Monday, November 02, 2020

Just Vote Dividist
- 2020 Closing Argument Edition -
The Chaos vs. Normalcy Election

Joe Biden and Divided Government
 Never Trump & Divided Government FTW 
Welcome to our eighth election eve "Just Vote Dividist" post. This blog started in 2006 to advocate a divided government voting heuristic. Every election eve since, the Dividist has published a Divided Government voting recommendation (see addendum below). This could be the last of this series as, thanks to COVID-19, our country's voting dynamic has changed dramatically and possibly permanently. As the Dividist writes this, somewhere close to 100 million votes have already been cast through mail-in ballots or early voting. This compares to approximately 130 million total votes cast in the 2016 presidential election. Which begs the question: What's the point of doing an election eve closing argument if 70% of the vote is already counted? And the answer is: The Dividist has no friggin' idea. So we'll do this out of tradition tonight and figure it out next time.
 
There are even more cries, lamentations, rending of garments and gnashing of teeth than usual this cycle. Partisans insist on characterizing this "most important election of our lifetime" as the Fascism vs. Socialism election.  Both partisan tribes are in rare agreement that if the other tribe wins it will be The End of Democracy In America.

Spoiler Alert: We won't fall into fascism or socialism no matter who wins. Moreover, our democracy will be fine regardless of the outcome. You're welcome.

Additional Spoiler Alert: In previous editions, we've teased the Dividist recommendation and buried our preference deep in the post. But everyone has already voted, so WTF? Here it is:

The Dividist Endorsement: Vote for Joe Biden and/or if you're a Republican who can't quite get there, vote #NeverTrump for a return to normalcy. Vote to retain a GOP Senate majority for the oversight and legislative restraint that only a divided government can provide.  Vote to protect the legislative filibuster, prevent expansion of the Supreme Court, and defend the Biden Administration's left flank from the moonbat fringe. 

In previous election eve editions we've painstakingly summarized and recycled our previous votes, general arguments, and voting heuristic for divided government. We'll include that material again, but in an addendum at the bottom of this post. Before getting to the rationale for the realistic 2020 divided government options and the Dividist endorsement, please indulge us as we review an elementary civics lesson that far too many Americans fail to 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 branch 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
While the President is not the leader of the government, he/she usually is considered the leader of a political party. In a unified one party government, the President may function as the unitary leader of the United States government if the president's party in Congress put partisan discipline and loyalty above their constitutional responsibilities. Which they usually do. 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 Congress, 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 four actual, realistic 2021-2022 United States Government choices, stack ranked by Dividist preference. We've made one simplifying assumption for 2020. There is no realistic possibility of the Democrats losing the House majority this cycle. One of the following four options will be elected to govern the United States for the next two years.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Gallup Poll Asks Voters The Wrong Question About Divided Government (again) and Arrives at a Wrong Conclusion About Voter Attitudes Toward Divided Government (again)

2020 Gallup Poll on divided government
Graphic Credit: Gallup
This is becoming an election year tradition at The Dividist Papers. Every year Gallup publishes this poll and every election cycle the Dividist explains why there is far less than meets the eye in any conclusion based on this poll. The latest iteration is the absurd headline/conclusion in the 2020 edition of this Gallup Poll - "New High Favors One-Party Control of U.S. Federal Government":
"STORY HIGHLIGHTS
41% of Americans favor unified control of federal government
23% want divided control
52% of Republicans, 43% of Democrats favor one-party control"
"WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A new high of 41% of U.S. adults say it is better to have a president and Congress from the same political party. Twenty-three percent would rather have one party control the presidency and the other control Congress, while 32% say it makes no difference to them."
Here is the problem. Since there is no realistic possibility of the GOP establishing unified one-party control of the government this cycle, the only realistic choice in 2020 is between divided government and unified Democratic one-party control of the government.

The Dividist is sympathetic to their plight. Gallup's intent is to use the same poll question year after year in order to divine trends over many election cycles. To do that, they obviously 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 facing American voters when they go to the polls.

As explained in the last election cycle (paraphrased):

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Biden vs. Trump - The First Debate Shitshow
Live blogging the live bloggers.
But not really.

First 2020 Presidential Debate Preview
  Try to keep up. 
Welcome to the The First Presidential Debate of the 2020 General Election and the latest edition in the continuing saga of "Live Blogging the Live Bloggers blogging the Debates!"   The Dividist fondly recalls when he first conceived this series to cover the 2008 Republican debate and asked the question:

"There are plenty of live-bloggers covering the debate tonight, but who is covering the live bloggers? The Dividist rushes in where other, more sensible bloggers, fear to tread."
Problem being, this blog grew up in the heyday of political blogs which is roughly analogous to the Jurassic period of life on earth. In the social media era, blogs are considered a quaint throwback and not as immediate, entertaining, snarky, disingenuous, mean-spirited, polarizing, hateful, or a useful disinformation platform for amplifying Russian propaganda. For that we need Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Podcasts, Zoom, whatever. 

Nevertheless, we persist. We find it useful to frenetically attempt to track and post multiple sources as the debate proceeds real time. It helps extend our limited twitter-fueled attention span and pace our drinking during the long 90 minute debate. 

Historically we select a variety of bloggers from across the political spectrum and attempt to cut/paste their live blog insights. Really, no idea how this will work in the current frenetic, fractured, social media environment. We'll just pick a few favorites - Twitter is our platform of choice, so #NeverTrumpers like Tom Nichols and Rick Wilson should figure prominently, as well as polling sites, cable news, newspapers, and others TBD. 

Tonight's debate was organized by The Commission on Presidential Debates and will be moderated by Chris Wallace of Fox News. Wallace selected the topics for the debate: 
  • The Trump and Biden Records
  • The Supreme Court
  • Covid-19
  • The Economy
  • Race and Violence in our Cities
  • The Integrity of the Election
We'll use these topics as an organizing structure for the responses we find that enlighten, inform, or otherwise amuse us. 

If past is prologue we will guess wrong about what to monitor and will be scrambling once things get started. Refresh your browsers for latest content once the debate is underway. Because of the derivative nature of this enterprise, I do run quite a bit behind the actual debate. Just setting expectations to lower the bar. Setting expectations is always important. Set your expectations very, very low. Here we go...

[UPDATE (10/01/20): We did not set our own expectations low enough. The thing about not being able to look away from a car wreck, is that you can't look away from a car wreck. The Dividist was unable to look away from the 90 minute car wreck as it unfolded. So, almost none of this post happened real-time, and there was no "live-blogging" to speak of. Most of this commentary was updated (and will continue to be updated) well after the debate.]

Thursday, September 10, 2020

But... But... 2016!!!
One poll and six pundits got it right in 2016.
What are they saying in 2020?

Pundits and Polls that picked Trump to win in 2016
They got it right in 2016. That wast then. This is now.
Six months after the election and three months into President Donald Trump's first term, the Dividist was still trying to figure out what happened. This blog was lying fallow, but as he said then: "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." And with that, he selected among those few in the punditocracy who - unlike the Dividist - got it right and predicted that Donald Trump would win the Presidency. It was his first post after the 2016 election. The thesis was to "listen to a few notables who got it right... listen to what they said before the election and what they've said since."

Good advice then. Good advice now. We are now less than two months from the election to determine whether President Trump will serve a second term or if he will be replaced by Joe Biden. Conventional wisdom informs us that Labor Day is when most Americans start paying attention to the election. A good time to close the loop, go back, look at the sources who got it right then and see what they are saying now. We'll start with the polls.

Monday, August 31, 2020

- Cognitive Madisonianism Part Deux -
Divided government, protecting the filibuster, and voting for hypocrites.

 Biden Shrugged  
The 2016 presidential election stunned pundits and voters alike (including the Dividist). But, as surprising as the electoral victory of Donald Trump was in 2016, a case can be made that the 2016 Senate election results were even more shocking. And therein lies a lesson for 2020.

Four years ago, The Dividist shared his thoughts on the 2016 election in a post entitled "Cognitive Madisonianism, splitting tickets, the 2016 Senate race, and why American voters are smarter than pundits and political scientists."

The Dividist was enthralled to discover the phrase "Congnitive Madisonianism" and eager to put it to use. As he explained then, it is a political science term for the simple concept that American voters, in their collective wisdom, prefer and vote for divided government. That concept being the raison d'etre for this blog, the reader can appreciate the Dividist's enthusiasm.

In that post we assessed the current state of the election and made some predictions about the likelihood of maintaining our happily divided government across the new year:

"In 2016 the GOP will keep the House majority, the Democrats will keep the Executive branch and our government will stay happily divided regardless of what happens in the Senate. The dividist voting heuristic strives to Keep It Simple Stupid and walk the simplest path of least resistance to keeping the government divided. In 2016, that path is to vote Clinton for President (or - at the least - not vote for Trump), and vote to reelect your Republican Congressman. For the Senate - vote your conscience."

In 2016, the Dividist could see a rationale to vote for either party gaining majority control in the Senate:

"The best dividist reason to support a Democratic Senate is based on the fear that some "Black Swan", "October surprise" event (e-mails, Wikileaks, Clinton Foundation, Trump quitting the race, etc) will derail the Clinton campaign juggernaut sufficiently to let the GOP nominee be elected President.  A Democratic Senate is a backstop to prevent Unified One Party Republican Rule.

The best dividist reason to support a Republican Senate is based on moderating Supreme Court picks. If the Democrats win the Senate there is a real possibility they will implement a "Nuclear Option" rule change for Supreme Court nominees. That means a Clinton Presidency and Democratic Senate could steamroll a GOP minority and confirm anyone Clinton nominates for the Supreme Court. They might even withdraw Garland to nominate and confirm a more reliably liberal judge.

Given the continuing catastrophe of the Trump campaign, the Dividist thinks hoping for a GOP Senate and moderation of Clinton picks for the Supreme Court is the better choice."

You win some. You lose some. For a current comparison, our 2020 prediction is that the Democrats will keep the House majority, Joe Biden and the Democrats will win the Executive Branch, and the best way to keep the government divided will be for the GOP to hold a slim Senate majority. But, as in 2016, the outcome of the Senate races in 2020 are very much in doubt.

That Was Then. This Is Now.

Monday, March 02, 2020

On Voting In The California Primary, Early Voting, Super Tuesday & Why Bernie Cannot Beat Donald Trump

Joe Biden - The Only Sane Choice for 2020
The Dividist will be casting his California vote for Joe Biden on Super Tuesday in the Democratic primary on the day of election. We understand why some would prefer the convenience of early voting and absentee ballots when and if you know you will not be able to cast your vote on election day. What we don't understand is why anyone would cast an early ballot if they don't have to, with a primary season as fluid and dynamic as the Democratic Presidential Primary in 2020.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Stack Ranking the 2020 Presidential Candidates 2.0
The Post-NH, Pre-NV, Presidents Day Edition

Klobuchar Harris 2020

President's Day is a good day to reflect on who might be our next President. During the formative years of this blog, the Dividist frequently maintained and updated candidate stack rank preferences over the course of a presidential campaign cycle (a couple of examples here and here from February, 2007 and February, 2008). Interestingly, some of the presidential hopefuls from those lists over a dozen years ago remain relevant in the campaign today, including Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg, Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, and Hillary Clinton.

As noted, the Dividist stack ranking is a preference not a prediction. The list, then and now, represent the top candidates the Dividist would like to see as President, stack ranked in order of preference, within an additional constraint of supporting a divided government outcome.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

President Trump is engaged in graft that does not meet the moral standards of one of the most corrupt participants in the most corrupt political organization in U.S. history.

UPDATED: 02-02-2020
Trumpany Hall
 Trumpany Hall - Trump Tower New York / Trump Hotel D.C. / Mar-a-Lago Florida 
As the Kabuki Theater of the Senate Impeachment Trial plays out on our screens, let's reflect on what what transpired in this White House over the course of this administration.

We often hear the phrase "All politicians lie." It's probably true.  But does quantity matter? Do the dozens of Obama lies during his presidency justify the thousands of lies by Donald Trump three years into his first term? Does the qualitative nature of the lie matter? Are all lies equal? Is this really the hill that President Trump, his administration and GOP accomplices want to die on? If "all politicians lie", does it not matter how many lies or what kind of lie?
“We do that [quid pro quo] all the time ... That’s why we held up the money … I have news for everybody: Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy.” - Mick Mulvaney
 Since there is always going to be "political influence in foreign policy", does it matter if the quid pro quo is pressure in the service of United States policy objectives or if it is extortion in the service of the President's personal political benefit? Does motivation matter. Does corrupt intent matter? Is it all the same to Trump apologists when "everyone does it".

So how do we sort out the spectrum of corrumption and graft in Washington DC? How do we distinguish the unseemly legal graft of selling access for political contributions, from the illegal corruption of extorting foreign governments for personal political gain? Where do we rank the conflict of interest of President Trump when he shapes domestic and foreign policy to generate financial profit for the Trump family, Trump friends, Trump Administration cronies, Trump Company and President Donald Trump himself? How do we sort it out?

For guidance, we might look to the wit and wisdom of George Washington Plunkitt.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

An Open Letter To: Senators Lisa Murkowski (R), Joe Manchin (D), Mitt Romney (R), Doug Jones (D), Susan Collins (R), Kyrsten Sinema (D), And Two Senators To Be Named Later

Re: The Senate Impeachment Trial

Impeachment Gang of Eight
  Proposed Impeachment "Gang of Eight"  
Dear Senators Lisa Murkowski, Joe Manchin, Mitt Romney, Doug Jones, Susan Collins, Krysten Sinema,

I am writing in regard to your imminent role setting the ground rules for and rendering a verdict in the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump. You've each publicly stated your intent to live up to the oath required of all Senators prior to the trial:
 “I solemnly swear, that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of President Donald Trump, I will do impartial justice, according to law.”
As regards the pending impeachment trial you've shown restraint in your public comments, expressed a willingness to keep an open mind on the proceedings, and a desire to treat the trial with a serious consideration of the facts.

In your respective careers in the Senate you have shown a pragmatic willingness to compromise on legislation with your counterparts across the aisle without compromising your Democratic / Liberal Republican / Conservative principles. That does not mean you don't support most of the partisan policies promoted by your party. You do. Presumably you choose to run as a Republican or Democrat because those party policies predominantly reflects your views and those of your constituents. That's expected.

Because of who you are, because of your willingness to compromise, because of your respect for the Constitution and the institution of the Senate, you are uniquely positioned to provide an extraordinary service to Americans, the institution you represent, and the country you love - Right Now.

I propose you form an Impeachment Gang of Eight.