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Hillary Clinton: Protesters ‘marching for our values’

The Latest on the Women’s March on Washington and associated protests around the world (all times EST):

10:10 a.m.

Hillary Clinton is praising those attending the Women’s March on Washington.

The former Democratic nominee for president is thanking attendees on Twitter for “standing, speaking and marching for our values.” She says it’s as “important as ever.”

Clinton is also reviving her campaign slogan and says in the tweet she believes “we’re always Stronger Together.”

Clinton’s show of support for the march comes a day after she attended President Donald Trump‘s inauguration at the U.S. Capitol.

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9:40 a.m.

A city official in Washington says the turnout estimate for the Women’s March on the National Mall now stands at 500,000 people. That’s more than double the initial predictions.

Kevin Donahue is Washington’s deputy mayor for public safety and justice. He says on Twitter that organizers of the march are increasing the turnout estimate to half a million.

There were early signs across Washington that Saturday’s crowds could top those that gathered on Friday to watch President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

Metro subway stations and train cars are full in many locations, while ridership on Friday was well off the numbers from Barack Obama‘s first inaugural.

The march’s National Park Service permit estimated a turnout of 200,000, but the District of Columbia’s homeland security chief had previously predicted turnout would be higher.

___

8:55 a.m.

Thousands are massing on the National Mall for the Women’s March, and they’re gathering, too, in spots around the world.

A couple hundred people rallied in the Czech capital of Prague on Saturday in support of the march.

In Wenceslas Square in freezing conditions, they waved the portraits of President Donald Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin, as well banners that read: “This is just the beginning.”

Organizer Johanna Nejedlova says: “We are worried about the way some politicians talk, especially during the American elections.” Similar rallies unfolded in London, Berlin, Rome and other cities.

In Copenhagen, Denmark, protesters in the march’s trademark pink woolen hats met outside the U.S. Embassy. Says participant Sherin Khankan, “An alternative to the growing hatred must be created.”

At a rally in Stockholm, Sweden, organizer Lotta Kuylenstjerna says “we do not have to accept his message,” in a reference to Trump.

___

8:30 a.m.

Rose Wurm got on her bus at 7 a.m. in Hagerstown, Maryland, ready for the ride to Washington and the Women’s March.

The 64-year-old retired medical secretary from Bedford, Pennsylvania, carried two signs. One asks President Donald Trump to stop tweeting. Another asks him to fix ex-President Barack Obama’s health care law, rather than get rid of it.

Wurm is riding one of the roughly 1,800 buses that have registered to park in Washington on Saturday. That translates into nearly 100,000 people coming for the march just by bus.

One company has buses coming from more than 200 cities in 26 states. It’s using school buses to bring people to the march from Maryland.

___

8 a.m.

Look to the National Mall in Washington for lots of bright pink hats and signs that say “less fear more love” and “the future is female.”

Thousands of women are set to make their voices heard on the first full day of Donald Trump’s presidency.

Organizers of the Women’s March on Washington expect more than 200,000 people to attend the gathering.

Other protests are expected in other U.S. cities and around the world.

Rena Wilson came to Washington for the march on Friday from Charlotte, North Carolina. She says she hopes to send the message to Trump that they’re “not going anywhere.”

___

3:05 a.m.

The mission statement of the Women’s March on Washington says event participants are “hurting and scared” as Donald Trump takes office — and they want a greater voice for women in political life.

Organizers of Saturday’s rally and march expect more than 200,000 people to come out — and that number could rival Trump’s swearing-in ceremony Friday.

The event follows a chaotic day in the nation’s capital when protesters set fires and hurled bricks in a series of clashes with police.

More than 200 people were arrested.

Republished with permission of the nAssociated Press.

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Organizers expect thousands at Women’s Solidarity March in St. Petersburg on Saturday

While a crowd of over 200,000 people is expected to jam the streets of Washington D.C. on Saturday to protest Donald Trump’s inauguration, similar rallies are being held around the world. The biggest event in the Tampa Bay area will take place in St. Petersburg.

The Women’s Solidarity March St. Pete is scheduled noon to 3 p.m, beginning at Demens Landing on the waterfront in downtown St. Pete (that’s at 2nd Avenue SE and Bayshore).

“Maybe we were sleeping at the switch, but no more,” says Suzanne Benton, one of the organizers of the event, says about the result of last November’s election. She says she expects as many as 15,000 people to attend the rally.

“We’re not going to let democracy slip away from us,” Benton adds.”We’re going to be a model for the world. They’re very worried for us. We have to show here in St. Petersburg – this state went for the opposition – we have to show the world that we know how to protect our democracy and we’re not going to let it slip away.”

Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton by 1.2 percentage points in Florida on November 8.

Marianny De Leon is a twentysomething activist and staffer with Planned Parenthood in Tampa. She’ll be participating in a similar rally in Tallahassee on Saturday (there are protests being held up and down the state on both Friday and Saturday)

“We do have a lot of uncertainty ahead of us, but this march is going to be a unified women’s movement,” she says. “We strived very hard to be as intersectional as possible and we really want to make sure that women have access to the health care that they need. We need to make sure that people who are low-income, people who don’t speak English, we just want to ensure that everybody has the same rights.”

There have been media reports this week that some women who are not pro-choice but considers themselves feminists have been banned from the major protest in D.C. this Saturday. But organizers for the rally in St. Petersburg say there’s no litmus test to participate.

“We’re proud that’s a part of our platform,” says organizer Amy Weintraub regarding the support for abortion rights. “But we can also find plenty of other things that we would agree with everyone, and that’s going to be the key to this social change movement.

“When we engage with people in our community who may have voted differently than we did during the election, we’ve got to find 51 percent that we agree on, ” Weintraub added, “and once we do, we’ll be able to talk with them, educate and potentially change their vote next time around.”

After Georgia Democratic Representative John Lewis announced last weekend that he would not attend the inauguration, saying he didn’t believe believe Trump was a “legitimate” president, dozens of his colleagues now say they won’t attend on Friday, including Florida Democrats Alcee Hastings and Darren Soto. Benton said she understood why congressional Democrats would choose to attend the ceremony, but said she at least hoped they would wear black at the event.

You can get more information on Saturday’s event by going to the Facebook page. Those who do choose to attend should note that some local meteorologists have predicted that there could be a chance of rain.

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Promises, pomp and protests as Donald Trump sworn in

Pledging to empower America’s “forgotten men and women,” Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States Friday, taking command of a deeply divided nation and ushering in an unpredictable era in Washington. His victory gives Republicans control of the White House for the first time in eight years.

Looking out over the crowd sprawled across the National Mall, Trump painted a bleak picture of the nation he now leads, lamenting “American carnage,” shuttered factories and depleted U.S. leadership. President Barack Obama, the man he replaced, sat behind him stoically.

Trump’s address lasted just 16 minutes. While his inauguration did draw crowds to the nation’s capital, the numbers appeared smaller than for past celebrations.

Demonstrations unfolded at various security checkpoints near the Capitol as police helped ticket-holders get through. After the swearing-in, more protesters registered their rage in the streets of Washington. Police in riot gear deployed pepper spray and made numerous arrests after protesters smashed the windows of downtown businesses, denouncing capitalism and Trump.

The new president’s first words as commander in chief were an unapologetic reprisal of the economic populism and nationalism that fueled his improbable campaign. He vowed to stir “new national pride,” bring jobs back to the United States, and “eradicate completely” Islamic terrorism.

“From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only, ‘America First,'” Trump said.

His address lasted just 16 minutes. While Trump’s inauguration did draw crowds to the nation’s capital, the numbers appeared smaller than for past celebrations.

In a remarkable scene, Trump ripped into Washington’s longtime leaders as he stood among them at the U.S. Capitol. For too long, he said, “a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost.”

For Republicans eager to be back in the White House, there was little mention of the party’s bedrock principles: small government, social conservativism and robust American leadership around the world. Trump, who is taking office as one of the most unpopular incoming presidents in modern history, made only oblique references to those who may be infuriated and fearful of his presidency.

“To all Americans in every city near and far, small and large from mountain to mountain, from ocean to ocean, hear these words: You will never be ignored again,” he said.

The new president was sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts, reciting the 35-word oath with his hand placed upon two Bibles, one used by his family and another during President Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration.

Trump and wife, Melania, bid Obama and outgoing first lady Michelle Obama farewell as they departed the Capitol grounds in a government helicopter. Trump and Obama’s political paths have been linked in remarkable ways. Before running for the White House, the billionaire businessman led efforts to promote falsehoods about the 44th president’s citizenship and claim on the office.

Obama addressed a staff gathering at Joint Base Andrews before departing for a vacation in California. “You proved the power of hope,” he said.

Trump’s journey to the inauguration was as unlikely as any in recent American history. He defied his party’s establishment, befuddled the media and toppled two political dynasties on his way to victory. His message, calling for a resurgence of white, working-class corners of America, was packaged in defiant stump speeches railing against political correctness. He used social media to dominate the national conversation and challenge conventions about political discourse. After years of Democratic control of the White House and deadlock in Washington, his was a blast of fresh air for millions.

But Trump’s call for restrictive immigration measures and his caustic campaign rhetoric about women and minorities angered millions. And Trump’s swearing-in was shadowed by questions about his ties to Russia, which U.S. intelligence agencies have determined worked to tip the 2016 election in his favor.

More than 60 House Democrats refused to attend his swearing in ceremony in the shadow of the Capitol dome. One Democrat who did sit among the dignitaries was Hillary Clinton, Trump’s vanquished campaign rival who was widely expected by both parties to be the one taking the oath of office.

At a post-ceremony luncheon at the Capitol, Trump asked the Republicans and Democrats present to recognize her, and those in the room rose and applauded.

At 70, Trump is the oldest person to be sworn in as president, marking a generational step backward after two terms for Obama, one of the youngest presidents to serve as commander in chief.

Trump takes charge of an economy that has recovered from the Great Recession but has nonetheless left millions of Americans feeling left behind. The nation’s longest war is still being waged in Afghanistan and U.S. troops are battling the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The American health care system was expanded to reach millions more Americans during Obama’s tenure, but at considerable financial costs. Trump has vowed to dismantle and rebuild it.

Trump faces challenges as the first president to take office without ever having held a political position or served in the military. He has stacked his Cabinet with established Washington figures and wealthy business leaders. Though his team’s conservative bent has been cheered by many Republicans, the overwhelmingly white and male Cabinet has been criticized for a lack of diversity.

Before attending an inaugural luncheon, Trump signed his first series of orders, including the official nominations for his Cabinet. He joked with lawmakers, including House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, and handed out presidential pens.

In a show of solidarity, all of the living American presidents attended Trump’s inaugural, except for 92-year-old George H.W. Bush, who was hospitalized this week with pneumonia. His wife, Barbara, was also admitted to the hospital after falling ill.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Builders Stephen Bittel and Donald Trump have things in common

Everyone in America knows the name of President Donald Trump. On the other hand, few are familiar with Stephen Bittel, even in his home state of Florida.

As of noon on Friday, Donald Trump officially became the President of the United States. As of January 14, Bittel became the latest Chairman of the Florida Democratic Party.

For all of the obvious differences of party affiliation, the two men have some things in common. Both are wealthy developers. Both are known to say what is on their mind.

To no one’s surprise, Trump has a 55 percent negative rating (as does Hillary Clinton). One of the key factors leading to that score is the perception, true or not, that Trump is a bully.

As the vote for Democratic Chairman approached, Bittel faced four challengers unimpressed with his style. Dwight Bullard, Alan Clendenin, Lisa King and Leah Carius thought Bittel was pushing his weight around too much.

“Somebody in this race has been trying to bully and intimidate people,” Clendenin said.

Sound familiar?

In fact, the quartet had their own unofficial “Anyone but Bittel” cabal. They claimed to control 60 percent of the votes, thereby denying Bittel the chairmanship.

“We are standing shoulder to shoulder,” added Clendenin.

Sound familiar? Backed in large part by the Democratic establishment, Bittel won on the first ballot.

Democrats hate, to different degrees, what Trump is all about. They don’t like the way he won and the type of supporters he attracted.

The guess here is that in Bittel, Democrats have elected a chairman that will behave in some ways like Trump. In other words, he promises to be an aggressive, active chairman that seeks to make the Florida Democratic Party great again. #MFDPGA?

The task before Trump is well known. What confronts Bittel is understood mainly by those entrenched in party politics.

Trump knows a $20 trillion debt is daunting. In the world of Florida politics, so is the job facing Bittle and the Democrats. An example is illustrative.

My friend and former colleague Jason Gonzalez recently posted this “gee-whiz” nugget on Facebook. In the bluest of blue counties, Leon, here are the Republicans who affect those constituents on the state and federal level:

President and Vice-President; Speaker of the House and Majority Leader in the Senate; Governor of Florida and all three Cabinet positions; Speaker of the Florida House and President of the state Senate.

Here’s the final straw. With Dr. Neal Dunn’s victory in Congressional District 2 (Gwen Graham did not seek re-election), Republicans control all of those positions at the same time for the first time ever as of noon on Friday.

(NOTE: some Leon County residents, like this writer, reside in the district served by Rep. Al Lawson, a decent guy).

Bittel has heard the criticism of the state party for not helping develop a “farm team” or “bench” of young, charismatic candidates. Florida is far from alone in facing problems brought on by an overloaded focus on presidential elections at the expense of winning locally.

Look no further than the trouble Democrats have in nonpresidential year elections for an illustration. A must-read piece in Politico Magazine by Edward-Isaac Dovere shows the national dilemma confronting Democrats with Florida serving only as a microcosm.

Only 16 of our country’s governors are Democrats, while 32 state legislatures are controlled by the GOP. Democrats lost 1,034 state and federal legislative seats over the past eight years.

“There’s no bench, no bench for a bench, no one able to speak for the party as a whole,” Dovere wrote.

Over the years, Bittel has raised large sums for Democrats. As chairman, he has a chance to close some of the canyon-sized gap in money Florida Republicans have enjoyed for years.

If he employs some of Trump’s qualities in bringing disaffected Democrats, their passion and their money to the cause — and starts building a bench — being a bully won’t be such a bad thing. I am not in the business of giving Democrats advice, nor would they want it.

That being said, for one of the few times in recent memory, Florida Democrats may have made a good move in electing Stephen Bittel. Republicans should keep an eye and ear on him.

 

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Hillsborough County Democratic Party says they are united in holding Donald Trump accountable

Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee Chair Ione Townsend says that while the local party takes pride in the smooth transition of power that will take place on Friday, she says they are united in holding Donald Trump accountable for the policies and programs in plans for the American public.

In a statement released just hours before Trump succeeds Barack Obama as the leader of the free world, she says that the party will be diligent that America’s 45th president “does NO HARM TO MIDDLE AND WORKING CLASS AMERICANS.”

“Trump’s Cabinet picks are worrisome, we have already seen an assault on the Affordable Care Act, and next we fear the dissolving of policies that protect our environment, public education, a woman’s right to choose and equality,” says Townsend. “Wherever possible we will join forces and create alliances with community leaders across Hillsborough, the state, and nation to fight unfair and detrimental Trump administration policies. Our voices will be heard. We will be there for voters that bought into Trump’s illusions that he alone can solve national and world problems.”

Townsend then lists the rights that she says the Democratic party believes in, and says that they will fight any Trump administration proposals “that could decimate what Democrats have strived for and will continue to work toward achieving.”

Those rights include:

1. Health care for all

2. Expanding the middle class

3. Raising the minimum wage to $15

4. Keeping jobs in America

5. Affordable college education

6. A woman’s right to choose and make her own health care decisions

7. Ending institutional racism in our country and any other form of discrimination

8. Immigration reform with a path to citizenship

In recent presidential election years, Hillsborough County enjoyed the reputation as being one of the leading bellwether counties in the country when it came to choosing the president. That changed last year, however, as Hillary Clinton won the county by more than eight percentage points, but lost the vote overall in Florida, and of course, lost in the Electoral College to Trump.

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Activists in downtown Tampa protest Donald Trump’s inauguration

While the major Tampa Bay area protest against the inauguration of Donald Trump is scheduled to take place on Saturday in St. Petersburg, approximately three dozen activists gathered in front of the Federal Building in downtown Tampa on Friday night to express their dissent about the most powerful man in the free world.

The sentiment among some of those gathered wasn’t anger, but ambivalence. While fear felt for the most vulnerable in society was expressed by several people interviewed, there also was excitement about the possibility of how a newly formed opposition movement could manifest itself in the months and years ahead. At least that was the feeling of Tampa resident Wendy Babcox, who said she was felt “conflicted.”

“On the one hand, I feel energized because I feel that are only a few people right here now, but right now around the country there are people organizing in ways that they hasn’t done for, I don’t know, maybe 30 years or so?” she said. “And I think we need to do that. We needed to do that, anyway,” agreeing with the notion that progressives have become too complacent in the Obama years.

Tampa resident Heather Henry is Muslim and wears a hijab. She says she worries less about what Donald Trump might do in office that could be deleterious to her own freedom, and is more concerned about the impact of his electoral success with his more xenophobic supporters.

“People approached me in a very negative way today,” she recalled. “People feel more emboldened, because they see that their opinions have been validated.”

While protests will dominate this weekend across the country, the question some activists are already posing is: What’s next?

“The first thing we do is to be in solidarity with the people who are also fearful, ” said Jason Lazarus.“This is the first response. I’m here. I’m visible. It’s about how we galvanize our energy to become better citizens over the next four years.”

A man who only wanted to be identified as “Glen” said it was all about awareness. Not just for the general population, but for those in power.

“Donald Trump has to know that we’re watching him all the time, that he is responsible to us and that we’re going to keep him responsible to us,” he said. Assuming that Trump’s actions in officer will be viewed as so egregious to the norms of the more of the nation, he predicted Democrats will rally in the 2018 congressional elections.

Wearing a Bernie Sanders t-shirt and acknowledging that the Vermont socialist was his candidate of choice, Glen is the embodiment of how divided the Democratic party was when it came to their candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton. His face showed disgust upon the mentioning of her name, instead telling me he proudly supported Green Party candidate Jill Stein in November.

Jason Lazarus mused that if Clinton had selected Sanders or Elizabeth Warren as her running mate last summer, the combination of a centrist and more liberal Democrat on the ticket could have been the winning ticket. “That would have been a very powerful signal that she would acknowledge and open up the platform to a lot of people,” he’ said, calling her choice of Tim Kaine to being “safe and uninspired.”

Babcox espoused another sentiment that others interviewed agreed with.

“I don’ think any of us know how he’s going to do anything,” she said. “Which is very worrying. Not just for us, but for people around the world.”

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Donald Trump’s America: Families differ as Ronald Reagan country changes

The week after Donald Trump was elected president, Dr. Mai-Phuong Nguyen and two dozen other Vietnamese-Americans active in liberal causes gathered in a circle of folding chairs, consoling one another about an America almost beyond comprehension.

Now, days before Trump takes the oath of office, Nguyen sits in a restaurant booth in Orange County’s neon-lit Little Saigon and studies perhaps the most confounding face of the divide exposed by the election — her father’s.

“All I know is, if a man makes $100 million he is really something,” Son Van Nguyen, 76, says of Trump.

Here in a county transformed by waves of newcomers, the elder Nguyen — a government translator airlifted from South Vietnam with his family in 1975 as Communist forces pressed in on the capital — built a new life as a record-setting life insurance salesman, watching people strive and struggle.

Dr. Mai-Phuong Nguyen, right, and her father, Son Van Nguyen, 76, pose for a photo in the Little Saigon area of Westminster, Calif., on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017. The elder Nguyen _ a government translator airlifted from South Vietnam with his family in 1975 as Communist forces bombarded the capital _ built a new life as a record-setting life insurance salesman. “… I know a lot of people out there sit there and wait for welfare,” he says, explaining his hopes that Donald Trump will rein in such spending and create jobs. The younger Nguyen counters, “But he is trying to prevent other people from coming in and enjoying some of the same things you came here for, Dad.” (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

“And I know a lot of people out there sit there and wait for welfare,” he says, explaining his hopes that Trump will rein in such spending and create jobs.

“But he is trying to prevent other people from coming in and enjoying some of the same things you came here for, Dad,” says his daughter, a 47-year-old physician who pushed for health care reform and fears Trump will take away the medical coverage it extended to millions of Americans. “If he does wrong, are you going to support him?”

Their disagreement is a reminder that for Orange County, just as for the rest of the country, there has never been a moment quite like this one.

When Hillary Clinton won this county of 3.2 million in November, it marked the first time the OC had backed a Democrat for president since Franklin Roosevelt. Best known for Disneyland, and long a hothouse of conservatism in a blue state, it was the largest county in the country to flip.

The shift was expected eventually. Orange County’s citrus groves turned to tract housing decades back to welcome a mostly white influx from Los Angeles and Midwestern states. Today, though, Santa Ana’s quinceanera shops reflect a county that is a third Latino. One in five Orange Countians is Asian.

The hopes and anxieties stirred by Trump’s inauguration spotlight even more complicated tensions.

Most Vietnamese traditionally voted for Republicans, viewed as opponents of communism. But many of their adult children, also refugees, see Trump as rejecting American ideals and people like them.

Local Republicans, who once embraced the John Birch Society and recently erected a statue of Ronald Reagan in the park where he launched two White House bids, long espoused a muscular conservatism. Most voted for Trump, but not without soul-searching.

At Jimmy Camp‘s house, a “No Trump” sign made by Camp’s son still hangs in the window. Heading out to feed his family’s goat and potbellied pig, Camp recalls his start in Republican politics three decades ago — knocking on doors for candidates to earn cash.

Jimmy Camp feeds his goat and pig outside his home in an unincorporated area in Orange County, Calif., on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. Camp who started in Republican politics three decades ago, renounced his party membership in 2016 because of his disgust with Donald Trump. “If you go through and look at everything Jesus said in the Bible, this guy is opposite of it,” said Camp, 52, a pastor’s son. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Camp played guitar in a rock band then and embraced platforms calling for government to stay out of people’s lives. He’d always loved the outdoors in a county that stretches from the ocean to the Santa Ana Mountains. After meeting county native Richard Nixon, he read up on the disgraced president’s often forgotten chartering of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Camp became one of the state’s busiest Republican political consultants. Then, last summer he emailed fellow Republicans, renouncing his party membership because of his disgust with Trump.

“If you go through and look at everything Jesus said in the Bible, this guy is opposite of it,” says Camp, 52, a pastor’s son.

Jimmy Camp poses for a photo in an unincorporated area in Orange County, Calif., on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. Camp, who has friends from Iran and Egypt, cringes at a president who would castigate Muslims as supposedly tied to terrorists, though he doubts Donald Trump will fulfill his most extreme rhetoric. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Camp, who has friends from Iran and Egypt, cringes at a president who would castigate Muslims as supposedly tied to terrorists, though he doubts Trump will fulfill his most extreme rhetoric.

“I hope he doesn’t drive us off a cliff,” Camp says. “I hope that we survive the next four years. I think we will.”

Jimmy Camp poses for a photo in an unincorporated area in Orange County, Calif., on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. Camp was one of the state’s busiest Republican political consultants. Then, in the summer of 2016, he emailed fellow Republicans, renouncing his party membership because of his disgust with Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Others voice confidence in Trump.

Gloria Pruyne says her family had reservations about Trump’s morality early on. But the conservative activist ended up knocking on more than 500 doors to get out the vote. Now Pruyne, 78, says she wants Trump to install a conservative Supreme Court justice, revoke an Affordable Care Act she blames for a $500 increase in her family’s monthly insurance bill, and back Israel.

“We’re looking forward to a radical change with this president,” she says.

With the inauguration approaching, Ron Brindle has no plans to remove the 5-foot-square portrait of Trump from his oil well fronting a main road in Huntington Beach. Brindle bought this land for his tree nursery business more than 40 years ago. Today, it is surrounded by tract homes, many owned by Asian families.

Ron Brindle poses for a photo in front of a portrait of Donald Trump hanging on his oil derrick in Huntington Beach, Calif., on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. Brindle bought this land for his tree nursery business more than 40 years ago. Today, it is surrounded by tract homes, many owned by Asian families. “Now I don’t have anything against any of them, but what happened to the country?” Brindle says. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

The first thing Trump should do, he says, is close the border so Americans no longer have to foot the bill to care for foreigners. But Brindle also hopes that Trump will reach out to skeptics.

Steven Mai is ready to listen. Mai, a 42-year-old registered Republican, rejected Trump for criticizing the Muslim parents of a slain American soldier.

Steven Mai poses for a photo in the little Saigon area of Westminster, Calif., on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017. Mai, a 42-year-old registered Republican, rejected Trump for criticizing the Muslim parents of a slain American soldier. But Trump will be his president, he said. “I just hope he’s going to be the president that my parents were thinking,” Mai said. “If he can be a good president, then we all benefit.” (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

But Trump will be his president, Mai says.

Still, if Trump really wants to lead, he should come to places like Orange County, says Mai’s wife, Tammy Tran. He could work in a sandwich shop for a few hours, or see what it’s like to care for an elderly person. Maybe then, the couple say, Trump will understand his responsibility to the many Americas.

“I just hope he’s going to be the president that my parents were thinking,” Mai says. “If he can be a good president, then we all benefit.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Obama’s electoral legacy: After 8 years, we get a Donald Trump

(Part 2 of the Obama legacy)

With the inauguration of Donald Trump, it is a good time to review the electoral impact of eight years of the Obama White House. One of the impacts is the election of Trump which surprised the entire political universe.

Whatever Obama may have achieved in public policy, it is that policy which is in great part responsible for setting “the post-World War II record for losses by the White House party,” according to Larry Sabato. Democrats lost over 1,000 seats at the state and national level.

However important the Obama policies may have been, it is fair to argue that those policies contained the seeds of Democratic losses. The Wall Street and big bank bailouts led to the creation of the Tea Party. The Tea Party became a primary vehicle to organize disaffected Republicans against bailouts for Wall Street and not Main Street. Combined with opposition to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), mobilized Republicans took over control of both the House and Senate, and effectively denying Obama the needed votes to carry out the rest of his agenda.

After the 2016 election, Democrats held 11 fewer Senate seats than they did Jan. 20, 2009, a 16 percent decrease. Democrats hold 62 fewer House seats than in 2009, a drop of 24 percent. They also lost control of the White House giving Republicans complete control of the national government.

At the state level, the number of Democrat governors fell from 28 to 16, a 43 percent decline. In 2009, Democrats controlled both houses in 27 states; after 2016, the number dropped to dual control of only 14 states, a 48 percent drop. On top of this, Democrats lost 959 seats in the state legislatures, weakening them for years to come.

These losses mean that Democrats will have a difficult time in passing their agenda at the state and national level. It also means that the Democratic bench of future leaders has been wiped out, making it difficult for them to find and finance competitive candidates. Finally, since Democrats foolishly changed the filibuster rules in 2013, cabinet nominees and most court appointees will need only 51 votes to be confirmed. This creates the possibility for more extreme nominees to win confirmation.

One of the few positive thing for Democrats is that it is difficult to imagine them losing many more seats. The out-party normally makes gains in midterm elections. Unfortunately for Democrats, they must defend 25 of the 33 Senate seats up for election in 2018, and Trump won 10 of the 25 states that Democrats must defend.

If the Democrats could pick up only two Senate seats in 2016 when Republicans had to defend 24 of the 34 seats, it is hard to imagine them doing better in 2018 when they must defend two out of every three Senate seats up for election.

Without Obama on the ballot in 2016 and 2018, fewer young and minority voters will turn out at the polls. Although Democrats have dominated among young voters, few of them turn out, especially in off-year elections.

Democrats have complicated their problem with young voters by having an array of senior citizen leaders. Nancy Pelosi has been the ranking Democratic leader for 6 terms, as has second-ranking Democrat Steny Hoyer. Third-ranking Democrat James Clyburn has served five terms as leader. Pelosi is 76, and Hoyer and Clyburn are 77.

Although Democrats have been devastated during Obama’s tenure, he is not solely responsible. Obama is only the third Democratic president to twice win a popular vote majority, along with Andrew Jackson and Franklin Roosevelt.

Democratic National Party Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Congresswomen from Florida, was widely viewed as an ineffective spokesperson for the party and was eventually ousted for what many Democrats viewed as her favoritism for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primaries. Obama appointed Wasserman Schultz to become chair of the Democratic Party and, critics contend, for standing by her for far too long.

Politics is a strange beast. Six months ago, almost everyone believed the Republican Party was on its last legs, and the Trump nomination would doom them forever. Today the Republicans control all three branches of the federal government, and it appears that the Democrats are on life support.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

___

Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

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Mike Pence looks like he will be Donald Trump’s inside man in Congress

When Mike Pence landed in Congress after the 2000 election, he was a conservative agitator who often bucked President George W. Bush‘s agenda. Seventeen years later, he’s the vice president-elect and Donald Trump‘s inside man on Capitol Hill.

Pence, who spent a dozen years in Congress before becoming Indiana’s governor, is visiting frequently with lawmakers and promising close coordination after Trump’s inauguration Friday. In a sign of his attentiveness, Pence will have an office in the House as well as the traditional honorary office for the vice president in the Senate.

Pence’s role takes on greater importance, given Trump’s ascension to the White House without any experience in elective office.

Trump has few long-standing political alliances in Congress and a strained relationship with the Republican establishment, a hangover from the 2016 campaign. Trump’s agenda doesn’t always align with Republicans’ priorities, and his inflammatory remarks about immigrants, Muslims and women made many in the GOP cringe.

Pence has forged an enduring friendship with House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., dating to their early years in Congress, along with other House Republicans crucial to advancing Trump’s agenda. In early meetings with lawmakers, Pence has passed out his personal cellphone number and promised an open line to the administration.

“He’s the trusted intermediary. He’s the person that people on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue know and trust,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla.

If Trump is known for his brash form of disruptive politics, Pence represents the incoming administration in a more traditional manner, exemplified by his polite, Midwestern demeanor. He joined Trump in New York on Wednesday for the president-elect’s first news conference since the Nov. 8 election. Pence soon returned to Capitol Hill for meetings with several senators, including Democrats Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Tim Kaine of Virginia. The latter was Hillary Clinton‘s running mate and Pence’s adversary in October’s vice president debate.

“Opportunities to work together on issues like infrastructure and child care we think represent a significant chance to bring together leaders in both political parties,” Pence said after meeting with Kaine.

Pence’s early days in Washington were marked more by his role as a conservative purist than deal-maker.

He opposed the Bush administration on issues such as the president’s No Child Left Behind education law and an overhaul of Medicare that provided new prescription drug coverage in 2003. Pence was a leading conservative voice, often arguing that the Republican administration had strayed from conservative principles and had failed to curb federal spending.

After Republicans were swept from power in the 2006 elections, Pence unsuccessfully challenged Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, to become minority leader. Two years later, Boehner backed Pence’s entry into the leadership team, elevating the Indiana congressman to chairman of the House GOP conference, the party’s No. 3 post.

One of the ways Pence built lasting ties with fellow lawmakers was through Bible study.

Pence often joined Ryan, House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, and Georgia Rep. Tom Price, Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, for weekly Bible study sessions. House Republicans say those are the types of interactions that will help him in Trump’s administration.

“Mike Pence is a House man. He cares about us and he will make sure that we are in the loop,” said Rep. Jack Carter, R-Texas, who also attended Bible study with Pence.

By having an office in the House along with the ceremonial one in the Senate for his role as the chamber’s president, Pence will follow a path set by Vice President Dick Cheney, a former Wyoming congressman who maintained a House office during the Bush presidency.

Pence’s conservative record gives rank-and-file Democrats few reasons to be hopeful that he could be a bipartisan deal-maker on Trump’s behalf.

Planned Parenthood, for example, mobilized after Ryan said he planned to strip federal dollars from their organization as part of repeal of Obama’s health care law. The organization pointed to Pence’s anti-abortion record and history of seeking to block federal dollars from the health care provider as one of the reasons for the quick GOP push.

“Mike Pence’s fingerprints are all over that,” said Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood’s executive vice president.

But Pence has tried to build some bridges.

When Manchin, a centrist Democrat facing re-election next year, called incoming Trump White House adviser Katie Walsh in early January to request a meeting with Pence, the senator found himself face to face with Pence only a few hours later. They exchanged cellphone numbers and Manchin again sat down with Pence on Wednesday for a discussion that included the Supreme Court vacancy and federal judicial appointments.

“My job is going to be trying to find pathways forward – how do you find a way to fix things, repair things and make things happen? So you’ve got to build these relationships,” Manchin said.

Republish with permission of The Associated Press.

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Randi Weingarten doesn’t share Jeb Bush embrace of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary

Though education was rarely discussed by Donald Trump on the campaign trail, at the top of his list of priorities was to spend $20 million on school choice, which would come from “reprioritizing federal dollars.” In picking Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos to serve as his Education Secretary, he made it clear that intended to make school choice and voucher plans for low-income families a focal point of his education agenda.

And Jeb Bush has been effusive in praising the selection every step of the way.

In November, the former Florida Governor described DeVos as an “outstanding pick” for to lead the Department of Education. In December, he said he was “so excited” when talking about her at the National Summit on Education Reform, sponsored by the Foundation for Excellence in Education, which he founded and chairs and on which DeVos serves as a board member.

Now, just before her confirmation hearing was set to take place (since postponed until next week), Bush is back again, penning a letter to the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, where DeVos will appear next week. In the note, he praises her as a “champion of families, not institutions.”

“For her, local control of education decisions means local control,” he wrote. “She trusts parents to choose what is in their unique child’s best interests, and she believes in providing every parent with the resources to pursue those decisions.”

DeVos is a leader in the movement to privatize the U.S. public-education system but has quickly become a lightning rod in the education world since her nomination by the president-elect.

One of her biggest critics is Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, the one-million-member-plus union that endorsed Hillary Clinton in November’s presidential election. She says that DeVos simply doesn’t believe in public education.

“These are the schools that 90 percent of children go to,” Weingarten told FloridaPolitics on Monday afternoon. “The job of an education secretary, not a lobbyist, but an education secretary, is to strengthen and improve public schools. Her entire ideology, her zealousness, her lobbying for the last two-to-three decades has been to undermine public education.”

Weingarten said that was most evident in the past year in Michigan, where she says DeVos “fought aggressively against the consensus” that the establishment in Detroit had envisioned recreating a public school system.

One of DeVos’ various groups, the Great Lakes Education Project, supported an A-F accountability system that the state created for Detroit. But POLITICO reports that the group fought back hard against a proposed Detroit commission focused on improving both charters and traditional schools, contending it would be beholden to the city’s mayor and school district officials.

“Her antipathy towards public schools is something that she has worn proudly on her sleeve,” says Weingarten.

Bush’s embracing of DeVos isn’t just turning off officials with the teacher’s unions. As quickly became apparent on the campaign trail in early 2015, the one-time presidential candidate’s support for federal Common Core standards was a big turnoff for some conservative groups.

Jane Robbins, a senior fellow with the American Principles Project in Washington, penned a column on the Townhall website calling DeVos selection “Jeb’s Revenge.”

“Jeb Bush and his ideological compatriots, including DeVos, advance what could be called a “government-foundation cartel” model of educational policy-making,” Robbins wrote. “Private foundations funded by wealthy individuals (who themselves may be dilettantes with no real experience in education) contribute ideas, and frequently personnel, to the government to achieve their policy goals.”

Robbins went on to say Bush “surely believes she’ll use the stratagems the cartel has employed for so long to impose its own vision of what American education should be. DeVos must instead assure the grassroots that she’ll use her new position to eliminate federal interference and truly return education policy to the states. Trump was elected to achieve that goal, not to install Jeb’s agenda. He should make sure DeVos understands that.”

Weingarten criticizes Bush’s education policies in Florida, saying he became obsessed with high stakes testing.

“Look at what Jeb Bush did, and all the work that was promised, by Jeb Bush, by George W. Bush, to have funding going into reading or any kind of investment to actually ensure that high standards were realized,” she says. “None of that materialized in Florida.”

Weingarten adds: “What happened instead was this competition amongst schools, this corporatization among schools, and this disruption which created huge anxieties amongst parents, teachers and children which cut the funding in so many different places and which created these restaurant-like reports cards from A to E or F that reduced everything to testing. Teachers were subjected to test based evaluation as opposed to other kinds of evaluation, and you see fewer people going into teaching and lack of joy in schools throughout Florida, and where superintendents rose up against it, parents rose up against it, and people have been fighting it, tooth and nail.”

DeVos confirmation is now scheduled to take place January 17.

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