmingly pro-Trump, and Haley will face immense party pressure there to approve Trump as the party’s nominee. The media would hound her about when or whether she would endorse Trump. 

If she offers a luck-warm endorsement speech, it could receive tepid applause from die-hard Trumpers. A demonstratable bearhug may get the crowd’s vocal approval, but Trump could hold back. Would it be worth going through this humiliation? Others have. 

If she attends the convention, her strongest rationale for not endorsing Trump would be if he were convicted of a crime or tied down in a brutal trial during the convention. 

In those instances, even the ultimate Teflon candidate might appear to be damaged goods to the big funders and conservative-leaning independent voters.

But holding off to the last moment to make an endorsement decision only delays acknowledging that she has no future in the Trump world.

A bolder course of action would be to avoid the convention and publicly declare that she remains a reasonable conservative alternative to Trump, noting that she has consistently received support from 20% to 40% of Republican voters. 

She could time her announcement to coincide with the convention, turning the media spotlight from what should be the main event to one that offers an interesting counterpoint.

In the past, this has been Trump’s tactic of scheduling events while he should be attending an affair with his opposition, e.g., the primary campaign debates. 

If Haley can’t be an apologist for Trump, she may be an independent rival for the presidency. Her campaign would shift from winning the Republican nomination to saving the real Republican party from Trump. It would be an arduous effort that would need money and volunteers. Could she get them?

Billionaire Funders made Haley’s primary campaigns possible. 

Haley has lasted this long in the Republican primary for one reason: she has big funders willing to throw money into her campaigns. Madison Fernandez, the author of Politico’s campaigns newsletter, says, “Haley and her allies outspent Trump in the lead-up to both the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary.” 

Still, she remains a long shot for being the Republican nominee. Look at South Carolina’s race. Trump only spent $900,000 on a media campaign, while Haley and pro-Haley PACs poured in $15 million to garner 3 delegates to Trump’s 47.

But even big funders have a pain limit. Americans for Prosperity, the face of the massive conservative Charles Koch’s fundraising network, said the day following the South Carolina vote that it ceased financial support for the Haley campaign and its associated allied organizations. Before this announcement, the Koch network spent $32 million to boost Haley’s campaign against Trump.

The WMUR PAC, funded by billionaire Frank Laukien, may also drop Haley since his PAC was formed directly after Koch’s Americans for Prosperity endorsed Haley. The dominoes may start to fall. Other PACs may hold out for Super Tuesday results. However, if Haley doesn’t win one state or collect a noticeable number of delegates, their goal of presenting Haley as a viable alternative to Trump would seem quixotic. 

Haley is short on Republican party leaders supporting her.

Of the 12 other primary candidates who competed with Trump, only two have endorsed Haley, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. 

However, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the most outspoken primary candidate critic of Trump, hasn’t endorsed her. On January 10, he ended his nomination campaign and implied that Haley, like the other candidates, failed to say that Trump threatened the nation.

Two other high-profile elected Republicans, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, said they won’t vote for Trump in 2024. But they have not endorsed Haley, nor would they vote for Biden.

Several high-profile elected Republicans have endorsed Haley, including New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, Former House Speaker Paul Ryan, and U.S. S.C. Representative Ralph Norman. 

Haley’s key politicians do not represent a unified Republican ideological perspective. Sununu and Hagan are moderates, Ryan and Hutchinson are conservatives but fought with the Freedom Caucus, and Norman is a leading member of the Freedom Caucus. 

Haley relies on Republican politicians who lack a coherent, united base other than their opposition to Trump. She needs to go beyond them by attracting voters who would not vote for Trump or Biden. These voters are conservative independents and anti-Trump Republicans, but is there enough of them to make her a threat to Trump?

Who would be Haley’s voters? 

South Carolina’s race was an open race where voters did not have to be party members to vote. Haley won only a handful of counties in the state that were dominated by more significant numbers of moderate white college-educated independents. 

They are the critical band of voters not profoundly tied to either party and could determine where swing states go in a two-way presidential race. A third national candidate appealing to a constituency of conservative non-Trumpers allows them to avoid voting for a Democrat. Voting for Haley would send a message to the Republican party that their membership goes beyond the MAGA crowd. 

Trump’s voter support may not be as strong as it appears. 

If elected president, Haley would be the only Republican president to have lost her state in the primary. And at 60%, Trump received the second-highest percentage of votes since 1980 in South Carolina’s primary. Only George H.W. Bush, running as an incumbent president in 1992, received a higher percentage, at 67%. 

However, the media has ignored another statistic. Bush lost the 1992 presidential election to Bill Clinton by over 200 electoral votes despite overwhelmingly winning South Carolina’s primary. 

By competing in over half the state primary fights, Haley has given voice to many Never-Trump voters. While not united on issues, they are repulsed by Trump. They span the spectrum from liberal to traditional conservative Republicans who are not part of the MAGA movement. They are adrift and could dissipate long before November.

Nevertheless, Haley is a threat to Trump. Alyssa Farah Griffin, former White House communications director under President Trump, said that Haley  “is underscoring the fundamental weakness of Donald Trump, and it should be a five-alarm fire for the party.”

Griffin argues that Republicans must grapple, saying, “It’s unclear what a path could look like for Nikki Haley. I think we’re all very open-eyed about that.”

Will Haley be a Footnote or a Change Agent?

Once Trump secures the delegates to become the Republican nominee, Haley could take the easy way out. She could remain on the sidelines by formally withdrawing or just be present as a reminder that there is an option should Trump’s court cases drag him down. In either case, her influence on the party will be minor. 

The other option is to announce that she will be an independent candidate for president. However, she would work with the Republican party to advance its agenda. This approach is the same that Bernie Sanders was taking when he toyed with running as an independent for the presidency. 

She would be outside the Republican party’s apparatus but totally in support of the party’s values. And she could accuse Trump of representing the reorganized Republican Party while she was speaking for those Republicans who no longer feel the party represents them.

Realistically, she would not have a chance of becoming president. But she would be more than a spoiler for Trump, although she might also receive some independent voters who might vote for Biden. Her stated goal would be to resurrect the “real” Republican Party. She would support its long-held values of supporting family values, less government, and open-market legislation. 

Above all, she would present a stable leadership that Trump’s temperament obstructs. She would run a government based on loyalty to the Constitution, not personal loyalty. How many conservative voters want to switch horses as the presidential race has begun is unknown. 

By sticking to a solidly conservative Republican platform, she loses Democratic voters. Still, she allows conservatives to feel good about voting for someone other than Trump and not a Democrat or a liberal Republican. That approach will go down better in rural areas than in cities. As such, she cuts into the core of Trump’s base.

Haley doesn’t have to compete in all the states to significantly impact the distribution of electoral votes. 

Haley could be on most State ballots.

Being a write-in candidate is the easiest path to being on a state’s ballot. Of the eight states that allow voters to write in any name as a write-in vote, three, including Iowa, provided Trump 18 electoral votes in 2020. 

Another 33 states will only count votes for write-in candidates who officially registered with the state. A candidate can easily meet those requirements by submitting necessary registration documents by a specific deadline, paying a fee, or collecting signatures.

The other route is to be an independent candidate on the ballot. The deadline for 31 states is in August, a couple of weeks after the Republican Convention ends on July 18. 

Some states bar candidates who sought and failed to secure the nomination of a political party from running as independents in the general election. However, according to Ballotpedia, ballot access expert Richard Winger concluded that “sore loser laws have been construed not to apply to presidential primaries.” According to Winger, 45 states have sore loser laws on the books, but 43 of these states do not seem to apply to presidential candidates.

Haley’s possible narrow path forward.

There is a path forward for Haley to run as an independent conservative Republican in enough states to create a counterbalance to the MAGA wing of the party. She will not become president but could stir enough excitement to entice PACs to fund her effort. 

Volunteers may step forward to work their state for her to demonstrate that they cannot tolerate a party dominated by a single personality. The new group Principles First could be attracted to her effort.  They are focused on advancing a more principled center-right politics in the United States. 

A Haley presidential run could attract the media interested in something to spice up their coverage of two elderly white men slugging it out. The media would hype her campaign as a way of disparaging Trump. But the conservative media, particularly NewsNation and, to an extent, a few of Fox’s commentators, might enjoy poking Trump as they have done in the past.

It all comes down to Haley deciding if she wants to go down peacefully resigned to accepting the new Trumpian Republican Party or if she’s going to open a new page in the history of her party.

 We’ll all know by the beginning of August, if not before. 

If you like this piece, become a Patreon patron or make a one-time donation help me reach others.  – thank you, Nick 

Nick Licata is the author of Becoming A Citizen Activist and Student Power, Democracy and Revolution in the Sixties.He is the founding board chair of Local Progress, a national network of over 1,300 progressive municipal officials.

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