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: 20-June-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 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 stay 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.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Six pundits and one poll that got the election right and what they've said since - seriously & literally.

 They got it right. 
Let's get this out of the way: The Dividist got the 2016 Presidential election wrong. It is not unexpected for the Dividist to advocate for a continuing divided government state and vote. That is, after all, the raison d'etre for this blog. But the Dividist went beyond advocacy in 2016. We confidently predicted that we would continue to see a divided government in 2017 and into the foreseeable future. The Dividist even considered declaring victory and shuttering this blog post-election. We fantasized about triumphantly proclaiming "Our job here is done".  Yeah, that didn't happen. We now have One Party Republican Rule, a Unified Government and the Dividist has work to do.

With the passage of time, and with judicious use of Third Person Plural, the Dividist has created enough distance from the election to get back to work and begin posting again.

Misery loves company. Company is comforting. Who else got it wrong? Besides the Dividist, pretty much everybody:

 They got it wrong. 

The reader may recall that in the closing days of the election the most respected polling analysts in the country were fighting flame wars over whether Clinton had a 71%, 85% or 99% chance of being our next President. In case you didn't notice, she finished with a 0% chance of becoming President. We'll let Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball represent all the failed pundits, pollsters and prognosticators with this straightforward Mea Maxima Culpa:
"We heard for months from many of you, saying that we were underestimating the size of a potential hidden Trump vote and his ability to win. We didn’t believe it, and we were wrong. The Crystal Ball is shattered. We’ll pick up the pieces starting next week as we try to unpack what happened in this election, where there was so much dramatic change from just four years ago. We have a lot to learn, and we must make sure the Crystal Ball never has another year like this. This team expects more of itself, and we apologize to our readers for our errors."
Credit where it is due. Not everybody got it wrong. There were more than a few voices from across the political spectrum that saw the writing on the wall. Those of us who "knew" Trump was going to lose either dismissed or laughed at them when we should have listened. So let us listen to a few notables who got it right. Let's listen to what they said before the election and what they've said since.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Just Vote Dividist - 2016 Election Edition

All Four Realistic 2016 US Election Outcomes
 Choose Wisely 
Welcome to the sixth election eve "Just Vote Dividist" post. This blog was started in 2006 to advocate a divided government voting heuristic.  In this post we suggest a specific divided government vote for the 2016 election.

In light of the media angst surrounding our presidential choices this cycle, we'll begin by repeating one critically important and almost universally overlooked point. The President of the United States is not the government of the United States. The President of the United States is not even necessarily the leader of the government of the United States.

We're Not Electing a President -  We're Electing a Government
The executive is one of three co-equal branches of government. The government of the United States is led by the Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader representing their respective democratic institutions, in concert with the President of the United States. The personalities, interpersonal relationships, communication skills, ideological motivation, partisan loyalties, personal ambitions, institutional obligations and dynamic interactions between those three leaders determine the domestic policy and international posture that governs the United States.

The President is also the leader of a political party. When we have a unified one party government, the President may function as the leader of of the United States government if the president's party demonstrate sufficient partisan discipline. When we have a divided government, leadership of the United States government is just as likely to reside in the Congress as it is in the Executive branch. We'll come back to this point, but first some context to explain why divided government is good for us.

Monday, October 31, 2016

The Haunting Specter of Divided Government

Divided Government Headless Horseman
It happens every election year. As the Halloween electoral landscape comes into focus, Republicans and Democrats stake out their positions on the prospect for a divided federal government. The usual partisan hypocrisy abides. Partisans who see an opportunity for Unified One Party Rule will decry the evils of divided government. Partisans who fear their party being shut out of power will extol the virtues of checks, balances, and the restraint on power found in a politically divided government. Neither party exhibits any shame when flip-flopping their feelings about divided government from one cycle to the next.

This year there is less partisan clarity about the prospects of either party regaining One Party Rule than is usually apparent this late in the election cycle. Some of this is fueled by delusions of grandeur on the part of Democrats indulging in Nancy Pelosi's bi-annual fantasy of retaking the House majority (see 2014, 2012 & 2010 prognostications of the Once And Never Again Speaker).

The Dividist staked out a position on the 2016 election in a pre-election post shortly before the 2014 midterms ...
"In 2016 Democrats will enjoy many of the structural advantages that favor Republicans in 2014. There is a high probability that a Republican majority in the Senate will not last beyond the 2016 election. If we go into that election with Republicans in majority control of both legislative branches, it makes the divided government vote easy to determine. There will be a greater risk of Single Party Republican Rule, so the 2016 Dividist vote will be for the Democratic candidate for president. A strong Republican presidential candidate could have the coattails to retain the Senate and usher in another era of One Party Republican rule. Even with a strong Democratic presidential candidate in 2016, the Republicans will be likely to retain the House and we get divided government for another 2 to 4 years. QED ... And yes, under those circumstances, the Dividist will gladly support and vote for Hillary Clinton for her third term as President."
 ... and never looked back. Two years later, nothing significant has changed. The Republican House majority is a lock, the Senate is a coin flip, and Hillary Clinton is poised to begin her 3rd term as President of the United States.

Under these circumstances, we would normally expect Democrats to be waxing eloquently on the virtues of divided government. We would expect Republicans to be fear-mongering the prospect of gridlocked government unable to deal with the dire threats posed to the American way of life by the Democratic Party. To some extent, this is exactly what is happening. But, like in so many aspects of this election cycle, Donald Trump changes the game. So instead, we now see principled Republicans and libertarians arguing against voting for Trump, preferring a vote for a Clinton presidency shackled by a divided government.  And we see some deluded Democrats arguing for an implausible return to One Party Democratic Rule hoping that Trump blowback will nationalize the House elections in their favor. In this case, it is the principled Republicans who are grounded in electoral reality.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Investors Love Divided Government
- Algo Enhanced 2016 Edition -

UPDATED: 02-Nov-2016 
High Frequency Traders Love Divided Government
 Algos For Hillary 
So this happened. Last week the stock market was percolating along with moderate gains on the back of positive economic news and earnings results. Then, on Friday (28-Oct-2016) FBI director James Comey released a letter to Congress indicating FBI investigators found additional Clinton private server e-mails. The new e-mails may or may not have any relevance to his prior testimony but, in an abundance of caution, Comey informed Congress. The DJ Industrial average immediately dropped almost 200 points. 
Stocks love divided government

This NPR story was typical of business media coverage: "The Stock Market Stumbles After Friday's Clinton Email News."
"Around the time that the email news broke, the Dow Jones industrial average plummeted from a peak of 18,255 to a trough of 18,097. That's not quite 1 percent, but the sharp drop, albeit small, is a sign of a broader storyline that has persisted through this election: that investors are scared of a Trump presidency."
Partisan bluster aside, after it became apparent that breathless mainstream and social media reporting was less than meets the eye or that can be supported from the actual content of Comey's letter, the market recovered most of the midday losses.
CNBC Kelly Evans - Markets move on Clinton Probe
 CNBC "Closing Bell" wraps it up:

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Stunning Gallup Poll Finds Voter Preference For Divided Government Slipping vs. Council Of Elrond

Gallup runs this poll every election cycle and every time the Dividist must explain why there is far less than meets the eye in any conclusion based on this poll. The headline conclusion in the 2016 edition of this Gallup Poll is "In U.S., Preference for Divided Government Lowest in 15 Years":
  • 20% of Americans say they want divided government
  • Fewer Republicans want divided government now than four years ago
  • Fewer Democrats want the same party to control Congress than four years ago
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- One in five Americans believe it is best for the president to be from one political party and for Congress to be controlled by another, the lowest level of public support for divided government in Gallup's 15-year trend. The remainder are evenly divided between those who favor one party controlling both the presidency and Congress (36%) and those saying it makes no difference how political power is allocated (36%)."
I am sympathetic to their plight. Gallup's clear intent is to use the same poll question year after year in order to divine trends over many election cycles. To do that, they must ask the identical question every time. The problem is that the question they've asked every year since 2002 is deeply flawed as it has absolutely nothing to do with the actual choice American voters make when they go to the polls.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

What if I told you... You can choose red and blue.

Red or Blue
Do you ever wonder what would have happened if Neo took both the red and blue pills? What if I told you that you do not have to choose between red or blue? What if I told you that you can choose both?  Let's take a trip to political Wonderland and see "how deep the rabbit hole goes."

Voters Don't Like Their Choices
Amidst the Sturn und Drang of the 2016 presidential election, the dominant complaint is about choice. Many voters are profoundly unhappy with the binary choice they have been offered by our red and blue political parties. Part of the reason for this election malaise is that partisan voters feel compelled to vote for their party's standard bearer regardless of whether they like the nominee. The partisan voter's choice in a federal elections is always preordained.

Partisans Don't Have a Choice
The vast majority (80% +) of the American electorate are "light switch" partisan voters in all federal elections. Regardless of whether they identify as partisan Republicans, partisan Democrats, or whether they delude themselves by claiming to be "Independent", most Americans always vote a straight partisan ticket. They always vote the same party for President, Senator and Representative - without exception - every single time - over decades.
The Myth of the Independent Voter
FYI - "leaners" vote exactly the same as "partisans"
On or Off The only real choice for partisans (and leaners) is not who they vote for, but whether or not they choose to vote. They can only turn the switch on or off. Since partisans have limited choice, they can become particularly frustrated when the partisan options selected by their partisan tribe are not particularly likable, trustworthy, qualified, or even remotely competent as candidates. Like, for example, the nominees in the 2016 presidential election.*

In a presidential year, the crisis of partisan choice becomes even more acute. This, in no small part, due to the identity voters invest in, and the importance voters attach to the role of President. The President is, after all, "Leader of the Free World" and "Commander in Chief" of the most powerful military in the history of the world. But voters investing their ideological hopes in a Presidential candidate tend to overlook an important aspect of the role.  To whit - The President of the United States is not the government of the United States. The President is not even necessarily the leader of the government of the United States. The President is the leader of a political party. When we have a unified one party government, the President may function as the leader of of the United States government if the president's party demonstrate sufficient partisan discipline.  But even under unified government, it is not always clear exactly where the seat of the United States government leadership resides.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Trump or Clinton? You won't believe who is worse! Your 2016 Comparative Political Demonology™ Cheatsheet.

Conventional wisdom informs us that most voters do not pay attention to presidential elections until after Labor Day. It is after Labor Day. As public service, the Dividist is pleased to offer this handy cheatsheet to help my fellow Americans catch up.

The 2016 presidential election is the ultimate Comparative Political Demonology (CPD) election*. You may not be familiar with the term but you are probably familiar with the phenomena. CPD is where a partisan supporter of Candidate A from Party X explains that Candidate B from Party Y is unfit to be elected because of some heinous character flaw, despicable action, and/or unacceptable policy position. At which point a partisan supporter of Candidate B explains that Candidate A is actually worse, citing a counter example of said character flaw, despicable action, and/or unacceptable policy position. The discussion devolves into an argument of who is worse.

It's not a new phenomena. CPD happened in every United States presidential election since George Washington. A  2010 Volokh Conspiracy post distilled the never ending "My Side Versus the Other Side" hypocrisy complaint, which was echoed in  2012 with Ramesh Ponnuru's column "I'm Right, You're Wrong and Other Political Truths", as well as  Barton Hinkle's "The Wrong Side Absolutely Must Not Win". While not new, it does seems that this election the CPD is worse than usual. When the Republican nominee Donald Trump explicitly and literally demonizes the opposition by calling Hillary Clinton "the devil" it's hard to see how we can sink any lower on the CPD scale.

CPD arguments are, of course pointless, unresolvable,  and a complete waste of time. However, since there is nothing else of consequence being discussed by mainstream and social media in this election, the Dividist will endeavor in this post to definitively answer the question "Who is worse?" across the full range of key character flaws disputed in this election. You are welcome.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Cognitive Madisonianism, splitting tickets, the 2016 Senate race, and why American voters are smarter than pundits and political scientists.

UPDATED: 1-Nov-2016 
The Dividist's new favorite phrase is "Cognitive Madisonianism." It's just another way of saying that American voters, in their collective wisdom, prefer and vote for divided government.

Based on election results in the modern era, the assertion would seem to be unassailable. Since the end of WWII there have been 34 federal elections in the United States. In 22 of those elections, Americans elected a divided government. We chose divided government for 44 of the intervening 71 years or 62% of the time. We are currently in the 6th consecutive year of our most recent iteration with indicators pointing to divided government extending it's winning streak for at least two and probably four more years.

Wait. Do We Do That On Purpose?
That is the question. It's a simple fact that we vote for divided government far more often than not. It's that "cognitive" part that political scientists and pundits have a hard time swallowing.  They just can't believe we are doing this deliberately.