Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Cruising the Web

A popular question going around the web these days is whether or not the GOP can survive 2016 and Donald Trump. I take the long view. There have been so many other points in history when it seemed that either the Republicans or Democrats would not survive. For example, after the Republicans divided in 1912 between Taft and Teddy Roosevelt, thus handing the election over to Woodrow Wilson, the popular Democratic news weekly, Puck, ran this cover cartoon.
Well, the Republicans had indeed shot themselves in the foot and delivered the country over to the Democrats, but that lasted only until 1920. The Republicans then won three straight presidential elections and did well in Congress also. But the Democrats weren't dead and came back with FDR winning four straight elections and Truman winning in 1948. Eisenhower then dominated in the 1950s, but the Democrats came back after that. Who would have thought that, after the beat-down suffered by Republicans in 1964, that they would sweep into office with Nixon in 1968 and win such a huge landslide in 1972? And then, after Watergate and the collapse of the Republicans in the mid-1970s, would anyone have predicted the Reagan landslides? And so it goes.

That is the way our system works. A general pattern is that, after one party has won handily, they'll tend to go too far and alienate too many people and lose. They'll then reconfigure their message and recoup their losses one or two elections down the road. We saw this in the first election in which power changed hands between two parties in 1800. In the 1798 elections, the Federalists were riding high during anti-French feeling after the XYZ Affair leading to the Quasi War. And then the Federalists were too full of themselves once they got into power, and went too far passing the Alien, Sedition, and Naturalization Acts. Their over-extension of power repelled too many people leading to their losses in 1800. And it's been that way ever since.

Some observers point to the period of the 1840s and 1850s when there were new parties springing up every election and the eventual disintegration of the Whig Party and birth of the Republican Party in 1854. But there are differences this year which will serve to preserve the Republican Party that weren't around to preserve the Whig Party. The two parties have made it difficult for minor parties to get on the ballot in all 50 states. So, for example, the biggest of the minor parties, the Libertarians, are so far only on the ballot for 32 states in 2016. Such limitations will make it difficult for them to be a truly viable challenge to the two major parties. Minor parties have to crack 15% in the polls to get into the debates. So that becomes a deadly spiral for minor parties: they can't get the public attention that would help them rise in the polls and garner donations and so can't get into the debates. Rinse and repeat. Add in the winner-take-all aspect of the Electoral College and it would be really tough for a minor party to replace one or both of the major parties. What is far more likely to happen is for one of the parties to change to adapt to new circumstances. Those changes might be real or cosmetic as Bill Clinton's choice to portray himself as a "New Democrat" in 1992 or George W. Bush as a "Compassionate Conservative" in 2000.

If Hillary wins this year, as I expect her to do so, don't be surprised if all the qualities that make her so unlikable that the Republicans, with a hopefully more appealing candidate, will come roaring back in 2020. Jim Geraghty has to resort to alphabetizing her unappealing qualities to list them all.
Hillary Clinton is an arrogant, boring, cynical, dishonest, entitled, favor-trading, greedy, hypocritical, inconsistent, joyless, Leftist, Machiavellian, nasty, overbearing, power-hungry, queen-like, ruthless, shameless, tired, untrustworthy, vain, Washington-insider embodiment of the status quo who doesn’t stand for anything that isn’t focus-group approved or that wouldn’t line her and her husband’s pockets. (I went in alphabetical order for simplicity.)
I had thought that the Republicans had a good chance of defeating her this year. It doesn't look like that is going to come to pass. But I don't think their defeat this year means that the party is headed to the ash heap of history.

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Nina Rees, the head of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, argues in the WSJ that Democrats are seeking, any way they can, to block the growth of charter schools. They're even upset that rich philanthropists are contributing to donate millions to charters aimed to help underprivileged students. The more success that charters have demonstrated at helping minority and low-income students, the more unions and their Democratic politician puppets fight the charters. They especially resent the idea that millionaires would donate money to help charters grow. They prefer contributions like Mark Zuckerberg gave to Newark's schools even though that $100 million did very little to help the children of Newark, as Dale Russakoff examined in her book, The Prize: Who's in Charge of America's Schools, while money given to charter schools have helped hundreds of thousands of poor children learn more and gain true opportunities.
Charter schools have changed the equation for wealthy donors aiming to improve education. In Los Angeles billionaire Eli Broad is backing an effort to raise $490 million to create 260 new charter schools for more than 130,000 students.

Yet entrenched interests seem more concerned about explaining away the failures of public schools than supporting innovative ways to help students learn. In Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards threatened to severely limit the ability of the state board of education to authorize charter schools rejected by local school boards. This appeal role of the state board is important because it ensures that quality charter schools can open even if local politics prevent approval. Gov. Edwards’s proposal was defeated in the state legislature, but the episode demonstrated how a single official could jeopardize years of progress. New Orleans’s all-charter district has been catching up with the rest of the state and has raised graduation rates by 10 percentage points over the past decade.

In Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker is fighting to lift an arbitrary cap that limits the state to 72 charter schools. The Massachusetts Teachers Association is spending millions to keep the caps in place. This despite Boston charter-school students gaining 170 days of extra learning in reading and 233 days in math, compared with regular students, according to a report by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes.
The question for those Democratic politicians should be why they want to prevent poor, minority children from learning.

Interestingly, as Mark Zuckerberg contemplates the successes and failures of his experiment of donating so much money to one school district, he counts the growth of charter schools as one of its main successes. Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post summarizes some of the problems Zuckerberg's plan for Newark faced and how charters have been the most encouraging result.
That glum assessment notwithstanding, there is a more optimistic way to interpret the Newark experience, much of which has to do with the success of the city’s fast-growing charter schools. Charters, which received about $60 million of the philanthropy, now serve 30 percent of the district’s students, and families are clamoring to enroll their children.

The reasons are obvious. Unencumbered by bureaucracy and legacy labor costs, charters can devote far more resources to students, providing the kind of wraparound services that students like Beyah need.

An analysis by Advocates for Children of New Jersey noted “a substantial and persistent achievement gap” between students at charter and traditional public schools: “For example, while 71 percent of charter school students in Newark passed third-grade language arts tests in 2013-14 — higher than the state average of 66 percent — only 41 percent of students in Newark traditional public schools passed those tests.”

As for the district schools forced — or incentivized — to compete with charters, those involved with the Newark effort point to green shoots of change. Graduation rates are up. More higher- rated teachers are staying than lower- performing ones. Still, on state tests of third- to eighth-graders, math and reading proficiency went down in all six grades between 2011 and 2014.

Russakoff offers instruction in the daunting complexity of education reform — but also insight into the at least partial promise of charters. Because five years, it turns out, is not a long time in the quest to fix a failing system. It is a long time in the life of a child who is being failed.

As the Supreme Court debates the Texas abortion law and its role in supposedly causing Texas abortion clinics to shut down, they should also notice that abortion clinics are shutting down in blue states too. Perhaps it is not the Texas law, but other factors that are important.
Twelve clinics have closed in California since 2011, along with three in Washington and a number in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, according to data compiled by Bloomberg — all states considered relatively favorable to abortion rights because of their legislative policies. According to Nikki Madsen, executive director of the Abortion Care Network, a national association for independent abortion care providers, for every three independent abortion clinics in her network that close in more conservative states, about two have closed in more liberal states over the past five years....

Abortion providers in more liberal states may not have sustained the kind of legislative targeting being tracked in places such as Indiana or Arkansas. But the combination of the economic difficulties of operating a clinic, a generally hostile atmosphere and declining demand means that many clinics are shutting down.
There are a lot of factors at play, so it's hard to tease it out and say that those clinics in Texas all closed due to one law without looking at other factors.

Here's a cool tool from the Washington Post that allows you to pick a TV show and see which candidates are advertising on it.

Michael Barone points to an interesting twist about the rules that each party has adopted for their nomination process and how it would have benefited each party this year to have used the rules of the other party. The Republicans like winner-take-all delegate allocations while the Democrats favor proportional allocation. Having a winner-take-all system allowed Republican candidates to relatively quickly wrap up their nomination fights. Democratic contests tend to go on longer because candidates gain only a small advantage after a state's vote. In order to block having an unacceptable candidate like George Wallace or one too far to the left to win like George McGovern, the Democratic Party has included superdelegates to balance out the votes of the people.

Barone traces these differences back to the fact that Republicans tend not to represent a majority of voters. So they need to finish their nomination fight up relatively quickly so they can turn to the general election. The Democratic Party is made up of a coalition of disparate groups so they look to have a structure that gives those different groups a voice in the election.

Barone then argues that, this year, the Democrats would have benefited from winner-take-all rules that would have allowed Hillary Clinton to wrap up the nomination earlier so she wouldn't have been pulled so far to the left in order to defeat Sanders. And Republicans would have benefited from following the proportional rules of the Democrats.
As for Republicans, Donald Trump is the kind of disruptive candidate more common among Democrats — deeply unacceptable to many party voters and officeholders.

But Republican rules have enabled him to amass a big delegate lead by winning pluralities of the vote in multi-candidate fields. Under Democratic proportional representation rules, according to the estimate of fivethirtyeight.com proprietor Nate Silver, Trump would have won nearly 100 fewer delegates in contests up to March 6.

And that was before the first winner-take-all primaries March 15. By my back-of-the-envelope estimate, proportional representation rules (allocating delegates only to candidates meeting a 20 percent threshold) would have cost Trump a little more than 100 delegates net in post-March 6 contests.

So under Democratic rules, instead of being about 240 delegates short of the 1,237 needed for the nomination as he is now, Trump would be about 440 delegates short. In that scenario he would have to win more than 60 percent of remaining delegates, almost surely impossible for a candidate who has won just 40 percent so far. It's the same position Bernie Sanders finds himself in.
Superdelegates would then be key to the Republican nomination just as they are to Hillary Clinton. Of course, there would be even more whining among Trump supporters if Republicans gave superdelegates the sort of power that Democrats have in their process.
Either way the losing side will claim the rules are unfair. Rational arguments can be made for the fairness of both parties' rules, or for changing them. The parties' past tinkerings have been addressed at repairing damage in previous contests. The unintended result is that both parties are saddled with rules ill suited to their contests this year, with the potential to damage their nominees in November.

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Anne Applebaum explains
how the contradictions within Trump's foreign policy speech are deliberate tactics to let people pick out the slogan which appeals to them and then just hope that they don't notice the phrase contradicting that message elsewhere in the speech.
The speech itself was a pastiche of a serious foreign policy speech. Trump plucked slogans and cliches used in the past — “America First” and “draw a line in the sand” — and mashed them up into a new form. The multiple inconsistencies and internal contradictions have already been listed by others. On the one hand, he said that “your friends need to know that you will stick by the agreements that you have with them.” On the other hand, he threatened to “walk” if those same friends didn’t pony up to his demands. He wants to invest heavily in the military, but he wants to stop using the military. He doesn’t want to do “nation-building” but does want to promote “regional stability.” There was no sense that he knew what either of those terms actually meant.

But the use of multiple and contradictory phrases means, of course, that audiences can pick and choose their message. Isolationists and “realists” heard what they wanted to hear. On the other hand, Trump’s call to “reinvigorate Western values and institutions” might well appeal to those voters who aren’t isolationist at all. He says he likes American soldiers and wants to spend more on defense, so what’s wrong?

Foreign audiences are already hearing different Trump messages and are picking and choosing the ones that they like. The Russians love the way he talks about foreign policy as if it were a cynical business deal, because that’s exactly how President Vladimir Putin sees it. A part of the European left is already warming up to the suggestion that the United States withdraw from Europe, because that’s what it has always wanted, too. And yes, all concerned will be perfectly capable of ignoring, simultaneously, all of the things about Trump that they should in theory deeply dislike.

Anyone who sits down and analyzes the speech from start to finish will, of course, worry about the contradictions, the inconsistencies, the impossible claims, the detachment from reality. But most people won’t do that. Instead, they’ll hear the slogans that they want to hear, or those sentences in the speech that echo something they already believe. And don’t be lulled into complacency: Just because this way of campaigning is intellectually incoherent doesn’t mean that it can’t work. This form of scattershot messaging has attracted voters in plenty of other places — Berlusconi’s Italy, for example, or Ch├ívez’s Venezuela or Putin’s Russia. Maybe it can succeed in America, too.

Ross Douthat ponders the desire that so many Americans seem to have for a "king" or at least a president who will swoop in and solve all our ills. Liberals like that idea when it's Obama fulfilling their ideological desires. Now we're seeing that same sort of desire in the success of Donald Trump.
That clamor is loudest from the Trumpistas and their dear leader. Donald Trump is clearly running to be an American caudillo, not the president of a constitutional republic, and his entire campaign is a cult of personality in the style of (the pro-Trump) Vladimir Putin.

But the response to Trump is equally telling. The alleged wise men of the center keep imagining that the problem with Trumpism is just its vulgarity and race-baiting, and that a benevolent technocrat could step in and lead the country out of gridlock and polarization, into the broad, sunlit uplands of reform....

Meanwhile, his enthusiasm for military expertise is shared by a portion (the richer portion, in particular) of the #neverTrump movement, which in casting about for a political savior fastened on the retired Marine Corps general James Mattis. Sure, Mattis has neither political experience nor stated positions on any issues, but if you’re going to have a caudillo, why not one with an actual uniform? (Sensibly Mattis recused himself as well.)

Tellingly, none of these Trump-era enthusiasms involve a reinvigoration of congressional prerogatives or a renewed push for federalism and states’ rights.

Quite the reverse: They all imagine that the solution to our problems lies with a more effective and still-more-empowered president, free from antique constitutional limits and graced with a mandate that transcends partisanship.

And equally tellingly, they are enthusiasms of the center-left and center-right rather than the ideological extremes. This is obviously true of the people pining for a Bloomberg era, a Silicon Valley-led administration, or a Mattis man-on-horseback presidency. But it’s true of Trump’s constituency as well: While the G.O.P.’s staunch ideologues are mostly voting for Ted Cruz, Trump is winning with Northeastern moderates and blue-collar populists, with voters who may be xenophobic but on many issues are closer to the political middle than to the poles.
I spend my day teaching students about what the Founders were thinking when the wrote the Constitution and why our government is structured the way that it is. For the past several years, I've had to then contrast the design of the Founders to what we observe in politics today. It has depressed me every time that I have to do it, but that is what has become of our system. And now that trend is continuing. Sometimes, I wonder what the purpose is in teaching about the founding of our country any more except to highlight how far we've come from the view of a limited government with powers separated in the national government and between the levels of government.

Ann Althouse ponders the situation we're in looking to have a contest between the two most unpopular candidates for any presidential election.
Okay, this is something I've been wanting to talk about — reliance on "unfavorables." It seems to me, we're going to end up with 2 major-party candidates that most people don't like. The election is going to be decided by the people who are going to be stuck voting for one of 2 people neither of whom they like. The question isn't who has higher unfavorability, but which one is more capable of getting a vote from a person who is disgusted by both of them. As Sullivan's paragraph suggests, one is exciting, risky, and entertaining. The other is dreary, predictable, and medicinal.
Now there's an argument. Vote for Trump because at least he's entertaining while being odious. But perhaps these days, that's what matters.

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Marqueete's Professor John McAdams has now sued the university for promising to fire him for what he dared to write on his blog criticizing an instructor at the university who silenced a student for expressing views on gay marriage that disagreed with hers. It is particularly striking that this is happening at a Jesuit university. This should be a fascinating battle over what freedoms tenured professors have.

David Harsanyi asks a good question: we hear lots of talk about violence on the right among Trump supporters, but how come we're not hearing about leftist violence?
If a mob of conservatives attempted to shut down a major Hillary Clinton event, as rioters did the other day during a Donald Trump event, America would be thrust into an insufferable national dialogue about the growing violent tendencies of the right to crush debate. There would be a flood of anxious op-ed pieces and cable news roundtables featuring chin-stroking pundits contemplating the future of discourse in America. No one would be spared.

And you better believe every conservative politician in the country would be asked to comment on this bloodcurdling development.
We heard lots and lots of exaggerated stories about supposed violence among the Tea Party movement and Democrats in Congress loved decrying the violence on the right. Every time there is a mass shooting, the speculation immediately jumps to wonder what sort of rightest nutjob is responsible. Harsanyi provides links and example after example of those on the left talking about violence on the right even though there were no actual riots among the Tea Party. But when anti-Trump groups violently try to shut down a Trump rally while smashing car windows and blocking the streets to prevent Trump supporters from traveling to or from rallies.
This is called a riot. And it isn’t the first time. In Chicago, anti-Trump protestors acted similarly violently in an effort to shut down another speech—making them no better than ugly Trump fans who threaten protestors and the media. It makes them no better than the bikers, truckers, and other pro-Trump groups who are going to descend on Cleveland to physically intimidate Republicans during the convention.

Of course people are angry about Donald Trump. Of course people are livid about “globalization.” Of course people are infuriated about all the money in politics. Trump’s rhetoric doesn’t excuse the liberal attacks on speech we saw in California and Chicago, or the illiberal “protests” we’ve seen on college campuses for decades now. A protest is a statement or action expressing disapproval of or objection to something. What campus lefties engage in are efforts to stop free expression. For that matter, it’s doesn’t excuse the Democratic Party’s constant assaults on the First Amendment. The Left has a free speech problem.

When are we going to treat ourselves to a national conversation about the Left’s propensity to undermine free speech? Why aren’t we talking about leftist violence? We treat these events as isolated incidents that have nothing to do with the politics of the contemporary liberalism. We afford no other political movement the same leeway.
Good question. I yield to few in how much I detest Trump and what he has meant for politics this year, but he has the same right to speak as any politician should have. This is the same propensity to shutting down speech with which they disagree that we see on college campuses where it has gotten so difficult for a conservative to give a speech at a university.

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Speaking of people I don't want to see any more on my TV, it's depressing to read a headline about how we're likely to be seeing even more Stephen A. Smith on ESPN.
Some bad news for sports TV viewers who can't stand ESPN's Stephen A. Smith.

The pending departure of sparring partner Skip Bayless to Fox Sports won't knock out the TV personality known as "Screaming A." Or "First Take," the daily debate show on ESPN2 starring Smith and Bayless.

In fact, I predict the 48-year-old Smith will survive the loss of the 64-year old Bayless — and continue to thrive at the Worldwide Leader in Sports.

Yes, I can hear the cries, the groans, the gnashing of teeth. I feel your pain.
That's really too bad. I can't stand listening to him.

Thankfully, it seems that Will Ferrell listened to the horrified backlash to the story that he was going to play a President Reagan suffering dementia in the White House in what was billed as a comedy and he dropped his name from the project. We can just hope that this will spell the end of that terrible idea. John Fund writes about another Reagan movie that is in the works. This one sounds a lot more interesting.
Joseph is now close to completing full financing of a big-budget retelling of Reagan’s life as seen through the eyes of Victor Petrovich, a KGB agent who is assigned to monitor Reagan’s career from the 1940s through the 1980s. Petrovich repeatedly warns his superiors that Reagan is an underappreciated danger to the Soviet Empire, but they largely ignore him. Joseph will soon announce an Oscar-winning director to helm Reagan: The Movie, and although the actor who will play the adult Reagan hasn’t been announced, last year Disney star David Henrie was cast to play Reagan as a teenager.

“The story of Reagan is a fascinating one whatever one’s politics,” Joseph told me. “We came at it from the angle of wondering what his enemies thought of him and how they followed him and ultimately lost to him. Nobody knew him like his enemies did — and it’s through that lens that we tell the story. It’s impossible to understand the last century without understanding who Ronald Reagan was.”
It reminds me a little of the scenes in Patton in which the Nazi leaders are trying to figure out what the Allies were planning by examining what Patton was doing because it didn't really occur to them that the Allies wouldn't be using their most successful general. It's rather ironic that the only way to make a pro-Reagan movie is by viewing him through the eyes of the Soviets.

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