Trump

The First Post-Election Election

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In case you were worried you’d have to wait 577 days to see America head to the polls again, worry not! Georgia’s 6th Congressional district will be holding a special election in a mere ten. It will be to fill Tom Price’s seat, vacant now that he has taken the roll of Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Trump administration. No matter the result of the election, I can guarantee the they will be hyperbolically exaggerated in terms of their meaning. Before we worry about that though, let’s take a look at the state of things in the fightin’ 6th!

It is located just north of Atlanta and contains some of the cities more well off suburbs. This is a district that in 2012 was won by Romney by 23.3 points and in 2016 was won by Trump by 1.5 points.[1] Newt Gingrich won the congressional seat in 1979, held it for 20 years, and has been won by Republicans ever since he retired. The lines were redrawn slightly after the 2010 census though, so we shouldn’t make too much of history.[2]

There are 18 candidates currently vying for the open seat. The leader in the polls with 40% is Democrat Jon Ossoff, a documentary film maker and former Congressional aide. At 20% is the former Georgia Secretary of State, Republican Karen Handel. There are three other Republicans polling around 10% and the rest of the candidates are chopping up the remainder. This isn’t a run away for Ossoff though. If no one gets 50% of the vote then the top two vote getters will compete in a run off election on June 20th where Ossoff won’t have the benefit of a fractured Republican vote. If polling holds and June 20th sees Ossoff face off against Handel, current projections have it a virtual tie. Ossoff leads 42/41, but 17% of the electorate is undecided.[3]

If Ossoff Wins

The narrative the next day will be that the GOP control of the House and Senate is as good as gone. If the Republicans can’t hold such a red district, what hope do they have for the rest of the country? Trump’s low approval ratings obviously reflect a nation that has already rejected him. People will point to cases like Republican Scott Brown’s win in the special election for Democrat Ted Kennedy’s Massachusetts Senate seat which foreshadowed the oncoming Tea Party Wave. This would be a mistake for a number of reasons.

  • One data point should never be looked at as a trend.
  •  Enthusiasm is currently on the side of the Democrats, but that could easily fade in the next 20 months.
  • This was an open seat so the Republicans didn’t have the incumbency advantage they will in other races.
  • Trump could do any number of things to potentially turn his approval ratings around and win back the country. This is not intended as a conspiratorial statement, but wars traditionally have a ‘rally to the banner’ effect for the President.
  • Also in 2010 was a special election for Pennsylvania’s 12th district in which Democrats outperformed to hold a seat in a red area, but still lost 63 seats that coming November.

All of these points should be further emphasized if Ossoff wins the race narrowly.

If Handel (or Another Republican) Wins

The narrative the next day will be that the GOP have an absolute and undisputed mandate to govern this nation. The approval ratings for Congress, Trump, and the AHCA/Republicare were obviously all fake news. The country is behind the President, his agenda, and his accomplishments so far. There is no anxiety about what the investigations into the Russian influence on the election might reveal. The Democrats are a dead party clinging to relevancy. This would be a mistake for a number of reasons.

  • ONE DATA POINT SHOULD NEVER BE LOOKED AT AS A TREND.
  • This has been a Republican district for 38 years, it staying that way isn’t Earth shattering news. To expand on that, this district is 9.5 points more GOP leaning than the nation as a whole. Democrats need 24 seats to take control of Congress which means they just need to flip districts up to and including districts that are 4 points more GOP leaning than the nation.[4]
  • The Democrats still have plenty of time to coalesce the multiple movements resisting Trump into one political force.
  • Trump could do any number of things to plunge his approval ratings to new found depths. A President’s approval rating is the single most influential factor in predicting a party’s success in the midterm elections, so yes this really does matter. [I can’t link to the source on this as it was a politics podcast from the 538 crew, so that’s where I heard it.]

All of these points should be further emphasized if the Republican wins the race narrowly.

How You Should Read The Results

After Tuesday the 18th has passed, you should check the results. If no one has 50%, then don’t pay much attention to any of the spin since an election between two people can easily go differently than an election between 18. If someone does have 50%, then just don’t get carried away on reading the tea leaves. Montana, Kansas, South Carolina, and California will also be holding special elections in the next three months. To read more about them, I’d recommend this article. After all five of these races are done, then we can take a look at the data as a whole. Until then though, don’t pour too much energy into what is just the most recent play in a very long game.

Seven Long Years for Seventeen Short Days

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After being introduced less than three weeks ago the AHCA/Republicare was going to be voted on yesterday, but the bill now seems dead without ever seeing the floor of the House. To say the least, this is a shocking turn of events. Getting it through Congress was supposed to be the east part, and the Senate was going to be the struggle. Instead we find ourselves here. This recasts how we must view the future of multiple groups in Washington, so instead of breaking down what happened, this post will focus on what we might expect going forward.

 

Paul Ryan

In my opinion it is Paul Ryan who is dealt the biggest blow by all of this. Republicare was clearly his bill as he was easily the loudest voice trying to drum up support for it. Now he finds himself as the last remaining champion of a bill his own party shot to pieces from multiple sides of the ideological spectrum and that the American people had a 17/56 approve/disapprove opinion of.[1]

It’s also important to note his predecessor, John Boehner, had a beginning of the end that looked awfully similar to this. Boehner expressed repeated frustration at being rebuffed by the Freedom Caucus Republicans when trying to move forward on issues that benefited from party unity. February 24th of this year Boehner even commented that a replacement to Obamacare was going to be incredibly difficult because house members, “will never ever agree what the bill should be.”[2] This lack of ability to wrangle the party and whip votes is what ultimately drove Boehner out of Washington and we might be seeing the same group pull the same move against the new speaker.

Freedom Caucus

Republicare created some strange bedfellows, but probably none stranger than the elected Tea Party members known as the Freedom Caucus and those still supporting Obamacare. Their insistence that this bill was simply ‘Obamacare lite’ and ‘the largest welfare program every proposed by Republicans’ made them some of this bill’s most vocal opponents. The death of this bill is going to make this group feel emboldened and like they will be able to pull this administration further to the right.

On the morning of the second day this bill was supposed to get a vote, Trump tweeted:

Even accusations that they’d be cast as pro-choice couldn’t sway them though. There are interesting dynamics at play here because in many of their districts, they won their elections in landslides, but Trump beat Clinton by similar numbers. Trump was speaking specifically of the chairman of the Freedom Caucus Rep. Mark Meadows(R-NC) when he said, “I’m gonna come after you, but I know I won’t have to, because I know you’ll vote ‘yes,’”[3] Will Trump attempt to primary out some of the people who opposed him in this bill? Would he succeed if his approval among Republicans starts to slip while Reps remain popular in their own districts? It’s tough to say and I’m not quite ready to start forecasting 2018.

Donald Trump

Truthfully, I believe Trump is happy this is done. You could tell right away that this wasn’t a fight his heart was in because of how the White House rebuffed labeling the bill TrumpCare.[4] If a man who is willing to put his name on average steaks sold at the Sharper Image actively fought putting his name on this, it was obvious what his opinion of the whole thing was.

Now, I don’t think he was happy to take the loss on this, but look at his reactions following Jeff Sessions recusing himself from the Russia investigation compared to this Friday afternoon. Either he’s pivoted to become much more presidential, or this loss really didn’t bother him much. Trump can now shift the focus to tax reform which is an issue that the American people give him more credibility on and that is a much more personal fight for him.

The question remains though, how much political capital did this fight cost him? The Freedom Caucus played chicken with Trump and he was the one to blink first. The storied deal making abilities of the man got put to their first legislative test and he was found woefully lacking. If anyone has proven they can brush off a failure and stumble forward it’s Trump, but this could signal to the rest of his party that he’s not invincible and could be challenged more regularly.

Democrats

Finally we get to the group that Trump blamed for the whole thing falling apart.[5] It seems like the current GOP plan is to let Obamacare continue on, possibly guarantee it fails but more on that in a moment, and then tell the American people that the group that doesn’t have control of a single branch of government was the one that orchestrated it all. Trump challenged the Democrats to reach across the aisle and bring him their plan and that’s exactly what they need to do.

Republicans are going to catch a great deal of flack for promising that they had a replacement ready to go seven years ago. They just needed to be given the house, the senate, and the presidency first. It seems increasingly likely that for the vast majority of that time there was no plan but to criticize, so Democrats now need to bring forward their plan. Every Democrat I’ve heard openly admits that Obamacare has flaws that need to be addressed so they should write the bill that they would have introduced if Clinton had won the election.

Doing so would help demonstrate that they intend to remain a governing party and not just turn into an opposition party. Failure to do so will also assist Republicans in their claims that every negative truth and fiction about healthcare in this country is entirely on their heads.

ACA/Obamacare

“We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future.” Those were Paul Ryan’s words at the brief press conference he held after the plan to vote on Friday was scrapped.[6] Trump echoed similar sentiments in his words to the media. With no replacement to vote on, the plan from the GOP is clearly to wait until Obamacare gets so bad that everyone else will come to the table and work with them.

It is something of a strange stance because if we take Trump at his word that Obamacare is a disaster for people, businesses, and this country, but he’s content to just leave it in place for now, that seems incredibly heartless. Either its destroying the economy and the American way of life and therefor needs attention immediately, or it’s none of those things.

More importantly though, there are actually many things this administration has the power to do on its own to either help Obamacare better serve the needs of the people or to undercut it entirely. As HHS Secretary Tom Price put it:

There are also plenty of things happening on the state level with Medicaid tied to Obamacare that this administration could bolster or hamstring.[7] It would be very easy for Trump and other Republicans to say they’ll just wait for Obamacare to fail while actively working behind the scenes to guarantee it does just that and for the fifth consecutive election, campaign on the idea that the American people need to grant them more power for them to come up with a replacement plan.

Final Thought

If you would have polled any politician the day after the most recent election, I would bet 95% would have agreed that Obamacare was virtually dead and gone. I know I would have laughed in your face if you would have told me that Republicans wouldn’t even vote on either repeal or replace. You could easily argue that both Clinton’s and Obama’s attempts at healthcare fixes cost their party a majority in Congress in the following election. Normally I would suggest history will repeat itself, but nothing about this last week has made me want to use the word normal unless it’s proceeded by the letters ‘ab’.

Three Important Moments in Trump’s Interview with the New York Times

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Trump Cabinet Update

Secretary of State – A great deal of speculation continues about this key position. Fortunately, it looks like the John Bolton possibility has fallen by the wayside. Now things seem to be between Giuliani and Romney. Inside sources are saying that for Romney to be offered the position he needs to apologize for the scathing speech he gave about Trump back during the GOP primaries. [1] Although it’s a nice thought that Trump would build a ‘Team of Rivals’, it’s a long way off for now.

Attorney General – Jeff Sessions seems to be the leading choice for this position. He was the first senator to endorse Trump, so it isn’t surprising he’s up for some cabinet post. The awful thing here is that Sessions was up for a federal judgeship 30 years ago, but was denied the post because of concerns about his racism. There was testimony that he called assistant US attorneys who were black ‘Boy’, thought the NAACP and ACLU were un-american, and joked that he thought KKK members were, “OK, until he learned that they smoked marijuana.” [2] It was unacceptable for a federal judge in the 80s, but it may be acceptable for Attorney General in the Trump administration.

Secretary of Education – This one is a done deal, it’s Betsy DeVos. Now, I will say that she has a long record of supporting Arts Education in schools, so major positive points there. There is a glaring flaw though. She has spent her entire career fighting to undermine public education through voucher systems and school choice. There are ways that system can be used for good, but given that Trump just settled one of the fraud lawsuits about his own university for 25 million dollars, we can guess what a voucher system might look like under Trump. Michigan has around 80% of its charter schools run by private companies. [3] This is an issue that deserves more attention than just this paragraph, but if you’d like to see more examples of how this system has worked so far in this country, I’d invite you to watch the segment John Oliver did in August on charter schools. Overall it’s just strange to have a secretary of education who didn’t attend public schools herself, didn’t send their children to public school, and has never worked in a public school.

Before the Meeting

Because we can’t have a news story about Trump without a bizarre series of events that include twitter, I relay the following. There was plenty of anticipation for the meeting between Trump and the NYT staff, but then the President-elect tweeted this:

This was news to the NYT who hadn’t changed any conditions of the meeting, and hadn’t been contacted about the cancellation. They found out along with the rest of us when Trump tweeted the above. When the Times told Trump nothing had changed then the meeting was back on as planned. The question remained though, why did Trump think something was being changed?

According to three sources who talked to the NYT, it was RNC Chair and soon to be Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. Supposedly he thought Trump wasn’t ready for the interview and instead of telling him that, attempted to sabotage the whole thing. [4] As these sources have remained anonymous, it’s impossible to know. I’ve seen other people suggest it wasn’t Priebus, but instead it was members of Trump’s staff who don’t like Priebus since he’s such a key member of the establishment and this was their attempt to undermine his authority. Again, tough to say anything for certain other than somehow Trump thought things were changed, ranted on twitter, and then upon finding out they weren’t, put everything was back on.

The Interview

It was an hour long interview and you can read the entire transcript here, but there were three things that really jumped out at me.

“The Times is a great, great American jewel,” and “Well, I just appreciate the meeting and I have great respect for The New York Times. Tremendous respect. It’s very special. Always has been very special.”

Both of those were comments Trump made about the NYT after calling them failing earlier that exact same day. During the campaign he repeatedly called them liars, threatened them with litigation, and his supporters even invoked the term ‘Lugenpresse’ to refer to them. [5] Now they’re a jewel he has great respect for? I don’t see how he can possibly ump back and forth between those two opposed stances so readily.

I want to get back to the term Lugenpresse though. It was often invoked during Hitler’s rise to power and many people have pointed that fact out in tying Trump’s ‘Alt-Right’ supporters to the Neo-Nazi and White Supremacist groups that all seem to share so much of the same ideology. Trump had comments about the Alt-Right directly:

“I don’t want to energize the group, and I disavow the group…It’s not a group I want to energize, and if they are energized, I want to look into it and find out why.”
To start with, they are indeed quite energized. Richard Spencer led an Alt-Right conference in DC this past week. It should be noted that Spencer was the man who coined the term Alt-Right, so if anyone has the right to claim what the Alt-Right is and isn’t, it’s him. So what did he do at this conference? According to the NYT: “He railed against Jews and, with a smile, quoted Nazi propaganda in the original German. America, he said, belonged to white people, whom he called the ‘children of the sun,’ a race of conquerors and creators who had been marginalized but now, in the era of President-elect Donald J. Trump, were ‘awakening to their own identity.’ [6] This was followed by the full room of people giving the one armed Nazi salute to Spencer. When asked about this, Spencer defended it by saying the salutes were, “clearly done in a spirit of irony and exuberance.” [7] Again, this is the man who coined the term Alt-Right and he’s completely fine with his followers being so excited about everything they just can’t help but give the Nazi salute to him.
It’s not hard to figure out why they feel so energized. The appointment of Steve Bannon I talked about in my last post played a huge role in the Alt-Right’s excitement. Bannon is proud of the fact the Breitbart has been a platform for Alt-Right views, but claims that it’s ok because he doesn’t think things like antisemitism are really a part of the Alt-Right. I go back to the fact that the guy who invented the term seems to think those things belong, but there are also plenty of instances of antisemitism that have been posted as endorsed articles on Breitbart like calling Republican strategist Bill Kristol a ‘Renegade Jew’ [8]
If Trump didn’t want these people to feel like Neo-Nazism and White Supremacy were mainstream ideas gaining momentum in this country, he shouldn’t have given their mouthpiece a cabinet post. I don’t know if Trump is ignorant to the fact that he has done this or maliciously lying about the fact that he knows he’s done this. I also don’t know which paints a bleaker picture for the next four years. There was something else said in the interview that makes the next four years much murkier though.
In response to whether or not he would appoint the special prosecutor for Clinton he promise during the campaign:
“Well, there was a report that somebody said that I’m not enthused about it. Look, I want to move forward, I don’t want to move back. And I don’t want to hurt the Clintons. I really don’t….Yeah, look, you know we’ll have people that do things but my inclination would be, for whatever power I have on the matter, is to say let’s go forward. This has been looked at for so long. Ad nauseam. Let’s go forward. And you know, you could also make the case that some good work was done in the foundation and they could have made mistakes”
So no movement to indite Clinton for either the emails or the Foundation. This obviously goes against one of Trump’s direct promises during the campaign. Merchandise was sold saying “Hillary for Prison”, chants of “Lock Her Up!” were common at his rallies, and Chris Christie had his big speech at the RNC getting the attendees to shout “Guilty” as he read through a list of accusations against Clinton. Some of his supporters obviously feel betrayed on this point. [9]
If he sticks to this idea that he won’t push for anything to happen to Clinton though, it will be an incredibly blatant lie. It got me thinking about all the promises he made (Defeating ISIS, building the wall, imposing term limits on Congress, that he would release his taxes, the list goes on) and how he’s going to handle these in four years. I know we don’t want to think about 2020 yet, but Trump is going to have to run a reelection campaign and how does he handle some of these things he unequivocally said he would do, but now seems to be backing away from. I see four options.
1. He claims he never promised thing X despite all evidence to the contrary.
2. He claims he actually did thing X despite all evidence to the contrary.
3. He claims he would have done thing X but was stopped by the establishment.
4. He admits he didn’t do thing X and apologizes. (Look, it’s theoretically possible and I’m being thorough)
It was surprising for me to see him back away so quickly from going after Clinton, but I imagine it will be even more surprising for me in four years to watch him answer questions about it. For now though, it leaves us back in the position of not really knowing which campaign promises he was sarcastic about and which ones he was not that sarcastic about. I guess we have four years to find out.

Seven Days Without a Politics Post Makes One Weak

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For those of you who aren’t friends with me on Facebook, I did most of my political analysis running up to the election there. Since the vast majority of my traffic came when I linked my posts to Facebook, I figured I’d just cut out the middle man. Political novel posts fly during election season, but now that things are done-ish I’ll be mostly shifting back to here. More on that at the end of this post, but for now let’s talk about what we know now that one week has passed since we all heard the words we didn’t expect ‘President Donald Trump’

Election Night Numbers

The first thing I want to address is all the hate that pollsters are getting right now. People are asking, how did the polls get it so wrong? I’m here to tell you that they didn’t and to blame pollsters is to commit a grave error. On the morning of the election Clinton held a 3.5 point lead over Trump. After all the votes are tallied it looks like Clinton is going to win the popular vote by 1.8 points. Since 1968 a 2 point polling error is the average which means the pollsters were actually closer than normal on this one. Now the people who looked at a 3.5 point lead and assigned a 95%-99% chance of Clinton winning? Those people definitely carry some blame.

Unfortunately it’s a near guarantee that in 2020 (Yes, I’m going to talk about 2020, after all the primary season is only two years away) people are going to claim that all the polls are wrong, just look at 2016! That’s not what happened here. Like I said, please blame groups that looked at the polls and gave inflated probabilistic forecasts, but don’t blame the polls. Clinton was roughly a 70/30 favorite on election day, so despite how it’s being spun, this isn’t the greatest upset in American political history.

Looking at a couple additional interesting numbers from this election. Clinton outdid Obama by around 200,000 votes in Florida but still lost the state. Clinton lost Michigan by only 16,000 votes which is notable because in the country in which Detroit is located, she under performed Obama’s 2012 numbers by 60,000 votes. Clinton lost Wisconsin by 60,000 votes and it’s estimated that 200,000 people were turned away from the polls because of the new voter ID laws in the state. If you take Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania combined, Clinton lost those states by just shy of 150,000 votes total which is why she’ll lose the electoral college despite being up in the national popular vote by over a 1.2 million votes and counting. I know a ton people are going to focus on the electoral college, but in all honesty looking at Wisconsin and looking at North Carolina (A state that had 10% less turnout of the black vote than in 2012 after passing voting laws that were struck down in courts for targeting minorities) there are other more winnable legal battles that also have immediate consequences.

Trump’s Transition

I watched Trump’s acceptance speech the next morning. I really was impressed. He struck a nearly humble tone, thanked Clinton for her service to the country with what sounded like sincerity, and discussed infrastructure which wasn’t really a plank of his campaign platform. In an exercise in grasping at straws with a friend I suggested that maybe Trump really had Art of the Dealed the whole country. You start from an extreme position and then through negotiation end up in the middle. Perhaps Don the Con earned that name and the next four years weren’t going to justify the fear. Nancy Pelosi even eagerly came forward saying that Democrats would be happy to talk about an infrastructure bill. That hopefulness of mine lasted precisely four hours, then the theoretical appointments started turning up.

It should be noted that all appointments except three are hypothetical. Several names have been thrown around for Secretary of State. First it was Newt Gingrich, but at least according to Giuliani, the top choice now is John Bolton. [1] Again, this is a theoretical pick, but it needs discussion. John Bolton, aside from being a Washington insider, establishment politician, and therefor the exact sort of person Trump said he was draining the swamp of, was one the key architects of the Iraq war and instrumental in allegedly falsifying the intelligence that said Iraq had WMDs. Trump made such a huge deal out of how much he knew ahead of time the Iraq War was a mistake and then Bolton gets floated for SoS? We’ve also seen Carson brought up for Department of Education, but Carson has already said no in a statement, “Dr Carson feels he has no government experience, he’s never run a federal agency. The last thing he would want to do was take a position that could cripple the presidency.” [2] Which has to be a joke given that he was running for the Presidency, but I digress.

One of the picks we know for sure is Reince Priebus for Chief of Staff. Being the head of the RNC, you can’t get much more establishment than that, so to his supporters that might seem like a slap in the face and another example of his claim of ‘draining the swamp’ being more hollow than the Cheetos Trump is so often compared to. We also know that at least as far as the transition team, not necessarily a permanent post, is Myron Ebell for the EPA. This is a man who thinks climate change is “Silly”, has lobbied with Arizona Congressman John Shadegg on an effort to rewrite parts of the Endangered Species Act to be “more respectful of property rights”[3], and his current organization The Competitive Enterprise Institute received multiple donations between 1998-2005 totaling 2 million from Exxon Mobile[4]. And yet it’s the third appointment that has me the most concerned for the next four years.

Steve Bannon has been called many things. He’s been called anti-Semitic for not wanting his children to go to a school that had too many Jews. He’s been called a White Nationalist for all his work helping to found and stoke the fires of the Alt-Right. He’s been called a misogynist for publishing articles on Breitbart news blaming women for the wage gap because of their poor interview skills and saying that birth control makes women ugly and crazy. Glenn Beck, yes that Glenn Beck put it this way, “When people really understand what the alt-right is, this neo-nationalist, neo-Nazi, white supremacy idea that Bannon is pushing hard; I hope they wake up because, if not, we are racist. If that’s what we accept and we know it, then we are racist. I contend people don’t know what the alt-right is yet.”[5]

Here’s the thing though. Of all the things in the above list that trouble me, it’s the publishing articles on Breitbart part that legitimately worries me the most. Steve Bannon is the co-founder of the alt right news website and now he’s Chief Strategist in Trump’s White House. Sean Hannity, a close friend of Trump and Fox News contributor, has suggested that CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post shouldn’t get White House press credentials. [6] Trump is also known to have an extremely adversarial relationship with multiple media outlets. Steve Bannon has the resume of a bigot, but it’s the fact that he’s a bigot with a publishing arm that could easily muscle its way into becoming a state sponsored media outlet with the only access to the White House that has me wondering what the Fourth Estate is going to look like down the road.

Policy Sneak Peak

For the optimists though, Trump continued to throw out scraps, but they need to be identified for what they are. I watched people on MSNBC’s Morning Joe talk about the relief the LGBT community must be feeling about Trump’s comments that he views marriage equality as “Settled law.” [7] I could point out the oddity of viewing Obergefell v. Hodges as settled but not Roe v. Wade. Instead I want to focus on one of the 20 supreme court justices on the list Trump posted as candidates for Scalia’s spot. William Pryor filed a brief in the landmark Lawrence v. Texas decision decrying not gay marriage, but gay sex as possibly having, “…severe physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual consequences, which do not necessarily attend heterosexual sodomy, and from which Texas’s citizens need to be protected. [There is] no fundamental right to engage in homosexual sodomy just because it is done behind closed doors” [8 PDF Warning] Trump may not care about marriage equality, but if he puts a man who views two gay men having consensual sex in the privacy of their own home to be spiritually damaging onto the Supreme Court, then the potential damage is out of the President’s hands.

The other Trump soundbite getting a lot of play recently was his apparent softening on the campaign promise to repeal Obamacare. [9] This came after his meeting with the current President where the two apparently discussed the matter and Obama attempted to impress upon Trump just how vital some of the pieces of the law are. Similar to the issue of marriage equality, this is a thing that even if Trump changes his mind on, I’m not certain it will effect the potential fallout during the incoming administration. Don’t forget how many times Congress has voted to repeal Obamacare and how many of those Congressmen have campaigned on continuing to do just that. Now that they finally have a clear path to doing so, would they stop and give up the opportunity to put that notch on their bedpost? Would Trump go so far in his new view of the law that he would veto such a bill if it didn’t have a replacement plan attached? What will Trump do with Paul Ryan’s new plan to rewrite Medicare while they’re already working on the ACA?[10] One key thing to keep in mind with any new promises Trump makes that might seem moderate, will the Republican controlled House and Senate fall in line or will they continue on the same track they took while Obama was in the White House? Trump doesn’t have to do the damage himself, he just has to not get in the way of other groups much more intent on some of these proposals than he is.

This Blog Moving Forward

You all know how I like titles. I debated about this one because although headlines and puns are not strangers, perhaps this matter was too serious. To quote Who Framed Roger Rabbit though, “A laugh can be a very powerful thing. Why, sometimes in life, it’s the only weapon we have!” I’ve always lived by those words. A laugh can take the sting out of an event that then lets you start to deal with it. When you laugh at a thing, it also sticks in your mind longer. It’s easy to disengage when things are feeling down, but now is not the time for that. I’m going to work to not go too long without posting here myself, but I also want to invite others to do the same.

This has always been a personal blog of mine to just talk about whatever. It turned into more politics because that was the topic I had the most motivation to share my thoughts on. This election has stirred a lot of people into wanting to take a more active roll in things. Starting a blog can be intimidating, so I’m opening up mine. If you want to do a guest spot, reach out to me. This space isn’t much, but if it can be used to help others find and amplify their voices, especially now, then let’s speak up and speak out together.

 

What People are Missing About the Khan/Trump Feud

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In case you missed how this started, a man named Khizr Khan spoke at the DNC. It’s only a six minute speech, so I’d invite you to take the time to watch it all if you have the time.

Trump fired back Friday in an interview with George Stephanoloplis that can be seen below You may watch the whole thing, but the piece relevant to this post starts at 14:30.

Since Trump’s response there has been a boatload of coverage coming in from every media outlet but I need to make a point I don’t think is being understood in the matter. This individual incident won’t sway a single vote in the presidential election. I purposefully loaded that sentence with two key qualifiers though, so let’s take a look at those.

“This individual incident”

Odds are that Trump attacking a Muslim family isn’t going to shock anyone. His supporters already agreed with him on that issue, and his detractors already saw it as a huge flaw. You might think attacking the family of a fallen soldier might be a step too far, but don’t forget what Trump has already said about the military and veterans while suffering virtually no setback in the polls.

On POW and GOP Senator John McCain, “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” [1]

On ordering the military to follow orders that are in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions by killing unarmed noncombatants, “They won’t refuse. They’re not gonna refuse me. Believe me.”[2] That remark drew sharp criticism from CIA Director Hayden who questioned how Trump could be Commander in Chief without understanding the military is expected to disobey immoral and illegal orders.

Trump even had a small, by his standards, scandal regarding his claims that he’d given money to charities for veterans and whether or not he’d actually given the groups the money he claimed. [3]

Yet none of this has moved the needle much as far as his support goes, so I don’t imagine attacking a Gold Star family is going to break that trend. But this incident does demonstrate something else that could be a problem down the line for Trump. He is completely unable to respond to criticism in a rational and, more importantly, targeted manner.

Plenty of people have pointed out that Stephanopolous really did force the issue and that Trump may have laid low on this one on his own. I would suggest it’s the job of the interviewer to force the issue, but either way the key is in the way Trump responded. Trump didn’t just address the criticism he made it personal with not just the person doing the criticizing, but also their family.

Mr. Khan’s wife stood nearby and never said a word during the speech. Trump made it a point in his response to attack her as well. The reason this matters is because one thing that often supersedes political allegiances is going after family. I maintain a major reason Cruz didn’t endorse Trump is because of the attacks Trump made on Cruz’s wife. Attacking the family of a Muslim fallen soldier might not end up meaning anything, but if Trump doesn’t understand that there are people who are off limits politically, he’s going to find himself with no allies left while he’s running for the oval office.

“In the presidential election”

Since Trump’s remarks went public, the Khans did an interview in which they specifically called for Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whom he called, “leaders and patriots,” to denounce Trump’s comments. Each has released a brief statement:

McConnell said, “All Americans should value the patriotic service of the patriots who volunteer to selflessly defend us in the armed services. And as I have long made clear, I agree with the Khans and families across the country that a travel ban on all members of a religion is simply contrary to American values”

Ryan said, “America’s greatness is built on the principles of liberty and preserved by the men and women who wear the uniform to defend it. As I have said on numerous occasions, a religious test for entering our country is not reflective of these fundamental values. I reject it. Many Muslim Americans have served valiantly in our military, and made the ultimate sacrifice. Captain Khan was one such brave example. His sacrifice — and that of Khizr and Ghazala Khan — should always be honored. Period.” [4]

Notice what’s missing from both of those statements? Any mention of Trump. The media has definitely noticed and has been asking for more specifics from both of them. This is a big key to this election I’ve been trying to point out for a while. Every time Trump creates a controversy, it’s not just him that has to be Mr. Teflon, it’s everyone running lower on the ticket. The 24 GOP senators running for reelection will hardly be able to run their own campaigns without being stopped every third day to be asked how they feel about Trump’s latest comments. Being asked to choose between supporting the military and supporting their party’s nominee is not a situation they want to be in. Will this impact votes in the presidential election? Likely not, but as far as the House and Senate are concerned?

If there’s one thing the Democrats have learned under Obama, it’s just how empty a victory with the executive branch can be if it’s coupled with a loss in the legislative branch. Trump needs to stop forcing his fellow Republicans into press conferences entirely focused on Trump or else he’s going to find himself with no allies left if he’s in the oval office.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Nomination: It Went to Trump

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I’ve said before and I’ll say it again. I tend to demand too much of my posts. This leaves me in a state of posting not at all. Big goings on are going on though, so I’m going to be brief with my thoughts and not have three citations per line, but I’ll actually get a post done before the story is old news and I delete the draft.

Last night the Indiana primary went to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz withdrew from the race. This morning Kasich followed suit and also suspended his campaign. Even without the two other candidates dropping out, with a win in Indiana, Trump had a pretty clear path to the 1,237 delegates needed to assure him the GOP nomination. There will be plenty of time to dissect the Trump v Clinton race. In this post I want to address the idea of running as an anti-candidate, the pending SCOTUS nomination, and what we should look for in the down ballot races.

The bickering between the Cruz and Kasich campaign began months ago, each accusing the other one of needing to drop out then because both were splitting the anti-Trump vote. I think what we saw recently in Indiana and the North-East can put that theory to rest. Kasich and Cruz just didn’t have voting blocks that would show up for the other. This is an idea we have seen repeated in politics many times in just the last three election cycles, but it seems the lesson has not been learned.

Think of the Kerry/Edwards campaign in ’04, the Romney/Ryan ticket in ’12, and now the Cruz/Fiorina pairing. What did these campaigns have in common? They ran on the ‘I’m not the other guy’ platform and both lost. That doesn’t get people to vote for you whether ‘the other guy’ is Bush, Obama, or Trump. I thought Cruz might be an exception because he had the backing of so many people in the establishment, but as it turns out when your slogan is #Never’otherguy’ it doesn’t win.

I do want to note one more thing about Cruz’s failure as a candidate. He was by far the most religious of the remaining candidates, saying back in 2010, “I’m a Christain first and an American second.” This election year his family gave several quotes about God wanting him to run, and yet he lost. In 2012 the number of GOP candidates who claimed God told them to run became a joke, you had Perry, Bachmann, Santorum, and Cain among others. In 2008 you had Huckabee who was also the religious alternative to McCain, but lost. In the inevitable talks of Trump splitting the Republicans, I’ll be interested to see what comes from the Evangelical camp. Will they vote Trump or will they start to call for their own candidate since they no longer feel represented by the party as a whole?

It has been 81 days since the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has stayed true to his word that he would not even allow hearings for a replacement and give the decision to the next president. That despite the fact that Obama nominated Merrick Garland who many GOP senators, particularly Orin Hatch, had suggested as a nominee the president should put forward. McConnell is now presented with three possibilities:

  1. Trump wins the presidency. This becomes tricky for McConnell since he has no idea who Trump might nominate and whether it would be better than Garland, but it’s a near certainty that Trump won’t spend much time wondering whether McConnell will approve of the pick.
  2. Clinton wins the presidency. Now McConnell has to figure out how to toe the line of saying for months and months the American people should decide, while not approving Clinton’s appointee who could be much more liberal than Garland. Clinton also has the easy excuse to nominate someone more liberal by saying the senate had a year with Garland and they didn’t even hold a hearing.
  3. The Democrats win the Senate. It’s completely out of Mitch McConnell’s hands since he wouldn’t be Senate Majority Leader anymore.

One big impact Trump could have, assuming the #NeverTrump crowd sticks to their guns is the down ballot races. If a bunch of Republicans stay home this November, it won’t just make the race an easier win for Clinton, it could also impact Senate and local races around the country. There are ten senate seats up for reelection this year. Without those seats, the senate is currently 45-45, so control of the chamber is up for grabs. If the Democrats regain control of the senate because of apathy caused by Donald Trump it allows Clinton to nominate whomever she chooses knowing she’ll have the support of a friendly Senate.

This campaign season so far has been one of a kind, and we still have the VP picks to look forward to before the final battle really gets going. All I know is that there will be doctoral theses written for decades on how the 2016 GOP race started with 17 possibilities and Trump was the last man standing.

 

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Nomination: CNN Debate Preview

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Tonight is the second Republican debate. The field has been narrowed to 16 with Rick Perry dropping out last week, but there is still a long road to go before there’s an official Republican nominee for president. The first debate was hosted by fox news, this one will be hosted by CNN. On their website earlier today, CNN posted the article Seven Things to Watch at the CNN Republican Debate[1]. They are hosting it, so taking a look at what they think is important for tonight will be relevant once we’re looking back on whatever gets said tonight. With that in mind I’m going to take their seven bullet points and add my own thoughts.

What will Trump say this time?

Tough not to lead with this. Trump’s perpetual attention machine has continued going strong since the last debates and I’d be willing to bet that whatever headlines lead tomorrow will include his name. The fox news debate drew in an estimated 24 million people[2] and a fair amount of that is people who can’t take their eyes away from what that man is doing to the American political process. For the record, that’s more viewers than game 7 of the world series last year, but I don’t know whether that says more about our current views of politics or our current views of baseball.

Plenty of people have speculated that Trump has hit his ceiling, but he continues to poll higher. Especially because of the attention he’s able to draw, I do expect other candidates to go on the offensive a little more with Trump. He can’t be brushed off as easily as last year’s flash in the pan candidates like Herman Cain or Newt Gingrich. I’ll touch on this a little more later.

Trump vs. Fiorina

The fox news debate included 10 candidates, this debate will add one more. Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina is jumping to the main stage and there are several obvious places she might clash with Trump. The clash between moderator Megyn Kelly and Trump was one of the more memorable moments of the debate, especially because it sparked something that is continuing to today with tweets from Trump about how her show, “was much better without her,” “she is really off her game,” and retweeting a follower saying, “the bimbo is back in town.”[3]

This of course all starting because Megyn Kelly pressed the issue with Trump about his well documented misogyny. Last time though Megyn Kelly was the only woman on the stage. This time Fiorina will be up there with Trump, so it will be interesting to see how either of them address gender this time. Trump hasn’t shied away from commenting on Fiorina before saying in a Rolling Stone article, “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?” and also calling her one of the worst CEOs ever. Will Fiorina fire back?

It should also be noted that these two are naturally going to be compared because they’re resumes are so similar. They’re both political outsiders who have never held elected and office and get all of their leadership experience from the business sector.

What Hand will Ben Carson Play?

Ben Carson was relatively quiet in the first debate, 6:28 of speaking time compared to Trump’s 10:30, but his latest poll numbers have him gaining on Trump. In New Hampshire he’s only four points behind.[4] It will be interesting to see how he acts tonight given his much improved odds at the nomination. Carson did take a shot at Trump last week on religious grounds, but has since walked those comments back. Will he stay soft spoken or will he make a more forward play tonight?

The Bush Reboot

This gets more into the idea of how candidates are handling Trump. Several months ago when Bush was polling miles ahead of everyone else he didn’t respond to Trump’s attacks against him for being weak on immigration. Bush figured taking the higher road looked better, and if I were his campaign adviser I would have told him to do that exact thing.

Then Trump polled higher, people started taking him more seriously, and seeing Bush not respond started to appear as weakness rather than presidential. Now that Bush’s polling numbers have dropped to single digits he has started going after Trump a little harder. I’m quite certain that trend will continue tonight. His super PAC is already spending more money on attack ads in Iowa. Bush and Paul are the two candidates I expect to really come out swinging tonight.

Can Scott Walker Salvage his Campaign?

Walker’s national poll numbers have dropped from 11% down to 2%, meanwhile in Iowa he’s polling a shade higher at 3%. Once considered a Tea Party darling his supporters seem to have gone to either Trump or Cruz which will make tonight particularly hard for him. What can he say to separate himself from those two while gaining back his supporters and not alienating the rest of the party? That’s a tough line to…walk.(I’m sorry)

A Spotlight on Foreign Policy 

Trump was in the spotlight earlier this week for some foreign policy flubs on conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt’s show.[5] Foreign policy will undoubtedly be on the table because of the Syrian refugee crisis going on in Europe. With candidates looking for weaknesses in Trump’s armor, this is certainly a point you’ll see emphasized a lot. It should also be noted that Hugh Hewitt is going to be one of the moderators tonight, so it will be interesting to see what sort of questions he has for Trump this time around.

Do or Die for the Undercards

Just like before the fox debate, there will be a ‘JV’ debate for four of the candidates polling the lowest. Lindsey Graham, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, and George Pataki will all once again take the stage together. Seeing Fiorina jump from the undercard last time to the main event this time will give the candidates a little more to fight for during their debate, but I still doubt we’ll be talking about any of those names again between now and the election except to say which of the other 11 candidates they are supporting.

The action starts at 8pm eastern time tonight on CNN.