Monday, May 13, 2019

Republican Indianapolis Mayoral Candidate Suggestion of Firing City Employees for Criticizing Ten Point Coalition Would Expose City to Expensive Lawsuits

I know State Senator Jim Merritt is not an attorney. But the Republican candidate for Indianapolis Mayor would have been wise to consult with one before issuing a press release saying he would have fired city employees for making "vulgar and divisive comments" critical of the Ten Point Coalition, a non-profit organization by Rev. Charles Harrison that aims at deterring youth from committing crimes. 

An Indianapolis Star article details the complained of comments:

Two Indianapolis employees, whose jobs are to improve the city and police department's relationship with the community, are under fire for comments they made on Facebook about the
Senator Jim Merritt
Ten Point Coalition.
The comments came during a Facebook Live show hosted by ministers Preston T. Adams III and Denell Howard on Wednesday. Part of the show centered on public safety in Indianapolis, leading one commenter to ask whether Ten Point responded to a recent Downtown shooting. 
"Ten Point is out walking the track like good hoes do," Gregory Meriweather, an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department civilian employee, wrote jokingly in response.
And when someone asked what Ten Point has been up to, Community Violence Reduction Director Shonna Majors wrote: "$$$."
Mayor Hogsett suspended Meriweather for 3 days without pay while Majors, who received a formal warning, was reassigned, at least temporarily, from a position that helps decide which organizations, such as Ten Point Coalition, receive crime prevention grants.

From the Merritt press release:
INDIANAPOLIS – Republican mayoral candidate and current state senator Jim Merritt
held a press conference today to react to “vulgar and divisive comments” made by two
city employees about the crime prevention organization known as The Indianapolis Ten
Point Coalition. 
“After these awful and mean-spirited comments were made about people who try to
protect our city, Mayor Hogsett’s reaction was to allow them to keep their jobs with a
slap on the wrist,” said Merritt. “This is simply unacceptable and shows us why Joe
Hogsett has failed as the person responsible for protecting our city.” 
Regarding the current situation, Merritt had tough words for the mayor. “Joe Hogsett
should fire these employees. If he doesn’t fire them now, it’s an endorsement of their
divisive, ugly comments,” Merritt said. “A true leader brings together and unites all who
wish to better our community. Joe Hogsett has not done that.”
The comments were made from the city employees' personal social media accounts.  The comments which were crass and arguably unfair to the Ten Point Coalition, were still political in nature and thus receive the most protection under the First Amendment Free Speech Clause.  Merritt is suggesting that Mayor Hogsett fire the employees because the Senator didn't like the content of the employees' private, political speech.  That's a really bad idea.

Mayor Hogsett is an attorney and probably consulted with legal counsel about the employees' conduct.  Thus, he likely knew the legal ramifications involved in any disciplinary action. If he fired the employees, he would be opening the city up to lawsuits based on a breach of the employee's Free Speech rights protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution as well as the Indiana Constitution.  While a Seventh Circuit case, Garcetti (a terribly decided case that will inevitably be overturned) might provide cover for the termination, that is an iffy proposition at best.

The wisest course of action was for Mayor Hogsett to do exactly what he did: publicly express extreme displeasure over the comments, give the employees modest discipline (not enough though that creates substantial damages necessary for a successful lawsuit) and warn the employees that such public commentary, even if made in a private venue, reflect negatively upon his administration and should be avoided.  Then, if despite those warnings the employees continue to engage in such objectionable speech attacking the Ten Point Coalition, it might be worth it to roll the dice and terminate the offending employees.  My guess is that won't be necessary - that Merriweather and Majors learned their lesson and will show better judgment next time.

No use making a federal case out of it...literally.  Senator Merritt's suggestion that the city employees be terminated for expressing objectionable political views in their personal social media accounts is a really, really bad idea.  Mayor Hogsett handled the matter correctly.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Hamilton County Democrats Drop the Ball in Carmel Mayor's Race

Last night Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard won the Republican nomination in his effort to secure a seventh term this Fall.  Brainard was opposed by Fred Glynn, a member of the Hamilton County Council.  Glynn ran as a fiscal conservative, highlighting Carmel's substantial debt in his pitch to voters.

Although Brainard won, a major takeaway of the night is that over 45% of the Carmel GOP voted against him and for his opponent, Glynn.

An incumbent winning a close primary does not mean much when the incumbent's party dominates the electoral district.    But when the opposing party has a substantial base in the district, dissension within the majority party, as reflected by a close primary, can be successfully exploited.

Looking at the 2018 numbers, it would appear that the Democratic baseline in Carmel is now up to 41%.   While the lower turnout in a municipal election will probably hurt that number, the Democrats still are within striking distance of scoring an upset in once heavily Republican Carmel.  This is especially true given the unpopularity of the Brainard among Republicans, a fact demonstrated by Glynn's performance against the incumbent mayor.

So who won the Democratic nomination for Carmel Mayor last night?  No one.  No Democrat filed to run.

Now, I know the law allows Hamilton County Democratic Chairman Joe Weingarten to appoint a nominee post-primary to run against Brainard.  But that is not the same thing as having the nominee win a primary, even if the candidate is unopposed.  The primary provides a candidate a substantial amount of free publicity that is foolish to pass up.  Plus a mayoral primary would have encouraged Carmel Democrats to take an active role in their party, even if it is nothing more than showing up to vote in the party's primary. 

In 1986, I took a position as Pike Township (Marion County) precinct committeemen. Despite the fact we were regularly pummeling the Democrats by margins of 2-1, every election the Pike Township Democrats would field a full slate of sacrificial lambs candidates.  I considered the gesture futile. I was so wrong.  By steadfastly recruiting candidates, the Pike Township Democratic Party was creating and maintaining a partisan infrastructure that would help win future elections.  And boy did they win those elections  By 2000,  the numbers in Pike Township had dramatically shifted in the Democrats failure.  Within about a 12 year span, Pike Township went from 2-1 Republican to 2-1 Democrat.

The transformation that happened in Pike Township appears to be going on in Hamilton County, especially in the more populated sections of that county, such as the cities of Carmel and Fishers.  Democrats dropped the ball big time in failing to field a mayoral candidate not only in Carmel, but Fishers as well. Candidate recruitment is the No. 1 task in building and maintaining a partisan organization.  A party which fails to field primary candidates becomes an irrelevancy.

Democrats would have been wise to recruit a fiscally conservative candidate to run for Carmel Mayor, a candidate who could have exploited Brainard's weakness with his own party.  And the State Democratic Party would have been wise to invest money in the race.  A funded and competitive Carmel Mayoral candidate would have energized Carmel Democrats and helped the Hamilton County Democratic Party build the infrastructure necessary to be a more competitive political organization going into the 2020 election.  If Democrats win the governorship in 2020 (which is definitely within range), the party is going to have to continue to improve its margins in populous suburban counties such as Hamilton County.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Only One Logical Choice for Carmel Mayor: Fred Glynn

I have written about Carmel on this blog many, many times, usually to criticize the big spending "Republican" Mayor for Life Jim Brainard.  Brainard has built a new Carmel during his six terms in office, but at the cost of racking up enormous debt.   A 2017 report by S&P Global indicates that Carmel's long-term debt grew by $300 million in just three years.  Brainard has put Carmel into enormous debt, much of it by having taxpayers subsidize private development.

Fred Glynn, a member of the Hamilton County Council, is challenging Brainard in Tuesday's Republican Primary.  I've met Glynn before.  He appears to be a traditional conservative, particularly
Fred Glynn
strong on fiscal matters. 

The campaign has featured allegations that the Brainard camp attempted to bribe Glynn with an offer of $140,000 to drop out.  Supposedly the bribe was made through Glynn's campaign manager Dan Hennessy when subsequently left the Glynn campaign to become an apparently very high paid consultant for the Brainard campaign.  A direct payment of cash for a candidate to drop out would be more direct than other incentives to leave a campaign than I've heard were dangled before challengers.  But knowing how the local GOP establishment works to force out competition, such a payment of money is plausible. 

Regardless of the bribery accusation, it is clear that Brainard has done wrong, repeatedly, when it comes to Carmel's finances. He's built a new city, but one constructed on enormous debt.   Brainard has never seen a private development project that he did not want to help fund with taxpayer money.  Look up the term "corporate welfare" in the dictionary and you will see Mayor Brainard's picture.

Here stolen from IndyRepublican is Fred Glynn's first 100 days agenda:

  • Host the first-ever small business advisory committee summit to advise the mayor’s office on the needs the city’s small business owners.
  • Implement a 180-day freeze on new downtown development to allow for a long-range traffic and population density study.
  • Send a priority-based, truly balanced budget to the Carmel City Council.
  • Sign an executive order to provide funding to hire additional police officers.
  • Send a debt-reduction plan to the city council that implements a plan to reduce the city’s long-term debt by 20 percent by the end of my first term.
  • Sign an executive order immediately halting future city government giveaways and subsidiaries to private development projects.
  • Send the city council a resolution to freeze the pay of all city-wide elected officials for the next four years.
  • Sign an executive order that strengthens sexual harassment policies for city workers and officials that includes harsher punishment for violators.
  • Have neighborhood liaisons in every neighborhood in this city and meet quarterly. We will once again put focus on our communities instead of focusing all resources and effort on a few square blocks downtown.

Fred Glynn has the right ideas and is a solid choice to right Carmel's financial ship.  My only concern is that, as Mayor, he would face the unfair task of having to clean up the enormous financial mess Brainard would be leaving.  Brainard has cultivated his popularity in Carmel by unprecedented borrowing and spending.  Are Carmel city residents ready for a Mayor who tells them the truth about the debt and the need to cut back spending?  Tuesday we will find out.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

No Real Conservative Should Celebrate Attorney General William Barr's Lying to Congress and the American People

Some "conservatives" (I hate to sully the term because most of them are simply "Trumpers") are celebrating the actions of Attorney General William Barr.  Yesterday's Wall Street Journal staff editorial declared that President Trump now has a "real" Attorney General.  Really?  Let's recap.

Mueller unquestionably lied to Congress and the American people in the initial memo he wrote summarizing the Mueller report.  Then he went to Congress and again lied against about what the Mueller report contained and whether Special Counsel Robert Mueller agreed with his characterization
Attorney General William Barr
of the Mueller report.  Then, hours before Mueller Report was released, Barr went before the American people and again lied to them, lies that were intended to spin the report which, contrary to the Barr's month-long narrative, namely did not clear the President of "collusion" (Mueller expressly did not look at "collusion" but only considered whether the actions of Trump's campaign rose to the level of a criminal conspiracy).  Barr also claimed that the report was inconclusive on obstruction and Mueller's decision not to prosecute had nothing to do with the Justice Department memo saying a sitting President could not be prosecuted.  Not true.

So we conservatives are supposed to celebrate an Attorney General who lies, not even to mention Barr's earlier performance, impugning federal law enforcement, by repeating with approval Trump silly, unsupported claim his campaign was illegally spied upon.  

Oh, and yesterday, Barr said it was perfectly legal for a President to obstruct a criminal investigation into his conduct if the President believes that he or she did not do anything wrong.  Unfortunately extensive coverage of Barr's lies pushed this disturbing theory off the front page.  Barr also refused to talk about whether President Trump asked him to launch investigations of his political opponents and refused to recuse himself on other criminal investigations that were farmed out by Mueller to other U.S. Attorney offices. 

If Barr would have been Attorney General during President Nixon's time, the Watergate investigation would have been shut down immediately and Nixon would have served two full terms.  I can't imagine anything Nixon did that Barr would not have given him cover on.

Now Attorney General Barr is refusing to comply with legislative subpoenas or testify before the House.  Again, "conservatives" are celebrating.  Really?  So are we going to celebrate the next time when there is a Democratic President who refuses to allow a Republican Congress to exercise oversight authority? So we conservatives don't believe in separation of powers and checks and balances?  So we conservatives instead believe in an imperial Executive branch led by a President who can do whatever he or she wants?  

Barr has been more than willing to do what it takes to protect President Trump even if it means undermining our democratic institutions and throwing away his own reputation.  Not sure why a  a 68 year old man at the end of the career would want to leave a legacy as a lying sycophant with no integrity. 

But then again, maybe Barr's should not have had a positive reputation to begin with.  In 1992, the late conservative writer William Safire detailed Attorney General Barr's effort at stonewalling Congress in an effort to obstruct an investigation into Republican President George Bush's "Iraqgate scandal." Later that year, Barr urged pardons of key administration officials caught up in the Iran-Contra affair, a scandal that took place during the Reagan administration.  This includes Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, who was being prosecuted for lying to Congress.  Because of his antics as Attorney General, Safire used to call Barr the "Coverup General." 

Obstruction of justice, lying to Congress and the American people, undermining the rule of law.  Yes, that is the legacy of Attorney General William Barr.  And that is not a legacy that any real conservative should celebrate.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Thoughts on Indiana Senator Richard Lugar's Passing

Some brief thought on the passing of former Indianapolis Mayor and Senator Richard Lugar.

I was not a fan of Lugar.  I never thought he was much of a conservative.   In his last several years in office turned his back on the Indiana Republican Party.  He stopped going to state Republican dinners.  He wouldn't help out GOP candidates with their campaigns or to raise money for the party.  He, reportedly, even went so far as to have his staff send out threatening letters candidates who had their pictures taken with him and might consider using their photos in a campaign commercial. 

Worse yet, I felt Lugar turned his back on Indiana.  On the rare occasions he came back to the Hoosier state he would have to stay in hotel rooms because he did not have a residence in the state.  For decades, Lugar voted using an Indianapolis address from which he had moved some 30 or so years earlier.  The dubious voter fraud charges against former Secretary of State Charlie White for supposedly voting somewhere he didn't live in ONE election pale in comparison for the decades of voter fraud charges that could have been filed against Senator Lugar and former Senator Bayh, who also votes using an Indiana address at which he clearly does not live.  Though to give Bayh some credit, unlike Lugar, he actually owns the Indiana property he falsely claims is his residence when he votes.

But I digress.  Lugar was a giant when it came to foreign policy.  He understood the important role of NATO in securing world peace post World War II.  Lugar had a keen grasp of the complexities involved in advancing the interests of the United States while simultaneously dealing with the competing interests of other countries.  Foreign policy is complicated and it takes a person with a high intellect and calm temperament to understand the issues and judge them without bias.  Lugar had that intellect and that temperament. The unfortunate turn in Lugar's career is not that he lost the primary to Richard Mourdock in 2012 (which loss he really brought that on himself for failing to do even the minimum to maintain his favored status in the GOP), but that he never became Secretary of State, a position for which he was so ideally suited.

In the Senate, Lugar was a fixture of collegiality and decency.  Lugar worked across the aisle to forge coalitions with like-minded Democrats to advance legislation.  Those were not always measures traditional conservatives wanted, but many were  Lugar did not view Democrats as the enemy but simply as people who were, usually, wrong about the issues and needed convincing.  In today's political world of unabashed tribalism, we could use more people who take Dick Lugars' approach toward politics.

I note with irony that Richard Lugar's partisan political career (he had been an IPS school board member) began in 1967 with an upset victory over Democrat Mayor John Barton in the Indianapolis Mayor's race.  That was the final Indianapolis Mayor's race conducted using the old city limits which only took in a tiny portion of the eight townships surrounding Center Township, the heart of Indianapolis.  During Lugar's first term, the Indiana General Assembly passed Uni-Gov, essentially  expanding the boundaries of the City of Indianapolis to the entire Marion County.  The addition of those Republican dominated Indianapolis suburbs into the city brought in decades of Republican dominance in Indianapolis Mayoral elections, which was not ended until 1999 with the victory of Democrat Bart Peterson.  Now as the 2019 mayoral election appears the horizon, Democrats are once again the dominant force in Indianapolis politics.

RIP Senator Richard Lugar.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Analysis of Indiana Election Results Suggests Troubling Future for Hoosier GOP in Trump Era

On the evening of November 6, 2018, Hoosier Republicans celebrated the victory of Mike Braun over Senator Joe Donnelly who was the only remaining Democrat with a statewide constituency.  That same night, Republicans swept the other statewide offices and, again,  won large majorities in the Indiana General Assembly.    The Indiana GOP had what appeared to be a great night and State GOP Chairman Kyle Hupfer wasted no time bragging about the Republican success.  But a close look at the 2018 election data reveals a troubling future for the Indiana GOP.

In my last post, I took a deep dive into the local election data to find that Democrats now winning virtually every precinct on the north side of Marion County (Indianapolis) and even cutting into Republican dominance in the southern half of the state's most populous county.  Many politicos will write off
Marion County (which is well on its way to becoming the most Democratic county in the state) as an aberration.  After all, in the Trump era, red counties are getting redder and blue counties are getting bluer.

Except that is not true.

In establishing a baseline, I compared the State Auditor's election results in 2014 to 2018.  In the 2018 midterms, there was a tremendous increase in turnout over the election four years earlier.  Republicans, Democrats and Independents came to the polls in record numbers.  While the Republican State Auditor candidate still won an easy victory (57.5% of the R-D vote) that total was down from the winning 62.4% in 2014.  (To make comparisons between 2014 and 2018 easier, I have dropped out the Libertarian vote from the analysis and instead compared the R-D vote head-to-head.)  

So the state GOP baseline, using the State Auditor's race, was down in 2018 by nearly 7%.  While statewide Hoosier Republican candidates can lose that much and still win easy statewide victories,that may well not be the case during presidential election years when Indiana Democratic statewide candidates generally do much better.

Indiana has 92 counties.  In 2018, 50 counties saw decreasing GOP percentages while 42 counties had shares of the Republican vote that increased.  Again, the general assumption is that red counties have gotten redder during the Trump era while blue areas have gotten bluer.  An analysis of the data shows that to be a fiction, at least in Indiana.

Looking at the top 34 GOP counties percentage wise for 2014, only 5 of those red counties saw an increase in the Republican vote.  And even in those counties the GOP increase was small.  Only in one county did the Republican percent increase by more than 1%. 

Examining the raw Republican vote totals for largest to smallest, one sees a similar pattern.  Of the 11 counties with the most Republican vote, none became redder in 2018 compared to 2014.  Of the top 29 best GOP raw vote counties, only two became more Republican in 2018 compared to 2014.

Again, there was a significant number of counties (40 of 92) that did become more Republican in 2018.  If redder counties getting redder is a fiction, what then is a common characteristic in these, let's call them Trump Republican, counties?  

The answer is population...or more precisely the lack thereof.  Eight of the nine smallest population counties became more Republican in 2018.  Taking a wider look, 15 of the 19 smallest population counties became redder.

Flipping the numbers, the top 12 most populous Indiana counties saw a decrease in Republican vote from 2014 to 2018.  Of the top 29 counties population wise, only two counties became more Republican and that was by increases of less than 1%.  

Here is an abbreviated table, sorted by largest Republican decreases to largest GOP increases, percentage wise, in the counties:

County 2014 R Pct 2018 R Pct GOP Movement 2019 Population
Vanderburgh 70.3 54.6 -15.7 181,616
Hamilton 75.3 62.2 -13.1 323,747
Monroe 47.1 36.3 -10.8 146,986
Boone 76.9 66.3 -10.6 65,875
Hendricks 76.9 66.7 -10.2 163,685
Tippecanoe 62.2 52.2 -10 190,587
Johnson 79.1 70.5 -8.6 153,897
Marion 46.1 38.1 -8 950,082
Elkhart 73.6 65.4 -8 205,032
Wayne 72.1 64.1 -8 66,185
Warrick 70.5 62.5 -8 62,530
Allen 68.2 60.5 -7.7 372,877
Hancock 79.5 71.8 -7.7 74,985
St. Joseph 53.9 47.4 -6.5 270,434
Bartholomew 71 65.6 -5.4 82,040
Kosciusko 83.1 78 -5.1 79,206
Grant 70.5 66 -4.5 66,491
Huntington 80 75.7 -4.3 36,337
Marshall 72.5 69 -3.5 46,498
Vigo 54.5 51.4 -3.1 107,516
Montgomery 79 76 -3 38,525
Floyd 59.7 56.8 -2.9 77,071
Clinton 76.5 73.6 -2.9 32,317
Whitley 78.2 75.5 -2.7 33,756
Posey 66.3 63.6 -2.7 25,595
Lake 38.4 35.9 -2.5 485,640
Putnam 76.2 73.7 -2.5 37,702
DeKalb 75.5 73.3 -2.2 42,836
Rush 78.1 75.9 -2.2 16,645
LaGrange 78.3 76.2 -2.1 39,303
Steuben 74.2 72.1 -2.1 34,484
LaPorte 50.2 48.2 -2 110,029
Morgan 79.1 77.1 -2 69,713
Benton 76 74 -2 8,613
Porter 51.8 49.9 -1.9 168,404
Shelby 74.9 73.2 -1.7 44,395
White 72.6 70.9 -1.7 24,182
Noble 75 73.4 -1.6 47,452
Lawrence 74.9 73.3 -1.6 45,666
Carroll 75.2 73.6 -1.6 20,039
Fulton 72.8 71.4 -1.4 20,059
Wabash 76.2 74.9 -1.3 31,443
Clark 57.7 56.6 -1.1 116,973
Delaware 55.2 54.2 -1 115,184
Spencer 63.9 62.9 -1 20,394
Brown 63.9 63.1 -0.8 15,035
Wells 78.4 77.7 -0.7 27,984
Dubois 65 64.4 -0.6 42,558
Pulaski 69.8 70.3 -0.5 12,534
Tipton 75.8 75.5 -0.3 15,128
Dearborn 75.8 75.8 0 49,741
Fountain 75.8 75.9 0.1 16,505
Cass 68.5 68.7 0.2 37,994
Miami 74.2 74.4 0.2 35,845
Randolph 72.2 72.5 0.3 24,922
Daviess 79.4 79.9 0.5 33,113
Orange 68.6 69.2 0.6 19,426
Howard 64 64.7 0.7 82,363
Owen 69.4 70.1 0.7 20,839
Madison 58.4 59.4 1 129,498
Decatur 76.4 77.4 1 26,737
Parke 72.5 73.7 1.2 16,886
Gibson 66.5 68.1 1.6 33,576
Adams 72.4 74.1 1.7 35,491
Henry 67 69.1 2.1 48,476
Jasper 68.6 70.8 2.2 33,447
Warren 71.3 73.7 2.4 8,201
Ripley 73 75.7 2.7 28,442
Perry 48 50.7 2.7 19,081
Clay 69.9 72.8 2.9 26,198
Jay 67.3 70.3 3 20,945
Knox 64.2 67.5 3.3 37,508
Crawford 55.7 59.7 4 10,566
Martin 68.2 72.3 4.1 10,215
Union 71.1 75.2 4.1 7,200
Jackson 67.3 71.6 4.3 43,884
Jefferson 56.5 60.8 4.3 32,089
Greene 66.7 71.2 4.5 32,177
Newton 66.8 71.4 4.6 14,130
Vermillion 52.4 57.8 5.4 15,505
Harrison 61.1 66.7 5.6 39,898
Ohio 64 69.7 5.7 5,828
Fayette 62.8 68.8 6 23,209
Starke 56.4 62.4 6 22,893
Pike 60.9 66.9 6 12,365
Washington 64.3 70.6 6.3 27,827
Franklin 71.6 78.5 6.9 22,619
Blackford 60.3 67.4 7.1 11,976
Scott 49.1 56.7 7.6 23,870
Jennings 62.4 70.6 8.2 27,626
Sullivan 54.7 62.9 8.2 20,746
Switzerland 54.9 67.1 12.2 10,696

You don't have to be much of a political analyst to see the problems the Indiana GOP faces if these post-Trump trend lines continue.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Marion County-Indianapolis Electorate Turns Sharply Against the Republican Party

The other day, I took a look at how the GOP baseline numbers look in the Indianapolis City-County Council Districts up for election this year.  I found that seven northside districts the Republican council candidates won in 2015 are deeply underwater going into the 2019 municipal elections.

To recap, a baseline is a way political scientists have of measuring party support.  Once voters get
beyond the top few spots on the ballot, they start following their partisan leanings when it comes to lesser known or unknown candidates.   So to measure partisanship, a political scientist looks at how voters cast ballots in low profile races on the ballot.  A second caveat is that you consider the type of election.  A presidential election year will have much more turnout than a local election.  In most parts of the country, Republican candidates tend to do better with low turnout while Democrats do better in presidential election years. That though is a broad generalization though and is not true in every voting district.  It depends.

So compare apples to apples, using a low profile race.  I chose Marion County Recorder for my comparison.  Probably 90% of the voters couldn't name who the Recorder is much less tell you anything about the candidates for that position.  So the vote in that race is more about partisan affiliation than anything.   And I chose the midterms because they most closely emulate the lower turnout seen municipal elections.  I chose 2018 in particular because I wanted a recent election, post-Trump, to compare the electorate to the previous comparable election, 2014.

I cannot adequately convey how shocked I was by the data.   The Indianapolis Republican Party north of Washington Street, at least in terms of electoral support, has almost completely disappeared.  Consider the following:

The Republican Party won only 3 precincts in Washington Township (Outside) in 2018.  THREE.  That is 3 out of the 69 Washington Township precincts outside the old city limits.    While I did not look at the Washington Township precincts in the old city wards, they tend to be even heavier Democrat.

In 2018, the GOP won 1 precinct in Pike Township (outside).   That is 1 out of 51.  The other townships (outside the old city limits) precincts were better, but still horrible.  The GOP won 8 of 36 in Warren, 21 of 60 in Wayne and 17 of 67 in Lawrence.

No area has been hit harder by the GOP defections than the City-County Council District 2, a Broad Ripple area district which is currently represented by Republican Colleen Fanning who is also running for re-election.  The district, which takes in some of the wealthiest Meridian Street northside communities such as Meridian-Kessler, saw a dramatic drop in GOP support in 2018.   In 2014, the district had voted for the GOP Recorder candidate in 13 of its 30 precincts with a Republican baseline of 50.2%.  In 2018, the GOP Recorder candidate won ZERO precincts in the district and the Republican baseline in the county had dropped dramatically to 36.8%.  While that was the most dramatic decline, a substantial number precincts in other council districts flipped from red to blue. For example, Council District 3, won by then Republican Christine Scales in 2015, went from having 13 GOP precincts in 2014 to 3 in 2018.

While GOP strength on the southside of Indianapolis remains strong, it too is in decline.  My analysis shows the GOP baseline dropping on the southside between 7% and 10% depending on the area.  I did not see any part of Marion County where GOP support was strengthening.  Southside races that were once 70-30 for the GOP candidate are now 60-40.

One thing that comes through from the data is a large increase in turnout.  While in 2018 Hoosier Republican-leaning voters came to the polls in substantially higher numbers than 2014, turnout on the Democratic side was off the charts.  While Republicans can realistically hope for a significantly lower Democratic turnout in the 2019 municipal elections, it is difficult to fathom that even that would be enough to counter the long-term Democratic trend in Marion County that has apparently accelerated since the election of Donald Trump.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Republicans Set to Lose Seven Seats on the Indianapolis City-County Council that GOP Won in 2015

In 2015, Republicans won 12 of 25 Indianapolis City-County Council Districts utilizing a map drawn by Republican political operative David Brooks.  As I noted at the time, the problem was that Brooks had drawn the GOP districts with margins too small, margins that would not overcome the increasing trend of Marion County residents, particularly those living on the northside, voting Democrat.  The GOP did fairly well defending those northside districts in 2015.  It should be noted that District 2
Republican councilor Christine Scales switched to the Democratic Party after the election.

It is not that Brooks was negligent in drawing the council maps.  His charge was to draw the maps in such a way (by creating a significant number of narrow Republican majority districts) as to give the GOP a chance to win a majority of council seats in the 2015 election. He did exactly that.  The problem was those numbers would not hold.  It turns out that not only have the Republican  numbers continued their two decade long bleed, what appears to be a Trump effect has caused GOP numbers to hemorrhage.

I said at the time the Democrats, who unsuccessfully challenged the Brooks map in court, would grow to love the Brooks map.  The love begins this year.

Districts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 15 and 16 are northside council districts won by the GOP in 2015.  Mid-term elections are the most similiar to municipal elections in terms of turnout.  To establish a baseline, I looked at the Marion Recorder's Office election results in those districts in 2014 versus 2018.  Here is the table I put together of districts the GOP won in 2015.

GOP Districts 2014 GOP Baseline 2018 GOP Baseline Difference
2 49.8 36.8 -13
3 54 37.7 -16.3
4 57 43.4 -13.6
5 55.1 43 -12.1
6 51.6 39.9 -11.7
15 55 42.8 -12.8
16 49.1 40.3 -8.8
18 60.3 51.7 -8.6
20 67.5 58.3 -9.2
23 67.8 58.8 -9
24 66 58.5 -7.5
25 72.3 62 -10.3

Those are not good numbers.  Seven northside GOP districts are deeply underwater.  Even a southside GOP district, District 18, appears to be competitive.

For the record, the only district the Republicans appear to have any shot of winning is Council District 22 held by Jared Evans who upset the Republican in that district in 2015.. But that is at best a long shot.  In District 22 the GOP base went from 54.8 in 2014 to 46.5 in 2018.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Indianapolis Tea Party Presents "Alternative Facts" in Attacking Mueller Investigation

Yesterday my email landed in my inbox announcing Monday meeting of the local northside Tea Party.  As a leadoff to the reminder about the meeting and information about the guest speaker, the email red meat to the tea party members.  Reading the red meat reminds me of the "alternative facts" explanation President Trump adviser Kelly Ann Conway used when explaining why people should ignore actual facts in favor of her spin.

The email contains some doozies::
"The recently concluded Special Counsel “investigation” unfairly targeted President Trump"
Although this is an opinion, rather than an "alternative fact," it's ridiculous on its face.    Numerous members of Trump's campaign were in communication with Russian officials and then lied about it.  This included a meeting in Trump Tower attended by the President's son, son-in-law and campaign manager, a meeting held for the express purpose of obtaining dirt on Hillary Clinton from Russian officials.  The fact is virtually every Republican in Congress supported the opening of the investigation and the appointment of the special counsel. The investigation was not only to look into the nature of the Trump campaign contacts with the Russians, more importantly it was about Russian interference in the 2016 election. So the Tea Party does not think that Russian interference in our elections should not have been investigated? 
but who was propagandistically “charged" with "collusion: for which he could only be exonerated- due to the fact that collusion is not a crime. 
Not sure what this line means.  I certainly agree the media from the beginning to the conclusion mischaracterized the issue as "collusion." Collusion is not a crime. But Mueller's charge was never to investigate collusion.  It was to investigate Russian interference in our election as well as whether the Trump campaign criminally conspired with the Russians in that effort  Mueller found, at least according to Attorney General Bob Barr's spin of the report, that the answer to that conspiracy question is "no."  Contrary to media reports, Mueller never cleared Trump of "collusion."  And how could it have?  The Trump Tower meeting was indisputably an attempt by Trump campaign officials to collude with the Russians in the obtaining of dirt on the Hillary Clinton campaign.  But did it rise to the level of criminal conspiracy?  Mueller, according to Barr, said "no."
"As a victim of prosecutorial misconduct, how does the President’s righteous defense from investigatory fraud; somehow make him “guilty" of “obstruction?”  
I certainly don't accept the assumption that President Trump was a victim of "prosecutorial misconduct" or that there was "investigatory fraud" going on.  The evidence clearly says otherwise.  But assuming Trump was completely innocent of any wrongdoing, a mighty big assumption, does that mean he gets a ticket to obstruct justice all he wants?  Obviously he does not. 
Documents reveal that early on, Special Counselor Mueller knew the DNC / Clinton / Fusion GPS funded “dossier” was a work of fiction; used to illegally obtain FISA warrants for the illegal surveillance of Trump & other 2016 Presidential candidates…  
It was a conservative leaning publication which initially funded the dossier, a fact the author omits.  But the huge fabrication in the sentence is that the dossier was a "work of fiction."   Many of the facts outlined in the dossier have been proven to be correct.  Other facts remain unverified and a few, very few, have been proven to be false  None of this should be a surprise as the dossier was a compilation of raw investigatory information.  It was never meant to be a finished product in which all facts were verified.  That the dossier is a complete work of "fiction" is a lie Trumpers have been spinning from Day 1.  It is simply not true.

Oh, and that the dossier was used to obtain FISA warrants is a complete misrepresentation.  The dossier was only one of several pieces of evidence used to obtain the warrants.  And the warrants issued were perfectly legal, contrary to Trump spin.
"Considering the manufactured “Steele Dossier” is tantamount to planted evidence, counterfeited to defraud a federal court (FISC); doesn't the Special Counsel’s suppression of that & other facts require a proper investigation- into criminal misconduct?"
As noted, the Steele Dossier certainly was not "manufactured" or "counterfeited."  The fact that the dossier was funded by a political campaign was in fact made known to the federal judges considering the FISA warrant.  But even if the sourcing wasn't announced, there is no evidence - zero - that the funding of the dossier was "suppressed" from consideration by the judge considering the warrant.  Not even sure how that "suppression" would have happened.  So do Trumpers think the federal judge asked for the source of the dossier and the FBI simply lied?  Again, no evidence of that.

The sad thing is if it President Obama or Hillary Clinton were the one who were having multiple contacts with a hostile foreign power leading up to an election, and had acted the same way Trump and his allies did to try to derail the investigation into those activities, Tea Party members would be in the streets in every major city protesting.  Unfortunately, they have chosen blind worship of President Trump over sticking by their principles and any semblance of intellectual integrity.

I guess I should not be surprised.  The Tea Party's No. 1 guiding principle used to be fiscal responsibility.  I really respected them for that.  But now Tea Party members have completely abandoned that principle to enthusiastically support a President who is running record deficits, during an economic expansion no less.

Below is the video of Democratic Representative Adam Schiff's eloquent speech in response to Republicans who tried to get him to resign as chair of the House Intelligence Committee.  I defy Trumpers to find one single thing he said that is inaccurate.   Schiff is is not "okay" what Trump's campaign did, regardless of whether criminality was involved.  Anyone, including members of the Tea Party, who thinks what Schiff condemns in his speech is actually acceptable conduct should never call themselves "patriots" because they are anything but.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

No, Donald Trump Was Not "Exonerated" By Mueller Report

After two years of investigation, Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller issues a report saying that he cannot conclude either way whether President Donald Trump committed a crime.  In the delusional world of Trump and his Kool-Aid drinking cult supporters, that's a win!  Mr. Trump has been "exonerated"!  Of course, they ignore the specific admonition by Mueller that the report did not exonerate Trump of committing crimes.

But what about the finding by Mueller that there was no evidence the Trump campaign colluded with
the Russians?  Adam Schiff and the Democrats were wrong!  The liberal media were wrong! They all need to apologize!  Now!

The problem is Mueller issued no such finding.  His finding (which we only know thus far from Attorney General Barr's summary of it) was that he could not find evidence to support the notion there was a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

Collusion and criminal conspiracy are not synonymous terms.  To prosecute someone for criminal conspiracy there has to be significant evidence that two actors planned and coordinated their illegal activities.  Just having meetings or conversations is not enough.

The Trump Tower meeting at which Donald, Jr. tried to get dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russians was unquestionably an attempt by members of the Trump campaign team to collude with the Russians.  But pretty much everyone knew, including the maligned Schiff, that that act of attempted collusion (and others) was not enough for a criminal conspiracy.  It was up to Mueller to see if there was more there than clumsy attempts by the Trump campaign to collude with the Russians.  Mueller did not find evidence that would support criminal conspiracy and, not having seen the report, I have no reason to dispute that conclusion.  Nonetheless, that Trump campaign officials would have numerous meetings/conversations with a hostile foreign power trying to influence our election and fail to report any of those contacts to the FBI should give everyone pause.

As far as obstruction of justice, President Trump did pretty much everything he could to undermine the investigation.  But obstruction of justice was an issue that always should have been left up to Congress and the impeachment process as those were actions taken after he assumed office.  A criminal indictment for obstruction of justice was never going to happen to a President.

A writer for one Trump pro-publication is trying to spin Donald Trump as Washington's "boy scout."  Not sure if  the writer is aware keeping oneself "morally straight" is part of the Boy Scout pledge.  Nonetheless, anyone who has followed the failed businessman, successful reality TV star's career knows that Donald Trump has been a two-bit con artist his entire adult life.   As President, he has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is completely unfit for the office.  Probably Trump's biggest con has been convincing his supporters that he is actually having a successful Presidency.  Back in the real world, by pretty much any measure Trump's presidency has been a train wreck.  I can't think of any President who has accomplished less in office.  Okay, maybe William Henry Harrison.

Sadly, every conservative principle I've ever believed in and fought for is now being attached to this very flawed and morally corrupt individual.  And I know there will be consequences. Democrats and socialism won on November 8, 2016.  It will take real conservatives at least a generation to rebuild the movement and the GOP after the Trump personality cult has ended.  And it will end.  The only question is how much damage to the conservative movement and the Republican Party will be done before it is over.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Unpatriotic IPatriot Writer Celebrates White Supremacist's Murder of New Zealand Muslims

IPatriot is a news website that fashions itself as a conservative alternative to the liberal mainstream media. At least once a  day, I receive an email linking to the latest "IPatriot" column of which I've read several.  The website, which has a number of writers, is not actually conservative at all and I haven't found many writers for the publication who can seriously be called "patriots."  What the website is is 100% pro-Donald Trump on every issue.  Worse yet, the website regularly gives voice to the most
radical views of Trump's cultish followers.

For the record, several times I've tried to unsubscribe from IPatriot without success. 

Last week, IPatriot's Justin O. Smith took IPatriot's unpatriotic, anti-American and extremely unchristian views to a new low, writing in the publication about how happy he is that 49 Muslims died during a white supremacist's terrorist attack on New Zealand mosques:
So … 49 Muslims dead. That’s 49 less potential global terrorists who might wage Holy War against the West and America. Forty-nine who were a part of the Islamic ideology responsible for 9/11, for Benghazi, for the Boston Bombing, San Bernadino [sic], Florida and Chattanooga terror attacks and many more throughout the Middle East and Europe … the same ideology that beheaded thousands of Mosul’s Christian population and put their heads on spiked poles outside the city … the same ideology that placed Christians in cages and drowned them or burned them alive.
If God were to strike every God Damned Muslim off the face of the Earth today, in one fell swoop, I would not shed a tear. I have no tears in me for Muslim deaths.
Disgusting. Absolutely disgusting.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Can Senator Merritt Win The Indianapolis Mayor's Office Running on Infrastructure, Crime?

The answer to that question is a resounding "no."

Across my desk today comes a press release from Senator Jim Merritt, GOP candidate for Indianapolis Mayor, deploring the condition of Indianapolis streets:
INDIANAPOLIS – Current State Senator and Indianapolis Mayoral Candidate Jim Merritt laid the responsibility for the current pothole crisis on Mayor Joe Hogsett during an event held today at Clark & Sons Used Tires on the east side of Indianapolis. 
“There are potholes everywhere – over 7,000 of them, according to the Indy pothole viewer,” Merritt said. “This is the direct result of a failure of leadership and lack of planning by Mayor Hogsett.” 
According to Merritt, funds have been available to help fix the roads. “In 2017, the Indiana legislature appropriated $52 million to the City of Indianapolis to help fix the roads and I voted in support,” said Merritt. “Here we are again two years later and the city has practically nothing to show for it. The roads are in worse condition now than they were then. We’re going backwards.” 
Merritt commented that the costs of the pothole crisis are hitting Indianapolis residents particularly hard. “The price of a new rim and tire on a minivan is $300 or more. Add the cost of having a tow truck take your car to the repair shop and you’re creating a hardship for countless people here in the city,” Merritt indicated. “That’s the cost of medicine for some people. Imagine having to choose between your medicine and groceries for the week or a new tire to drive safely. These are real choices that residents in Indianapolis are trying to deal with.” 
Merritt emphasized that Mayor Hogsett’s administration has responded ineffectively to this crisis. “The money being spend now is reactionary. Paving now won’t fix the last three years of neglect by this administration,” said Merritt. “Last year, there were nearly 1,400 claims filed due to pothole damage to vehicles. Fewer than twenty of those claims were paid by the city. It’s obvious that Mayor Hogsett has a difficult time understanding the plight of hardworking citizens who face having to pay for unnecessary car repairs.” The concerns go beyond cost, however, according to Merritt. “Last month, the news reported about the very serious concerns of a local ER doctor who said that potholes are the biggest public health issue outside of opiates. He said an ambulance hitting a pothole can dislodge ventilators and IVs from infants, causing pain and life-threatening conditions.” 
Merritt concluded his remarks by saying that the legacy of the Hogsett administration is a city filled with undrivable roads, frustrated citizens, and stifled economic progress caused by ignoring our infrastructure. “The taxpayers of Indianapolis deserve better. The hardworking people of Indianapolis deserve better,” Merritt emphasized. “A brighter future for Indianapolis must include a mayor’s office working proactively on the challenges our citizens are facing every day. It’s time for new leadership.”
Senator Merritt is correct.  Indianapolis' roads are in terrible shape.  Traversing the city's streets requires constant dodging of potholes lest one end up with a flat tire or, worse, a bent rim.  Likewise Merritt isn't wrong to raise the issue of Indianapolis' ever increasing homicide rate.  But if Merritt thinks the issues of infrastructure and crime will propel him to the Mayor's Office, perhaps he'd be wise to learn the lesson of Mayor Melina Kennedy.

In 2011, Democrat Kennedy lost her bid to unseat Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard.   Republican Ballard's first term featured pot-hole filled streets and record homicide rates.  Kennedy made those issues a central feature of her campaign.  Even with a new Democratic majority in Marion County, Kennedy was unable to move the political needle enough to win.

Now, Merritt is trying to replicate the losing Kennedy strategy but from the Republican side. which is an even worse idea. While Kennedy at least had a new Democratic majority in Indianapolis which almost propelled her to victory despite her lackluster campaign, Merritt is now dealing with an electorate in which Democrats dominate.   The only Republican areas left of Marion County/Indianapolis are the three lightly populated southern townships,

Merritt's narrow chance of winning the Mayor's race is to run as a non-traditional, populist Republican, someone who can identify with and zealously defend the interests of Indianapolis working men and women.  But Merritt's entire political carer has been spent as a typical country club, corporate welfare- loving Indianapolis Republican.  Does anyone think Merritt would not continue the practice of handing out taxpayer dollars to politically-connected contractors and developers?  Does anyone think Merritt wouldn't reward big law firms in town with lucrative, no bid contracts for legal services that could be provided much cheaper (and often better) by smaller, less connected firms?

The answer to those questions is "no."  Senator Merritt is not going to suddenly become a non-traditional Republican who puts taxpayers ahead of the corporate interests which dominate this city.  That is the only type of GOP candidate who can now win in a city dominated by Democratic voters.  Senator Merritt is not that person and has no chance of being elected Mayor of Indianapolis.