Archive

November 16th, 2016

Two cases where Trump could rewrite the rules

    Vice President-elect Mike Pence has told evangelical leader James Dobson that the next administration will reverse President Barack Obama's contraceptive mandate rules and transgender bathroom guidance -- both of which it can do without Congress. If Pence speaks for President-elect Donald Trump, both decisions would have major implications for cases now before the U.S. Supreme Court.

    In both cases, the effects of unilateral executive action are tricky, because liberal appellate decisions remain on the books, and because conservatives would like to see those decisions reversed. Trump doesn't yet have an attorney general or a solicitor general, but his Department of Justice will soon have to figure out how to proceed.

    Speaking to Dobson, the director of Focus on the Family, Pence -- who calls himself a Christian, a conservative and a Republican "in that order" -- presented himself as the voice of the Trump administration on morality.

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Thoughts for the Horrified

    So what do we do now? By “we” I mean all those left, center and even right who saw Donald Trump as the worst man ever to run for president and assumed that a strong majority of our fellow citizens would agree.

    I’m not talking about rethinking political strategy. There will be a time for that — God knows it’s clear that almost everyone on the center-left, myself included, was clueless about what actually works in persuading voters. For now, however, I’m talking about personal attitude and behavior in the face of this terrible shock.

    First of all, remember that elections determine who gets the power, not who offers the truth. The Trump campaign was unprecedented in its dishonesty; the fact that the lies didn’t exact a political price, that they even resonated with a large bloc of voters, doesn’t make them any less false. No, our inner cities aren’t war zones with record crime. No, we aren’t the highest-taxed nation in the world. No, climate change isn’t a hoax promoted by the Chinese.

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The Trump Era will be great for the Democratic Party

    The cyclical nature of electoral politics provides some solace for Democrats. If history is any guide, a Trump presidency will cure the three problems that have been ailing the party since 2010.

    The first is the midterm election dropoff. Democrats lost a whopping 62 House seats in the 2010 elections during President Barack Obama's first term, and after winning some seats back in the presidential election year 2012, lost another 13 seats in 2014 during his second term.

    Midterm dropoff happens to almost every president's party. The Republican Party lost 28 House seats in the 1982 midterms during President Ronald Reagan's first term. The Democratic Party lost 52 House seats in 1994 during President Bill Clinton's first term. And while there was no such Republican loss in the post-9/11 midterms in 2002, Republicans did lose 27 House seats in 2006 during George W. Bush's second term.

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Stopping Trump from going rogue on national security

    When Donald Trump takes the oath of office in January, he will assume extraordinary powers used by the last two presidents to wage a global war on terrorism.

    For the next president's critics, this is a recipe for rule-of-law disaster. After all, Trump proposed a ban on all Muslims entering the country after last year's rampage in San Bernardino, California. He has pledged, with profane enthusiasm, to bomb the Islamic State out of existence. Trump has at times said he would bring back torture for detainees, and that he would create a national database for all American Muslims.

    Such promises led the American Civil Liberties Union in July to conclude in a paper that Trump represented "a one man Constitutional Crisis."

    How can someone who wants to bring back waterboarding and ban Muslims be trusted with the expansive power to wage a war without end?

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No, I don't want Donald Trump to succeed

    In 2004, Thomas Frank wrote a very insightful book called "What’s the Matter with Kansas?" After Tuesday's election results, he owes us another book: "What's the Matter with America?"

    If we really believe in America, how could we elect as president a man who is against everything America stands for? If we really believe that all men and women are equal under the Constitution, how could we elect a man who treats women like dirt and promises to round up and deport 11 million Latinos?

    If we really believe in freedom of religion, how could we elect a man who wants to institute a religious test for anyone coming into this country? If we really believe in saving the planet, how could we elect a man who claims global warming's a hoax invented by the Chinese?

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Lessons In Math And Civics

    This election brought us more than one math lesson especially proving once again that appealing to the lowest common denominator still works.  Additionally it showed that the popular vote and the electoral college do not make a balanced equation.

    Perhaps most important of all is how desperately we need more civic education.  The results of this election scream out that all too many have no commitment to the principles of our government, especially the idea of equal opportunity.  This was about as far as one could get from the joy, the excitement, the hope, the promise of that election eight years ago when we chose our first African American heritage President.

    This time it is more than a woman not following that lofty path.  It is that a man who spewed such hate, exhibited such little respect for women, had no compassion for the less fortunate or appreciation of the balance of power is slated to be our next President.

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Is America still the leader of the free world?

    For the United States and for Europe, the moment of reckoning has now arrived: The West as we know it is nearing the end of its life. The United States of America has just elected as president a man who not only brags about groping women and swindles his business partners but also openly dislikes America's traditional allies - and Europeans most of all.

    Don't take my word for it. Listen to what he has been saying for many, many years. As long ago as 2000, in his ghostwritten book "The America We Deserve," Trump wrote that "America has no vital interest in choosing between warring factions whose animosities go back centuries. . . . Their conflicts are not worth American lives. Pulling back from Europe would save this country millions of dollars annually. The cost of stationing NATO troops in Europe is enormous. And these are clearly funds that can be put to better use."

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In watching the spread of nationalist populism, eyes now turn to Germany

    "Can Trump also happen in Germany?"

    That's what German newspaper Bild wondered on Thursday. Der Spiegel took a different approach, bemoaning that "It Becomes Lonely in Europe," as Berlin and Brussels must now deal with Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Donald Trump, in addition to local populists like Viktor Orban.

    Germany might not be lonely for long. The European powerhouse, for obvious reasons, has for decades been hyper conscious of hate speech and xenophobia. In September's regional elections, however, the right-wing populist party AfD outperformed German Chancellor Angela Merkel's party in her home state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Merkel took blame for her party's poor performance but nevertheless maintained that her refugee policy - which the AfD openly hates - was fundamentally right.

    AfD was originally formed in 2013 to protest the euro, but has since morphed into an anti-immigrant, anti-Islam party, and has taken to aping the anti-establishment rhetoric of the (also anti-immigrant, anti-Islam) "Pediga" movement.

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How we ended up with our own Berlusconi

    I will no longer mock my Italian friends for electing Silvio Berlusconi. Now I know how clownish but fabulously wealthy autocrats come to power in democracies that should know better. We just elected one.

    Of course, I should note that I did not vote for Donald Trump. Nor did most American voters. Trump won in the Electoral College, an out-of-date system that will endure as long as people who have the power to change it feel they can keep power more easily by leaving it alone.

    The Electoral College may help to explain another oddity: Exit polls found 62 percent of voters thought Trump was unqualified. That's more than the percentage that voted for him. About 51 percent thought Hillary Clinton was unqualified. No wonder people say they hate politics. More folks than four years ago appear to be voting for candidates they don't like.

    This was a year when, as everybody says, the voters wanted change -- and to paraphrase H. L. Mencken, I now expect them to get it good and hard.

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November 15th

Hillary Clinton lost. Bernie Sanders could have won.

    Donald Trump's stunning victory is less surprising when we remember a simple fact: Hillary Clinton is a deeply unpopular politician. She won a hotly contested primary victory against a uniquely popular candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders. In her place, could he have beaten Trump?

    That Clinton has unusually high unfavorables has been true for decades. Indeed, it has been a steady fact of her political life. She has annually ranked among the least-liked politicians on the national stage since she was the first lady. In recent years, her low favorability rating was matched only by that of her opponent, animated hate Muppet Donald Trump. In contrast, Sanders enjoys very high popularity, ranking as the most popular senator for two years in a row. Nationally, his favorability rating is more than 10 points higher than Clinton's, and his unfavorability rating is more than 15 points lower. This popularity would have been a real asset on the campaign trail.

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