Interview: What drives Senator Jeff Merkley

“We need to use every tool we have to reclaim our country,” U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley told me during his latest visit to Des Moines. “We are at the verge of a tipping point, and maybe we’re almost past it, in which the power of the mega-wealthy is so profound that we can’t tip the balance back in to we the people.”

The senator from Oregon spent much of Labor Day weekend in central Iowa supporting Democratic candidates for the state legislature. His fifth trip here since the 2016 election won’t be his last: he will be a featured speaker at the Polk County Steak Fry later this month. During our September 2 interview, I asked Merkley about the most important matters pending in the U.S. Senate, prospects for Democrats in November, and his possible presidential candidacy.

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Trump won't call out neo-Nazis. Republicans must hold him accountable

What a discouraging weekend for the country. Hundreds of white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, Virginia on Friday night, carrying torches and chanting racist and anti-Semitic slogans. The next day, police mostly stood by while racists (some displaying swastika flags or calling out the Nazi slogan “blood and soil”) clashed with counter-protesters during “the largest public gathering of white supremacists in decades.” One of those anti-fascist protesters, Heather Heyer, was killed after a car struck her while driving into a crowd, allegedly intentionally. Virginia state troopers Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates died in a helicopter crash while assisting in the law enforcement response to the “Unite the Right” rally.

Many Republican officials, including Iowa’s top GOP leaders, condemned this weekend’s acts of domestic terrorism and racist hatred. But President Donald Trump–long an inspiration to white nationalists and neo-Nazis–deliberately avoided calling out the instigators in Charlottesville.

Politicians who enthusiastically campaigned for Trump and continue to support him must demand much more.

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How liberal is the American Heartland? It depends...

Kent R. Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant who has measured and analyzed public opinion for public and private sector clients for more than 30 years. -promoted by desmoinesdem

The American Heartland is not as conservative as some Republicans want you to believe, nor is it as liberal as some Democrats would prefer.

Like the nation writ large, the American Heartland is dominated by centrists who make up nearly half of the vote-eligible population.

That conclusion is based on my analysis of the recently released 2016-17 American National Election Study (ANES), which is a nationally-representative election study fielded every two years by Stanford University and The University of Michigan and is available here.

Across a wide-array of issues, most Heartland vote-eligible adults do not consistently agree with liberals or conservatives. They are, as their group’s label suggests, smack dab in the middle of the electorate.

However, on the issues most important to national voters in 2016 — the economy, jobs, national security, and immigration — there is a conservative skew in the opinions of the Heartland. The Iowa Democratic Party, as well as the national party, must recognize this reality as they try to translate the energy of the “resistance” into favorable and durable election outcomes in 2018.

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Weekend open thread: Threats to national security edition

What’s on your mind, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

Only one week into Donald Trump’s presidency, the outrages are piling up. Philip Rucker and David Filipov report today for the Washington Post that Trump has restructured the National Security Council to give his political strategist Steve Bannon a permanent spot on the “principals committee” of senior officials. Meanwhile, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence will no longer be regular members of that committee. President George W. Bush never allowed his hatchet man Karl Rove to attend National Security Council meetings.

Trump issued several executive orders this week related to immigration. The most controversial (and probably unconstitutional) one restricts entry from seven countries–but maybe not for Christians from those areas. Despite the trending hashtag #MuslimBan, the order is technically not a ban on Muslims entering the U.S.–though Rudy Giuliani says Trump asked advisers to help him accomplish that goal through legal means. The White House is portraying the order as an anti-terrorism measure, but knowledgeable people know otherwise.

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Weekend open thread: 9/11 memories

Fifteen years later, images of the burning and collapsing World Trade Center towers are fresh in the minds of just about everyone old enough to remember 9/11. All topics are welcome in this thread, including any reflections on that horrific day.

Many people casually refer to “3,000 Americans” killed on 9/11, but hundreds of the victims were from other countries. Last year, the Brilliant Maps website posted a map created by reddit user thepenaltytick, showing all countries that lost at least one citizen. Most of the globe is covered.

The United Kingdom lost 67 citizens (some tourists, others working in the U.S.), making 9/11 the deadliest terror attack in that country’s history.

I was living in London fifteen years ago. Having watched the BBC’s uneventful news over lunch, I turned off the tv to get back to work on my dissertation. Around 2:00 pm, which would have been 9:00 am in New York, someone called and told me to turn the tv back on. I was glued to the BBC for the rest of the day and night. Watching the people trapped on the roof of the World Trade Center, I couldn’t understand why none of the helicopters could get close enough to rescue them before the towers collapsed. I could not believe a plane was able to crash into the Pentagon.

In Britain, as in the U.S., there was a tremendous public outpouring of grief after the attacks. British people are normally reserved with strangers, but many approached me after hearing my American accent in a shop or a train station, just to say how very sorry they were about what had happened in my country. UPDATE: Added below photos a reader sent, showing piles of flowers and gifts and notes left outside the U.S. embassy in London in September 2001.

I didn’t lose any friends on 9/11, and only one of my acquaintances lost a loved one that day; his father was on one of the planes that hit the towers. Even without experiencing a personal bereavement, I felt enraged, especially when reading newspaper profiles of the victims. During the Jewish high holidays in late September 2001, the last thing I felt like doing was reflecting on the past and forgiving wrongs from the past year. At that time, I heard a BBC radio segment featuring the UK’s Chief Rabbi, David Sacks. He reminded listeners that the Bible (he meant the Hebrew Scriptures or “Old Testament”) tells us once to love our neighbors, but tells us approximately 30 times to love the stranger. That’s because it is easier to love our neighbor, who is probably a lot like ourselves, than it is to love a stranger. It’s the only quote I remember from what must have been dozens of radio commentaries by Sacks I heard during my years abroad.

This week, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein called for a new investigation of the 9/11 events. Stein is headlining a rally at the state capitol in Des Moines today from 3 pm to 5:30. To any readers who attend: feel free to write about the speakers or crowd atmosphere in a comment or a guest post for Bleeding Heartland later. MSNBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald analyzed Stein’s campaign strategy a few weeks ago, arguing she “seems unsure how to speak to anyone this side of Noam Chomsky” and has “misread” the Bernie Sanders playbook while attempting to appeal to Sanders supporters.

Big news on Friday: in a move without precedent, the Obama administration ordered that construction of the Dakota Access (Bakken) pipeline “will not go forward at this time” on Army Corps land bordering or under a North Dakota lake on Standing Rock Sioux tribal land. Gavin Aronsen wrote up the story for Iowa Informer. The federal action will not affect Bakken pipeline construction in Iowa. Though the project will probably be completed in all four states eventually, James MacPherson reported for the Associated Press that the government’s intervention “may forever change the way all energy infrastructure projects [affecting tribal land] are reviewed in the future.”

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