Opinion | A Democrat Who Can Beat Trump – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

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Opinion Columnist

Amy Klobuchar at a campaign event in Las Vegas.
Credit…Joe Buglewicz for The New York Times

If you’re like a lot of Democrats, you worry that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are too liberal — or at least that other voters think so. You’re also not buying the Pete Buttigieg hype. And you get nervous every time Joe Biden opens his mouth.

So where are you supposed to find a comfortably electable, qualified candidate who won’t turn 80 while in office?

Senator Amy Klobuchar has become an answer to that question in the final month before voting begins. She has outlasted more than a dozen other candidates and has two big strengths: A savvy understanding of how to campaign against President Trump and a track record of winning the sorts of swing voters Democrats will likely need this year.

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Klobuchar, to be sure, is not a finished product as a presidential candidate. Too often, she sounds like a senator speaking in legislative to-do lists rather than a future president who can inspire voters. That tendency — along with too much needling of other candidates, instead of focusing on her own message — was evident in the most recent debate.

Opinion | Biden’s Republican V.P.? – By David Leonhardt  – The New York Times

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Opinion Columnist

Credit…Elizabeth Frantz for The New York Times

“About 70 percent of Americans identify themselves as either politically conservative or moderate, polls show. A large number of Americans also consistently say that they want politicians to work together in a bipartisan way.

It’s true that these broad principles often don’t translate to individual issues: Voters are quite progressive on specific matters of economic policy, for example. But many Americans clearly like to see themselves as supporters of common-sense compromise.

Given this desire, the smart thing for politicians to do is signal their own support for compromise — especially if they’re able to do so in vague ways that won’t cause them future problems. Joe Biden is quite good at sending these signals. He’s done so several times in the current campaign, most recently this week, when a voter in New Hampshire asked if he would consider naming a Republican as his vice president. Biden replied: “The answer is I would, but I can’t think of one now.” “

Opinion | The Presidential Nominating Process Is Absurd – by David Leonhardt – The New York Times

“The current system may seem as if it’s simply an expression of democracy, but it’s not. It’s one version of democracy. And it’s one that virtually no other country uses. In other democracies, political parties have more sway in selecting the nominee, and voters then choose among the major nominees. Until recently, the United States also gave party leaders a larger role in selecting nominees.

Today’s leaders have abdicated this job, afraid to do anything that might appear elitist because it substitutes the judgment of experts for that of ordinary citizens. The irony is that the new process may actually do a poorer job of picking nominees whom ordinary citizens like, as research by Dennis Spies and André Kaiser, looking across countries, suggests.

How could this be? When voters are given the dominant role in choosing a nominee — as with primaries here — only an unrepresentative subset tends to participate, which skews the process. Party leaders, on the other hand, have a big incentive to choose a broadly liked candidate. Just think about American history: Nominees chosen by party leaders have included Abraham Lincoln, both Roosevelts and Dwight Eisenhower.”

Opinion | The Eight Counts of Impeachment That Trump Deserves – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

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Opinion Columnist

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

“During Watergate, the House Judiciary Committee considered five articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon — and voted down two of them. During the impeachment of Bill Clinton, the House voted on four articles — and rejected two.

That history serves as a reminder that impeachment is not a neat process. It’s a chance for Congress and voters to hear the evidence against a president and decide which rise to the level of an impeachable offense.

My own instincts have leaned toward a targeted, easily understandable case against President Trump, focused on Ukraine. And that may still be the right call. But the House shouldn’t default to it without considering a larger airing of Trump’s crimes against the Constitution. A longer process, with more attention on his misdeeds, seems unlikely to help Trump’s approval rating.

So last week I posed a question to legal experts: If the House were going to forget about political tactics and impeach Trump strictly on the merits, how many articles of impeachment would there be?”

Opinion | A Win for Gerrymandering – by David Leonhardt – The New York Times

“North Carolina suffers from some of the most extreme gerrymandering in the country. Last year, Republicans only narrowly won the statewide popular vote in congressional elections, 50 percent to 48 percent. Yet they ultimately held on to 10 of North Carolina’s 13 congressional seats. Gerrymandering turned a nail-biter into a landslide.

The good news is that, in October, a state court ruled the congressional map to be illegal, thanks to its blatant “partisan intent.” The judges nudged the state legislature, which is controlled by Republicans, to draw districts that would more accurately reflect voters’ intent.

The bad news is that legislators drew another unfair map, albeit less unfair than the original.

The even worse news is that yesterday the same state court allowed the new map to stand. The judges cited the calendar, saying that rejecting the new map would effectively require the 2020 primaries to be delayed.”

Opinion | To Beat Trump, Focus on His Corruption –  by David Leonhardt – The New York Times

“Given the severity of Trump’s misbehavior — turning American foreign policy into an opposition-research arm of his campaign — Democrats had no choice but to start an impeachment inquiry. Yet they need to remember that impeachment is an inherently political process, not a technocratic legal matter. It will fail if it does not persuade more Americans of Trump’s unfitness for office. It will succeed only if he is not president on Jan. 21, 2021.

And it is far more likely to succeed if Democrats can connect it in voters’ minds to a larger argument about the substance of Trump’s presidency.

The most promising version of that argument revolves around corruption: The Ukraine quid pro quo matters because it shows how Trump has reneged on his promise to fight for ordinary Americans and is using the power of the presidency to benefit himself. As Leah Greenberg, a co-founder of the progressive group Indivisible, says: “This man is not working for you. He is working to put his own interests first. And he is endangering the country to do it.”

Corruption is one of the public’s top worries, surveys show. In an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll last year, people ranked the economy as the country’s most important issue, and No. 2 was “reducing the influence of special interests and corruption in Washington.” It’s a cross-partisan concern too, spanning Democrats, Republicans and independents.

The corruption argument can appeal to the swing voters who helped elect Barack Obama in 2012, flipped to Trump in 2016 and flipped back to Democrats in 2018. And despite wishful thinking by some progressives, winning swing voters — rather than simply motivating the base — will again be crucial in 2020. “You have to build a bridge for people to walk across,” said David Axelrod, the former Obama strategist, referring to Trump’s 2016 supporters. “If you say the guy is a reprobate and a sleaze and all of that, it’s harder for people who voted for him to walk across that bridge.”

Opinion | The Rich Really Do Pay Lower Taxes Than You – David Leonhardt – The New York Times

“Almost a decade ago, Warren Buffett made a claim that would become famous. He said that he paid a lower tax rate than his secretary, thanks to the many loopholes and deductions that benefit the wealthy.

His claim sparked a debate about the fairness of the tax system. In the end, the expert consensus was that, whatever Buffett’s specific situation, most wealthy Americans did not actually pay a lower tax rate than the middle class. “Is it the norm?” the fact-checking outfit Politifact asked. “No.”

Time for an update: It’s the norm now.

For the first time on record, the 400 wealthiest Americans last year paid a lower total tax rate — spanning federal, state and local taxes — than any other income group, according to newly released data.”

Opinion | Why I Changed My Mind About Impeachment – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

David Leonhardt

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Opinion Columnist

CreditCreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

“Impeachment is an inherently political process. The framers designed it that way. It is the ultimate way that one branch of the federal government can hold another branch accountable.

Impeachment is not like a criminal trial, in which a jury or judge is supposed to base a verdict only on what happens inside the courtroom. The Constitution’s standard for impeachment — “high crimes and misdemeanors” — is deliberately vague. The decisions about whether the House should impeach and whether the Senate should convict have always involved a mixture of law, politics and public opinion.

For this reason, I have long thought Democrats would be making a mistake by starting impeachment proceedings against President Trump, even though I also believed Trump was manifestly unfit for office.”

Opinion | How Impeachment Shifted – by David Leonhardt – The New York Times

David Leonhardt

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Opinion Columnist

CreditCreditNicholas Kamm/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“One week ago, it was already clear that President Trump, among his many unconstitutional misdeeds, had pressured Ukraine to smear Joe Biden. And yet the chances that the House Democratic Caucus was going to impeach Trump looked minuscule.

Today, the chances look significantly better. So what changed?

For the first time in a long time, Trump committed an act of lawlessness so extreme that it created a news story that managed to feel both fresh and surprising: A whistle-blower came forward to file a complaint about Trump lobbying the president of Ukraine during a phone call. The inspector general for the nation’s spy agencies found the complaint credible enough that he tried to refer it to Congress. It now seems Trump was using American foreign aid to threaten the Ukrainian President.

Appearances matter in politics.

Yes, Robert Mueller’s report contained extensive evidence of impeachable wrongdoing by Trump. Yet it didn’t contain as much evidence as many people expected. And Mueller was sufficiently feckless in his presentation of the report that Trump’s attorney general was able to misrepresent it.

As a result, Mueller’s evidence ended up resembling a lot of dry kindling that lacked a spark. The phone call to Ukraine, along with Trump’s potential refusal to let Congress investigate it, could well provide the spark.

[Listen to “The Argument” podcast every Thursday morning, with Ross Douthat, Michelle Goldberg and David Leonhardt.]

Some observers believe impeachment is now more likely than not. As Rachael Bade and Mike DeBonis of The Washington Post write, “many [House] leadership aides who once thought Trump’s impeachment was unlikely now say they think it’s almost inevitable.” In part, that’s because a growing list of people who have been somewhere between skeptical of impeachment and opposed to it — including Representative Adam Schiff and several House members from swing districts (as well as, much less significantly, me) — seem to be reassessing their views.”

Opinion | Donald Trump vs. the United States of America – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

David Leonhardt

By 

Opinion Columnist

CreditCreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

“Sometimes it’s worth stepping back to look at the full picture.

He has pressured a foreign leader to interfere in the 2020 American presidential election.

He urged a foreign country to intervene in the 2016 presidential election.

He divulged classified information to foreign officials.

He publicly undermined American intelligence agents while standing next to a hostile foreign autocrat.

He hired a national security adviser who he knew had secretly worked as a foreign lobbyist.

He encourages foreign leaders to enrich him and his family by staying at his hotels.

He genuflects to murderous dictators.

He has alienated America’s closest allies.

He lied to the American people about his company’s business dealings in Russia.

He tells new lies virtually every week — about the economy, voter fraud, even the weather.

He spends hours on end watching television and days on end staying at resorts.

He often declines to read briefing books or perform other basic functions of a president’s job.

He has aides, as well as members of his own party in Congress, who mock him behind his back as unfit for office.”