Mother Jones' Josh Harkinson reported earlier today that the Trump campaign selected white nationalist leader William Johnson as a delegate in California.

Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks just issued this statement about it to the Washington Post:

Yesterday the Trump campaign submitted its list of California delegates to be certified by the Secretary of State of California. A database error led to the inclusion of a potential delegate that had been rejected and removed from the campaign’s list in February 2016.

Read Harkinson's full story.

UPDATE, 5:48 p.m. ET: "Database error" was apparently the Trump campaign's second attempt at an explanation.

Meet the chairman of the American Freedom Party:

William D. Johnson, J.D., is an international corporate lawyer practicing in Los Angeles....As Chairman of the American Third Position, he serves the purpose of speaking on behalf of the party, and championing its sensible and just policies before the American people. He is also, more than any other, responsible for safeguarding the course, values, and program of the party.

And now, meet the American Freedom Party:

White Americans should push back! Change your party allegiance to the American Freedom Party. A Nationalist party that shares the customs and heritage of the European American people....Return to Americans their traditional right of freedom of association, including freedom in racial matters, along with the abolishment of all forms of government- and corporate-mandated racial discrimination and racial preferences, such as affirmative action, quotas, and all forms of “sensitivity training.”

Finally, courtesy of MoJo's own Josh Harkinson, meet Donald Trump's newest delegate from the great state of California:

Trump's slate includes William Johnson, one of the country's most prominent white nationalists...."I just hope to show how I can be mainstream and have these views," Johnson tells Mother Jones. "I can be a white nationalist and be a strong supporter of Donald Trump and be a good example to everybody."

....Armed with cash from affluent donors and staffed by what the movement considers to be its top thinkers, AFP now dedicates most of its resources to supporting Trump. Johnson claims that AFP's pro-Trump robocalls, which have delivered Johnson's personal cellphone number to voters in seven states, have helped the party find hundreds of new members. "[Trump] is allowing us to talk about things we've not been able to talk about," Johnson says. "So even if he is not elected, he has achieved great things."

....Johnson also now finds it easier to be himself: "For many, many years, when I would say these things, other white people would call me names: 'Oh, you're a hatemonger, you're a Nazi, you're like Hitler,'" he confessed. "Now they come in and say, 'Oh, you're like Donald Trump.'"

See? Donald Trump is already making America great again.

UPDATE: No worries, folks. This was all just a big misunderstanding: "A database error led to the inclusion of a potential delegate that had been rejected and removed from the campaign's list in February 2016." OK then.

The latest micro-flap for conservatives to feel victimized by is an allegation by one guy that the Facebook team that selects "trending" topics is staffed by a bunch of Ivy League 20-something liberals:

“Depending on who was on shift, things would be blacklisted or trending,” said the former curator. This individual asked to remain anonymous, citing fear of retribution from the company. The former curator is politically conservative, one of a very small handful of curators with such views on the trending team. “I’d come on shift and I’d discover that CPAC or Mitt Romney or Glenn Beck or popular conservative topics wouldn’t be trending because either the curator didn’t recognize the news topic or it was like they had a bias against Ted Cruz.”

That was yesterday. Here is today:

The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee, led by Republican Sen. John Thune, has launched an inquiry in response to recent news that Facebook was reportedly suppressing conservative news items in the "trending" section of the site. The committee, which oversees Internet communication and media issues, drafted a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg asking about the curated section, telling the tech giant to "arrange for your staff including employees responsible for trending topics to brief committee staff on this issue." Thune signed the letter, which also asks for "a list of all news stories removed from or injected into the Trending Topics section since January 2014."

Here's my question: Even if the allegations are true, in what way is this the business of the United States Senate? Facebook is a private entity and it can highlight any kind of news it wants. Ditto for the Drudge Report, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and Mother Jones. Thune should take a closer look at the First Amendment before he goes any further.

Donald Trump Is a Big Fat Idiot

For today's sermon, I have chosen a passage from Al Franken's Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot, written back when he was allowed to be funny. We no longer condone fat shaming, of course, but we do condone mockery of those who deserve it, especially when it allows me to make a strained point about the upcoming election. Here is today's text:

Limbaugh knows what's good for him. Whenever he's ventured outside the secure bubble of his studio, the results have been disastrous. In 1990, Limbaugh got what he thought was his chance at the big time, substitute hosting on Pat Sajak's ailing CBS late night show. But the studio wasn't packed with pre-screened dittoheads. When audience members started attacking him for having made fun of AIDS victims, he panicked, and they had to clear the studio. A CBS executive said, "He came out full of bluster and left a very shaken man. I had never seen a man sweat as much in my life."

Limbaugh later apologized for joking about AIDS and promised to "not make fun of the dying." But by early '94, he had forgotten the other lesson: he needs a stacked deck. This time disaster struck on the Letterman show. The studio audience turned hostile almost immediately after Rush compared Hillary Clinton's face to "a Pontiac hood ornament." Evidently, that's the kind of thing that kills with the dittoheads, but Letterman's audience wasn't buying.

So here's my question: Is this what's going to happen to Donald Trump? Obviously he's not going to panic the way Limbaugh did, but so far his carnival barker act has only had to appeal to a smallish subset of angry white conservatives. Like Limbaugh's dittohead radio audience, they think he's great. But when he goes out into the great wide world of the general election, he's going to learn that most people just aren't buying what he's selling. What will he do then? Change his tune? Dig himself an even deeper hole? Open an Instagram account? Claim that his private investigators have confirmed that Hillary Clinton is actually Canadian? Fire away in comments.

Spring Is Springing, and So Are Our Ducks

Spring is here, and that means everything is blooming—including our local ducks. Here is our first ducklet of the season. We also have a fine crop of Canada gooselets, but they were hiding this morning. Maybe I'll catch them tonight.

Consider this your respite from Donald Trump. Enjoy it while you can.

Via Steve Benen, I see that the Republican Party has released yet another autopsy of the past few elections. This one is written by Gingrich Productions, and Newt explains his thinking toward the end of the report:

At Gingrich Productions we felt that some very profound changes were underway and we knew we did not understand them. We had been as wrong as anyone else about the probable outcome of the 2012 election.

That's some welcome humility, which isn't really in character for Newt. Maybe someone else wrote that bit. In any case, what does Newt recommend? There are nods to minority outreach buried in the middle of the report, and lots of attention to the new technology of campaigning (micro-targeting, social media, etc.). But what's at the very top? What does Newt really want to make sure people see? Here you go:

1. The wrong words cripple or kill. At least 5 Republican Senate candidates (Delaware, Missouri, Nevada, Indiana, Colorado) were defeated in 2010 and 2012 because they used language in a way that isolated them and alienated voters....

2. The right big idea or ideas, expressed in clear and simple language with the right tone, can win campaigns. Larry Hogan's intense focus on cutting taxes while refusing to comment on controversial issues propelled him to a shockingly large and unexpected victory as Governor of Maryland....

3. Big Ideas can attract donations and the lack of ideas can make money irrelevant....

Yeesh. Big Ideas™ and Big Language™ have been Newt's stock in trade for decades. He could have written this in his sleep. And all the stuff about new technology and social media has been obvious for years. Everyone is gaga over this stuff and has been since 2008. I sure hope the RNC didn't pay very much for this report.

The head of the IRS is hiring more people to enforce the tax code, and Rep. Jason Chaffetz is outraged:

The chairman of a powerful House committee is demanding to know how IRS chief John Koskinen has found the money to hire up to 700 enforcement staff when he told Congress a short time ago his agency was more or less broke.

....“Now, less than three months later, without that increase, you have announced plans to increase enforcement activities,” Chaffetz wrote. “The inescapable conclusion is that your testimony to Congress was inaccurate, reflecting either an attempt to exaggerate IRS’s budget needs or a management failure in understanding the needs of your organization.”

The Utah Republican’s May 6 letter, first reported by FoxNews.com, is the latest attack by House Republicans on Koskinen’s management of the IRS since Congress launched a lengthy probe of the agency’s treatment of conservative groups. Chaffetz has been on a campaign since last October to impeach the tax collector.

FFS. These guys are still in a lather over the phony IRS scandal from three years ago? Give it up, guys: nothing happened except a very minor bit of bad judgment.

But I guess it is an election year, isn't it? And who better to go after in an election year than the IRS? Everyone hates the IRS, especially rich people who don't like the idea of enforcing the tax code. That's why Chaffetz and his fellow Republicans have been on a crusade for decades to slash the IRS budget and reduce its auditing staff.

As for Chaffetz's question, such as it is, apparently the answer is that Koskinen is mostly just replacing retiring workers with enforcement staff. Boring, isn't it?

Life at the Top Is Pretty Sweet

The top 25 hedge fund managers earned $13 billion in 2015—which made it something of a so-so year for them. But put that aside. My new favorite hedge fund manager is the guy who ranked #15 on this year's list:

Michael Platt, the founder of BlueCrest Capital Management, took home $260 million, according to Alpha. It was a difficult year for his firm, once one of the biggest hedge funds in Europe with $37 billion in investor money. He lost investors in his flagship fund 0.63 percent over the year and then told them he was throwing in the towel.

Platt's fund lost 0.63 percent and he basically shut it down in disgrace, and for this he earned a quarter of a billion dollars. Pretty sweet gig, no?

Over the weekend Donald Trump said that he's willing to consider higher tax rates on the rich, but he then clarified that he only meant higher rates than the ones in his tax plan. Since his tax plan is obviously just more buffoonery for the rubes, I understand why no one really feels like taking any of this seriously. But just in case a few of you are curious what he means, here is TPC's analysis of Trump's tax plan:

TPC figures the average gazillionaire will save $1.3 million per year under Trump's tax plan. So what Trump is saying is that he's willing to consider a plan in which the gazillionaires will only get a tax cut of, say, a million dollars per year.

Do you want percentages instead? Of course you do! Under Trump's plan—like all Republican tax plans—a middle-class worker gets a tax reduction of only 4.3 percentage points. The gazillionaires get a whopping reduction of 12.5 percentage points.

Quite the man of the people, no?

Over at the Washington Monthly, David Atkins accuses me of sustained contrarianism:

There is a growing amount of contrarian analysis these days suggesting that Americans really aren't so angry about the economy after all....Washington Monthly alum Kevin Drum hammers away at this theme again and again....In most cases, these writers are trying to use broad quantitative data about economic satisfaction to explain away what seems to be obvious on its face, which is that Sanders and Trump are both running economic populist campaigns that have resonated deeply with large and different sections of the electorate.

This is....absolutely correct. I have been doing this. And Atkins fights back with a strong case against my contrarianism, one that I've been expecting for quite a while but haven't really gotten until now:

The corollary to this argument is that it’s not economics but raw racism that is driving Trump’s success, and that Sanders’ success is a factor less of economic anger than some combination of sexism and cult of personality.

To believe these things, of course, you would have to assume that voters aren’t actually being inspired by the rhetoric and policy positions of Sanders and Trump but by other factors they’re subtly tapping into....You would, in essence, have to ignore all the qualitative data in front of you showing what people say in their own words, in favor of polling data about their generic feelings about the economy or their own current personal economic situation.

That would be a mistake.

One of the most important things to realize about economic anxiety in America today is that it is broadly independent from whether you have a job, or even whether you are doing well personally at the moment. I personally know many people who are making over $100K household income and are generally content with their employment situation personally, but are still angry about the unfairness and instability of the economy in general. Just because a college student is having a fairly good time and believes they can get a decent job coming out of school, doesn’t mean they aren’t upset and concerned about paying off tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Just because a 1099 worker or independent contractor is doing OK financially now, doesn’t mean that their lack of stable health insurance and social safety net if something goes wrong isn’t a big concern to them.

Yes. Ignoring qualitative data is dangerous and dumb. If you talk to people and they tell you things, you need to pay attention. It doesn't mean you take everything they say at face value, but at the very least you have to take them seriously.

But here's the thing: this is what originally motivated my skepticism. There was tons of qualitative data suggesting a great deal of anger over economic unfairness, but the quantitative data showed nothing. Literally nothing. It's almost impossible to find any data, polling or otherwise, that suggests economic stress is significantly worse than usual.

This disconnect is precisely the thing I'm interested in. Sure, blue-collar workers are angry about the loss of manufacturing jobs. College grads are angry about high student debt. But there are always people who are angry about the economy. The question is whether there are more of them this year than usual. I'm not yet convinced there are.

What makes this worse is that every four years for my entire adult life I've been hearing this same story. Every election year, Time magazine sends Joe Klein or some other worthy out to the heartland to talk to real people, and every time they come back and write long cover stories about how angry people are. Every. Single. Election. I guess I've gotten a little jaded about it.

In any case, the reason I keep hammering on this is because I want to understand this disconnect between qualitative and quantitative assessments. If people really are angrier than usual, it ought to show up somewhere. Why doesn't it?

POSTSCRIPT: So what does account for the popularity of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump? Here's my guess:

  • Middle-class wages have been stagnant for the past 15 years while the rich have gotten ever richer, and resentment over this really is growing.
  • In the case of Trump, there's extensive evidence that racial animus is at the heart of much of his popularity.
  • In the case of Sanders, I think it's a combination of a genuine leftward movement among young voters and an unfortunate but visceral dislike of Hillary Clinton. If someone like Obama were running again, Sanders would never have gotten any traction.

There's a lot more, of course. But if you asked me for a nickel summary, this would be it.