Recently in Politics, Government & Public Policy Category
In the midst of advising California Democrats to not mote the state's primary earlier in the year for the 2020 election cycle, Michael Barone notes that America's most populous state has been drifting pretty far left from the mainstream.
As I wrote in a December 2016 Washington Examiner column, is that for the first time in the nation's history our largest state has voted at one end of the political spectrum. California has become a political outlier. New York, the largest state in censuses from 1820 to 1960, almost always voted within 5 percent of the national average in those years. So did California from the time it became the largest state in 1963 up through 1996. But it voted 6 points more Democratic than the nation in 2000 and 2004, 9 points more in 2008, 10 points more in 2012 and a whopping 14 points more Democratic than the nation in 2016. Only one state, Hawaii, voted more Democratic, and by only 1 point.
This monolithic drift isn't good for America, and it isn't even good for left-wing Californians. Breaking the state up into several smaller states would allow the people in different regions of California to have governments that most suit them -- and a break-up could easily be crafted that preserves a net advantage of two Senators for the Democrats. The only people who would lose from the break-up would be the hacks who sit atop the pyramid of government now.
Why have Republicans been caught flat-footed now that they've finally won power? They voted 16 times to repeal Obamacare over the past seven years, and now they don't even have a plan that Republicans can agree on?
I'm not disappointed that the health care bill failed, I'm disappointed that the bill was the best the Republicans could offer after making promises for seven years.
It's not like the need to do something about Obamacare was a surprise. Republicans have been promising to repeal it for most of a decade. And it's not like Obamacare was popular or successful. Premiums are rising, providers are dropping out, and costs are going up. It's true that the Obamacare bill, pushed through on a procedural technicality that avoided a filibuster but left it impossible to fix at the time, was a mess. It's also true that the legislation was drafted, and the regulations implementing it were designed, in part to make it hard to undo.
Nonetheless, the Republican inability to deliver a bill that could get a majority in the GOP-led House is a colossal failure, and pretty much undercuts its entire reason for being. For years the congressional GOP leadership failed to deliver on promises to constituents, and offered the excuse that it couldn't do anything without control of the White House. Well, they've got that, so what's their excuse now? And where are the bills on infrastructure, on tax reform, on free speech?
Hopefully they can get their act together soon.
Obamacare's getting repealed, just not today. Nor next month apparently, since the 438 members of the House can't seem to do more than one thing at once. Of course, if Ryan didn't have them working just eight days in April - yeah, you heard me right - maybe they could accomplish something besides managing to look both inept and lazy while currying favor with the zillionaires. You might as well wear top hats and monocles because you seem hellbent on validating every hack cliché about Republicans.
President Trump is facing a tough reality: Congress is completely dysfunctional. He has been hoping for a quick win on health care, but Congress has cursed him with a dud bill that no one likes. His "charm offensive" seems to have had little effect (are you surprised?). The New York Times' first quote is, of course, from former Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- the opposition politician who pushed through Obamacare seven years ago.
"I don't know whether he will ultimately succeed or fail, but I will tell you that President Trump is so transactional, who knows what transactions he will be willing to make to pass this," said Representative Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader, who passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010 as speaker.
"So far he's acting like a rookie. It's really been amateur hour," she added. "He seems to think that a charm offensive or a threat will work -- that saying 'I can do this for you' or 'I can do this against you' will work. That's not the way it works. You have to build real consensus, and you have to gain a real knowledge of the policy -- and the president hasn't done either of those things."
And to be fair, Pelosi is entitled to a little gloating. Maybe this experience will be a good learning opportunity for Trump. (Like no one has said that before.)
Lots of people are opposed to the Republicans' plan to replace Obamacare in phases -- Democrats are unified in their opposition, and many Republicans also don't like what Speaker Paul Ryan has put on the table. Everyone who hates it does so for different reasons, but that doesn't mean the plan is a moderate compromise.
I personally don't have a strong opinion on the matter. Ideally, in my opinion, we'd roll back the clock and make it as if Obamacare had never happened, and then use that as our new baseline for future healthcare legislation -- but that doesn't seem to be possible. Given where we are now, it's not obvious that there's a path forward that is both politically feasible and likely to improve our healthcare situation. That stinks.
For the Republican party, it seems likely that the best bet is to do nothing -- wait until Obamacare implodes, and keep their hands clean so they don't get too much blame. It's not at all obvious that letting Obamacare implode is the best path for our country, however.
What a mess.
Within 180 days after the closing date for the submission of suggestions pursuant to subsection (b) of this section, the Director shall submit to the President a proposed plan to reorganize the executive branch in order to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of agencies. The proposed plan shall include, as appropriate, recommendations to eliminate unnecessary agencies, components of agencies, and agency programs, and to merge functions. The proposed plan shall include recommendations for any legislation or administrative measures necessary to achieve the proposed reorganization.
This will be fun to watch.
The play "Her Opponent" sounds utterly fascinating, and I wish I had an opportunity to see the whole thing. Here's a 2-minute clip from a rehersal.
Guadalupe reached out to Joe Salvatore, a Steinhardt clinical associate professor of educational theatre who specializes in ethnodrama--a method of adapting interviews, field notes, journal entries, and other print and media artifacts into a script to be performed as a play. Together, they developed Her Opponent, a production featuring actors performing excerpts from each of the three debates exactly as they happened--but with the genders switched. Salvatore cast fellow educational theatre faculty Rachel Whorton to play "Brenda King," a female version of Trump, and Daryl Embry to play "Jonathan Gordon," a male version of Hillary Clinton, and coached them as they learned the candidates' words and gestures. A third actor, Andy Wagner, would play the moderator in all three debates, with the performances livestreamed. ...
Many were shocked to find that they couldn't seem to find in Jonathan Gordon what they had admired in Hillary Clinton--or that Brenda King's clever tactics seemed to shine in moments where they'd remembered Donald Trump flailing or lashing out. For those Clinton voters trying to make sense of the loss, it was by turns bewildering and instructive, raising as many questions about gender performance and effects of sexism as it answered.
The term "charm offensive" is only ever used to refer to a president who is trying to wrangle votes out of Congressmen, and it's a really stupid term. But anyway, President Trump is on a "charm offensive" on behalf of the "Republican Obamacare plan".
His press to get an Obamacare repeal and replacement passed will provide a test of whether Trump's enthusiastic glad-handing can help him overcome hard-edged ideological divisions within his own party.
It's unclear whether his courting of lawmakers will sway any votes, and he may still have to switch gears and starting being tougher on GOP holdouts. But his personal salesmanship may be the only way that Republicans can pass their Obamacare bill, given the strong negative reaction from conservatives and the strong opposition from groups representing doctors, hospitals and the elderly. Early Wednesday morning, the bill experienced its first success, as the House Ways and Means Committee voted 23-16 to approve its portion of the proposal.
The bill looks like a huge loser to me, and the Republicans will likely suffer if they pass it.
While I loathe couples who quarrel in public, I must point out that it's actually quite clear what problem this bill solves: the problem of Republican legislators who want to tell their base that they repealed Obamacare, just like they promised. Tada!
My husband is, of course, completely right that it's not clear what other problems this solves. It will not, for example, make the looming possibility of a "death spiral" in the individual market any less possible, and indeed may make it more likely. Passing this bill would certainly ensure that Republicans will 100 percent own any ensuing death spiral, and will have little luck whining that it was gonna death spiral anyway, because Obamacare. In other words, even if we leave aside any policy effects, this bill will be a disaster for the long-term political fortunes of the Republican Party.
Path dependency is a harsh mistress, but it would be foolish for the Republicans to take ownership of the wreck of Obamacare, just so they can claim to have "done something". However, the bill seems unlikely to pass the Senate.
1. House health-care bill can't pass Senate w/o major changes. To my friends in House: pause, start over. Get it right, don't get it fast.— Tom Cotton (@TomCottonAR) March 9, 2017
Maybe an incremental approach is best, but it certainly isn't as satisfying to conservatives as a full repeal.
The most interesting take I've read on the Trump wiretap imbroglio comes from Sundance who puts together a timeline of events leading up to the President's tweets over the weekend. Just a taste:
- On Tuesday November 8th, 2016 the election was held. Results announced Wednesday November 9th, 2016.
- On Thursday November 17th, 2016, NSA Director Mike Rogers traveled to New York and met with President-Elect Donald Trump.
- On Friday November 18th The Washington Post reported on a recommendation in "October" that Mike Rogers be removed from his NSA position...
Basically, the hypothesis is that NSA Director Mike Rogers objected to the wiretapping in June and October, which led to a recommendation from others in the Obama administration that Rogers be fired; further, shortly after the election Rogers alerted Trump to the wiretapping.
I grew up in Los Angeles and lived near SpaceX headquarters, and yes, the traffic is terrible. Like Elon Musk, it drove me nuts. However, unlike Musk I simply decided to move away from the traffic....
One of the few people who is just rich, powerful and inventive enough to actually do something about the legendary traffic congestion in Los Angeles is finally fed up. And he has a plan.
Billionaire innovator Elon Musk declared early Wednesday that he's ready to move ahead with his recently formulated ambitions to bore holes, possibly under the city.
"Exciting progress on the tunnel front," Musk tweeted. "Plan to start digging in a month or so."
Good luck. Like Musk's hyperloop, his plan to dig tunnels under Los Angeles is doomed to failure. I know, I know: successful entrepreneurs like Musk thrive on challenges that nobodies like me think are "doomed". That's cool, and I hope he is successful on both projects. However, you should read about Boston's Big Dig before you invest in Musk's "Boring Company".
The Big Dig was the most expensive highway project in the US, and was plagued by escalating costs, scheduling overruns, leaks, design flaws, charges of poor execution and use of substandard materials, criminal arrests, and one death. The project was originally scheduled to be completed in 1998 at an estimated cost of $2.8 billion (in 1982 dollars, US$6.0 billion adjusted for inflation as of 2006). However, the project was completed only in December 2007, at a cost of over $14.6 billion ($8.08 billion in 1982 dollars, meaning a cost overrun of about 190%) as of 2006. The Boston Globe estimated that the project will ultimately cost $22 billion, including interest, and that it would not be paid off until 2038.
The last freeway built in Los Angeles was the I-105 which opened in 1994 (yes, 22 years ago!). It's 19 miles long, cost $127 million per mile, and took 26 years to build from design to completion. Oh, and it's above ground.
The only way this makes sense is if Musk is after government infrastructure subsidies.
The party of the nominee asks penetrating questions such as "Isn't it true, Madam, that you once rescued an entire family of orphans from a burning building?", with frequent pauses to thank the nominee for being there, and perhaps compliment them on their taste in confirmation hearing attire (confident, but understated, you understand). The opposition ranges from feigning outrage about things they have done themselves, to petulant whines about how much time they are being given to probe the vital matter of the parking ticket the nominee received in 1984 for depositing their car in a snowplow zone.
I hadn't seen this essay before the election, but Michael Moore was right. The first reason that "Trump will win":
Midwest Math, or Welcome to Our Rust Belt Brexit. I believe Trump is going to focus much of his attention on the four blue states in the rustbelt of the upper Great Lakes - Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Four traditionally Democratic states - but each of them have elected a Republican governor since 2010 (only Pennsylvania has now finally elected a Democrat). In the Michigan primary in March, more Michiganders came out to vote for the Republicans (1.32 million) that the Democrats (1.19 million). Trump is ahead of Hillary in the latest polls in Pennsylvania and tied with her in Ohio. Tied? How can the race be this close after everything Trump has said and done? Well maybe it's because he's said (correctly) that the Clintons' support of NAFTA helped to destroy the industrial states of the Upper Midwest. Trump is going to hammer Clinton on this and her support of TPP and other trade policies that have royally screwed the people of these four states. When Trump stood in the shadow of a Ford Motor factory during the Michigan primary, he threatened the corporation that if they did indeed go ahead with their planned closure of that factory and move it to Mexico, he would slap a 35% tariff on any Mexican-built cars shipped back to the United States. It was sweet, sweet music to the ears of the working class of Michigan, and when he tossed in his threat to Apple that he would force them to stop making their iPhones in China and build them here in America, well, hearts swooned and Trump walked away with a big victory that should have gone to the governor next-door, John Kasich.
From Green Bay to Pittsburgh, this, my friends, is the middle of England - broken, depressed, struggling, the smokestacks strewn across the countryside with the carcass of what we use to call the Middle Class. Angry, embittered working (and nonworking) people who were lied to by the trickle-down of Reagan and abandoned by Democrats who still try to talk a good line but are really just looking forward to rub one out with a lobbyist from Goldman Sachs who'll write them nice big check before leaving the room. What happened in the UK with Brexit is going to happen here. Elmer Gantry shows up looking like Boris Johnson and just says whatever shit he can make up to convince the masses that this is their chance! To stick to ALL of them, all who wrecked their American Dream! And now The Outsider, Donald Trump, has arrived to clean house! You don't have to agree with him! You don't even have to like him! He is your personal Molotov cocktail to throw right into the center of the bastards who did this to you! SEND A MESSAGE! TRUMP IS YOUR MESSENGER!
And this is where the math comes in. In 2012, Mitt Romney lost by 64 electoral votes. Add up the electoral votes cast by Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It's 64. All Trump needs to do to win is to carry, as he's expected to do, the swath of traditional red states from Idaho to Georgia (states that'll never vote for Hillary Clinton), and then he just needs these four rust belt states. He doesn't need Florida. He doesn't need Colorado or Virginia. Just Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. And that will put him over the top. This is how it will happen in November.
(HT: Ann Althouse.)
Emily Roden writes about her experience serving on a jury nine years ago with Secretary of State nominee and Exxon Mobile CEO Rex Tillerson. Few social settings are more private than jury rooms, and this account strikes me as authentic and valuable.
I didn't vote for Trump. This is not an endorsement of Mr. Tillerson for Secretary of State. I'm sure that the coming days and weeks will be filled with speculation and political discussion over this clearly controversial pick for Secretary of State. I certainly appreciate those concerns and the process that ensures significant scrutiny for this important position.
But during a news show tonight, I heard the term 'corrupt' applied to this man who I spent five days with back in 2007.
All I know is that this man holds one of the most powerful positions in the world and clearly has the means and ability to side step his jury responsibilities, served as a normal citizen without complaint or pretense. I know that a scared little girl who was finally convinced to come public with her account of abuse was inches away from a decision that would have sided with her abuser, yet this man put his negotiation skills to a very noble use and justice was served. All I know is that this man and his myriad of aides could have ignored an unsolicited email from a girl in her 20s suggesting that he donate to a local cause, but he took the time to respond and opened up his pocket book.
There's no such thing as the "popular vote" in American Presidential elections, and yet the term is used frequently to refer to the total aggregate accumulated by each candidate nationwide. Some people are calling for Electoral College electors to abandon Trump because Hillary "won the popular vote", but James Taranto points out the problem with the the argument.
The Electoral College is consistent with the U.S.'s constitutional character as a union of states. We suppose we can understand why one might prefer direct nationwide election by popular vote, but the way to achieve that would be through a constitutional amendment. Good luck with that: It's unlikely the requisite 38 states would agree to defer to California (where Mrs. Clinton's margin was more than four million, meaning that Trump "won the popular vote" in the other 49 states combined.)
If we're going to create arbitrary groupings of states to support our preferred candidate, why can't everyone play?
Scott Alexander has a long and thoughtful post explaining that, despite Trump's many flaws, our president-elect isn't racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., and that such fears distract from the real need to keep a close eye on his actions and policies.
I stick to my thesis from October 2015. There is no evidence that Donald Trump is more racist than any past Republican candidate (or any other 70 year old white guy, for that matter). All this stuff about how he's "the candidate of the KKK" and "the vanguard of a new white supremacist movement" is made up. It's a catastrophic distraction from the dozens of other undeniable problems with Trump that could have convinced voters to abandon him. That it came to dominate the election cycle should be considered a horrifying indictment of our political discourse, in the same way that it would be a horrifying indictment of our political discourse if the entire Republican campaign had been based around the theory that Hillary Clinton was a secret Satanist. Yes, calling Romney a racist was crying wolf. But you are still crying wolf.
It's 8,000 words, but worth your time if you're worried about Trump.
(HT: Scott Adams.)
Trump has nominated Senator Jeff Sessions to be our next Attorney General, and by all accounts he is competent and qualified. However, I'm not enthusiastic about some of his positions on personal freedom issues.
He has opposed efforts to overhaul prison sentencing, back off the war on drugs and legalize marijuana.
Those three issues need to be re-evaluated by conservatives. Marijuana is already de facto legal in most of the country (possession being rarely prosecuted), so let's drop the charade. Prison reform is a tough issue that requires more expertise than I have, but I feel confident that America can design a more fair and more effective prison system than we have now.
Maybe a good start would be avoiding the disparaging term "flyover states".
Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who hasn't ruled out such a challenge, said Tuesday that Democratic leadership needs to be more regionally diverse if the party is going to win back the rural voters who have fled to the GOP's tent. States like Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin "don't have a lot of representation" relative to the coastal states, he said.
"We lost those voters and we've gotta find a way to get them back in, and that starts with a message that resonates in the flyover states," Ryan said.
That was a frequent theme among the Democrats emerging from Tuesday's closed-door meeting in the Capitol.
There's a lot to agree with in Glenn Greenwald's analysis of the ongoing refusal to learn the lessons of Trump and Brexit. Greenwald is far to my left (and supported Bernie Sanders), but nonetheless correctly identifies many of the critical failures of the "elite" on both the left and right.
The indisputable fact is that prevailing institutions of authority in the West, for decades, have relentlessly and with complete indifference stomped on the economic welfare and social security of hundreds of millions of people. While elite circles gorged themselves on globalism, free trade, Wall Street casino gambling, and endless wars (wars that enriched the perpetrators and sent the poorest and most marginalized to bear all their burdens), they completely ignored the victims of their gluttony, except when those victims piped up a bit too much -- when they caused a ruckus -- and were then scornfully condemned as troglodytes who were the deserved losers in the glorious, global game of meritocracy.
That message was heard loud and clear. The institutions and elite factions that have spent years mocking, maligning, and pillaging large portions of the population -- all while compiling their own long record of failure and corruption and destruction -- are now shocked that their dictates and decrees go unheeded. But human beings are not going to follow and obey the exact people they most blame for their suffering. They're going to do exactly the opposite: purposely defy them and try to impose punishment in retaliation. Their instruments for retaliation are Brexit and Trump. Those are their agents, dispatched on a mission of destruction: aimed at a system and culture they regard -- not without reason -- as rife with corruption and, above all else, contempt for them and their welfare.
I'm personally optimistic that Trump will be a better president than many people fear, but his election should be a stark warning to the elites who have "gorged themselves" at the expense of the rest of us.
Harry Enten notices that of the states that elected Senators last week, 100% of them picked senators of the same party as the winner of their electoral votes -- that is, Trump states elected Republican senators, and Clinton states elected Democrat senators.
In the run-up to Election Day, we wondered whether more voters than normal would split their tickets because of Donald Trump's unique candidacy, perhaps voting for Republicans down-ballot but for Hillary Clinton in the presidential contest. Republican Senate candidates, unsure of how to deal with Trump, tried different approaches -- endorsing him, disavowing him, refusing to say whom they'd vote for. In the end, it didn't matter. Every state that elected a Republican candidate for Senate voted for Trump, and every state that elected a Democratic Senate candidate voted for Clinton.
The 2016 Senate elections were the most nationalized ever.
The amount of straight-ticket voting was unusual even for the highly polarized era we live in. Four years ago, for example, Democratic Senate candidates won in some states where President Obama lost by healthy margins, including Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota. Republicans, meanwhile, held their seat in Nevada even though Mitt Romney lost there by 7 percentage points.
The evidence provided doesn't support the claim. It's entirely possible that ticket-splitting increased, decreased, or stayed the same. If Adam votes for Trump and a Democrat senate candidate, and Betty votes for Clinton and a Republican senate candidate, then they both split their votes. The data provided tells you nothing about the prevalence of vote splitting.
- Good victory speech. I'm looking forward to hearing from Hillary today. (Update: Hillary's concession speech was gracious.)
- Republicans will now hold the Presidency, 52/53 Senate seats, ~239 House seats, ~34 Governorships, and ~67 out of 98 partisan state legislature chambers. That's a lot of power and responsibility.
- The New York Times' Upshot statistical dashboard was fantastic. Bravo!
- Why don't people trust the media? Because they're so often wrong, and when they're wrong it's always in a way that favors the Left.
- This election was a good demonstration of the value of the Electoral College. Just imagine all the recounting and legal wrangling that would have to be done for weeks and months in every county in the country if the winner were chosen by direct election. Trump's electoral vote victory is so solid that there's no point in lawsuits or recounts.
- Politico has lots of quotes from the past month from Clinton insiders who knew the campaign wasn't going well for her. Why weren't these quotes newsworthy in October?
- The elites of both flavors created Trump by continually ignoring the needs of common Americans. They reviled the polite, Constitutionalist Tea Party and squandered the congressional mandate the Tea Party delivered in 2010 and 2014.
- Polling is hard -- especially in such unusual circumstances. Remember Brexit?
- Remember Brexit? Well, the stock market will recover quickly. Buy as much as you can.
- How many times did people call on Trump to quit? He didn't, and now he's going to be President.
- Trump did better with non-whites than McCain or Romney -- including more Latino voters. Alternate spin: Clinton did worse with those groups than Obama.
- Obama views the election as a personal repudiation, and the value of political money and data analytics has been called into question.
- All the Republicans who lost Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan over and over again for decades need to spend some time in reflection.
- Obama's accomplishments are all vulnerable because all of them -- except Obamacare -- were imposed by executive order instead of laws passed by Congress.
- Obama's statement this morning was gracious and hopeful.
- Get ready for the media to rediscover a host of problems, now that they can be laid at a Republican's feet.
- Trump spend 63% less than Clinton for each of his electoral votes.
- Reince Priebus deserves a lot of credit. Unlike the corrupt party officials at the DNC, Priebus ran the RNC straight. He build a get-out-the-vote operation when Trump didn't. He and his team did a tremendous amount of work to make Trump's victory possible.
I'll update this with more thoughts as I process today's news.