Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Take Your Medicine!

I hate rooting against America, but Trump has kinda lead me to that place.

I have no idea if Obama had some sort of Vulcan mind control over OPEC, but it's fascinating that OPEC has finally decided to jack up prices.  Are the Saudis doing this for their own fiscal needs?  Most likely.  But are they sending a right cross to Trump's jaw for his anti-Muslim rhetoric?  Could be.

One of the real reasons we've had fair economic winds the last two years have been incredibly low oil prices.  If that changes, the US economy will drag some.  Add in a trade war or two, and....

The Robots Took Our Jobs

The blue line is manufacturing output in the United States.  The red line is employment in the manufacturing sector.

It wasn't Mexicans.  It wasn't the Chinese.  (I mean, yeah, that didn't help, but....)

Democrats need to coalesce around a plan to ban self-driving vehicles in interstate commerce.


All that lovely teal?  That means the most popular job in that state is driving a truck.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Aligned Federalism

I'm trying to come up with a theory of Aligned Federalism, whereby "blue" states work together to create policy agendas that put market pressure on the malefactors of great wealth.  My thinking was originally on energy policy.  If the entire Northeast and Pacific Coast decided to support alternative energies, that could really boost the market, no matter what the federal government does.

Richard Mayhew has an interesting example of how this might work with prescription drugs.

The Assault On Healthcare

Medicare, Medicaid and now Obamacare are the essential building blocks of American health care coverage.  While a touch less than half (49%) get insurance from their employers, over a third (36%) get their insurance from the government.  Roughly 7% get their insurance from a "non-group" provider, which presumably is mostly the exchanges.

Trump's announcement that Tom Price will be his head of HHS lets you know that he will back GOP efforts to dismantle not only Obamacare, but Medicare, too.  GOP ideas to make health care "work" are pretty much terrible.  They seem to believe in Magic Unicorn Ponies like HSAs and buying across state lines that won't do much of anything to help people afford health insurance.

This is a frankly unbelievable move on the part of the Republican party.  Their electorate is overwhelmingly older and fearful. This is a natural wedge issue for Democrats.

However, the obvious concern is that the Democrats suck at politics.

Basically, Shumer has two tasks.  He has to keep his entire caucus in line.  That shouldn't be difficult.  If I'm Max Baucus or Joe Manchin I'm eager to run as a Savior of Medicare.  That fits into people's pre-existing narratives of what the parties stand for.

The trickier part will be finding three GOP Senators to preserve Medicare.  There are some natural rebels in Arizona, who also have a large elderly population to serve who could provide two votes.  Collins and Murkowski are also not prone to radical swings.  Marco Rubio has national ambitions that would probably be sunk by attacking Medicare.  Pat Toomey has shown some moderation and I wouldn't rule out even Tim Scott or Lindsay Graham breaking with their party over this.

To some degree, the assault on Medicare feels like a diversion to keep attention focused there while they dismantle Obamacare.  Maybe, but both fights are important.  And both need to be waged with discipline and ruthlessness.  There is no time for "Yes, but..." This has to be framed in terms of extremes.  Ryan and Price will argue that they aren't "ending" Medicare, they are simply introducting "choice."  Semantically that's true, but practically it's false.  Don't get caught defining terms or being reasonable.  Fight like hell.

Make the GOP radioactive heading into 2018.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Today In Trumpistan

You want to know what Trump's contribution to America will be?  Massive swindling.

Here's a very good take on how Trump will launch a four year assault on our legal institutions and rule of law.

A Pervasive Myth

One myth my wife and I struggle to fight against is the pervasive myth that the media is both all powerful and extremely liberal.  The media is in fact a fractured, wounded beast and its real bias is towards reporting conflict over substance.

But there is another myth that is pervasive, and that is that politicians always lie on the campaign trial.  In fact, just the opposite is true.

Trump is going to do exactly what he said he was going to do.  If it's a trade war - and I perversely hope he tries - it will lead to a recession.  Smoot-Hawley, folks.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

This Is Important

Economic populism did not help the Democrats, even when they ran on it in the Senate races.  Feingold ran WORSE than Clinton in Wisconsin, despite bona fide reformer credentials.

Again, it's not necessarily about economic populism.  It's about white identity politics.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Reshuffling The Deck

How are we to unravel Trumpistan?  How do we redraw the electoral map?  Obviously, finding a way to win back Pennsylvania is clearly a priority.  However, I think the manifest failures of the impending Trump Kleptocracy will manage some of that.

Additionally, you have to reclaim the cultural allegiances of some of the white working class, and the best way to do that is to break down cultural barriers.  I think activists for African, Muslim and Hispanic Americans need to train themselves to sit with these WWC voters and engage with them - not politically, but socially.  Not with the Armor of Grievance strapped on tight, but from a position of trying to find what you have in common.

Trump's pitch about urban hellholes was never intended to win black votes, but to scare rural WWC voters about the swarthy hordes of Philly, Detroit and Milwaukee.  If you can engage those voters, go to their communities, start a home and away softball game, potluck dinners and church socials, then you can demystify and unravel the "othering" that has defined out current politics.

Some of that is apparent in this story about how white voters broke depending on how far they moved from their place of birth.  Those that left home voted for Clinton.  Those that stayed home voted for Trump.  If WWC voters won't leave Erie or Eau Claire, then you have to go and visit them.

That's the easy part.

If Democrats/liberals really want to change the electoral and - more importantly - the congressional map, then they need to un-do the Big Sort.

Take Wyoming, for instance. Trump won Wyoming by 120,000 votes.  Demon spawn Liz Cheney won the House seat by 75,000 votes.  If you could move 200,000 young, liberal voters to Wyoming, you could flip the House seat, 3 electoral votes and 2 crucial Senate seats.

How about Montana?  Trump won by 100,000 votes, Ryan Zinke won the House seat by 80,000 votes and Steve Bullock, a Democrat retained the governorship by 18,000 votes.  Again, moving about 200,000 young, liberal voters to Montana nets you a House seat, a Senate seat and 3 electoral votes.

Of course, how do you convince half a million people to leave sunny California for the wilds of Wyoming and Montana?  The answer, to me, is Colorado.

Colorado is currently brushing up against some limits, as more and more of those young, culturally liberal people move there.  Water, as always, is the limiting resource in the West, and Montana and Wyoming aren't immune to that.  But as the Colorado Front Range fills up, why not expand up into Cheyenne and Laramie?  As Boston expanded it spread into southern New Hampshire.  That helped counterbalance the more traditional northern parts of the state.  Clinton won New Hampshire by winning Nashua.

Making Cheyenne and Laramie part of the Front Range political ecosystem might work.

For Montana, it's harder and easier.  Harder, because there isn't any natural ecosystem to link with, easier, because there is a natural appeal to living in Montana.  Clinton already won Gallatin County (Bozeman) and Missoula County, but she barely won Gallatin.  She lost Lewis and Clark County (Helena) and Cascade County (Great Falls) by a few thousand votes.  She got crushed in Yellowstone County (Billings).  Having been to Billings, I doubt any Democrat will excel there, but growing the populations of Missoula and Bozeman (and to a lesser degree Helena and Great Falls) would counterbalance the rural votes and the oil kingdom of Billings.

If I could live in Montana, I would.  So the question is: How do you create the sort of jobs that would get people to move there?  How do you create a Front Range type of political ecosystem in Montana?

The obvious answer is technology.  There is no reason why Silicon Valley has to be in Silicon Valley, except cachet.  It's cool to have a Palo Alto zip code.  But the Bay Area is running out of room.  That's not close to being a joke.

So how can we move roughly a million Bay Area tech jobs to Bozeman and Missoula?

Do that and suddenly things begin to change.  Can you find room for half a million tech jobs in Boise?  That makes Idaho a purple state.

Demographics will eventually flip Arizona and maybe Texas and Georgia.  Maybe North Carolina, too.  But to really change the political map, we have to change the population map.

We have to break down the Big Sort.

Friday, November 25, 2016

I'm Thankful They Are Starting To Focus

Looks like Democratic leadership is finally beginning to wake up and focus on Paul Ryan's plan to end Medicare and replace it with a voucher system.

Democrats have a two front war to wage the next four years.

One front will be against what I imagine will be the single most corrupt administration in US History.  I expect Trump and his unqualified minions will commence to loot the state in ways that would make Mobutu Sese-Seko blush.  Everyone who is worried about Trump creating concentration camps is missing the point (I hope).  He will create an organization to build the camps, his cronies will create companies to build the camps and then they won't get built and his cronies run off with the cash and kick back bribes to Trump, Inc.  When they aren't looting the Treasury, they will likely be so dangerously incompetent that they could start a war or a depression.

Democrats have to fight that battle.

But they also have to fight the usual battles against the far right ideologues of the Republican Congress, led by the Zombie Eyed Granny Starver from Wisconsin.

Pushing back on Medicare is the first glimmer that they realize the dual threats facing them.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Future

When I first heard of Universal Basic Income, I was incredulous.  But the more I read about it, the more it seems the way out of our current economic predicament.

As Thomas Piketty discovered, wealth inequality is the historical norm.  What changed is that for a few decades, it was possible to have a middle class existence and real material comfort from a working class job.  Recently, the pace of automation and globalization have destroyed that ability.  While most people in the US have what they need, they are constantly a lost paycheck away from real problems.

Work is no longer a guarantee of a decent quality of life.

That single fact is the most important fact in politics today.  What's more, it will only get worse.  Stern, in the above interview, makes the point I've been making about self-driving trucks: they will decimate the working class.  The fact that no one cares about this, the drive for progress for progress's sake, is what drives the anxiety of working class voters.  And Trump isn't going to help.

The other issues Stern notes are also important.  First, conservative intellectuals like the UBI. It gets rid of the need for an elaborate welfare state.  Everyone gets a $30,000 stipend and then the markets can function.  You want more?  Earn more.

Second, and more critically, moving to UBI will require us to re-evaluate how we think of work.  I am my job.  I take pride in my work.  What would UBI do for that?

Essentially, UBI would require an entirely new form of economics.  The thing is, our current economics are broken.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Might As Well

I agree with everything Josh Marshall says about the idea that the vote was hacked.  It is very, very unlikely that anyone hacked the election.  It's just too hard, though I could see any one state (cough North Carolina or Wisconsin cough) engaged in vote suppression, given their history.  Overall, though, Trump outperformed among WWC voters in so many different states that it's hard to ascribe this to voter fraud.

However, as fraught as the national mood is, go ahead and do an audit to remove any stigma or question over the election results.

If it were possible to advise Trump on anything, I would advise him to lead the way.  "Please, recount some votes.  I'm confident of the results."  He'd never do it, but it would be sound strategy.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The New New Math

Ezra Klein is right.  One of the most infuriating things about being a Democrat is watching the party leadership behave like an abused spouse.  Their are huge structural problems that Democrats face, but being unpopular isn't one of them.  Their ideas certainly aren't, even if their candidate was.

Mitch McConnell introduced parliamentary levels of party loyalty to a congressional system of government.  Schumer needs to introduce the idea of a shadow government.  Otherwise, the Democrats fecklessnness will lead to further problems down the line.

Monday, November 21, 2016


Ed makes some critically important points.

For all the "Democrats lost the White Working Class" pieces, the fact is that Democrats have been working to help the White Working Class.  It wasn't elites or even the very poor who benefited from Obamacare.  It wasn't Republicans offering to raise the minimum wage.

The Rust Belt rusted, because the circumstances that created the American Industrial Heartland are gone.  The Thirty Golden Years, from 1945-1975 were a unique time in world and American history.  They aren't coming back.

I would differ with Ed on one point.  The voters that voted for Trump voted for more than anger.  I do think they voted for hope.  Hope that Trump would destroy the system that has ground them down.  Looking at his transition team, it's very, very, very unlikely that Trump is going to do anything about their problems.

Maybe he winds up keeping Obamacare and giving it bipartisan cover.  Maybe that helps.  I can't see his infrastructure plan working, because it's a farce and a giveaway to construction companies more than actually building anything.  I agree with Jon Chait, that Democrats better sell their votes very, very dearly to support any infrastructure bill, because it is likely to be a corruption funnel and they should keep their fingerprints off of it.

But Trump doesn't give a shit about his voters.  He has stiffed workers over and over and over again.  Clinton probably screwed up in accenting his personal vileness over his professional malfeasance.  They should have hammered home the number of people Trump has screwed over. C'est la guerre.

Those WWC voters who flocked to Trump are likely going to get screwed.  And frankly, selfishly, it's not the place of the Democratic party from 2017-2021 to solve their problems.  Trump can't solve the Problem of the Rust Belt, because he's an idiot and because there is no solution.  Building a sea wall in Tampa isn't going to create jobs in Dayton, Ohio, providing the sea wall even gets built.

Instead, we will get massive tax cuts for the rich and an assault on Medicare and Obamacare.  We will get crony capitalism in spades.  

Sadly, the only way to blunt the impact of the rural WWC voter is to watch Trump screw up.  That lacks agency, but it's probable.  And if he doesn't, maybe all us elites were wrong about everything.  I doubt it, though.  Steve Bannon was crediting his theory of politics to Andrew Jackson, a man whose fiscal policies unleashed one of the worst depressions of the 19th century.

Buy gold.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Trump University

The Evergropenfuhrer - who never settles - settled his fraud case over bilking the rubes with his Trump University scam.  The settlement was for $25M.

There is a logic for any president to settle a case, he has an important job to do and going to court will take up a lot of time and energy.  Since the Donald has to learn how government works and shit, he will likely be busier than usual.  Also, Trump was clearly worried about the discovery process spiraling out of control.

While settlements usually don't come with an admission of guilt, when you're writing a $25M check, you probably don't think you could've won.

I'm just curious if the news media that harped incessantly on Clinton's email server even cares about this.  It got headlines, but it's already being pushed off the news.  Clinton, you may recall, was investigated, cleared but still apologized over the email thing.  And still we covered it and covered it and covered it.

Trump, however, has so many outrages, it's tough to keep up. I have close to zero faith that our media will even try.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Yeah, It's Going To Suck

The next round of Cabinet positions are in the wind.

A white supremacist will be your Attorney General.

A Russia coddling crypto-autocrat will be your National Security Advisor.

A civil liberties hating Teanderthal who wants a war with Iran is your CIA director.

So as far as the Trump Administration is concerned, I think we can all agree that the idea that far from caring if Black Lives Matter, there is some concern whether ANY lives will matter.

Thursday, November 17, 2016


The Democratic Party has very few leverage points over the national government right now.  The most important is the Senate.  Initial signs are that Democratic Senatorial leadership is going to cave to Trump.  Given their history, I am as worried as everyone else.

I'm with Scott Lemieux on this one.  I hope this is rhetorical posturing.  "Of course we will work with President Trump on needed legislation." But since the legislation before them will likely be crappy, they will sadly conclude that they can't agree to support THIS bill.  That's smart, because it contrasts with McConnell's obstruction for obstruction's sake.  I suppose they think they can drive a wedge between Trump and Congressional Republicans.  I wouldn't count on that.

At any rate, Democrats are basically in the place of Republicans from 8 years ago.  They have to wage an insurgency against the administration that directly threatens their interests.

This requires both strategy and tactics.  The tactics are clear enough: fight legislation and appointments as necessary to preserve key parts of the Democratic policy agenda.  For instance, Pual Ryan's plan to get rid of Medicare and replace it with vouchers and tax cuts is a terrible idea and likely to be very unpopular.  Unified and vocal opposition to this is critical to put the unpopularity of the hard right agenda on the defensive.  Tactics are likely to be as defensive as anything.  Insurgents win by striking at areas of weakness, until they can build momentum to strike at areas of strength.

Attack Bannon and Bannon-types, resist the worst ideas - vocally, peel off Republican factions as necessary.

The larger strategic issue is where I really feel like Democrats are adrift.  Sun Tzu wrote that a good general never fights a battle that he hasn't already won before the fighting starts.  You have to prepare the battlefield in a way that insures your victory.

A critical task for Democrats is to make a long-term plan to address some concerns of rural working class whites, while retaining the support of traditional Democratic voters.  You don't have to win rural Michigan or Pennsylvania, but you can't lose it 20-80.

There are policy ideas that would likely appeal to WWC voters: Martin Longman has suggested anti-trust attacks on banks, big box retailers and other entities that squeeze the life out of small town entrepreneurs.  I would add supporting rural health cooperatives that bring needed health care to rural areas.  Protections for small farmers would be popular, especially watershed protection from the fracking explosion that is likely to happen under Trump.

Those, too, feel a little tactical, though.

My idea - and I admit, I'm not sure how to achieve it - is more long range.  How do we bridge the rural-urban divide.  Country people are friendly, but they are also insular.  For that matter, so are minority and traditionally liberal communities.  How can we bring that sweet, church-going lady from small town Pennsylvania into contact with a 21 year old African American college student, or a gay school teacher in a way that pulls down the suspicions on both sides?

In studying American politics, we typically talk about different party systems and partisan realignments.  In my mind, there are only two parties going back to Hamilton and Jefferson.  There is the party of the community and the party of the individual. The labels we have put on those parties have changed.  The Democratic party was the party of the individual for a long, long time.  It is not anymore.

What we need to do is convince white working class voters something they already partly believe.  They already instinctively know that the Republicans are the party of the individual.  They need to come to see that the party of the community has a place for them at the table.

UPDATE: As usual, Jon Chait is right.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Our Capacity For WTF Will Be Tested

So which fear grips you more tightly?

That Donald Trump is a 21st century Mussolini who will snuff out democracy and create a dystopian hellscape?


That Donald Trump is an incompetent who will snuff out democracy entirely by accident and cretae a dystopian hellscape?

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Race In Trumpistan

German Lopez continues his fine work on race in America. In this article, he deftly pulls back the curtain on how to talk with whites about racism.  Certainly many whites are fine having those conversations, but many also aren't.  At some point, the idea of a college education might actually be about the education - about opening one's minds to other viewpoints.  That's at the heart of a liberal arts education.  If you don't have that experience - not to mention being on a diverse college campus - you're less likely to open yourself up to other viewpoints on race.

I've been thinking about the "what's next" question for Democrats.  I'm thinking about looking at state compacts and cooperative federalism as a way to lock in some progressive policies in the face of widespread regression in DC.

One other idea I had was "Donkey Dinners" where state parties would hold moving dinners through those overwhelmingly white, rural areas of the country that they lost so badly this time out.  This would allow party-building in areas where the Democratic party is withering away.

If we combine that idea with Lopez's thesis, we could train various groups to attend and work with these dinners - African Americans, Latinos, Muslims, LGBT communities - because one of the key barriers is simple understanding.  When Donald Trump referred to the urban hellscapes that were American cities, most of HIS voters agreed, because they spend so little time there.  For African Americans, it was extremely insulting; for rural whites, it was confirmation bias.

Breaking down that lack of knowledge would go a long way towards easing all sorts of tension in our politics, albeit in piecemeal fashion.

And additional challenge would be getting those marginal groups to set aside a more radical and transformative agenda for incremental change.  From a pragmatic perspective, a BLM activist should care about fewer African Americans getting killed by police, and that will require winning over white voters.  The Obama years perhaps created a false sense of progress and the idea that that progress couldn't be rolled back.

Time to get back to work.  One dinner conversation at a time.

Monday, November 14, 2016

A Two Pronged Attack

Trumpism is a two pronged attack on governance.

One is the inclusion of people like Steve Bannon in the White House and Sarah Palin in the Cabinet and so forth.  They will bring a combination of racism, belligerence and incompetency to our government that will be divisive and damaging.  Additionally, it will require people like Reince Priebus to normalize people like Bannon.  "Hey, he went to good schools!  He hasn't ACTUALLY started any pogroms!"

Trump is going to mainline the Crazy into the Executive Branch, and his temperament is such that he won't tolerate dissent from outside quarters.  All that dissent will do is cause the institutional Republican party to rally around these miscreants.

The second attack is just as damaging, but less visible at the moment.  As I mentioned last night, Paul Ryan has his eyes on destroying Medicare.  This is based on outright falsehoods that Obamacare has been bad for Medicare, when it has actually been incredibly beneficial.  Ryan's precedes from this lie to assert that turning over Medicare to private insurers will somehow reduce health care inflation, when the only thing that has proven to slow health care inflation is Obamacare.

That's just one policy.  You can add climate change, tax policies, aid to the poor to the list of things that are going to go in a HORRIBLY regressive direction, especially if the GOP kills the filibuster.

Democrats love to wear sack cloth and ashes, but there is one area where they are to blame in what's about to happen.  Democrats have done a good job moving the country to accept various minority groups.  This is a positive good. However, it comes with an increase in identity politics on both sides.  Identity politics failed in the '80s, because the country looked much different then.  Today, there is a path to electoral victory with African and Hispanic Americans, the college educated and Millenials.  This is the demographic promise for the future.

Right now, however, it prioritizes group responses to Trump.  If you are Muslim, you have a very specific and real set of fears about Trump.  These are similar but not identical to how African Americans feel, similar but not identical to how Hispanics feel, similar but not identical to how LGBT Americans feel.

The Left is always a hair's breadth away from splintering on its best days.  It is a naturally fractious coalition that lacks the unity of white working class voters.

The trick will be to fight on ALL fronts at once.  You can't just work to help fight the retrogressive social politics of Trumpism, you have to be ready to fight the retrogressive economic policies of Paul Ryan. Since Ryan is the darling of the Washington Media and ISN'T a racist asshat like Steve Bannon, it's going to be very hard to maintain a unified and mutually supportive coalition in the face of what could be a wholesale assault on post-MLK social America AND post-FDR economic America.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Be Scared Of THIS

We are all (legitimately) worried that Trump will try and deport good people and restrict press freedoms and be our most corrupt administration since Nixon.

Got it.

People, you need to keep your eye on the ball.  Yes, Trump is a crypto-authoritarian narcissist.

But Paul Ryan should scare the shit out of you.

Currently, he plans to privatize Medicare.  Yes, one of the most successful programs in our history is on the chopping block, because it gave Ayn Rand the Sads.

Providing the Republicans get rid of the filibuster, we need to get three GOP Senators to block this nightmare.  Here are the best targets: Susan Collins, Marco Rubio, Jeff Flake, Lisa Murkowski and John McCain, maybe Pat Toomey.  They represent purple states or grey states (states with old people).  It's time to scare the shit out of Granny, folks!

Absolutely Nothing Really Going Right In My Life?

How about you?

Saturday, November 12, 2016

More On The Media Failure

David Neiwart on how the media ignored the troubling connections between Trump and white supremacists and other extremists.

The media focused on Al Gore's sighing and earth tones in 2000, and then they bent over backwards for the lies about Iraq in 2002-3.  Thousands died and they still haven't learned exactly what their fucking job is.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Running Out Of Words

Today in US Gov class, kids pressed me on what sort of policies Trump might pursue.  I told them as best I could, based on Trump and Paul Ryan's public stances.

They were aghast.

Ending compliance with the Paris Climate Accords, ending Obamacare, ending Clean Air initiatives, abandoning the Iranian nuclear deal, a trade war with Mexico and China, massive regressive tax cuts.

But, you know, #Benghazi and emails and the tenor of her voice...

Clinton was a poor candidate to be running for a third term in an anti-establishment year.  James Comey truly ratfucked the election in a way I presumed wouldn't happen.  Trump motivated missing voters with naked appeals to racism and cultural resentment.

But if Trump really does embark us on a truly terrifying national nightmare, we can all thank the news media for a bang up job of shedding light on the issues at stake in Decision 2016.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Day One In Trump's America

Shaun King is keeping a twitter feed of all the shit that's going down.

Looking through it is nauseating.

But there is something else.  Most of these acts are acts of drive-by cowardice.  Anonymous acts of graffiti, things yelled from passing cars.  There are far too many direct confrontations in there, too.

So, here's the challenge, and it's especially a challenge for People Like Me: Every time you see or hear of something like this, you have to rush to the victim's aid.  No being coy or letting someone else handle it.  I'm terrible about that myself. I have bystander syndrome.

From here out I'm taking a vow.  Any time I see racist, sexist, bigoted actions, my first impulse will be, must be, going to support the target of that.

Yes, He's Your President

Going from Dubya to Trump is going from C+ Augustus to F You.

I completely share in people's anger and despair and bewilderment.  He is not my role model, not my spokesman, not my leader.

But he is my President.

I understand why people are saying this.  I want to say it, too.  But if you say it, you're engaged in exactly the sort of demonization and division that creates demagogues like Trump.

We don't elect Kings.  Trump will enter office, like Bush did, with a minority of the vote total.  Bush, being a more or less seasoned politician surrounded by seasoned politicians, spent the first nine months with his head down, not taking highly charged positions until the summer when he announced a stem-cell research ban.  His numbers tanked and he lost the trust of the people.  Then 9/11 happened.  In 2005, Bush and the GOP led off with privatizing Social Security and the Terri Schiavo nightmare. He never recovered, then there was Katrina and the following year the Democrats took control of Congress.

Politics works only when you are engaged with it.  That doesn't mean being engaged with only the people you agree with.  I was talking with a Taft security guard on the sidelines of our kid's soccer game.  He felt that Trump could win.  I assured him he was wrong, because data.  Who was right?  If I hadn't been so eager to show off my erudition I might have learned something that afternoon.

There IS a basket of deplorables that support this guy.  There are also a bunch of standard every day Republicans who supported their nominee.  There are also people desperate for change of any kind.

Winning the popular vote and losing the election is a nightmare we've had to endure twice in my lifetime.  The last time led to a disastrous war and a global depression.  I am as tired of this shit as you are.

But simply shutting the other side out won't get us to a place where we can sweep Congress and the White House.  Calling all Trump supporters racists and misogynists won't flip them into your camp.  Besides that, it's beneath you as a person to lump every individual of a group into the same basket as the worst elements of that group.

Donald Trump is going to be our president.  He says everything is a negotiation.  OK.  Let's negotiate.  Let's hold him accountable.  March.  Protest.  Write letters.  And when you engage, ENGAGE.  Don't simply have competing monologues.

Donald Trump exists because there are a large group of Americans who hate and mistrust elites.  That hatred is visceral rather than logical, and expressed itself in an electoral tantrum that will likely crush the global economy and make our country less equal and less welcoming.  To change that in two or four years means we have to move enough people past their tantrum and into dialogue.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

One Pathway

I was looking at the Senate map in 2018 and 2020.  That was the untold tragedy last night - losing those winnable Senate seats in PA, OH, FL, AZ and WI. It wasn't JUST the White House we lost.  We lost a chance to reshape the Senate, six years after the Tea Party wave.  Now you have to wait another 6 years.  If Trump completely shits the bed from the start - and that's not impossible - you still only make a dent in the House in 2018, if you're lucky.  You're really looking at 2020 before you can flip any of the three.

What sort of damage will be done by then?

Many times today, I have been recalled to my whiteness and maleness.  Partly because I look at every dude in a pickup truck and wonder just who's behind the wheel.  As someone Tweeted: "That feeling you've had for the last fifteen minutes?  Welcome to feeling like a minority."  More than anything, I know that my whiteness and maleness protects me from what could be some of the worst effects of a Trump Administration.

I also know that living in Connecticut insulates me from the worst effects.  I'm watching protests on CNN in cities across the country.  Cities.  Blue states.

For years, liberalism has defined itself in its actions via the national government.  Civil rights legislation and the Great Society.  The Affordable Care Act.  I wonder if the energy turns now to the states and localities that are already blue.

My wife and I had students come in with questions, and all of them were along the lines of "The Electoral College? WTF?"  So we talked about state compact groups.  It occurred to me that state compacts make so much sense.

My biggest worry is frankly environmental policy.  Tax policy will be a nightmare, people will suffer under the Ryan budget, but we will find a way to muddle through.  Once Trump and his minions get loosed upon the EPA, we are truly cooked.

However, it seems like this is an opportunity for states to join together to set their own standards.  Why can't California, Oregon and Washington come together and create fuel efficiency standards?  If they can reach out and join New York, Pennsylvania and New England, there isn't an automaker in the country who would make two sets of cars - one for the compact states and one for the non-compact states.  Similar attempts could be made on green energy policy or even possible infrastructure projects.

One obvious and fatal flaw that was exposed last night was geographic sorting.  There are a shit-ton of Democrats in cities and college towns, and very few anywhere else.  What I am proposing might very well make that worse. In some ways, it is the first logical step towards breaking up the United States.

But these are huge issues we face that go beyond economics.  It goes towards the future of our planet.  Global warming scares the shit out of me.  Trump will accelerate that warming, just as there was some evidence that we were starting to slow it.

State compacts among the blue states might be the best way to tackle those issues so that America doesn't return to becoming the world's biggest polluter.

What Next?

Everyone wants to know the answer to that question.

The rhetoric of this campaign was apocalyptic and it's natural to assume that the rhetoric will lead to the reality.  And while there is no doubt that this is the scariest moment in the history of our body politic since Nixon and the scariest moment for the world since Able Archer nearly triggered a nuclear war, there is also some small reassurance that institutions don't bend to a man.

We don't elect kings.

There is no doubt that Trump has authoritarian tendencies.  There is no doubt that the office of the President offers him opportunities to express that authoritarianism.  But the very structure of our government was founded on the idea that you can thwart the ambition of a would-be king by creating institutions that balance each other.

Trump is a massive, massive wild card.  He has no attention to detail, no interest in policy.  We literally have no idea what he will do as president.  Will he turn the reins over to Giuliani, Christie and Gingrich?  Quite probably.  Will he be a rubber stamp for the extreme fiscal policies of Paul Ryan and the extreme religious conservative policies of Mike Pence?  Quite probably.  I think it's fair to say that America will look a lot like Kansas in a few years.  And that's not great.

There is a raging argument about whether Trump's election was entirely about racism and sexism on the part of an aging white, male population.  I think in part it clearly was.

But part of the story - and this extends beyond the US - is that there is a backlash to "the way things are" that is taking place at the ballot box.  Brexit and Trump are twins.  The good news is - and I mean this sincerely - this revolution is currently done without bullets and barricades.

Whether they were white nationalists or just disaffected whites, the Trumpenproletariat just decided to give matches and gasoline to an arsonist.  Be clear: THAT WAS THE PLAN.  They want to burn the fucking thing down.

But lighting a fire is easy.  Controlling that fire is hard.  Much of Washington is made of marble and hard to burn.  I don't believe the foundations of our government will fall.  I believe we are headed for recession and not some small violence.  I believe we will stumble back into a pointless war.

I also believe that after we've mourned and shaken off our shock, that we have to start fighting for a better world.  The entire House is up for re-election in two years.  That's the first goal.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

I'm Nauseous And At A Loss For Words

So I'll just outsource this:

This Is Pretty Good

Own It Paulie

The Zombie Eyed Granny Starver says that the GOP is not Trump's party. As John Scalzi tweeted, that's not what it says on the ballot.

There is a none-zero chance that Trump wins this thing, and people are very loath to count chickens still in their eggs.  But it certainly looks like Clinton will win; the Blue Wall will hold and we will be spared the Trumpocalypse.

Whether Trump?  Ed at Gin and Tacos has a pretty accurate take on what happens next for the Evergropenfuhrer.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Tomorrow's Autopsy Today

Ezra Klein laments the existing and likely enduring threat to American democracy that Trumpism represents.  He builds off Julia Azari's piece on weak parties and strong partisanship.  This sentence is critical:

If partisans have lost so much faith in their party establishments, then why are they so much likelier to back whomever their party nominates? The answer, in short, is fear and loathing of the other party.

This is the strong partisanship that Azari mentioned.  The GOP can't perform their basic function, which is to coordinate a broad spectrum of political interests into a cohesive whole.  This allows a demagogue to hijack the party and then rely on that high level of partisanship to possibly win an election.  Trump found the cheat-code at the heart of the GOP: racial panic.  It's not about economic pain and dislocation, so much as it's about the fear of those things.

As I've been saying for years, the GOP media environment is soaking in apocalyptic fear-mongering.  That creates the environment for a demagogue.  Partisanship allows that demagogue access to millions of voters that he otherwise wouldn't have.  Consider this quote:

“We’ve got this online media where the profits are driven by controversy and clicks,” Sarah Rumpf, a former Breitbart writer, told Vox. “It’s just an activism problem in general, where it’s easier to fundraise and easier to get members when you can declare an emergency, when you can declare a crisis, when you can identify an enemy.”

And that is where demagogues come from.

What is ultimately worrisome is whether or not - in defending Trump - those voters have now internalized the racism, sexism and xenophobia that defines Trump.  Trump won the nomination as an ethno-nationalist.  The question is whether he can turn the GOP into an ethno-nationalist party.

Klein summarizes:
So here, then, is the key failure point in modern American politics, and observing it in action requires looking no further than the Republican Party: Voters’ dislike of their own party has broken the primary process, but fear of the opposition has guaranteed unified party support to the nominee. That means whoever manages to win a flawed competition dominated by the angriest, most terrified partisans ends within spitting distance of the presidency.
Party primaries were traditionally bulwarks against demagogues rising in American politics. Now they are the method by which they will rise.
Here is the frightening takeaway from 2016, even if - as I believe - Clinton wins.  There is nothing structural on the GOP side to slow or reverse this process.  Trump is too old (and will likely be too unpopular after losing) to win the nomination in 2020.  If you're a Republican wanting to win the nomination, would you pattern your campaign on Donald Trump or John Kasich?  The "coming civil war" in the GOP has all the power on the side of the Trumpenproletariat and none on the side of Paul Ryan and certainly none on the side of Jeff Flake.

The most likely result of tomorrow's election is Clinton winning reasonably comfortably - about 4% of the popular vote - Democrats winning the Senate by a few votes and the House remaining in Republican hands.  Those House Republicans will be full of the fearful, angry rabble that created Trump.  They will not wish to govern or compromise and the faith we have in our civic institutions will be further tested.  Important work will go undone, because the Republican party of Bob Dole and even Ronald Reagan has ceased to exist.  What we have instead is a group of people who are terrified of the changes being wrought in their country, so they are engaged in a multi-decades long tantrum that is paralyzing our government.

Clinton will likely win tomorrow. But we are still, in so many ways, already losers.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Asymmetric Knowledge

Liberals are the ultimate Chicken Littles come election time.  They constantly seek the defeat that they fear is coming for them.  Despite winning the popular vote in every election but one since 1989, Democrats are always convinced it will be Florida 2000 all over again.

Josh Marshall makes a very important point: at this point, most campaigns have more information than we do.  Campaigns and media outlets poll for very different reasons.  The media want to get a handle on the horse race, so they conduct big polls of the entire country or an entire state and then try and model from there.  Competent campaigns are polling to find out who might support them and how can they get those people to the polls.

Part of this is knowing where to send your candidate with 72 hours left in Shitshow 2016.  Before we look at that, we have to acknowledge that Trump doesn't run a conventionally competent campaign.  The guy stopped polling because he wouldn't pay his pollster.  Um....what?  Trump is flying blind, whereas Clinton has a map and sonar.

Sometimes a campaign will do appearances in a non-competitive state as a head fake ("Why is Clinton campaigning in South Carolina?"), but usually this close to the election, you go where you need votes.  Your campaign - again, if competently run - will send you and you main surrogates to where they can do the most good.

Let's look where Trump is going, again remembering that he's flying sort of blind.  He's going to Iowa , a state where he can plausibly win.  He's also going to Michigan twice and Pennsylvania twice.  He's going to Minnesota.  He's going to Virginia.  He has no chance there.  The swing states that he's visiting are Florida, North Carolina and New Hampshire, and that's one visit each.  He's spending more time in Michigan than in Florida.  That's insane.

Mike Pence's schedule is only slightly less insane: one trip each to Florida and North Carolina and two to New Hampshire makes sense (but I would send Pence to Iowa and Trump to NH), but two trips to Michigan? Trips to Pennsylvania and Minnesota?

Clinton, meanwhile has a formidable army of surrogates that Trump lacks.  Here are some of her campaign events:

Obama: New Hampshire, Florida, Michigan and Philly.  Chelsea is doing GOTV throughout Pennsylvania. Tim Kaine covers three events in Wisconsin and then three in Virginia, his home state.  Bernie Sanders is hitting Arizona and Nevada. Joe Biden is hitting Pennsylvania, too. Cher is doing a concert in Miami, Jon Bon Jovi is doing one in Charlotte.

But Hillary is the main asset, and where are they sending her? Cleveland (with LeBron), New Hampshire, then North Carolina, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Both campaigns are targeting Pennsylvania and Michigan with a lot of firepower.  Meanwhile, there is a poll out from Franklin and Marshall that has Clinton up 11 in PA.  Not even Republican polls have him winning there.  Why are they in PA?  Maybe to win that Senate seat from Pat Toomey?

Michigan is clearly an interesting case.  There was on poll that had it tied, but the rest show easy leads for Clinton - and there's no Senate race.

Here's where the election is likely to be decided: New Hampshire, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio and Nevada.  Maybe Wisconsin.  Where are the campaigns going?

NH: Trump-3, Clinton-2
NC: Trump-2. Clinton-2
FL: Trump-2, Clinton-2
OH: Trump-0, Clinton-1
NV: Trump-0, Clinton-1
WI: Trump-0, Clinton-3 (or 1, depending on how you count Kaine doing three appearances)

MI: Trump-4, Clinton-3 (Bill is going to Lansing)
PA: Trump-3, Clinton-4 (with multiple events from Chelsea and Biden)

Clearly, Clinton needs to lock up Michigan and Pennsylvania, because every Trump victory scenario includes winning those states.  And she is investing the time and energy to do that.

Why not more time in Florida and North Carolina?  Because millions of votes have already been cast there.

It's a very weird map, isn't it?

Trump is trying to make a last minute play for Michigan and Pennsylvania, perhaps because he's worried that he can't win Florida?  Normally, I would say that he has some inside polling numbers that suggest he's going to win, but he has no pollster.  And the public polling looks grim for him there.

So, what should you be looking for Tuesday night?  New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Michigan.  Clinton wins those and we don't have to care about Florida or Ohio.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Some Poli Sci For You

Here's an interesting take on what ails our politics.

Julia Azari basically points out that the old party structure has gone - I would argue that it has mostly flipped.  It used to be that the Democratic party was a mess, Will Rogers quipped: "I'm not a member of an organized political party; I'm a Democrat."  Today, that appellation applies to the Republicans.  They have always been the more disciplined party, but as they have abandoned the Suburban professional for the Exurban Tea Partier they have lost their discipline.

For all the caterwauling over Super Delegates, the Democratic party largely decided along historical norms, while there was some deadenders at the convention, it ran as it should.  Azari's article suffers a little from "both sides" but it's overall accurate when it comes to partisanship.

In the 19th century, partisanship was just as high (even if it was less ideological) but party structures were stronger.  The reason partisanship was high was because parties could reward their supporters with tangible benefits.

Today, the benefits a party can bring to its constituencies are largely negative.  No more taxes.  No more deportations. Ideally, the parties should be able to bring tangible benefits to its constituents just as legislators used to be able to bring benefits to their constituents.  Now, neither can.

So Republicans and Democrats wind up hating their own party elites almost as much as they hate the other side, though that is incredibly more true of Republicans.

What a mess.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Diving A Little Shallower

The other day I posted this chart, as to why I think Clinton wins:
I went into the various sub-groups and wondered where this Trump plurality was coming from.

But let's just look at the top-line number today.

In 2000, one week out, polls had George Bush up 3 points.  Al Gore outperformed that by 3 points, winning the popular vote.

In 2004, polls had Bush up 2 points over John Kerry.  That was roughly where the race ended.

In 2008, polls had Obama up 7 points.  That was roughly where the race ended.

In 2012, polls had the race tied.  Obama won by 4 points.

So, in the recent past, the polls have either been accurate or under-counted Democratic votes.  The Democrats naturally feel like a bunch of Chicken Littles when it comes to elections, especially post-2000.  Because the networks called Florida for Gore, then Bush, then no one, and because of the controversies surrounding the recount, Democrats are always expecting the worst.

But on election day, Al Gore outperformed the polls.  Four years ago, Obama outperformed the polls. At no time has a Democrat underperformed his poll numbers. Some of this, I expect, has to do with poll aggregations that include shitty, shitty polls like Rasmussen and ARG.  Now, the model for aggregating means you include all of them, because even a shitty, shitty poll can include data others are missing.  If you're including Rasmussen, you're basically tilting your aggregation, because Rasmussen are a bunch of Republican hacks, whose entire polling purpose is to provide hope for Republicans, so they don't get discouraged and stay home.  (I'm kidding, but only slightly.)

Obviously, four years ago, Romney's team had polling that showed them winning and they were stunned when they lost.  Again, that just means they had shitty, shitty polling.  Maybe, this time, it's the Democrats who have shitty, shitty polling, but traditionally, they don't.  Democrats don't live in the Fox Bubble of make-believe news.

Finally, it's all about Get Out The Vote.  By all accounts, the Clinton team - staffed by Obama's old crew - is turning out those early votes in good numbers.  Trump doesn't really have a GOTV apparatus.  If it really is that close, GOTV is everything.

UPDATE: Also, too - THIS.

I Wish He Had Written This A Few Months Ago

Yglesias on the media's crime against American political processes.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Why I'm Still Optimistic

This chart is why I can't see Trump getting elected:

Basically, red numbers are good for Democrats.  Compare 2016 with 2012.  Trump is underperforming Mitt Romney with the following groups: Republicans, Independents, Conservatives, Moderates, Men, Women, College Grads, Young People, People 30-64, Catholics, Protestants, Urban Dwellers, Suburban Dwellers, The Poor, The Rich, Hispanics, White College Grad Men, White College Grad Women.

Trump is overperforming Romney with the following groups: Whites Without College Degrees Men and Women.  And Blacks.

That last one might be really critical.  If Clinton can leverage Obama into increasing Black turnout into levels that are close to what he got, I just don't see how Trump can win.

I know the polls show the race tightening.  I just can't see how Trump finds more votes than Romney.

And Romney lost.  By a fair amount.

You're Not Helping

I don't know what to make of this article chastising men for what the author calls "benevolent sexism."

It's a symptom on the overboard sense of individual prerogatives these days that you can somehow pick not only your allies, but how they express their allegiance.  That's not really how it works.

The Louis CK bit was hilarious and on-point.  It was caustic and crude as his stuff usually is, but it makes arguably one of the best arguments for Clinton I've heard.  The assertion that he's somehow wanting Clinton to be the stay-at-home mom of democracy is ridiculous.  He's not arguing for her moral purity, in fact just the opposite.  He says he wants a "conniving bitch-mom who gets shit done."  He's not making a Victorian argument about the moral superiority of women, he's arguing that women work harder than men.

From my perspective, I have a hard time seeing the sexism in that.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Ignorance Is Not Strength

Matthew Yglesias makes an important point.  Rarely has a discussion of policy been so absent from media coverage of an election.  Next week we elect a new president, a new House and a third of the Senate.  This will lead the country in one direction or another.  We have not had a discussion about what direction that will be.

Trump will largely carry out Paul Ryan's economic plan while harassing minorities.  That means something.  That means a lot more than his personal moral emptiness or Clinton's emails.

The GOP is wedded to a frighteningly extreme economic and fiscal agenda.  Electing them next week would have dramatic consequences.

But if you watched or read the news, you'd have no idea this was true.

Some of this is Clinton's fault.  I understand why they made Trump's personality their central line of attack.  The decision, however, abandons the policy discussion that could further sink him.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016


I remain oddly optimistic about the election a week from today.  I certainly hope that optimism is warranted.

A few items have come out in the last 24 hours that deserve attention.

First, we have a report that there was consistent and suspicious contact between a server in Trump's offices and a bank in Russia with ties to Putin.

Second, we have a veteran intelligence officer convinced Trump has been cultivated as a Russian pawn.

This is almost certainly what Harry Reid was referring to when he accused Comey of a double standard in releasing his Friday letter and not releasing his investigation into Trump's apparent contacts with Russia and Putin.  There is obviously the additional information that Russia clearly hacked the DNC and that Putin has a history of engaging in ratfucking Western elections.

This fits in nicely with a piece by Jon Chait about how Libertarians like Peter Thiel and perhaps Paul Ryan are despairing of democracy.  If your goal is to funnel wealth upwards - and that has clearly been the GOP modus operandi for 36 years - then you are unlikely to find much support among the great mass of the voting populace.  So, you engage and activate the ethnic and racial resentments of white Americans to win elections.

If that doesn't work, then to hell with elections.

Chait goes on in a longer piece about how the GOP is increasingly becoming an authoritarian party, with no respect for democratic governing norms.  We now know that a GOP controlled Senate will not confirm any of Clinton's Supreme Court nominees because they simply don't give a shit about democracy anymore.  The GOP has abandoned the very idea and practice of governing.  They control a co-equal branch of government, but they simply won't do the basic tasks of governing.

Norm Ornstein's thesis that the GOP has become a radical insurgency within American politics has never looked more true.  And that is separate from the phenomenon of Trump.  Trump isn't wildly out of step with the GOP elite, he's simply embarrassing them by not using his inside voice.  He's a personal disaster, but his threats to democracy?  Whatever.  In the end, Paul Ryan can look back Trump's "textbook racism", veiled and not so veiled threats of violence and virulent misogyny to support someone who will give him power.

The GOP was headed to a historic defeat last week.  Right now, we have a deficit of polling, as I imagine everyone pulled their polls after Comey's letter.  We are stuck looking at shitty tracking polls.  If this letter gives us Trump, I weep for our country.  But if it merely preserves GOP control of the Senate and removes the ability of the Democrats to win the House, I shall weep still.

There simply isn't a margin big enough to teach the GOP to stop violating the norms that govern our governance.