Monday, November 05, 2018

Just Vote Dividist - 2018 Closing Argument Edition


Welcome to the seventh election eve "Just Vote Dividist" post. This blog was started in 2006 to advocate a divided government voting heuristic. Every election cycle since we've posted a closing argument how and why to vote for divided government.  

In this post you'll find our recommendations for the 2018 midterms. It doesn't take a lot of analysis. President Donald Trump in only half way through his term. Dividing this government requires Democrats winning the majority in either one or both legislative branches. The 2018 Divided Government vote is for a straight Democratic ticket.

In previous election eve editions we've painstakingly summarized and recycled our previous votes and general arguments for divided government. We'll include that in an addendum at the bottom of this post, and get right to the meat of why and how you should vote for divided government.

First an elementary civics lesson that far too many Americans fail to fully appreciate.

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. The executive is one of three co-equal branches of government. The actual 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.

Co-Equal Means Co-Equal
The President is not the leader of the government but is the leader of a political party. In a unified one party government, the President may function as the leader of of the United States government if the president's party in Congress put partisan discipline and loyalty above their constitutional responsibilities. 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.

Did I Mention The POTUS Is Not The Government Of The United States?
This is not to minimize the role of the President. The President is the putative "Leader of the Free World" and "Commander in Chief" of the most powerful military in the history of the world. The "Unitary Executive" has extraordinary, almost monarchical latitude over United States foreign policy. However, United States domestic policy is forged primarily in the House of Representatives, by design.

In Divided Government - The Speaker of the House Calls the Domestic Shots
The "People's House" - the most democratic of our government branches, is where the Framer's intended and expected domestic policy to be created and shaped. This is why the House is the first branch codified in the first article of the Constitution. This is why the Speaker of the House is second only to the Vice President in succession to the Presidency. The Senate - representing the semi-sovereign state governments - was intended by the framers to be a moderating influence over both the majoritarian domestic policies of the House and the foreign polices of the President.

A Co-equal Triumvirate Governs The United States.
This structure is unique. This structure is exactly what the framers intended. This structure is what makes our system exceptional. The point is this - given that this power sharing triad is the essence of our elected government, perhaps we - as voters - should focus less on the singular office of the President and  more on the combination of leaders that will run our government.

With that in mind, we are pleased to present the three actual, realistic 2019 - 2020 United States Government choices you will be voting for Tuesday November 6. To simplify, we've eliminate the inprobable Democratic Senate, Republican House possibility. If there is a big enough Blue Wave to overcome the monumental Democratic map disadvantage in the Senate, the House will have to fall with it. One of the following three options will be elected on Tuesday to govern the United States for the next two years. Stack ranked by Dividist preference from worst to best.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Quantifying "A decisive quantum of voters in the middle.."


This happens periodically. The Dividist has been beating the divided government horse on this blog for a dozen years. We think we know all the arguments for and against. Then someone comes along and with a pithy turn of phrase crystallizes in a few words what the Dividist has spilled gallons of ink (megabits of pixels?) trying to explain.

Jay Cost challenges the PoliSci "alignment" theory of American politics in his National Review article"In Praise of Divided Government":
"I would posit another framework to understand politics over the past 40 years, one in which the two parties are basically evenly matched, strong ideologues dominate the bases of both sides, and a decisive quantum of voters in the middle is up for grabs. This process has yielded a general pattern that seems to repeat: One party surges to control the government, but this is short-lived; the opposition quickly gains a foothold; and divided government persists until the opposition finally takes total control, repeating the cycle."
Love that phrase "... a decisive quantum of voters in the middle". Succinct and to the point. This is how the Dividist tried to explain the same concept in one of his first posts in 2006 [Edited to provide some semblance of clarity]:
"Think of it this way. An election is a scale. Pile the large mass of partisan Democrats on one side and the large mass of partisan Republicans on the other, roughly balancing the collective polarized "Partisan Dead Weight" (PDW) that can be relied on to always gets on one side or the other. Then there are some smaller, more mobile weights, that call themselves Independents... an "invisible hand" that votes for divided government ...  [INSERT MANY HUNDREDS OF WORDS] ...  What if this "invisible hand' that prefers divided government becomes visible? What if the "collective unconscious" that prefers divided government, starts making that decision consciously? It could change elections in the same way 3rd parties do, by siphoning partisan support but without the spoiler effect. The beauty of this idea is that this party needs no candidates, no leaders, no platform, no conventions, really none of the trappings of a political party. Dividists are voting by objective, not by platform and not out of party loyalty."
The Dividist got to the point eventually, and subsequently managed to be a bit less wordy in his "About The Dividist" explainer:
"On this blog we advocate a specific voting heuristic that can be implemented by a relatively small percentage of the electorate, perhaps as little as 5%. The target readership are voters who are willing to cast their ballot based on a rational evidence-based voting strategy that will result in better federal government. 
The strategy requires that the voter be capable of casting their vote without consideration of party loyalty or political ideology. The voter must even be willing and able to vote for candidates they dislike, based on accomplishing a greater goal of more fiscal responsibility, stronger oversight, less spending, more deliberately considered, carefully crafted legislation and better overall governance. In short, the voters must be willing to vote for divided government. This blog is for those potential voters."
To be fair, the Dividst was and is describing an aspirational goal, while Mr. Cost is positing a historical political hypothesis. The important question for both of us is whether a small sliver of the electorate who are truly independent (i.e. not self-described "Independents" who actually vote one party as reliably as partisans) are, or could be, a swing vote that determines elections when using divided government as an organizing principle.

Does this "decisive quantum of voters" exist? How big is it? Can we quantify the dividist "quantum" vote? And what does it mean for the 2018 midterms?

Friday, October 26, 2018

Investors Love Divided Government
- The "Will a Dem House Crater the Market?" Edition -

[SPOILER ALERT: No]

Divided Government and Markets
  Graphics from Oppenheimer Funds 

President Trump Makes a Market Prediction

On Tuesday, November 6,  voters will decide whether to buy a slightly dented, partially corroded and corrupted two year-old One Party Rule Republican Government or a shiny new Divided Government. Our Used Car Salesman In Chief is turning up the pressure for one last hard sell to close the midterm deal:

Trump Used Government Salesman
But Wait! There's More!
Not a surprising pitch given that President Trump has taken credit for every upward tick in the stock market since he was elected. It is a bit surprising that he has the time to single-handedly drive the stock market higher while the Colossus of Trump simultaneously stands astride the southern border to protect us from an invading caravan of middle-east terrorists, migrant Democratic voterswomen, kids, and babies in strollers. But I digress.

Focus Dividist! Focus! This post is about how the stock market is affected by the party in power, and the 2018 midterms...

Monday, September 10, 2018

Hello.
My name is #TDS Dividist.
I have Trump Derangement Syndrome.


Yes, I have TDS (Trump Derangement Syndrome).  If you are not familiar with the symptoms,  CNN, Wikipedia, and Urban Dictionary have all diagnosed the affliction. I had TDS before #TDS was cool and well before the President of the United States discovered the term.


One advantage of being a blogger, is that I can easily track the progression of the disease in my blog posts. My symptoms date back to 2015 and have a distinct Kubler-Ross flavor, including -  Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and even grudging Acceptance. How can one not have TDS with an unfettered President exhibiting such profound authoritarian tendencies and seeking to push the envelope of executive power in direct contradiction to the word and intent of our Constitution?

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Third Parties always fail. But it's different this time.

Edited from a post originally published on Uniters.Org 
Partisan Realignment

It's Third Party Season! Elections are looming and we are entering that magical time of year when:  Frustrated moderates heap blame on polarizing partisans; Angry progressives afflicted with parliament envy demand proportional representation; Delusional indies triumphantly promote illusory pollsBemused libertarians proudly cling to their irrelevant 3% voting block and; Process oriented Centrists work diligently to rearrange the voting scheme deck chairs on our electoral Titanic.

And all gaze longingly up into the blue sky, desperately searching for a 3rd Party Superhero to leap the two party duopoly in a single bound and rescue us from our own government. With the 2018 mid-terms and 2020 presidential elections far enough in the future that candidates are not yet locked in, Thrid Party hopes spring eternal in the centrist breast. A hope that there just might be a viable alternative to the usual Republican and Democratic choices they find so disheartening. A hope that it might be different this time.

And you know what? It just might be ...

Thesis: In the United States, third parties always fail. But, on rare occasions in our history, with the right conditions, a New Party can successfully gut, destroy and replace one of the two major parties. This could be that time.

For your consideration -  Two steps to make a New Party into a Major Party:

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

State Of The Union - The Musical!
"The Producers" Edition

The Producers - Manafort Trump Conway Flynn
Welcome to the Dividist's annual coverage of the Presidential Address to Congress - aka State of the Union - The Musical!

In 2007, as a blogging toddler, the Dividist despaired at finding a unique approach to writing about the SOTU when so many other bloggers would be traversing the same ground. The answer came from Bob Woodward. In an on-line Washington Post forum the Dividist asked whether the SOTU had any real relevance. Woodward responded by saying it was "mostly theater." Genius. That was the answer. What better way to frame the SOTU social media reactions than within the lyrics of a Broadway show tune?

The game is to start with a Broadway song then find blog posts, news stories, tweets, essays and commentary that can be vaguely referenced in the song and link them to the lyrics. It keeps the Dividist awake and blogging throughout the speech without distracting too much from the mandatory drinking games.

The program so far...

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Divided Government Detritus and Flotsam - The "Keep Separation of Powers Separate" Edition

Periodically, the Dividist enjoys strolling down a metaphorical beach to take note of the divided government detritus that has washed ashore and cluttered his little island of rationality in the great big blogospheric ocean.

With the midterm elections looming large, the prospect of a blue tsunami on the horizon sweeping Democrats into a House of Representatives majority have Democrats giddy and Republicans worried (except for the #NeverTrumpers who are just fine with divided government this cycle.)

Time to go beachcombing and look for any shiny bits of divided government flotsam we may have previously overlooked. Submitted here for your reading enjoyment...



Jonathan Haidt explains the impact of tribalism on the Framer's intent. 


While participating in a twitteratti discussion on the impact of tribalism on our body politic (along with a generous helping of Trump bashing), the Dividist stumbled across a lecture by Jonathan Haidt entitled "The Age of Outrage." Haidt fuses issues of tribalism, identity politics, polarization, intersectionality, illiberal "liberals", the Social Justice Snowflakes so evident on college campus, and - most interesting to the Dividist - the relevance of the Framer's intent to all of the above. In particular this beautiful, almost poetic, description of what the Framer's were trying to create and why:
"Here is the fine-tuned liberal democracy hypothesis: as tribal primates, human beings are unsuited for life in large, diverse secular democracies, unless you get certain settings finely adjusted to make possible the development of stable political life. This seems to be what the Founding Fathers believed. Jefferson, Madison, and the rest of those eighteenth-century deists clearly did think that designing a constitution was like designing a giant clock, a clock that might run forever if they chose the right springs and gears. 
Thankfully, our Founders were good psychologists. They knew that we are not angels; they knew that we are tribal creatures. As Madison wrote in Federalist 10: “the latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man.” Our Founders were also good historians; they were well aware of Plato’s belief that democracy is the second worst form of government because it inevitably decays into tyranny. Madison wrote in Federalist 10 about pure or direct democracies, which he said are quickly consumed by the passions of the majority: “such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention . . . and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.” 
So what did the Founders do? They built in safeguards against runaway factionalism, such as the division of powers among the three branches, and an elaborate series of checks and balances. But they also knew that they had to train future generations of clock mechanics. They were creating a new kind of republic, which would demand far more maturity from its citizens than was needed in nations ruled by a king or other Leviathan.. 
So, how are we doing, as the inheritors of the clock? Are we maintaining it well? If Madison visited Washington, D.C. today, he’d find that our government is divided into two all-consuming factions, which cut right down the middle of each of the three branches, uniting the three red half-branches against the three blue half-branches, with no branch serving the original function as he had envisioned."
It's a great lecture, you should read it in its entirety or watch it here:

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

2018 Election - House Rules & The O'Neill Exception

Crossposted from Uniters.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: