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Michelle Obama’s speech was probably the best Democratic National Convention speech we’ll get.

And that’s ok, because it was damn good. It started with Obama recalling the speech she gave at the 2008 Democratic National Convention and achieved the same result, this time for the candidate her husband famously defeated. If Hillary Clinton struggles to connect with voters on an emotive level, then Obama may be the single most compelling anecdotal speaker in politics. And tonight, she made a case for Clinton’s presidency rooted in that same blend of personal experience and universal resonance that captured the country’s imagination eight years ago.

There was nothing novel about the pitches themselves. Obama praised Clinton’s aptitude (a “true public servant”), conviction (“Hillary knows this is much bigger than her own desires and disappointments”), and resilience (she’s “never quit on anything in her life”). But they came on their own time, and not before Obama made clear she was speaking from the perspective of a black American living—thanks to this country’s unique and exceptional capacity for self-betterment—in a “house built by slaves,” as a mother who wouldn’t trust anyone else with the responsibility for her daughters’s future, and as an endlessly scrutinized female public figure who will live to see a generation in which it is taken “for granted that a woman can be president.”

By the time Obama got around to announcing, “I’m with her,” she had conjured a real sense of who both the “I” and the “her” were. For a moment, all the sloganeering of this campaign was imbued with actual life.

October 26, 2016

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Because Democrats passed laws when they had majorities, Republicans will boycott health legislation forever.

An anticipated 22 percent increase in average insurance premiums within the Affordable Care Act exchanges has Democrats facing a new round of partisan Obamacare attacks.

This was all perfectly predictable, but it raises the question, once again, of what, if anything, Republicans will be willing to do to sand down the health care system’s rough edges once the election’s over.

Conservative writer Ramesh Ponnuru attributes the gridlock to the fact that President Obama isn’t really as open-minded about reforms to his health law as he claims to be.

For instance, Ponnuru claims, “Obama says that people who are having trouble buying insurance on Obamacare’s exchanges should receive more generous subsidies. The conservative alternative—relax the regulations that make the insurance unaffordable for them—is unacceptable to him because it would be a retreat from comprehensiveness.”

The real problem here is that Obama isn’t negotiating with Ponnuru, but with Congressional Republicans, who have only been willing to discuss significant health care reforms if they’re premised on repealing the entire health care law, and replacing it with something far less comprehensive.

Republicans on Capitol Hill haven’t, as far as I’m aware, proposed introducing a catastrophic coverage option in to the exchanges as an opening bid in a narrow negotiation over how to shield consumers from premium increases. That’s because elected Republicans (and many conservative intellectuals, for that matter) have essentially decided that because Democrats passed laws when they had majorities, Republicans will boycott health legislation forever. Or until they finally control government and can implement more radical reforms on their own. Obama presents himself as “the picture of reasonableness” on this topic, because, Ponurru’s objections notwithstanding, nobody in the other party is behaving reasonably.

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Right-wing activists want to impeach Hillary Clinton even before she becomes president.

One sign that the Republicans know the presidential election is all over but the crying is that they are already thinking of ways to hamstring a future President Clinton with congressional investigations. As NBC News’ Alex Seitz-Wald and Benjy Sarlin report,

In the last few weeks alone, dozens of House Republicans have demanded that a special prosecutor investigate the Clinton Foundation for possible conflicts of interest. Sen. Ted Cruz has called for a “serious criminal investigation” into a Democratic operative featured in a sting video by conservative activist James O’Keefe. And Speaker Paul Ryan promised “aggressive oversight work in the House” of an alleged “quid pro quo” deal between the FBI and the State Department over reclassifying an email on Clinton’s private server.

Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a conservative group long at the forefront of legal harassment of both Bill and Hillary Clinton, wants to go further. According to Seitz-Wald and Sarlin, Fitton is critical of “Republican lawmakers for failing to pre-emptively impeach Clinton.”

Preemptive impeachment would be an innovation in American presidential politics, but it certainly shows foresight. If your goal is to make Clinton’s presidency a nightmare of gridlock and partisan strife, why not start early?

Newt Gingrich is the biggest hypocrite in American politics.

Gingrich and Megyn Kelly got into it last night on Fox News’s The Kelly File.

This an exceptional two minutes of television for a lot of reasons. We’ll start with the one that’s getting the most attention—Gingrich accusing Kelly of being “obsessed with sex.”

Gingrich: “You are fascinated with sex and you don’t care about public policy.

Kelly: “Me? Really?”

Gingrich: “That’s what I get out of watching you tonight.”

Kelly: “You know what Mr. Speaker, I’m not fascinated by sex, but I am fascinated by the protection of women and understanding what we’re getting in the Oval Office and I think the American voters would like to know…”

Kelly’s “Me? Really?” is about as subtle as jokes about Gingrich, one of America’s jowliest men, get. It’s hard to imagine a more hypocritical accusation, given that Gingrich led the campaign that ended in the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. It’s especially hypocritical given that Gingrich led that witch hunt while having a secret affair of his own. Gingrich is the last person who should be lecturing Kelly, or anyone else, about sexual mores—though admittedly that has never stopped him before.

But the segment is fascinating for other reasons as well, most notably that Gingrich accuses Kelly—and by extension Fox News—of having it out for Trump and of downplaying Clinton scandals (involving both Bill and Hillary). For this reason, many on the (far, far) right are championing the clip, including low rent Pravda Breitbart, which has it splashed all over its homepage, and Trump’s own director of social media.

If that seems menacing, that’s because it is. The really sad part is that he’s operating on an assumption shared by no thinking people at the moment, which is that Trump will win the election.

October 25, 2016

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Paul Beatty has become the first American to win the Man Booker Prize.

Beatty won for The Sellout, a blistering satire, which follows a young black man who reinstitutes slavery and segregation in his Los Angeles neighborhood. Beatty became the first American to win the Man Booker Prize in its 46-year history—the prize was only recently opened to Americans—and it’s hard to think of a better first American Man Booker winner than The Sellout, a profane, hilarious, and often uncomfortable look at America. (If nothing else, the Man Booker Prize finally confirmed what has always been true, which is that Americans write the best books.)

The 2016 Man Booker Prize continued a recent trend—one that began even before the prize opened itself up to entries from outside the British Commonwealth—of ignoring established authors like Ian McEwen and Julian Barnes, in favor of younger and less well-known writers. The 2016 shortlist was bereft of superstars—a good thing, in my opinion, but one that regularly results in whining from the British publishing establishment—and instead consisted of relative unknowns. At least, that’s the narrative if you watched the BBC broadcast. The Sellout was a breakout book in the U.S. when it was published last year, in large part because it was the best book published in the U.S. that year. (That said, it was also criminally under-reviewed and took some time to emerge as the fiction book of the year.)

Coming months after Brexit and two weeks before the U.S. presidential election, there was an undeniable political tinge to the broadcast, though—fittingly for the British—it remained just a tinge. The presenter declared the prize as part of a “global vanguard that stands against all threats both practical and political” and for freedom of expression. Beatty himself was more personal as he accepted the award. Visibly emotional, Beatty thanked his agent, editor, and girlfriend and recalled reading The Sellout aloud for the first time and breaking down crying. “I don’t want to get all dramatic—writing saved my life and all that. But writing’s given me a life,” he said.

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BREAKING: White evangelicals support Donald Trump because they agree with him.

An extensive new Public Religion Research Institute survey demonstrates that white evangelical Protestants are largely aligned with Donald Trump’s immigration positions and overarching pessimism about the future of the country. At Religion Dispatches, the University of Pennsylvania’s Dr. Anthea Butler breaks down the most noteworthy results:

The group with the most fatalistic view of American cultural change are white evangelical Protestants, three quarters of whom (74%) say that American culture has changed for the worse since 1950.

A majority of Republicans (55%) believe that America is so off track that we need a leader who is willing to “break the rules,” while 57% of Democrats disagree with that statement.

A majority of white Americans say that Donald Trump is the most trustworthy candidate in the 2016 election (54%) while Blacks and Hispanics say that Hillary Clinton is the most trustworthy candidate (71% and 59% respectively).

Among Americans as a whole Hillary Clinton is perceived to have much stronger religious beliefs than Donald Trump (50% v. 36%), though white evangelical Protestants say that Trump has much stronger religious beliefs (58% vs 28%)

Most Americans reject banning Muslims from the United States (56%), yet a sizable minority (43%) express support for some kind of ban. A Majority of white evangelical Protestants (62%) and white mainline Protestants (54%) favor the temporary ban. White Catholics are split evenly.

The majority of Hispanic Catholics (62%), black Protestants (68%), members of non-Christian religions (70%)  and religiously unaffiliated Americans (74%) reject the ban on Muslims in the United States.

These results won’t surprise anyone who’s followed the election closely. Donald Trump’s appeal is largely nostalgic, embraced by voters privileged enough to have prospered in a less diverse America. For these white Americans, their self-identification as evangelicals functions as a statement of racial identity as well as a statement of faith. When they say they want to keep America moral, they mean they want to keep it culturally “pure.” 

“The upshot of this survey is that white evangelicals want to go back to Ozzie and Harriet—in time, behavior, and gender roles,” Butler writes. 

It’s a definitive answer to a common question this election cycle: Evangelicals are voting for Donald Trump, moral failings and all, because they agree with him. 

File this one away under “ledes about Marco Rubio that liberals will love.”

According to NPR, “Rubio got booed off a stage in Orlando on Sunday, by a crowd that was overwhelmingly Latino.”

Relish the sound of it.

That Rubio’s better positioned for re-election than many other swing-state Republican senators frustrates liberals to no end. Part of this frustration stems from a lingering anxiety about the thought of Rubio beating Hillary Clinton in 2020 (though his underwhelming 2016 presidential campaign set most of those fears to rest).

The bigger issue is that liberals believe Rubio deserves comeuppance for the way he’s conducted himself as a senator and political candidate. Rubio has bumbled around the playing field of Republican politics heedlessly for six years, looking for a sweet-spot that keeps eluding him. First he was a Tea Party insurgent; then he was a pro-immigration reform healer; then he abandoned immigration reform; then he promised he wouldn’t seek re-election to the Senate so he could stake it all on a bid for the presidency; then he refused to criticize Donald Trump; then he accused President Obama of intentionally sabotaging America; then he said Trump was a con-man, unfit for the presidency, who could not be trusted with the nuclear codes; then Trump beat him; then he endorsed Trump; then he announced he’d run for re-election after all, which brings us to the present day, and a widespread sense among liberals that someone with Rubio’s track record doesn’t deserve a second term in office.

Liberals may not get their way, but if Rubio loses it will be due to this very inconstancy, which has driven down his support among Hispanic voters in Florida. Many of them associate Rubio with Trump’s bigotry and the rise of nativism and will register their disapproval at the polls.

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The White House served Donald Trump the case against Obamacare on a silver platter—and he still blew it.

On Monday, the White House released a report estimating that Affordable Care Act premiums will go up by an average of 25 percent next year in what some pundits are describing as another “October surprise.” The GOP now has an opportunity to undermine what is one of President Barack Obama’s crowning achievements, delivering a hit to his high approval ratings and his ability to campaign on behalf of the Democratic ticket.

But instead of empathizing with those affected by the hikes and proposing a solution, Trump hailed it as an I-told-you-so moment:

I think [Obamacare is a] disaster and I’ve been saying it from the time before they even voted for it. I said this plan can’t work, it’s going to be a disaster, it was a big lie, that is how he got it passed.

He also gave a press conference in which he claimed that all of his employees are having “a tremendous problem with Obamacare,” which is blatantly false. The Trump Organization engages in the commonplace practice of providing health benefits to its full-time employees. That statement shows just how little he understands the existing health care system, and undermines his assertion that he’s going to create “something much better, much better and much less expensive.”

As demonstrated repeatedly in his debate performances, Trump stumbles as soon as he is forced to discuss substantive policy. Though today’s Obamacare revelation may help down-ballot Republicans, Trump frittered away a rare chance to seize an issue that actually matters during the last 14 days of the campaign.

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The Justice Department is breathing new life into the Eric Garner case.

According to The New York Times, FBI agents tasked with investigating the case have been replaced with agents from outside of New York, a decision that could propel the stalled case forward.

Garner’s death at the hands of Staten Island police in July 2014—made infamous by a video showing Garner being placed into a chokehold and saying, “I can’t breathe”—fueled national protests over police brutality against black men. A medical examiner ruled the death a homicide, but the Richmond County grand jury decided not to indict the officers that December. That day, the Justice Department decided to charge the individual officers.

Since then, the case has reportedly been slowed by disagreements over whether the officers violated Garner’s civil rights. Prosecutors in Brooklyn oppose the charges, while the Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C., says the video clearly shows evidence of a civil rights violation.

While this shake-up could move the investigation forward, precedent does not bode well for those seeking justice on Garner’s behalf. Most recently, Baltimore State’s Attorney General Marilyn J. Mosby dropped the remaining charges against officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray, after three of the six officers were acquitted.

Is Donald Trump beta-testing Trump TV? Or is he just out of options?

One of the election’s most consistent narratives has been that Donald Trump is only out for himself—that he’s using the national political spotlight to make money and build his brand, which helps explain, for instance, why he frequently turns campaign events into infomercials for his new hotel in Washington, D.C. Trump is reportedly frustrated that he can’t monetize his captive audience. Since the summer, rumors have swirled around the idea of a Trump-centered TV network that would compete with Fox News for elderly, far-right eyeballs.

Trump TV seems to be more than a glimmer in Trump’s eye. Earlier this month, Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, reportedly met with an investment firm LionTree to discuss a potential network. Before the final debate, the Trump campaign live-streamed what many interpreted as a low-rent test of the concept in the form of a 30-minute show featuring two anchors and General Michael Flynn. And last night, the campaign announced nightly broadcasts at 6:30PM.

The first installment of Trump TV was suitably bizarre. The show promised that it would feature none of the spin you see on “normal” news programs, but then campaign manager Kellyanne Conway came on and spun the hell out of the election, telling anchors Boris Epshteyn and Cliff Sims that everything was fine and Trump had a plausible path to victory. (Epshteyn and Sims, who often finish each other’s sentences, would be an adorable double act if the sentences they were finishing weren’t so absurd and/or horrific.) And The Blaze’s Tomi Lahren, the pundit this election deserves, came on to give Trump’s supporters a pep talk: “If you’re looking for someone that’s got a love of country as deep as Donald Trump—and I’ve seen it—then you’re going to have to join the basket, you’re going to have to jump out of the basket, and you’re going to have to make your voices heard.”

It’s certainly possible that Trump and his allies, particularly Kushner, are using these livestreams as a trial run. But Trump and company may be turning to livestreams simply ecause they have no other options. Even Fox News (aside from Hannity and, to a lesser extent, O’Reilly) isn’t the safe space it was a month or two ago: Like every other network, it is also reporting that Trump is losing. The Facebook broadcasts exist to give Trump the kind of media bubble he craves—and if they lead to something bigger, then so be it.

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Does Donald Trump have any path to victory?

The election is two weeks from today. That is both a very long time—if either campaign has juicy opposition research, it can still be dropped for significant effect—and no time at all. Presidential races rarely change shape dramatically in the final two weeks and right now the 2016 election looks like it’s going to end in an electoral vote landslide for Hillary Clinton.

Clinton has many paths to the White House, and Trump really only has one: He has to win Ohio and Florida (Clinton can win either), along with North Carolina, Iowa, Nevada, and Maine. Historically speaking, that’s not an unreasonable path for a Republican nominee—George W. Bush won all of those states but Maine in 2000 and 2004. The problem is that Trump is losing every single one of those states in most polls right now. Clinton has maintained a steady lead in Florida since the first debate. Ohio is the closest of the group, but it’s basically a push right now, with a slight edge being given to Clinton. In a New York Times poll released today, Clinton leads in North Carolina by seven points and has an insane 25-point advantage among early voters, which suggests that her get-out-the-vote apparatus is going to wipe the floor with Trump’s.

A lot can happen in the next two weeks. But early voting is already underway and Trump’s only path to the White House may already be blocked.