Thursday, April 12, 2018

Cruising the Web

I am so sad to see Paul Ryan leave Congress. He's always been one of the politicians I've most respected for his courage in trying to reform entitlements and getting the House GOP to go along. It was his name that I wrote in on my ballot in 2016. I've never blamed him for what he couldn't get done as Speaker. I think that those who blame him for not advancing more conservative priorities or for spending turning into a giant out-of-control omnibus or for not repealing Obamacare just don't understand how the government works. Politics is the art of the possible and with a fractious caucus in the House and having to get things through the Senate with the Democrats united against anything the Republicans put forth so, he was limited to what could pass through the Senate.

We're finishing up the public policy unit in class this week and today I had the kids list all the barriers to enacting new policy. It was a long list ranging from the budgetary barriers stemming from rising mandatory spending and interest payments to the structural barriers to passing legislation through the Senate, weak parties that can't depend on their members voting with the party, divided government, increasing partisanship, the influence of interest groups and the media. Once we had the list on the board, the kids were struck by how hard it is to get anything done in Washington. Exactly! That's by design in many respects in how the Founders structured the government. They wanted to make it difficult to pass policy quickly without serious examination. However, I don't know that they anticipated the rules that the Senate would create that gave the minority so much power or that parties would develop and lead to such polarization, although that happened pretty quickly within George Washington's presidency. So I don't blame Ryan for what he couldn't get done. I don't blame McConnell. I think they did the best they could within the constraints that exist these days.

I can understand why Ryan would leave. What a awful job being Speaker these days is. He can't accomplish what he has always wanted to. He is forced to make compromises that he can't be happy about. And he has to bite his tongue about President Trump. I think he's completely sincere when he speaks of wanting to spend more time with his children. The job is no job for anyone with minor-age children.

Jm Geraghty reminds us what a good man Paul Ryan is.
The guy who liberals depicted throwing granny off the cliff . . . was also the kind of man goes into drug treatment centers, touches the scars from the “track marks” of heroin addicts, and prays with and for them. He was portrayed as some sort of heartless Ayn Rand acolyte when he emphasized how conservatives needed to find solutions for poverty. He was civil, well-informed, polite, and firm, the opposite of a table-pounding, demagogic extremist, and that probably just aggravated his critics on the left even more. As The New Republic put it in a 2015 headline, “Paul Ryan’s a Good Guy. So What?”

Well, a lot of people in politics aren’t “good guys,” and so we ought to salute those who are. When we act like all politicians are indistinguishable liars and crooks for a long enough time, the public starts to believe it, and becomes willing to simply vote for the most charming lying crook.
Ryan could have run for reelection pledging to serve out his term and then announced his retirement after November. But that wouldn't have been honorable or fair to his district. It's a credit to Ryan that he didn't take that route.

I wish him all the best and I hope he finds a way to still contribute to public discourse on our nation's future. He is, fundamentally, a good man who had real ideas for the necessary, but difficult policy reforms this country needs. Such people in Washington are a very rare breed. We'll miss him.

Jay Cost casts a wider net for why the Republicans haven't been able to enact their desired agenda.
Instead, the cause for the legislative stall is to be found in the various maladies and mistakes of state Republican parties all across the country. To put it bluntly: Republicans have run too many lousy candidates for the United States Senate, and they are now paying the price: gridlock. Time and again over the past decade, the GOP has lost eminently winnable races, allowing Senate Democrats to pad their caucus. This has, in turn, stymied the Republican legislative agenda.

If we look at the Senate from the perspective of statewide partisanship, the occupants of most seats make sense. Strongly Democratic states such as California elect two Democrats, while strongly Republican states like Idaho elect two Republicans. Meanwhile, purple states such as Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania have one Democrat and one Republican. That doesn’t always hold across the purple states — New Hampshire has two Democrats while Iowa has two Republicans — but the deviations more or less cancel out.

The main exception to this is a group of six Senate Democrats who come from strongly Republican states. These are: Doug Jones of Alabama (which Trump won by 28 points); Joe Donnelly of Indiana (Trump by 19 points); Claire McCaskill of Missouri (Trump by 19 points); Joe Tester of Montana (Trump by 20 points); Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota (Trump by 36 points); and Joe Manchin of West Virginia (Trump by 42 points). On the other hand, the only Republican from a strongly Democratic state is Susan Collins of Maine, which actually gave Trump an electoral college vote in 2016.

Candidate effects explain many of these Democratic-held seats. Jones, Donnelly, and McCaskill won their races because their Republican opponents said or did outrageous things that alienated the broad middle of their states. Tester and Heitkamp are still in office because their opponents, while not ridiculously bad, ran thoroughly lackluster campaigns in 2012, failing to win despite the boost they received from Mitt Romney’s winning their respective states with ease. Among the six, only Manchin, a former governor, had the sort of reputation that could inoculate him from a strong Republican campaign to oust him.

That’s not to say Republicans should have won all six of these seats. But they should not have lost all six of them. I would say that three to four should be in Republican hands right now. Imagine a Senate where that was the case. For starters, the chances that Republicans could lose the Senate in November would be practically zero. Beyond that, the GOP would probably have managed to do some kind of Obamacare repeal-and-replace via budget reconciliation last year. And looking forward to the 2018 legislative calendar, they probably could manage something else via reconciliation. It would be an entirely different legislative landscape.

But no. Lousy candidates and missed opportunities have cost the GOP seat after seat. The failure rests not with McConnell and the Beltway establishment, but with Republican voters and leaders in these states: They failed to select good candidates, and now the party is paying the price.
That's a depressing observation. But it's dang true.

The New York Times, so full of its hatred of Donald Trump, has thrown all their principles overboard. In an editorial outlining their disgust at Trump's reaction to his lawyer's office being searched and all the reasons there might have been to justify such a search, they included this line about attorney-client privilege:
Anyway, one might ask, if this is all a big witch hunt and Mr. Trump has nothing illegal or untoward to hide, why does he care about the privilege in the first place?

The answer, of course, is that he has a lot to hide.
Really? Is the NYT going to throw out a long-cherished privilege that protects anyone under suspicion from authorities and assert that anyone who claims privilege has something illegal to hide? Do they care about due process anymore? It's as if their disdain for Trump makes them willing to abandon rights for everyone.

Mitch McConnell is fed up with the Democrats' obstruction of Trump's nominations and is ready to take action.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) hinted Monday that he's willing to keep the Senate in town through Friday, or even into the weekend, as Republicans work to confirm a slate of President Trump's nominees....

Under the Senate's rules, after a nominee overcomes an initial vote, known as a cloture vote, senators can still force up to an additional 30 hours of debate.

If opponents drag out the debate clock over the current round of nominations it would allow them to keep the chamber in session through the weekend, well past the normal Thursday exit.
The Democrats have been stalling things without paying any price for their actions. It's about time that that changed.

Hugh Hewitt is fully
in support of such actions.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told me Monday morning, “It would take about one weekend” of keeping the Senate in session to break the logjam and start confirming nominees. Why a two week break at Easter for the Senate instead of the Good Friday afternoon off break that most working Americans received? Why not a 24/7 work week until the Senate Democrats give up their childish practice of insisting on 30 hours of debate for every nominee no matter how lopsided the confirmation vote? Why maintain the Senate’s old tradition of deference to “home state” senators on circuit and even district court nominees when former Democratic leader Harry Reid (Nev.) took a wrecking ball to the actual rules? Why, in other words, are Republicans playing touch football while Democrats play tackle?
McConnell needs to get a move on. There is no guarantee that the GOP will maintain control of the Senate so the Republicans need to approve as many of these nominations now. And Hewitt is also right that the administration needs to send up nominations for all the vacancies in the federal courts.

When the Washington Post hired Megan McArdle for their editorial page, there were quite a few liberals who objected to having the libertarian writer sully their paper. I don't imagine they're going to like her column addressing liberals in their own language about the exclusion of conservatives. She first asks conservatives to analogize their anger over the firing of Kevin Williamson to how underrepresented minorities feel and perhaps gain more understanding of why minorities can feel such deep resentment. She makes it clear that she's not equating ideological discrimination with racial bias, but is using the analogy to help both conservatives and liberals better understand each other.
As for liberals: Well, guys, check your privilege. Try to really imagine what it might be like to have a conservative identity when cultural products almost all skew liberal. That is, to be one of the few acceptable villains for all the movies and jokes and television shows. To see your viewpoint systematically excluded and slighted. To have your daily life, your beliefs, routinely handled with ignorance and insensitivity.

Then imagine what it would be like to complain, and get eye-rolls from the very same people who talk a lot about privilege and microaggressions. Or worse, get the same tired tropes that majorities always hand the minority: “Gaslighting” (“that thing you just saw happen didn’t happen at all”); sneering explanations that your intellect, morals, or manners make you unfit for elite spaces; or sad shrugs at the impossibility of anything ever changing.

If that happened to you, probably you’d be pretty mad. You might even become occasionally intemperate in your speech. Heck, you might even say “to hell with respectability politics,” and vote for a loudmouthed reality television star whose signature campaign move was telling cultural hegemons to take a long stroll off a short pier....

You cannot complain about Fox News, and then serenely proclaim that liberal-leaning publications are some sort of natural happenstance, like tsunamis. You cannot demand that people work hard to include minorities while simultaneously, well, refusing to include a minority. And obviously, I would offer the same admonition to conservatives who are outraged by their own exclusion, while refusing to listen to complaints from other excluded groups.

But if you aren’t swayed by appeals to logic, consider the practicalities. A substantial fraction, maybe a plurality, of the country is being made to feel the stings of exclusion, with all the anger and counterreaction that implies. That’s not going to end well.

Unfortunately, I suspect that there are people who think that this will end well, at least for them — that we are now in total war, and their side is headed for V-E Day. And that a strategic lack of charity is therefore a valuable tactic.

They’re making a grave mistake. If we are in total war, it’s not World War II, but World War I, with both sides deeply entrenched, and neither side controlling sufficient strategic resources for outright victory. Which leaves us with two choices: We can keep killing each other without ever really advancing. Or we can seek an armistice, and a generous peace that lets us live together as neighbors rather than enemies.