Senator Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat and a sharp critic of big banks and unregulated capitalism, entered the 2020 race for president on Monday, becoming the first major candidate in what is likely to be a long and crowded primary marked by ideological and generational divisions in a Democratic Party determined to beat President Trump.
Ms. Warren quickly made plans to campaign this weekend in Iowa, which holds the first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses in February 2020. The senator, who has not traveled to Iowa recently, announced Tuesday that she would visit several of the state’s major cities: Des Moines, Council Bluffs, Storm Lake and Sioux City.
The competition for the Democratic nomination is poised to be the most wide open since perhaps 1992: The party has no single leader, no obvious front-runner for 2020, and no broadly unifying ideology as it moves away from a quarter-century of dominance by the Clintons and Barack Obama.
After a midterm election in which many women, liberals, minorities and young Democrats won, the presidential primaries and caucuses next year are likely to be fought over not only who is the right policy match for the party, but also which mix of identities should be reflected in the next nominee. The range of candidates will also force Democratic voters to consider which electoral approach is best suited to defeat Mr. Trump, balancing questions of ideological purity with how to appeal to a wide range of demographic groups like white rural voters, suburban women, college students, and black and Latino Democrats in the South and the Sun Belt.
Ms. Warren, 69, is among the best-known Democrats seeking to take on Mr. Trump, whom she has denounced in the past as “a thin-skinned racist bully” and a “wannabe tyrant.” Mr. Trump, who has already announced his re-election campaign, frequently mocks her as “Pocahontas” because of her claims to Native American ancestry, a slur Native American groups have denounced as a racist epithet.
While Ms. Warren’s stinging attacks on Mr. Trump and Wall Street have helped make her a favorite of grass-roots liberals, she also faces challenges as a presidential candidate: controversy over a DNA test to prove her Native American heritage, skepticism from the party establishment and a lack of experience in a national race.
The editorial board of The Boston Globe, her hometown newspaper, recently urged her not to run for president, saying she had become “a divisive figure.” And some in her party believe she missed her best chance to run in 2016, when liberal activists urged her to challenge Hillary Clinton.
Two potential top-tier candidates who have run before, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Senator Bernie Sanders, are eyeing 2020 and are expected to disclose their plans this winter. Yet both men carry political baggage and would be in their late 70s on Election Day 2020, and many Democrats say they want a fresh face as their next nominee.
On Monday, Ms. Warren called Mr. Sanders — a fellow Senate liberal who is also popular with grass-roots activists — as a courtesy and had a brief, matter-of-fact conversation, according to a Democrat briefed on the call.
More than three dozen Democratic senators, governors, mayors and business leaders are also weighing bids — most of whom have not sought the White House before. The race is expected to draw several women and nonwhite contenders, making for the most diverse field in history. Several Senate colleagues of Ms. Warren’s are likely to enter the race soon: Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. A mix of liberal and more moderate politicians are also considering a run, including Michael R. Bloomberg, the billionaire former New York City mayor, who has said he is prepared to spend well over $100 million of his own money on the race.
Getting a jump on the competition, Ms. Warren plans to head not just to Iowa but other early voting states in the coming weeks. According to a person familiar with Ms. Warren’s thinking, the timing of her announcement had been decided weeks in advance.
In an email to supporters on Monday — 13 months before votes will be cast in Iowa — Ms. Warren said she was forming an exploratory committee, which allows her to raise money and fill staff positions before a formal start of her presidential bid.
On Monday afternoon outside her home in Cambridge, Mass., flanked by her husband, Bruce H. Mann, a professor at Harvard Law School, and their golden retriever, Bailey, Ms. Warren leaned into her stinging criticisms of wealthy financial interests as she ripped Mr. Trump and branded herself as a champion of the middle class.
“The problem we’ve got right now in Washington is that it works great for those who’ve got money to buy influence, and I’m fighting against that,” Ms. Warren said. “And you bet it’s going to make a lot of people unhappy. But at the end of the day, I don’t go to Washington to work for them.”
In her remarks before a pack of cameras, Ms. Warren shrugged at a question about how she had handled the release of her DNA test, reiterating that she had “put it all out there” and people could see the information for themselves.
She also took a revealing warning shot at the emerging field of presidential hopefuls. “I don’t think we ought to be running campaigns that are funded by billionaires, whether it goes through super PACs or their own money that they’re spending,” she said. “Democrats are the party of the people.”
Among grass-roots activists eager to highlight their message of a rigged economic system, there was particular excitement that a video released by Ms. Warren on Monday focused on issues like income inequality and corporate greed. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee said that “Elizabeth Warren meets the moment,” and Waleed Shahid, a spokesman for the leftist group Justice Democrats, said Ms. Warren’s “message of multiracial populism is exactly the right way to take on Trump’s divide-and-conquer agenda.”
In an interview set to air on Fox News on Monday night, Mr. Trump addressed Ms. Warren’s entrance into the race.
“She did very badly in proving that she was of Indian heritage,” Mr. Trump said, according to a partial transcript. “That didn’t work out too well. So, we’ll see how she does. I wish her well, I hope she does well, I’d love to run against her.”
A longtime bankruptcy law professor at Harvard who never held public office before 2013, Ms. Warren became the first woman elected to the Senate from Massachusetts after defeating a self-styled moderate Republican incumbent, Scott Brown, with a populist message based on advocacy for strict Wall Street regulation.
Ms. Warren has both assets and possible drawbacks in a White House run. Strategists for several other likely Democratic candidates say private polling found Ms. Warren’s political brand — as a warrior against powerful corporate interests — to be exceptionally strong with Democratic primary voters. Her signature initiative in recent months has been a sweeping bill to crack down on government corruption, effectively adapting her longtime focus on private-sector greed for the public-sector scandals of the Trump era.
But Ms. Warren has also become a favorite target of conservatives, who have sought to label her as an out-of-touch liberal from academia. In 2012, the political director for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said Ms. Warren represented a “threat to free enterprise,” and this year two Democratic senators — facing difficult re-election races in states Mr. Trump won in 2016 — took the unusual step of distancing themselves from Ms. Warren, their own colleague.
Sue Dvorsky, a former chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party, said in an interview Monday that it had been a mistake for Ms. Warren to spend so much time sparring in personal terms with Mr. Trump and called that a losing path for her or any other presidential candidate.
But Ms. Dvorsky also said Ms. Warren’s announcement video — particularly her focus on “how the middle class is being destroyed” — would resonate in Iowa.
“She has always done well in Iowa,” said Ms. Dvorsky, who recalled hosting Ms. Warren when she campaigned there for Democrats in the 2014 midterm elections. “She had people eating out of her hand, in tears, because her story is extremely powerful and she is a powerful teller of it.”
A Quinnipiac University poll in mid-December underscored Ms. Warren’s strengths as a primary candidate, finding her better known, and better liked, by Democrats than
any other candidate who had not run for president before. Three in five Democrats had a favorable opinion of her, compared with just 12 percent who viewed her unfavorably, a ratio outdone only by Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders.
To the extent that Democratic primary voters are inclined to cast their ballots tactically — in favor of a candidate who appears likeliest to beat Mr. Trump — Ms. Warren may have some serious convincing to do. She is regarded with anxiety by much of the Democratic political establishment, including some Senate colleagues who complain that she has pursued an inflexible agenda on matters like bank regulation at the cost of party unity.
During her Senate years, Ms. Warren has demonstrated the most influence as a member of the Banking Committee, aggressively questioning leaders of the financial industry about excesses and abuses, seeking accountability for the Great Recession and challenging the Obama and Trump administrations to take tougher lines on regulations and trade policy. In 2015, Ms. Warren sank the nomination of Antonio Weiss, the Wall Street banker selected by the Obama administration to serve as the third-ranking official at the Treasury Department, taking on her party on the grounds that Mr. Weiss, the former head of investment banking for Lazard, was too closely connected to the financial services industry to serve in public office.
The map of states with early nominating contests appears, at least on the surface, to be an inviting one for Ms. Warren: The race begins in Iowa, where Farm Belt populism long defined Democratic politics, before moving to her political backyard of New Hampshire. During the midterm elections, she got a rousing reception in Nevada, an early state that suffered grievously in the 2008 financial crisis, and where rhetoric lashing Wall Street and major mortgage lenders tends to resonate.
Ms. Warren’s prospects may also depend, in part, on which Democrats decide to run. Like other white liberals in a historically diverse field, Ms. Warren may have to work harder to win over black primary voters. African-American Democrats have played a decisive role in settling the last two open contests for the party’s nomination, and Ms. Warren is expected to be competing against her party’s only two black senators, Ms. Harris and Mr. Booker.
And several other fiery economic populists could join the Democratic field, including Mr. Sanders and Senators Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, potentially splintering the voters most energized by Ms. Warren’s core themes. Advisors to other top-tier candidates, who were granted anonymity because their campaigns are yet to be announced, said that while they were surprised that Ms. Warren had announced her candidacy before the new year, it would have no influence on their decisions.
But the same poll pointed to Ms. Warren’s likely challenges. Voters at large were far more divided in their views of her: Only about 30 percent viewed her favorably, with 37 percent holding an unfavorable view and the rest undecided.
Analysis: Deval Patrick revives debate over ‘electability’
Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick’s late entry into the presidential race offers Democrats a fresh — and perhaps last — chance to reassess who they think is the strongest candidate to take on President Donald Trump.
It adds to the now months-long debate within the Democratic Party over “electability” less than three months before the first votes are cast. For a party that prides itself on diversity, the answers so far have been consistent and, to some, frustrating — a top tier dominated by white candidates, only one of whom is a woman.
But Patrick’s campaign is a reminder of the divergent paths to victory for presidential hopefuls. White candidates must prove they can win over black voters. Blacks and other minority contenders, however, must show they can build white support.
That type of multiracial coalition has eluded virtually everyone in the race except Joe Biden, who — for now — has deep support among black voters in addition to working-class whites. Those who assess that backing as soft, however, see an opening for a moderate candidate like Patrick, a black governor who made history winning in a majority-white state.
That, some strategists say, differentiates Patrick from Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey, the two other major black candidates whose past electoral success has come in more diverse states and who are lagging in the presidential polls.
“Kamala Harris and Cory Booker are well-funded, high-profile black candidates, but have not been able to rise during a cycle where appeals to black voters are central to who will be the eventual winner of the primary,” said Democratic strategist Joel Payne. He said the election will confront what stigma still exists with white voters toward black candidates in the post-Barack Obama era.
“We can make the assumption that Patrick will be the next black candidate to face this test, but his appeal is altogether different than Booker and Harris,” Payne said. “The Patrick candidacy is an appeal to moderation and to the center-left more than a direct appeal to black voters.”
In 2008, then-Sen. Obama was the lone black candidate in the Democratic primary field and didn’t begin to gain momentum until the final weeks before the Iowa caucuses, trailing Hillary Clinton and John Edwards for much of the contest. But Obama’s showing— winning an overwhelmingly white electorate — gave him momentum to convince black voters in South Carolina and across the Black Belt that he was viable.
Obama’s diverse coalition was a new blueprint in Democratic electoral mapmaking, earning him the party’s nomination and his history-making general election victory. Observers say it’s an electorate Democrats will have to replicate to win in 2020.
The trio of African Americans have taken different approaches in how they contend with the racial aspects of their candidacies.
Harris announced her candidacy on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and has unique status as an alumna of historically black Howard University, member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, and the lone black woman in the 2020 fray.
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker announced during Black History Month. The former mayor of Newark touts his residency in an impoverished black neighborhood in the city but has also sought to cast himself as a bridge builder — pointing out his ties to a civil rights legacy that changed his family’s trajectory with intervention from progressive whites that helped him integrate his childhood neighborhood.
In a brief interview Friday, he encouraged voters to “pull the lens back on diversity.”
“We have women in this race, we have an openly gay person in this race, we have (a) biracial person in this race, African-Americans in this race,” he said. “It is an incredible moment in American history that our field is so diverse and that voters have such qualified folks to choose from.”
Patrick himself has made relatively few references to race since launching his campaign. But as he registered this week to appear on the ballot in the New Hampshire primary, he spoke of the “skepticism” he has experienced as a black man.
“He has demonstrated an ability to win over white voters in an overwhelmingly white state,” said Democratic strategist Doug Thornell. “The question is whether he has enough time, whether he can raise the money, and whether he can carve out a compelling narrative and identity that allows him to break through. That’s a lot to accomplish in two months, but it’s not crazy.”
His path would be a challenging one. Though Patrick is not a national name, he is fairly well-known in neighboring New Hampshire, where voters saw television ads for his gubernatorial campaigns.
A strong finish in the Granite State could provide momentum heading into South Carolina, disrupting the field and leaving no clear frontrunner heading into Super Tuesday, said Thornell.
“If you look at the African American candidates running, he might be the best positioned to pull that off,” Thornell said.
Patrick’s late entry is reminiscent of Gen. Wesley Clark’s 11th-hour bid in 2003. Clark was able to briefly break through after some among the electorate worried about then-Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry’s path to the nomination, or that former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean was too liberal.
As a prominent African American who can appeal to black and white voters, Patrick could appeal to soft Biden voters looking for an alternative to Booker or Harris, or who don’t like Sen. Elizabeth Warren or Sen. Bernie Sanders’ progressive agenda, said Democratic strategist Adrienne Elrod.
“He can create that ‘I’m more left than Biden, but not crazy like Warren/Sanders’ message,” Elrod said. “He could appeal to some of those voters who are on the fence and not satisfied with others in the field. He can say, ‘I can be your candidate.’”
— Errin Haines
White House beancounter defies Trump to tell impeachment inquiry about $400M in suspended Ukraine aid
A White House budget official defied President Trump and testified Saturday in the House impeachment inquiry about the controversial suspension of defense aid to Ukraine.
Mark Sandy, a career Office of Management and Budget official, told lawmakers that he raised questions about whether the decision by Trump acolytes to hold up $400 million in desperately needed military assistance violated laws mandating money allocated by Congress be spent, CNN reported.
The budget expert did not explain what reasons were given for the hold up in aid. He testified behind closed doors in a rare Saturday session as the impeachment investigation continues to deliver heavy blows to Trump.
Sandy acted on orders to put an initial hold on the aid in late July and the issue was later handed over to Trump political appointees.
The aid was already appropriated by Congress, meaning the White House would have had to offer a legally valid reason for withholding it.
It’s not known what explanation if any, was given for removing the suspension from Sandy’s purview.
Sandy’s testimony shone a harsh spotlight on Mick Mulvaney, who is both the OMB director and Trump’s acting chief of staff.
“Mulvaney not only has refused to testify, but actively worked to block others from complying with subpoenas,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Cal.) in a statement. “(He also) refused to provide Congress with documents relating to Trump’s suspension of Congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine.
Mulvaney admitted that Trump imposed an improper “quid pro quo” on Ukraine at a disastrous press conference although he later sought to walk back his admission. He has refused to testify to the impeachment probe.
A key contention of impeachment advocates is that Trump suspended the aid so he could use it as leverage to force Ukraine into launching bogus investigation of Trump’s Democratic rivals.
In fact, the suspension of aid shocked Ukraine officials and reportedly led them to consider announcing the corruption probes to get the cash flowing again.
By that time, in early September, the intelligence whistleblower complaint had hit the headlines, forcing the White House to reinstate the aid without getting the investigations announcement that Trump wanted.
In a statement Saturday, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, called out Mulvaney for refusing to testify.
“If Mulvaney had evidence that contradicted what we’ve already heard, he’d be eager to testify and provide documents. Instead, he’s hiding behind, and assisting in, Trump’s efforts to conceal the truth from the American people,” Schiff said.
Also on Saturday, impeachment investigators released the transcripts of depositions given by deputy assistant to the president Timothy Morrison, and Vice President Pence’s special adviser on Europe and Russia, Jennifer Williams.
In Morrison’s Oct. 31 deposition, he testified U.S. Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland told him he’d spoken with Ukrainian presidential aide Andriy Yermak about American military funding being conditioned on corruption investigations. “My concern was what Gordon was proposing about getting the Ukrainians pulled into our politics,” Morrison testified.
In Williams’ Nov. 7 deposition, she confirmed that Trump told Pence to not attend the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s inauguration in an apparent signal that he needed to pursue the corruption probes or be frozen out of the military aid.
“My understanding from my colleague—and, again, I wasn’t there for the conversation—was that the President asked the Vice President not to attend,” she testified.
By DAVE GOLDINER
Social networks have been weaponized for the impeachment hearings
Impeachment hearings got underway in the House of Representatives this week, as you likely noticed from the wall-to-wall coverage. The process involves the sort of high-stakes, highly partisan events that naturally dominate social feeds. What television was to impeachment in the 1970s and 1990s, Facebook and Twitter — and YouTube and maybe TikTok — will be to impeachment in 2019.
The hearings on President Donald Trump’s apparent attempted bribery of Ukraine won’t be the first time a president has had to contend with, or benefit from, a hyper-partisan media. Conservative talk radio and Fox News were in full swing when Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998, even if their rhetoric looks quaint by today’s standard. But the World Wide Web was in its infancy, and the world was then still innocent of algorithmically sorted news feeds, partisan bot armies, and state-sponsored meme warfare.
Not anymore. If the first day of hearings is any indication, social networks promise to play a powerful role in shaping the way that impeachment hearings are understood by Americans. They are also playing a powerful role in shaping the hearings themselves.
As Ryan Broderick documented at BuzzFeed, Republican lawmakers used their time during Wednesday’s hearing to promote discredited conspiracy theories that are popular on right-wing message boards:
There is one America that believes what was in former FBI director Robert Mueller’s report, that there was coordinated Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, which helped the Trump campaign. But there is a second America that believes that in the summer of 2016, the Democratic National Committee colluded with Ukrainian nationals to frame the Trump campaign for collusion with Russia, implicating a Ukrainian American DNC contractor, Alexandra Chalupa, in the collusion and the California-based cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike in the subsequent cover-up.
This unfounded theory has been propped up by a 2017 Politico story; reporting from right-wing political commentator John Solomon published earlier this year in the Hill; Attorney General Bill Barr’s summer travels; the yearlong personal investigation into Ukraine conducted by Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer working for Trump; and coverage from Fox News and conservative news sites. All of that came into play during Wednesday’s hearing, sometimes implicitly and sometimes explicitly.
After Republican members of Congress promoted these various smokescreens, right-wing media universally dismissed the hearing — either as an absurd exercise led by clowns, or as an outrageous abuse of power. Brian Stelter described the atmosphere on cable news:
Here’s what else I heard: Wednesday’s hearing was a bust. It was all just hearsay. It was a “disaster” for the Democrats and a “great day” for the Republicans. Impeachment is “stupid.” Impeachment is “fake.” There’s nothing impeachable here. There’s no reason to hold hearings. This inquiry needs to stop right now.
The message was one-sided and overwhelming. Every host and practically every guest said the Republican tribe is winning and the Democrat tribe is losing. I’m sure the president loved watching every minute of it. That’s one of the reasons why this right-wing rhetoric matters so much — because it is reassuring and emboldening Trump.
Meanwhile, if you’re reading the New York Times or watching CNN, you’re getting the sense that the case against Trump is a slam dunk, with multiple people having heard the president directly pressure his ambassador to the European Union to pursue a bribery plot. As Ezra Klein wrote recently, this impeachment is “the easiest possible test case for can our system hold a president accountable.” And yet with something like 40 percent of the country living in an alternate media universe, the basic, actual facts of the case may never penetrate into their reality.
Of course, that fear was one of the best reasons for Democrats to initiate impeachment proceedings in the first place: Show people real witnesses answering important questions over a long enough period of time — train everyone’s eyes on the same set of facts — and maybe a greater consensus will emerge.
Time will tell if they succeed. In the meantime, impeachment has proven to be big business on Facebook — where politicians are taking out highly partisan ads consistent with their respective worldviews. Emily Stewart and Rani Molla have a thorough walkthrough of how impeachment is playing out on Facebook, with Trump and Sen. Elizabeth Warren using ads to fire up their base and build their donor rolls; Tom Steyer using impeachment as a signature issue to promote his presidential candidacy; and a spice company buying tens of thousands of dollars worth of pro-impeachment advertising because they spread farther on Facebook than non-impeachment ads, resulting in a better return on investment.
Much of the debate about whether Facebook should allow political advertising noted that it represents a small fraction of the company’s business. But as the Vox writers note, that doesn’t mean it’s an insignificant business:
Facebook itself has grown into a formidable political platform in recent years, with campaigns and outside groups spending $284 million on the platform during the midterm elections, according to a report by Tech for Campaigns, a nonprofit that helps political campaigns with digital tools. While that’s just a small share of Facebook’s overall ad revenue, it’s a growing chunk of what campaigns are spending to reach constituents.
As impeachment hearings intensify, it seems likely politicians’ spending on Facebook ads will increase. And a good number of those ads, like so much about impeachment in 2019, will seem to have been created in a parallel world. In many ways, they were.
read more theverge.com
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