Seth Moulton is only 2020 candidate who sponsored legislation that would restrict taxpayer aid to Israeli units who abuse Palestinian children

Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, who has a reputation for being a more pro-business Democrat, announced that he is running for president this week.

Despite his reputation for being less friendly to some left-wing causes, Moulton did co-sponsor the HR 4391, the  Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act.

Under this legislation, the Secretary of State would have to certify that taxpayer aid isn’t being used to detain or abuse Palestinian children. It is to my knowledge the only piece of legislation in Congress that could restrict any type of aid to Israel.

Several other 2020 contenders — Democratic Reps. O’Rourke, Gabbard, Ryan, and Swalwell — all failed to endorse this legislation. No Senate companion exists although it is worth asking Senators if they would support this legislation.

A lawyer who defended Chiquita from death squads lawsuits, a Goldman Sachs lobbyist, and other interesting donors to Mayor Pete

When Mayor Pete raised an impressive $7 million in his first quarter, I was curious about how he raised so much money. 64 percent of his donations are under $200; donors who give less than that we usually call small donors. However, donations are not the same thing as donors because donors sometimes give more than once (this is one reason why campaigns ask you to donate repeatedly, or donate just $1 to inflate their number of donors).

I was looking through Mayor Pete’s FEC filings and found some interesting big donors:

Some candidates are prohibiting donations from lobbyists or at least corporate lobbyists and many candidates are prohibiting donations from corporate PACs (although it’s not clear what is a corporate PAC and what isn’t). Ultimately the best way to keep big donors from having disproportionate impact would be to have a campaign that is mostly small donors. Any candidate could, for instance, propose a lifetime cap of $200 on what any individual donor is allowed to give to them, however no candidate has taken that step.


Constructive criticism of the Center for American Progress has helped make it more transparent and responsive over time

By now many readers have likely seen Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders’s salvo at the D.C.-based think atnk Center for American Progress — claiming it is attacking progressives and noting it has been financed by corporations and foreign governments.

I think many would wonder what the merits of these criticisms are. Is there a point to clashing with CAP?

My day job is to study and work on social and political polarization, and so I try to keep my political engagement to three areas based off what I’m learning there: keep your political criticism measured, civil, and constructive.

What can be demonstrated from the evidence is that constructive criticism of CAP has pushed it to improve its transparency and responsiveness.

For instance, CAP did not always disclose most of its donors. While I worked at the institution from 2009-2012, most of its donors were kept secret. However, following investigations by journalist Ken Silverstein, the think tank decided to disclose most of its donors.

Similarly, I wrote several articles based off of presumably hacked and leaked emails from the inbox of the Ambassador from the United Arab Emirates that showed that the UAE was both financing CAP and using its senior staff to lobby the Trump administration and influence Washington policy. After a series of articles noting these ties, CAP eventually decided to end its financial relationship with the UAE, as was reported earlier this year.

Measured, constructive, and civil criticism gives us room to strongly disagree with others in politics while still influencing them to do the right thing. That has been the case with CAP in the past, and it’s possible that Sanders’s campaign against them could achieve one of two things: 1) It could influence them to end the practice of soliciting corporate donors and giving them access to their policymaking process 2) It could influence them to have a transparent and democratic process for how they influence policymakers — rather than a tiny handful of people with D.C. jobs influencing policy, they could have a grassroots, national network deciding their direction and how they influence the government.



The only major think tank in America that advocates for open borders is the right-libertarian Cato Institute

In a sign that history doesn’t repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme, Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders once again stated his opposition to open borders, a position that provoked some criticism on the online left in 2016, and is doing so now as well:

In 2016, Sanders called open borders a “Koch brothers” idea, which as I wrote at the time, it sort of is — the intellectual networks that promote such an idea are on the right-libertarian part of the spectrum, some of them funded by the Kochs.

This time around, Sanders is basically arguing that if you have a completely open border with unlimited immigration, you will not be able to sustain a welfare state or decent economy for folks already here in the U.S. Which, of course, is true. There is no country in the world with a robust welfare state and open borders. Unlimited competition would decimate parts of the American middle class, whose wages are essentially inflated by the border, which is an economic barrier.

In fact, the only mainstream think tank I am aware of which advocates for a completely open border is the Cato Institute, which is indeed a Koch-funded libertarian-right think tank. This isn’t an insult — we recently had a great Cato Institute researcher on my podcast, Extremely Offline — it’s just a fact that the labor-left does not and has never supported open borders. That’s the Sanders tradition.

Cato also wants to see no minimum wage — not only do they want to eliminate the federal minimum wage, they want Congress to prohibit local and state governments from establishing their own minimum wages. They are hardcore enough about preventing any sort of market or efficiency barrier that they are straight up throwing federalism out the window.

The left, on the other hand, generally supports market barriers. They love unions, for instance, which inflate wages by limiting the supply of labor. Unlimited immigration and no borders — the free movement of capital and labor across the lines of nation-states — would increase competition, lower prices, and lower wages. That’s not the left’s agenda.

So why is it folks at Vox and Splinter have opposing views? My guess is that they are rooted in a different type of ideology, which is not about economics. Their philosophy is based on multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism. These are values that most people in the U.S. share to some extent — this is probably the most pro-immigration country on planet Earth — but most Americans do hold some nationalistic ideas, especially people from lower-class backgrounds.. For instance, we know that white liberals tend to be more pro-immigration than people from ethnic minority groups. And we know that anxiety about immigration is a global phenomena, that is not limited to any racial group or nationality.

The new liberal upper class does not view immigration as a threat to their livelihoods — they view it as providing cultural and social enrichment. The view is very different for most Americans, who by and large support immigration but do not support open borders.

If 80 percent of Americans do not support open borders, as polling shows, and Sanders is taking that position, he is simply being a normal left populist — someone who takes the position of the majority of the people. That’s democracy. He isn’t an elitist, which is the position taken by writers at Vox, Splinter, and the Cato Institute.


Mayor Pete criticizes Hillary Clinton’s America is Already Great messaging, but endorsed her months after she started using it — helping defeat Bernie Sanders in Indiana

Mayor Pete Buttigieg is seeing a bit of a boost, partly due to sympathetic media coverage and partly due to the fact he’s a pretty solid retail politician.

Part of Buttigieg’s appeal may be that he can portray himself as outside the traditional political system, and a fresh face as a red state mayor who is touting some reformist ideas like filibuster reform.

But during the most pivotal chance to change the orientation of the Democratic Party — the 2016 primary — Buttigieg played it safe and conventional, swooping in to endorse Clinton on the cusp of the Indiana primary, which Clinton barely defeated Sanders in.

As I mentioned earlier, Buttigieg is a competent politician. So he’s spent his campaign for the Democratic nomination so far distancing himself from Clinton.

Clinton was already using the rhetoric Mayor Pete criticized as early as February 2016, four months prior to when Buttigieg decided to endorse her over the populist Sanders.

This suggests that Buttigieg either endorsed a candidate whose messaging he found to be ineffective, or that he had some other reason to endorse her. But it certainly suggests that he wasn’t thinking very outside the box in 2016.

Update: It’s true that Clinton narrowly lost the popular vote in Indiana, but she won in delegates, based on pledged vs. unpledged. Sanders would have won the state with a higher popular vote.

Bernie Sanders has a habit of avoiding the press, and he hasn’t rectified it yet

I spent quite a bit of time on Capitol Hill asking Members of Congress questions about various things. Some Senators loved to court the press, and the press loved them back for it — like Arizona Republican John McCain.

Vermont’s Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, was notorious for never taking questions in the Capitol (you could set up an interview with him beforehand, but that was pretty much it, good luck just walking up to him).

As The Atlantic’s Edward-Isaac Dovere noted, Sanders is standing alone among leading 2020 candidates in not doing open pressers:

Beyond this just being bad form (I have been reporting for a decade now, so I naturally have to take the side of reporters!) it also creates ill feelings from the press. When Hillary Clinton developed a similar habit during her race for the presidency, it no doubt embittered reporters.

Sanders’s team could for their benefit, and the press’s, and the public, start offering competent press access if they want to prove that Sanders will be an open and accessible president. I’m not sure he has the communications or press staff in place to manage this strategy well yet (his staff are for the most part very new to politics, which is an odd choice for the leading candidate in the entire race sitting on more than $10 million, but perhaps that’s another post…)


National poll: Age, Race, and Gender of presidential nominee not important for most Democratic voters

An interesting tidbit from this new Quinnipiac Poll:


Democrats and Democratic leaners say 70 – 27 percent that age is not an important factor in their vote. Looking at other possible factors, these voters say:

  • 72 – 21 percent that political ideology is an important factor;
  • 67 – 23 percent that bipartisanship is an important factor;
  • 71 – 24 percent that standing up to Republicans is important;
  • 76 – 20 percent that electability is important;
  • 87 – 10 percent that sharing their views is important;
  • 84 – 13 percent, including 75 – 25 percent among black voters, that race is not an important factor;
  • 84 – 12 percent, including 83 – 14 percent among women, that gender is not important.

These categories are often elevated by political pundits, but they seem to have very little influence over actual voters, at least if they’re being honest with pollsters.