Monday, December 05, 2016

Cruising the Web

Adam J. White finds in an anecdote from 1992 illustrates the problem that Hillary allies have in recognizing her problems appealing to voters. He relates an anecdote from George Stephanopolous's memoir, All Too Human, about Bill's reaction when focus-group data showed that respondents' ratings went way down whenever Hillary showed up on the screen.
And, in this case, the results were ugly: “When a shot of Hillary speaking was played,” he writes, “the line on the screen dropped like a downhill ski run.”

The voters’ reactions to Hillary, however, were much less telling than her husband’s reaction:

“Oh man,”
Bill Clinton reacted. “They don’t like her hair.”
Stephanopolous and James Carville could barely contain their laughter at Bill's self-deception.
Nobody said a word, but James—who was sitting next to me on the couch across from Clinton—started grinding his fist into my thigh. That pressure and the laughter building up inside me made me double over until James mumbled something and burst out of the room. I was right behind him. We collapsed in hysterics the second we hit the corridor. From then on, whenever I wanted to make James laugh, all I had to say was “They don’t like her hair.” To him, it was the single most memorable line of the campaign.
While Bill could comfort himself back in 1992 that it was her hair that people didn't like (projection much?), Hillary supporters try to comfort themselves today that it was only racism and sexism that led to her defeat.
Whatever problems Comey, Wikileaks, and others caused for Hillary Clinton’s campaign, the campaign’s greatest problem was the candidate herself, one of the two least appealing presidential candidates in a century.

Salena Zito writes about the decision of the Democrats in the House to choose to return to the fray under the same Nancy Pelosi leadership under whom they failed to make much headway against the Republicans in the House.
Her win over Youngstown Ohio Democrat Tim Ryan for Minority Leader proved two-thirds of those House Democrats have more interest in someone who is a deep-pocket fundraiser than someone who perhaps could have made the party more competitive in swing districts or more cohesive in their message to the voters.

Or perhaps both.

Their decision was arrogant, tone deaf and a smack in the face to the voters who once proudly supported this party and were waiting to see if someone would lead them back out of the progressive wilderness.

Kevin Lawson, 22, is one young Democrat who would have preferred Ryan over Pelosi, "We need a message that resonates not only with young people, but a much broader swath of the country," he said. "Ryan talked about the economy in his local race, but the overall message from the party was flat and uninspiring."

Lawson, a senior at Youngstown State University located in the district Ryan represents, says it's not going to get any easier in the 2018 midterms, when the party needs to win 24 seats to regain the majority in the House.

For whatever reason, Ryan's argument going forward to win those kinds of numbers through solid recruiting and a sound economic message landed on deaf ears within his caucus.

Democrats fell wildly short of expectations once again this year largely because they had not formed a unified message around the economy and the public's distaste with the costs and burdens of Obamacare, said Lawson, "And they also underestimated the impact Donald Trump would have in some of their competitive districts."
The Democrats are ignoring the lesson from 2006 when they ran more centrist candidates and were able to retake both houses of Congress.
Democrats don't just have a House problem either. Their woes down ballot, where a vibrant, robust bench is typically built, are crushing.

In fact, Democratic control in state legislative bodies is in its weakest spot since the Civil War; Republicans now hold control of a record 68 percent of the 98 state legislative chambers in the nation. In total they hold 4,100 of the 7,383 seats, more than they have held since 1920.

So why after such a gloomy Election Day for their party aren't Democrats properly agonizing over how to reconnect with the working-class voters who abandoned them instead of supporting the same leadership who has not been able to win them back since 2010?

Democrats began cutting loose these New Deal Democrats after winning their support in the 2006 midterm elections. By the time the 2008 presidential campaign rolled around Democrats did not even try to pretend that they wanted or needed white working-class, predominantly male voters from their coalition in favor of building cosmopolitan-centered coalition of minorities, elites and women.

They believed Barack Obama formed a new coalition for them; what they missed is that Obama formed a new coalition for Obama, not them, and certainly not for Hillary Clinton.
It seems that, just as in the election Hillary's campaign depended mostly on disgust with Trump handing her the election, the Democrats are now depending on the country being so repelled by Trump that they will turn to the Democrats. That may well happen. I don't discount the ability of Trump to act in a repellent manner. And now he won't be able to depend on the contrast with Hillary to strengthen his support. He'll be mostly on his own and discontent with Washington and the government may well limit Trump's already limited support. After all, half the country already doesn't like him and didn't vote for him. But the Democrats have to put forward an appealing message and not just depend on rejection of Trump for regaining those seats in state legislatures, governors' houses, and in Congress.
Pelosi is symbolic for a lot of wayward Democrat voters of all of the things that pushed them away from the family; she was the defensive coordinator and face for the president's hallmark Obamacare that has savaged their pocketbooks, she stridently supported the unpopular bank bailouts as well as the regulations and trade deals that have contributed to their livelihoods crumbling and their communities suffering.

In short, she represents everything that caused them to start dropping away from the party of their roots and into the arms of the Republicans, and it's not that they like the Republicans all that much more, but at least they have a message that tells them they have their back....

Democrats used to be able to win swing districts in states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio, where the Republicans now hold super-majorities in their state's House delegations. But they won them with moderate New Deal visions and faces such as former representatives' Jason Altmire of suburban Pittsburgh and Kathy Dahlkemper of Erie.

The House Democrats danced with insanity last week when they repeated the same mistake over again for the third time by keeping the same leadership intact to represent their future. Perhaps they thought that with a Republican in the White House they could play off their power vacuum with the same person who led them out of the wilderness in 2006 and pull off an upset win again in 2018.

Or perhaps they still believe that the same message and policies that got them thrown out of power by 2010 might find favor again; while it is too soon to speculate, it is hard for blue-collar Democrats to find a way back to the party if the reason they left still holds the power.

Expect some more rebellions within the Democratic House caucus. Some members are envious that the Republicans term-limited their committee chairmen.
"I'm a big believer in making sure the blood's circulating around here," Kind said about his belief that House Democrats need less senior members in leadership positions. "I've been one of the leading advocates for term limits on committees. That helps generate that new leadership.

"I think it's one of the best things they did in their conference is term-limiting ... we outta learn from that," Kind said about House Republican Conference rules that limit members from being the top Republican on a panel for more than six years.

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Gee, General James Mattis seems to be garnering close-to-universal praise to be the next Secretary of Defense. Even Obama's present Secretary likes the nomination.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter had some nice things to say about retired Marine Corps Gen. James "Mad Dog" Mattis, who is President-elect Trump's pick to be his nominee for defense secretary.

During a speech this weekend at the Reagan Defense Forum at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., Carter said he will work towards an "orderly transfer" to the next commander in chief before offering praise to Mattis.

"Let me also congratulate Gen. Jim Mattis for being chosen to take my place. I've worked with Jim for many years. He's a friend and I hold him in the highest regard," Carter said.
Stanton S. Coerr, who served with General Mattis writes about the general he knew and what he learned from him.
America knows Gen. James Mattis as a character, Mad Dog Mattis, the font of funny quotes and Chuck Norris-caliber memes. Those of us who served with him know that he is a caring, erudite, warfighting general. We also know that there is a reason he uses the call-sign Chaos: he is a lifelong student of his profession, a devotee of maneuver warfare and Sun Tzu, the sort of guy who wants to win without fighting—to cause chaos among those he would oppose.

To Marines, he is the finest of our tribal elders. The rest of the world, very soon, will know how truly gifted he is. Our friends and allies will be happy he is our new secretary of war; our enemies will soon wish he weren’t.

I worked for Mattis three times: when he was a colonel, a major general, and a lieutenant general. I very much want to work for him again.
Read the rest.

I am always amused on polls of Americans about subjects that so many don't know about and don't care about. Gallup just polled people's opinions of the

Americans' support for keeping the Electoral College system for electing presidents has increased sharply. Weeks after the 2016 election, 47% of Americans say they want to keep the Electoral College, while 49% say they want to amend the Constitution to allow for a popular vote for president. In the past, a clear majority favored amending the U.S. Constitution to replace the Electoral College with a popular vote system.

Donald Trump secured enough electors in the Electoral College to win the presidency, despite Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote. With Clinton's popular lead total continuing to expand, now at more than 2.5 million votes, there have been persistent calls since Election Day to abolish the Electoral College. Such sentiment has clearly prevailed when Gallup asked this question twice in 2000 -- after George W. Bush won the Electoral College while Al Gore won the popular vote -- in 2004 and in 2011. In each instance, support for a constitutional amendment hovered around 60%.

From 1967 through 1980, Gallup asked a slightly different question that also found majority support for an amendment to base the winner on the popular vote. Support for an amendment peaked at 80% in 1968, after Richard Nixon almost lost the popular vote while winning the Electoral College. Ultimately, he wound up winning both by a narrow margin, but this issue demonstrated the possibility of a candidate becoming president without winning the popular vote. In the 1976 election, Jimmy Carter faced a similar situation, though he also won the popular vote and Electoral College. In a poll taken weeks after the election, 73% were in favor of an amendment doing away with the Electoral College.

This year, for the first time in the 49 years Gallup has asked about it, less than half of Americans want to replace the Electoral College with a popular vote system.
Is it unexpected that the percentages for or against the Electoral College are just about where Trump and Clinton's numbers were in the election? And is it surprising that Republicans, having won two of the past five elections without winning the popular vote have decided that the Electoral College is a virtuous idea?

Ryan Teague Beckwith has written an article for Time Magazine on how Constitutional issues have sparked interesting TV and movie plots in recent years.
If James Madison were alive today, he might be working as a screenwriter in Hollywood.

TV dramas can’t get enough of obscure constitutional scenarios. On Scandal, an unsuccessful assassination attempt left the vice president temporarily in charge of the Oval Office. On Veep, a tie in the Electoral College sent the election to the House of Representatives. And on Designated Survivor, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development was sworn in after a terrorist attack.

And that’s not to mention just about everything on House of Cards.
Constitutional scholars have some ideas of what plots the near future may suggest to screenwriters.
But while these plotlines may seem a bit over the top, legal scholars say they are a useful way to tease out some of the weak points in the U.S. Constitution for a broader audience. Given the events of recent years—an impeachment, the Supreme Court intervening in a crucial election recount and recent talk of contested conventions and faithless electors—they may not be as implausible as they sound.

“It may be one of those areas where reality is getting a little bit ahead of fiction,” notes Ilya Som
He then goes on to suggest plots and dream casting for several possible plotlines inspired by recent news. We could see a movie about the Electoral College and faithless electors or what would happen if the president and vice president were killed and there then was a fight over whether the Speaker of the House or the Secretary of State would take over. Or there could be a drama based on the 25th Amendment which provides a way for the VP and cabinet to declare the president unable to discharge his powers and duties. Didn't "24" do this plot one year?

These would indeed be interesting, but I don't think fiction could surpass reality.

Ilya Somin, who was interviewed for the Time article, has his own observations.
I fear that Hollywood may be focusing our attention in the wrong place. It is entirely understandable that TV and film producers would focus on scenarios that make for good entertainment. But I am skeptical that these kinds of sudden crises centered on discrete provisions of the Constitution are the perils we most need to worry about.

When I spoke to Beckwith, I instead emphasized the possibility that the real danger to constitutional democracy in the United States is not a dramatic, sudden crisis but a gradual deterioration of constitutional norms. For example, public and elite commitment to free speech, separation of powers and other safeguards against abuse of power could gradually fray, resulting in a process of democratic “deconsolidation.” Unscrupulous presidents could further concentrate power in their hands, often in ways that don’t immediately set off alarm bells. They might, for example, undermine the rule of law by taking actions that are — at least initially — actually popular. Growing partisan bias might extend the already worrisome pattern of both Democrats and Republicans excusing abuses committed by presidents of their own party.

The public is likely to notice and react negatively to a sudden, dramatic attack on constitutional democracy of the sort that makes for a good Hollywood plot. It is much more likely to overlook gradual deterioration — especially if the latter is packaged with popular policies.

Really? Is this the best use of Chicago's tax dollars?
Chicago will use $1 million leftover from a tax rebate program to defend immigrants there from any deportation efforts undertaken by President-elect Donald Trump, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office said Friday.

“Chicago has a proud history of diversity and inclusion, and my administration will do everything in our power to ensure that immigrants remain safe, secure and supported,” Mr. Emanuel, a Democrat, said in a statement Friday. “Because the election has created anxiety and uncertainty, we’ve created a legal fund to help ensure immigrants and refugees have access to legal guidance,” the statement said.

In partnership with the National Immigrant Protection Center, the mayor’s office said the fund will initially be bankrolled with money that had been set aside for a property tax rebate program. City Hall had reserved $20 million to be allocated to eligible homeowners, but nearly $19 million remained unclaimed this week, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
I would think that Chicago has some more dire problems that that money could go towards than this, but maybe all other problems in Chicago have already been solved.

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Buzzfeed has mapped where Trump gets his news based on what he tweets out. I wonder what a map of where Obama or Hillary Clinton get their news would reveal.

David Catron warns about the Democrats' coming efforts to demonize Tom Price. They don't have the votes to stop his nomination, so their only play is to mischaracterize his positions and hope to sway the public against him before he does anything.
Until a week ago, the adjectives most frequently applied to Georgia Rep. Tom Price were “mild-mannered” and “low-key.” This isn’t surprising. Like his father and his grandfather, he is a physician and thus trained to approach problems in a calm, analytical fashion. However, now that President-elect Trump has picked Price to be his Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Democrats and their accomplices in the media have suddenly discovered that he is a wild-eyed radical, an extremist who will use HHS to launch a “war on seniors,” escalate the “war on women,” and declare “war on the poor.”

They have accused Price of planning so many “wars” on so many fronts that one could be forgiven for thinking that Trump has asked him to be Secretary of Defense. The palpable fear behind all these trite military metaphors is, of course, that Price will work closely with Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare. As Democrat Senator Ron Wyden put it, “Given Chairman Price’s past health proposals, I have grave concerns with what his policies would do to Americans.” What Senator Wyden and his fellow Democrats are really worried about is the loss of their iron grip on our health care system.

And they have good reason for concern. Price has not merely opposed the “Affordable Care Act” since its inception; he has introduced an eminently viable replacement bill. Moreover, even before the law is repealed, Price will make use of the enormous discretion Obamacare grants the Secretary of HHS to reverse the myriad regulatory fiats imposed upon hapless health care providers, insurers, and patients by his predecessors. He can, for example, kill the notorious contraception mandate without an act of Congress. Consequently, the Democrats will use every dirty trick in the book to thwart his confirmation.

They can’t achieve that by citing Price’s opposition to Obamacare because the voters agree with him on that ill-conceived law. To derail his nomination, the Democrats must conjure up scarier hobgoblins with which to frighten the public, including claims that Price wants to privatize Medicare. New York Senator Chuck Schumer called forth that spectre immediately upon learning of Price’s appointment: “Between this nomination of an avowed Medicare opponent, and the House Republicans threatening to privatize Medicare, it is clear that Washington Republicans are plotting a War on Seniors next year.”

This nonsense is based on nothing more sinister than Price’s support of the latest House budget. The claim that it is a dark plot to privatize Medicare was recently debunked by Christopher Jacobs in the Federalist: “The premium support plan included in the House Republican budget includes 1) a federal contribution that increases every year to fund 2) a federally regulated plan with 3) federally mandated benefits and 4) the option to continue in government-run Medicare if beneficiaries so choose.” Not only does this not amount to a “war on seniors,” it’s the only plausible way to keep the Medicare program solvent.

Maybe labor unions should rethink their spending on elections. They don't seem to be winning enough bang for their buck.
Big Labor pumped $530 million of workers’ dues into mostly Democratic Party groups and liberal causes over a four-year period — with dismal results, according to a new analysis.

Despite the unions’ massive cash infusion into Democratic causes, GOPer Donald Trump still won the union-heavy Rust Belt states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio in his presidential bid against Dem candidate Hillary Clinton. A Republican-led Congress, expected to be hostile to union causes, also was voted into office.