Tuesday, January 16, 2018

2018 Election - House Rules & The O'Neill Exception

Crossposted from United.Org 
 We're bored with the "Blue Wave" metaphor. We'll go with "Dividist Pac-Man" 
Outside of the Mueller investigation, the biggest political question of 2018 is whether Democrats can ride a widely anticipated Blue Wave into a majority in Congress and divide the government. There are similarities to the mid-term wave elections that flipped Congress in 2006 and 2010.

Many compare the stunning Senate special election victory of Democrat Doug Jones over Republican Roy Moore in crimson red Alabama to the equally stunning 2010 victory of Republican Scott Brown over Democrat Martha Coakley in deep blue Massachusetts. Does the Jones win point to a 2018 political tsunami like the Brown election foreshadowed a 2010 red wave? Maybe.

In both cases, the long shot won with the help of a seriously flawed opposition candidate. In Alabama Roy Moore was accused of sexual impropriety with minors, and in Massachusetts Martha Coakley called Curt Schilling a "Yankee fan." This is, of course, not a fair comparison. Coakley's faux pas was far more egregious to the citizens of  Massachusetts and more damaging to her candidacy than Moore in Alabama. Still the similarities are striking and the punditocracy at MSNBC are positively giddy in anticipation of surfing the blue wave they see on the horizon:

Friday, January 12, 2018

Since we called President Trump a corrupt, unstable, incompetent, narcissistic, race-baiting, thin-skinned authoritarian with the temperament of a child before the election... Why do we think it matters to keep calling him those same names after the election?

Quinnipiac University Poll on President Donald Trump
 August 2017 word cloud of Quinnipiac Poll asking Americans to describe President Trump in one word.
Creative name-calling of President Trump on mainstream and social media has become something of a national sport. Each day, fast on the heels of the latest idiocy to come out of the mouth of our perpetually aggrieved president [Today, as I write this, it's "shithole countries."], we get the "shocked! shocked!" hair-on-fire horrified characterizations of those perpetually aggrieved at the fact that he is still in the White House.  In this game you get extra points if the name-calling is wrapped in righteous indignation, high dudgeon or general hysteria.

Quinnipiac University Polls keep score with a periodic analysis that asks one question:
"What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of President Trump?" 
The graphic at the top of this post is the word cloud from the August scoreboard, and here are the most recent December results.
In "Fire and Fury" - Michael Wolff's account of the early months of the administration - we see variations on all the same words and characterizations:
Michael Wolff Fire and Fury"For Steve Mnuchin and Reince Priebus, he was an "idiot." For Gary Cohn, he was "dumb as shit." For H.R. McMaster he was a "dope." - Michael Wolff, Fire and Fury 
"I don't describe him as childlike, every person in the White House ... Literally, that is the common description among every one of his senior people," Wolff said. "That the president is somewhat like a child." - The Hill 
"An idiot surrounded by clowns. Trump won't read anything - not one-page memos, not the brief policy papers; nothing. He gets up halfway through meetings with world leaders because he is bored." (F&F via CNBC) 
"Wolff added that "100 percent of the people around" Trump, "senior advisers, family members, every single one of them, questions his intelligence and fitness for office." - NBC 
"Mr Wolff portrays the president as an ageing man who repeats stories and quotes some of Mr Trump's closest allies describing the president as “incapable of functioning in his job. - Telegraph 
“Bannon described Trump as a simple machine. The On switch was full of flattery, the Off switch full of calumny. The flattery was dripping, slavish, cast in ultimate superlatives, and entirely disconnected from reality: so-and-so was the best, the most incredible, the ne plus ultra, the eternal. The calumny was angry, bitter, resentful, ever a casting out and closing of the iron door.” - Michael Wolff, Fire and Fury  
“If the Trump White House was as unsettling as any in American history, the president’s views of foreign policy and the world at large were among its most random, uninformed, and seemingly capricious aspects."  Michael Wolff, Fire and Fury 
If nothing else, the book cranked the Trump vilification volume up to 10. And this is where it's taken us...

We have now reached the point where Trump insults are being classified and categorized by the punditocracy into those insults that are politically correct ("evil","spoiled brat","ignorant jerk", "asshole" ) and those insults that are politically incorrect ("sociopath", "mentally disturbed", "narcissistic personality disorder"). In this clip, Professor of Psychiatry Allen Frances tells MSNBC pundit Ari Melber that attributing President Trump's behavior to mental illness is demeaning and disrespectful ... to the mentally ill:

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Debt, Deficits, Divided Government and Deja Vu

UPDATED: 12/20/2017
The deficit and debt are unsustainable.
It's easy to understand why Republicans are circling the wagons on the Tax Bill. Given the dearth of legislative accomplishment in the first year of the Trump administration, failure to pass tax reform is truly an existential threat for the GOP.  If a Unified GOP Government can't even legislate every Republican pol's wet dream of tax cuts, then what is the point of the Republican Party?

It's understandable, but inexcusable. The Republican party took control of Congress in 2010 by raising the specter of spiraling deficits and debt, only to support a bill in 2017 that will add trillions of dollars to both.

An understandable vote for GOP partisans? Yes. An inexcusable vote for fiscal conservatives? Yes. And for students of divided vs unified government, unsurprising and completely predictable. The only time our federal government approaches anything that vaguely resembles fiscal responsibility is when the government is firmly divided:

Friday, December 01, 2017

Ranking #Billionaires4President in 2020

UPDATE: 8-January-2018
Oprah for PresidentBenioff for President

 Lyndon Johnson famously said "Whenever most Senators look in a mirror, they see a president.” The sentiment has been quoted, plagiarized and paraphrased by politicians and political pundits ever since.  Both Kennedy and Johnson were Senators before they were elected President and Vice President in 1962. While many Senators have run for president since Johnson served, none fulfilled that ambition until the election of Barack Obama in 2008.

In the wake of the election of Donald Trump, it's time to update that maxim:
"Whenever most billionaires look in a mirror, they see a president." 
Mark Cuban for President
And why not? After all, Donald Trump did it. How does a Mark Cuban look in the mirror and not think "If Trump did it, I can do it." Wealthy celebrities have expressed this sentiment directly. Consider Oprah Winfrey on Bloomberg:
“I never considered the question even a possibility,” Winfrey said about her pre-Trump thinking. “I though, ‘Oh gee, I don’t have the experience, I don’t know enough.’ But now I’m thinking, ‘Oh. Oh.'
Or consider Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson at Vanity Fair:
“I wouldn't rule it out,” Johnson, 44, told Vanity Fair with a big smile ...“It would be a great opportunity to help people, so it’s possible. This past election shows that anything can happen.
Dwayne Johnson for President
I'll say it again. Why not? It is worth noting that presidential campaign strategists don’t have a lot of imagination. They mostly fight the last war. Whatever worked in the last election becomes the template for what to do in the next election – only bigger and better. And what worked in the last election is this: A rich, blustering, boorish, but successful huckster/entertainer with absolutely no political experience and limited understanding of governing, foreign policy, or the constitutional framework of the United States was elected President of the United States. That happened. And when that happened the pool of future President wannabes got exponentially bigger.

This is not an original thought. Across social and mainstream media you can find many lists touting billionaires and celebrities who look in the mirror and see the next President of the United States. Examples include CNBCPeople MagazineINC, Observer, and Newsweek. Some will indeed run. In the brave new world of the Trump era, how do we separate the contenders from the pretenders?

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Remember the bad old days of divided government?

We Miss Divided Government

We're now six months into One Party Rule - Republican Unified Government.

Hey! Remember all the social and mainstream media cries, lamentations, rending of garments and gnashing teeth about gridlock, divided government and partisan obstruction over the last six years? Guessing everyone is now enjoying our brand spanking new unified government! What? No? Huh.

Look, the Dividist is not one to say "I told you so..." Oh wait. Yes he is...

Americans may have a short memory, but we are once again learning to appreciate the finer points of a politically divided government. It's encouraging to see my fellow citizens coming to that realization much sooner than during the early years of unified government under either Republican Bush or Democratic Obama administrations.

Perhaps this is a good time to step away from the day-to-day West Wing tweet-storm / soap opera and consider some recent thoughtful essays on the nature and benefits of divided government.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

United Coalition of the Divided - 2018 Edition

UPDATED: 01/18/18
Vote for divided government in 2018
Welcome to the United Coalition of the Divided - the Dividist's social media version of retail door-to-door politicking. 

We advocate voting strategically for divided government. We know why we should vote for divided government. We know how to vote for divided government. In this post we [virtually] gather those of like mind who help [intentionally or not] make the case to vote for divided government in 2018. One voter at a time.

The Dividist initiated this exclusive club during the 2008 election cycle and recycled it in every federal election since. It was an ignominious start, with the Democrats seizing unified control of the federal government. The 2010 edition was barely posted in time for the midterms.  Amidst the rending of garments and gnashing of teeth, divided government was emphatically restored. The 2012 membership drive worked out fine with the reelection of Barack Obama and divided government. In the 2014 midterms, it was just a question of how divided we were going to get as the Democrats managed to dig themselves an even deeper hole in Congress.

Then 2016 happened.  The Republicans were in control of  both branches of Congress with no realistic chance of losing majority control in the House of Representative. It seemed like such an easy, obvious choice. All we had to do was elect Hillary Clinton and the government would stay divided for at least four more years.

As it turns out, it was too obvious. Clinton's inevitable victory was so obvious to so many in the punditocracy (including The Dividist), that Democrats did not even bother to articulate the argument for divided government. In fact, so many Democrats and Republicans were so certain that Clinton would win, Democrats delusionally argued for One Party Rule, and Republicans co-opted the divided government argument - asking voters to focus on GOP candidates in Senate and House races in order to keep a legislative constraint on the inevitable Clinton presidency.

We tried. The Dividist patiently explained there was no chance for Democrats to take the House majority in that cycle. You didn't listen.  As a consequence, not only did Democrats lose the executive branch, but they failed to win majority control of the Senate in a cycle where the political playing field was heavily tilted in their favor.

So we've come full circle.  We again have a Unified One Party Rule Republican Government as we had in 2006 when the Dividist started this blog. It's "deja vu all over again". For Festivus the Dividist be airing more than a few grievances with you people. But I digress.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Funny, you don't look libertarianish.

 Wherein the Dividist "buries the lede" so deep no one will ever find it.  
Lady Liberty wonders what happened to the libertarians in 2016
 Lady Liberty comments on Lee Drutman Voter Study Group Analysis 
On Sunday, Fareed Zakaria invoked the recent Lee Drutman Voter Study Group (VSG) analysis of the 2016 election.  His opening monologue summarized and repeated the conclusion of his recent Washington Post guest editorial.

The VSG study has become something of a Rorschach Test among the punditocracy. Data on 2016 voter attitudes are distilled into multi-dimensional charts with - sometimes conflicting - analysis of what it all mean. That leaves a lot of room for any good ideologue to find a nugget that will confirm their bias about the election.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The "Pelosi Problem" - If she could turn back time.

Pelosi brings down the hammer.
Mainstream media are calling it the "Pelosi Problem". Democrats have lost four out of four special elections since Donald Trump was sworn in as President.  A blue-on-blue political feeding frenzy has erupted as Democrats eat their own.  With the President rubbing salt in the woundNancy Pelosi is being blamed by some on the left.  Democratic desperation is palpable and the growing Progressive panic is not limited to the beltway political class.

When even the solid support of liberal entertainment industry icons turn on Nancy Pelosi, a political firewall has been breached. Pelosi lost Cher  ...

... and Cher may be right. Republican strategists credit invoking the specter of - Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House - as a cudgel keeping disgruntled Republicans in the fold and contributing to the GA-06 win. From CNN:
"Why the relentless focus on the Democratic congresswoman from San Francisco? It was at the heart of their strategy to turn out reliably Republican voters who might be queasy with Trump's first five months in office, but did not want to see Pelosi and national Democrats celebrate a marquee victory in their own backyard. Pelosi "consistently polls very unfavorably," said John Rogers, the executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee -- the House GOP's campaign arm. "I think in this instance it had a motivating effect for our voters on the turnout front."
Exhibit A: This right wing superpac ad was one of several mining the Anti-Pelosi vein that saturated GA-06. It was effective and is exactly what we can expect to see in every contested district in 2018:

Thursday, June 08, 2017

What it takes to impeach a President and why we're not remotely close to impeaching President Trump.

 It takes testimony under oath and corroborating physical evidence of a criminal act. 
To Impeach or Not to Impeach...
Democratic representatives Brad Sherman and Al Green are drafting resolutions to impeach Donald Trump with the apparent intent of introducing said resolution in the House of Representatives. They are cheered on by extreme partisans on the left. However, more rational Democratic Party leadership understand just how premature any such consideration is at this time.

Conventional wisdom informs us that impeachment proceedings against a sitting President will not happen while the legislative branch is in control of the same party as the President. History bears this out, as impeachment actions against Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton were all initiated when the House of Representatives was controlled by the opposition party. But with President Trump, history and conventional wisdom may be steering us in the wrong direction, as many establishment Republicans would far prefer Mike Pence as President. Regardless, it is certainly true that divided government would make impeachment easier and the 2018 midterm election looms large.

The unfolding James Comey testimony, and in particular his opening statement published a day earlier, has precipitated predictably contradictory analysis of whether the threshold for impeachment has been crossed or not.

That is the Question
For those of us of a certain age, the question of what it takes to impeach a sitting President, or force a President to resign under threat of impeachment, is not a hypothetical historical exercise. We've seen it twice in our lifetime. We saw President Clinton impeached but not convicted. We saw President Nixon resign under threat of impeachment. In both cases, congressional leadership from the party of the President calling out the President were critical factors.  In both cases, there was an evidentiary Rubicon that had to be crossed before impeachment became a realistic possibility.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Dear Democrats - about that 2018 House election - Here's your silver lining playbook.

UPDATED*: 18-August-2017 
Divided Government and GA 06
Democratic hopeful Jon Ossoff came close in his initial bid to win the reliably Republican Georgia 6th congressional district. He finished first in the April election with a large plurality over a fractured Republican field but failed to secure a majority. Ossoff will face faced and narrowly lost* to second place finisher Republican Karen Handel in a June 20 runoff. Promoted as a proxy for Democratic resistance to the Trump administration, the mixed results gave both parties plenty of "spin" space. Whether it was a victory, loss, moral victory, repudiation of President Donald Trump, bellwether for the 2018 midterms, GOP wakeup call, or some mix of all the above can and will be debated.

In the bigger scheme of things, it's just one district that should and probably will stayed* Republican. By itself GA-06 is not all that important. What is important - very important - is what happens in the 2018 midterms. Can Democrats can wrest majority control of the House of Representative from the GOP, restore divided government, and provide real oversight of the Trump administration?

On that score, the Dividist can show Democrats a silver lining around the dark cloud of 2016 and offer a ray of hope for 2018. But to explain it, we must first digress through a bit of history.