Wednesday, December 07, 2016

The Democrats in the Age of Trump

Currently the Republicans are at a historic high point and the Democrats are at a low point. The Republican dominance isn't guaranteed. Sixteen years ago Republicans controlled the White House and both houses of Congress. They managed to lose this in wave elections in 2006 and 2008, ending talk of a permanent Republican majority. With Barack Obama's election, the Democrats controlled government and the began to dream of a permanent Democratic majority. There was talk that demographics and a national swing to the left doomed the Republicans to being nothing but a regional rump party. 2010 and 2014 turned into Republican wave elections. The predicted 2016 Democratic wave never materialized. There are different ways of looking at this.

One is that American politics regularly swing back and forth. The White House certainly does. Since FDR, the White house has changed parties every eight years. The only exception to that was Ronald Reagan who defeated a sitting president and whose vice-president succeeded him with a convincing majority.

The party that controls the White House often looses support in Congress during the mid-terms so the Democrats may be one election away from starting to recover. If we assume that the national spirit is sort of a pendulum then it is likely that the Democrats will retake Congress during the Trump administration and will take the White House in 2024.

There is another possibility. Democratic control during the Obama administration may be an aberration caused by anger at the Iraq war in 2006 and the financial melt-down in 2008. In fact, a strong case can be made for this.

In theory the House of Republicans is the most sensitive to public mood. Every member stands for election every two years. In practice, change is slow. The Democrats controlled the House for decades from 195l to 1994. The Republicans began making gains under Reagan and finally took Congress in a wave election in the wave election during Bill Clinton's first mid-term. They held both houses of congress until George W. Bush's second mid-term in 2006. They started making gains again, taking the House in 2010 and retook the Senate in 2016. Looked at this way, the long-term swing has been Republican.

How does this work?

The country has become increasingly polarized. The coasts and cities are strongly liberal and the rest of the country is conservative. America is developing two cultures with little in common with each other. Regardless of demographics that are supposed to favor Democrats, it hurts them to be so tightly clustered. For all the talk about gerrymandering, it's very difficult to draw competitive districts when part of the population is widely spread out and part is tightly clustered.

It's been a truism among the Democrats for more than a decade that the Republicans have moved so far to the right that President Reagan would no longer be welcome. The truth is that both parties have changed over the years but it's instructive how they changed.

Reagan set the tone for the modern Republican party - a mixture of social conservatism and libertarianism with strong national defense. It's widely believed that President George H W. Bush's tax increase cost him reelection so Republicans have been anti-tax ever since. George W. Bush introduced "compassionate conservatism" meaning support for a strong safety net. He was influenced by no-conservatives who were socially moderate and strong on defense. Under Bush, the Republicans abandoned fiscal prudence and spent heavily. The TARP and President Obama's spending shocked the Republicans out of that, giving rise to the Tea Party movement. This was largely a return to the principals that Reagan ran on in 1980 with a heavy dose of social conservatism thrown in. Yes, the Tea Party was unforgiving of the sorts of compromises that President Reagan made but they would have welcomed candidate Reagan. The Tea Party eventually merged with the party in general only to run into Domald Trump's populism. What the results of this will be on the party have yet to be seen.

In contrast to the Republicans zig-zags, the Democrats have had a pretty straight trajectory. Bill Clinton was part of a moderate movement but since his election the Democratic party has moved further to the left than at any point in its history since FDR traded tips with Mussolini. They no longer even call themselves liberals. They are now progressives. This is an important distinction.

During the early 2000s, the Democrats made an effort to recruit moderates. This paid off in the wave election in 2006. But after that they lost the moderates. Some were purged and the rest lost their seats to Republicans. By the 2016 election, the party had moved to far to the left that a socialist was seen as a viable candidate. Hillary Clinton was actually running against Bill Clinton's biggest achievements. The party has moved so suddenly and so sharply to the left that candidate Barack Obama would be unacceptable. In 2008, Obama claimed to be against gay marriage and neutral on guns. Those positions have no place in today's Democratic party. He even made fun of Hillary Clinton for suggesting a manditor health care system comparable to Obamacare.

Today's Democratic Party places environmentalism and identity politics ahead of anything else. It has embraced the Black Lives Matter movement which regularly calls for killing cops. It is willing to put thousands out of work in the name of global warming, even if it's only a symbolic gesture. The hip city-dwellers are contempuous of blue collar workers and their values. They seem to attack every part of American life. Even the concept of gender is being eliminated with 32 or more genders recognized.

The Democrats have embraced identity politics. Individuals no longer matter, all that matters is the group they are part of. The assumption is that they can cobble together a winning coalition by appealing to various ethnic groups, particularly women, blacks and Hispanics. Even after their defeat in 2016, they believe that demographics are the key to their future political domination. This is quite a gamble and may not work. The groups they are counting on came together for Obama but not Clinton. It may well be that the first black president whose father was a foreign national was a once-in-a-lifetime uniter and that his coalition won't be duplicated.

The Democrats have one final problem. They have been too successful. They have a national health care. Obamacare may be replaced but it will not be removed. They also have gay marriage and a number of other achievements. Naturally, they have new goals but those have little support. Free college and an end to gender will not take back Congress. Even gun control has lost its edge since some states like California have enacted strict new gun laws that will blunt the desire for national action.

It is a given that the Democrats will oppose everything that Trump does but it's questionable if the country will follow them or if they will be willing to moderate some of their more extreme positions. Considering that Ralph Ellison, one of the furthest left members of Congress, is the next likely leader of the party, they seem set to follow the English Labor Party's march to the left and irrelevance.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

The Big Problem With Calling on the Electoral College to Elect Hlllary Clinton

Daily I see people urging the Electoral College to ignore the results of the election and select Hillary Clinton as President. The reasoning is that she won the popular vote by over two million votes so she represents the will of the people.

There is one huge flaw with this argument: while it's true that Hillary did get more votes than Donald Trump, she failed to get 50% of the votes. Think about that. We're supposed to throw the Constitution and the Electoral Collage out the window over someone who failed to capture a majority of the popular vote. She only won a plurality.

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Electoral College and the States

There is a lot of frustration right now because Hillary Clinton won the popular vote but Donald Trump won the Electoral College. There are also complaints that every state gets to elect two Senators regardless of size and that even members of the House of Representatives represent different numbers of voters.

This is not a bug, it is a feature and it is working exactly as intended when the Constitution was written. In fact, this disparity in representation is more vital not than ever.

Disparity of population goes back all the way to the convention when the Constitution was first written. Small states wanted an equal voice in the federation. Large states demanded more power. The eventual compromise was two houses of Congress, one that gave proportional representation to the states and the other that gave equal voice to them. At the same time, the Electoral Collage was created with states getting electors for each member of Congress. This gave the small states a slightly larger voice in selecting the president.

The fear was that a few large states would trample the smaller states by constantly choosing a chief executive who only represented their interests. The small states were given a slight advantage in order to be sure that their concerns were also addressed.

Because of the rise of highly dense cities, the original concern is even more relevant. There are more than 3,000 counties (and equivalents) in the US but half of the population resides in just 15. This correlates to votes for Hillary Clinton vs Donald Trump as shown in the graphic below.

If the election was based solely on popular vote then most of the nation could safely be ignored. That translates into actual policies. Trump won among people who feel that governmental policies are already against them. The elimination of coal mining and the off-shoring of manufacturing were both caused, at least partially, by environmental concerns of city dwellers who are unaffected by these policies. Similarly, a huge hike in the minimum wage an be absorbed much easier in large cities where the cost of living (and therefore the median wage) is already higher than in outlying areas where such an increase would cause major unemployment.

So the outlying areas are given slightly more say in selecting the President than the high density areas because otherwise they would end up with no say at all.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Donald

Donald Trump was not my first pick for President. I shuddered a bit when he announced. After all, the man was a Democrat during the Bush administration.

I expected Trump to fade like the other outsider candidates. Failing that, I expected him to reach his ceiling and be passed be a more viable candidate when the crowded field narrowed down. None of that happened.

Going into the conventions, I was totally conflicted. Lots of columnists and pundits gave varying advice. Some supported Hillary because she was a known quantity. Others supported Trump for the same reason. The best description of this was that voting for Trump was like playing Russian Roulette but voting for Hillary was like playing it with a semi-automatic.

I watched the Republican convention and felt left out. This was not my party. I resigned myself to voting for Hillary, knowing that she'd likely be a disaster and defeated in a Republican wave in 2020.

Then came the Democratic convention. If Trump's Republicans seemed like strangers, Hillary's Democrats were people I knew all too well. There was no way I could vote for this crowd. So I resigned myself to voting for Trump or a 3rd party candidate.

In late August there were rumors about Hillary's health. Her campaign denied them until she collapsed during a 9/11 ceremony. At first her campaign insisted that she was just dehydrated. Then they admitted that she had pneumonia. So Hillary was caught in yet another lie. What's more, she blamed it on society. Women aren't' allowed to be sick and have to "power through" illness.

Imagining 4-8 years of Hillary lying when she didn't need to and playing the woman card made me warm to Trump a lot.

The debates helped, too. In the first debate, Trump spent his first question laying out an economic plan. Hillary spent the debate giving facile answers and trying to bait Trump.

In the second debate she left her seat and walked in front of Trump, positioning herself between him and a camera. The next day her campaign sent out a picture of it with a comment about hostile men looming over successful women's shoulders. That sort of staging irritated me.

Hillary's entire campaign irritated me. She never gave me a reason to vote for her. She dredged up a dozen Trump quotes, some of them real some of them taken out of context and some taken from decades ago and ran them constantly. She ran a few ads for herself but they were general feel-good ones.

Let's look at the shocking tapes of Trump's locker room talk. Several double standards were being applied there. Trump apologized but that didn't slow anyone down. No one even mentions his apology. But at the same time, Hillary apologized for her private email server and expected us to drop the matter. These tapes were 22 years old. Trump is being held to current standards but at the time that he bragged that women allowed him to touch them, Bill Clinton was sticking a cigar into an intern's vagina. When it came out, no one said that disqualified him for the presidency. Instead they insisted that oral sex isn't really sex.

I'm no fool. When someone is attacked unfairly, I feel the need to defend him. Too many of the attacks on Trump have no basis. He's been called a racist but you have to go back to 1980 when his father was still running the family business to find any anti-black actions. His statements about illegal immigrants are often given but he made it clear that he was only talking about illegal immigrants and they are not a race. Islam is not a race, either, it is a religion. Accusations that Trump is anti-semetic are just dumb and quickly disproved.

Between the weakness of the attacks on Trump and the attacks on Romney four years ago, I have to conclude that any Republican candidate would have been demonized. It's what the Clinton campaign does. Hillary is an uninspiring candidate so she tries to drag her opponents down. Even her debate coaching was on how to bait Trump instead of how to appeal to the voters. So I discount a lot of the anti-Trump animosity. It's fake outrage. If Trump was still a Democrat then the people who protest him now would be defending him.

So, by election day I was willing to vote for Trump and cheer when he won unexpectedly. But I wasn't a real Trump supporter until after the election.

There are daily protests. Some of them turn into riots. People are working themselves into a frenzy insisting that Trump's election is causing a wave of violence. This is repeated by the MSM without question. It was national news that incidents of Islamophobia are up. There were 257 incidents in 2015 (with the implication that Trump caused the increase instead of multiple terrorist attacks). Keep in mind that this includes a number of mild incidents that would never make the local paper to say nothing national news if it wasn't for the religious aspect. To put this in context, Chicago has had 487 homicides as of August. By the end of the year Chicago will have had twice as many homicides as nationwide non-fatal incidents involving Muslims. But the MSM never puts this in context.

Two things really made me think I voted the right way. The first was the whole safety pin thing. The idea that random people are going to be attacked and need someone safe to turn to. That's pretty offensive - the idea that half the country is about to attack anyone who's not a cis gendered, straight, white. The insistence that Trump supporters are all alt-Right white supremacists is also offensive.

The other was the protests. There was one close enough that I could see it from my front porch. While this one was peaceful, I could hear them chanting Black Lives Matter. That's a movement that regularly calls for killing cops. What would the marchers have done if they knew I was a Trump voter? Would they respect the individual right to choose who to vote for or would they react violently. A protest march downtown started peacefully but turned violent. I'd be surprised if there weren't marchers in common from the two events.

Regardless of how well Trump does, I can't associate with Hillary's supporters. They are too quick to shout down opposing opinions and demonize anyone they disagree with. They suppress speech and act like infants when they don't get their way. They are even trying to overthrow the election results by threatening the members of the Electoral College. This is the real threat to America and freedom and the real road to a totalitarian government. Each time I hear about the left acting out it makes me support Trump a bit more. He may not be much but he's our only defense against the crazies.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Stop the Hate

Stop all the hate. Now.

No, I don't mean Trump voters. I mean the people marching in the streets and the ones wearing safety pins. I know that you're telling yourselves that you're accomplishing something but all you're doing is dividing the country.

There was a march in my neighborhood tonight. They assembled a couple of blocks from my house. I could see them marching by, 1/4 block away. That one was fairly peaceful but I really wonder if I'd have been roughed up if I'd gotten closer and let people know I voted for Trump?

And while this one was peaceful, other rallies weren't. Some involve throwing rocks or calling for dead police. The one I saw was chanting "Black Lives Matter". Several police deaths have been attributed to that movement. This is peace?

By the way, Trump spent some time campaigning in black inner cities, promising to help blacks.

Some marchers have called for raping Melonia Trump. A major newspaper printed nude pictures of her and people have been sharing them on Facebook. There is no excuse for this. It's as bad as anything Donald Trump has been accused of doing. The only reason for doing anything like this is spite because your side didn't win.

As for those safety pins, I know they are supposed to show that you are a "safe", tolerant person. That's what you were told. That's not the point of wearing them, those. They are really just virtue signalling. They're a way of announcing to the world that you are a good person and everyone else is evil. It's "othering" people who don't wear them and divisive. It's a visual way of dividing the world into us and them - so that you know who to hate.

There were a lot of reasons to vote for Trump or to vote against Hillary but your side assumes the worst. You haven't bothered learning anything about Trump's positions besides the wall. You've convinced yourselves that he's Hitler reincarnated but you probably don't know much about Hitler's rise to power either. Note - he was a socialist.

Unless your name is Hillary Clinton, this was not the most important election in history. Despite President Obama stretching presidential powers, we still have countless checks and balances in place. America was designed to resist dictators and strongmen. You'd know that if they still taught civics in high school.

I realize that the election result came as a shock but it's no excuse. You are whipping yourselves into a frenzy, telling yourselves that you are the epitome of virtue and everyone else is evil. Then you tell yourselves that you have to act.

Of course there's nothing you can do yet. Trump won't take office for more than two more months. He and his staff are still figuring out which campaign promises to keep and how to do it. Protesting now accomplishes nothing except making you feel good.

But as you sooth your tender sensibilities, you are alienating the rest of the country. How can you persuade anyone to take your side after protesting against them.

So it's time to act like rational adults. Put away the coloring books and PayDough and safety pins and start judging Trump's actual proposals as he makes them. Remind yourself that Trump is the most liberal Republican elected in decades and he is surrounded by his party's most centrist members. Take the time to look things over carefully and decide for yourself instead of following whatever meme is popular on Facebook today.

One final thought - how would you feel if people were rioting because Hillary won? What if people were marching in the street calling for her arrest? How threatened would that make you feel? That's what you're doing to us.

Stop it.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Take a Deep Breath and Calm Down

Trump is not Hitler. He's not even Musolini. Even if Trump was a dictator-elect, our system is set up to stop anyone from taking over. The power is too spread out.

Trump is not Hitler. Hitler joined and eventually led a movement by national socialists dedicated to overthrowing the German government. Trump is part of a mainstream party that's been around for 150 years and is full of people who believe in limited government.

Hillary Clinton, her campaign and her sympathizers spent months pushing a caricature of the real Trump, taking statements made over decades out of context and stringing them together to convince voters that Trump was worse than Hillary. Don't be fooled by election propaganda.

Trump is supposed to be ineligible because of the way he talked about women and because he did some inappropriate touching. So far, no one has suggested that Bill Clinton, who was accused of raping multiple women should have resigned.

Trump is supposed to be too unstable to be trusted with nuclear launch codes but he only engages in late-night tweets. Bill Clinton engaged in purple-faced rages, regularly. Hillary throws lamps and vases. The Secret Service had plans for how to respond  if they needed to save Bill from Hillary.

Trump engages in course talk. So did LBJ who once pulled his penis out of his pants to answer a reporter.

Trump was asked if he would accept the results of the election and criticized when he said, "We'll see." Hillary's supporters are rioting in the streets rather than accept that she lost.

The most insightful analysis I saw said that the press takes Trump literally but not seriously while his supporters take him seriously but not literally. He's even admitted that to editorial boards. Now, with his election, the anti-Trumpers are taking him seriously and literally.

Take a deep breath and remind yourself that the president has limited powers and Trump, despite all the protests, is the most liberal Republican president since Teddy Roosevelt.


Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Trump's Victory

When Republicans named Donald Trump their candidate, the Democrats rubbed their hands with glee. They predicted that not only would Hillary Clinton win the presidency but Trump's election would also trigger a wave election that would give them control of both houses of Congress. It didn't happen. None of it did. Trump won and the Republicans kept control of both houses.

Donald Trump's victory over Hillary Clinton shouldn't have been a surprise. History was against Hillary Clinton. It's unusual for the same party to win three Presidential elections in a row. It's only happened once since FDR/Truman.

It's also uncommon for a candidate to win the general election after having trouble in the primary. Hillary's weakness as a candidate was obvious when she had problems against an aging socialist. Trump, by contrast, wrapped the primaries up months before Hillary did.

Most of the polls showed Hillary leading. She may yet win the popular vote although Trump has a 1% lead as of this writing. His margin of victory was razor-thin in multiple states. At least four states that had been predicted for Hillary flipped for Trump.

What happened?

The traditional wisdom is for a candidate to move to the right or left (depending on the party) in the primary and move to the center for the general election. Neither candidate did this. Trump mainly went with positive campaign ads while Hillary relied on a series of Trump quotes repackaged multiple ways. This probably cost her the election. She started these ads before the Republican primary when she was still running against Bernie Sanders. And punch they had wore off months ago. Finding a 22 year old tape of Trump discussing women added a couple of new quotes to the mix but Hillary never made a case for herself. Her strategy seemed to begin and end with making Trump the greater of two evils.

Narrative is everything in a presidential campaign. In 1992, her husband, Bill, was "the man from Hope" who felt people's pain. George W. Bush was a compassionate Republican. Obama made himself into a mythical creature. Trump promised to make America great again.

And Hillary? In her first campaign launch, she released a video of a bunch of women starting new projects. At the end she appeared announcing that she was a grandmother and she was going to run for president. It was so inspiring that she had to relaunch her campaign multiple times. She never did come up with a message. In a leaked email she complained that her staff had never created a message for her.

I'm sure that the Democrats will blame the FBI for Hillary's loss but that ignores the fact that it was her decision to have a private server in the first place. Was she hiding pay for play deals from FOIA requests or just keeping emails about yoga classes private? We may never know but without that decision, there would never have been anything for the FBI to investigate.

That was just one more piece of baggage dragging her down, along with Bill's treatment of women.

So, Hillary was a weak candidate with history against her and lots of baggage. That doesn't explain why the polls were wrong.

The pollsters made a lot of mistakes. Polls are based on models of expected voters. The models that most pollsters used were wrong. They overestimated the pro-Hillary turnout and underestimated the pro-Trump turnout. They also assumed that Hispanics would be solidly against Trump. While his numbers with Hispanics were worse than Bush's, they were better than McCain's or Romney's (or to put it differently, Obama did better with Hispanics than Hillary did).

It's also possible that Trump had closet supporters. Everyone on the Left from Hillary on down referred to Trump supporters as racist, sexist, xenophobes. Who's going to admit to that when a pollster calls?

I'm sure that the Democrats will also blame sexism - people being unwilling to vote for a woman. I'm sure that some people voted that way but Hillary got a boost from being a woman. Eight years in the Senate and four as Secretary of State does not make you the best qualified candidate ever. Hillary was only taken seriously because she was married to a former president - which does not qualify you for the office, either. (Note - George H. W. Bush was probably the best qualified candidate of my lifetime having been in the House, Chairman of the Republican Party, Ambassador to the UN, Envoy to China and Director of the CIA before becoming Vice-President.)

Money played an interesting role in the election. Hillary had a lot more money and was much better organized. But it wasn't enough to buy her an election. Most of Hillary's money came from the wealthy, too. Trump spent a fraction of what Hillary spent and a much higher percentage of his contributions came from small donors. This is ironic since Hillary included campaign finance reform in her platform.

One last thought - in winning the election, Trump defeated the two major political dynasties of the generation: the Bushes and the Clintons. In the 9 elections starting with 1980, only one didn't have a Bush or Clinton running for national office, either Vice-President or President. He dispatched Jeb Bush early on before running against Hillary.

Trump shouldn't be underestimated.