Thursday, November 15, 2018

Is the Future of Hamilton County (Indiana) Republican Party Like Orange County's (California) GOP's Present?

Orange County, California, has long been a famously Republican county.  Located between Los Angeles and San Diego, the county is home to over 3 million residents.  The wealthy residents of the county have long favored conservative Republican politics.  Orange County had not voted for a Democrat for
Logo from Hamilton County Dem's Facebook Page
President since 1936, President Franklin Roosevelt's first re-election bid.  That string ended in 2016, when Donald Trump lost the county to Hillary Clinton by 5 points.

If anyone thinks Trump won't hurt the GOP brand, one only need look at the 2018 election results in Orange County.  The still concluding slow count of midterm vote, shows Democrats wiping out GOP congressional incumbents based in Orange County.  But it is not just federal candidates.  Other races in Orange County show the former Republicans now voting Democrat in scores of other races.  Low profile California Democrat statewide candidates are suddenly winning in Orange County.   The party baseline has shifted.

Indiana does not have an Orange County.  But we have a mini-Orange County: Hamilton County.  Located directly north of Indianapolis, Hamilton County is home to over 300,000 residents.  Hamilton, like Orange County, has a large number of wealthy, highly educated residents.  Republicans have held virtually every office in Hamilton County for decades.  That is about to end.

In 2016, Donald Trump ran as the most unpopular candidate on the Hamilton County GOP ballot.  It was also the first election in which the Hamilton County Democratic Party showed a pulse, fielding scores of general election challengers.  While Hamilton County Republicans won those races in 2016, it is notable that the Democratic baseline went from virtually non-existent to 30%.  

In 2018, the Hamilton County Democratic Party fielded even more candidates and did even better.  An analysis of election results show Democrats with a 40% baseline in the county.  A closer look at the election results, show scores of local Democrats knocking on the door to elected office.  For example, in the Clay (home to Carmel) Township Trustee race, the Democratic candidate received 43% of the vote.  The Democrat in Trustee Township race in Delaware Township (Fishers) also garned 43% of the vote in a race in which the Republican won by only 1,827 votes.

The 2018 midterm featured Republican Mike Braun winning by 6 points over incumbent Senator Joe Donnelly.  In 2012, Democrat Donnelly had defeated State Treasurer Richard Mourdock also by 6 points.  So Braun is clearly a more popular candidate than Mourdock was.  Yet in Hamilton County, Braun in 2018 received only 52% of the Senate vote.  Mourdock running in Hamilton County, pre-Trump, received 54%.  Braun's strategy of lashing himself to Donald Trump might have worked in rural Indiana, but clearly not in suburban Hamilton County.

At the pace the Democrats are on, it is only a few more elections before the Democrats are capturing elected office in the most populous portions of Hamilton County, Carmel and Fishers.  And it is maybe only a few more elections after that that Democrats are winning county-wide in Hamilton County.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Victory Margins for Indiana GOP Congressional Candidates Fall in 2018

Normally a political analyst would not compare a presidential election to a mid-term because they have dramatically different turnouts.  Tuesday's mid-term turnout rivaled that of a presidential election, so a comparison is possible so I decided to look at Indiana's congressional races 2016 v. 2018.  Here is a table with the information I gathered:

Winning 2018 Candidate
2016 Winning Margin
2018 Winning Margin
GOP Vote Margin Decline
Visclosky (D)
N/A (No R candidate)
Walorski (R)
Banks  (R)
Baird  (R)
Brooks  (R)
G. Pence (R)
Carson (D)
Buschon (R)
Hollingsworth (R)

The smallest GOP decline came in the mostly rural 9th Congressional district located in the southern part of the state.  The fact Hollingsworth held onto that district by approximately the same margin as 2016 despite having a well-funded challenger who was constantly on television is significant. 

Congressman Jim Banks saw his margin trimmed the most, losing 18.3% on his winning margin in CD 3.  However, he still won CD 3 by nearly 30 points so that district is far from being competitive.

In CD 2, Republican Jackie Walorski saw her winning margin trimmed from 22.3% to 9.6% . While that seems close, Walorski pre-Trump has experienced closer races in the north central Hoosier district.

As I predicted, CD 5, the central Indiana district held by Republican Susan Brooks, was significantly closer in 2018 than 2016.  Brooks’ 2016 winning margin in the Indianapolis suburban district was nearly cut in half.  With just a 13.4% winning margin on Tuesday, continued GOP weakening in the northern Indianapolis suburbs could put the district into play.

In the one Indiana Democratic congressional district with an available comparison, the 7th District based entirely in Indianapolis, the Republican losing margin increased from 24.3% to 29.8%. 

What undoubtedly has allowed Hoosier Republican members of Congress to avoid the fate of many of their losing colleagues is that every Republican district in Indiana has a substantial amount of rural area in it.  Further, instead of using the Indianapolis’ suburbs to create a single congressional district, several congressional districts were drawn to cut into the Indianapolis suburbs.   The result is that GOP congressional incumbents avoided the election night loss experienced by many of their colleagues.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Republicans On Track to Lose 35 U.S. House Seats, Worst GOP Mid-Term Election Result Since Watergate

No doubt President Trump and his delusional band of supporters woke up Wednesday morning thinking the President had "won" his first mid-term.  Certainly the GOP picking up as many as 3 seats in the U.S. Senate is something for Republicans to celebrate.  And Trump especially deserves credit for apparent GOP Senate and Governor wins (the races may be subject to a recount) in Florida, the only remaining swing state where Trump remains popular.

But back in the real world, the GOP in 2018 had an extremely favorable Senate map.  The Republican
Party should have been expected to oust Democrats in the several ruby red states that the party did win.  Notably GOP Senate challengers lost two heavily Republicans states - Montana and West Virginia - where Trumpism triumphed in 2016 but failed two years later.

In the U.S. House, Republicans, at last count, have lost 30 seats to the Democrats.  Twelve more congressional districts are still out.  Republicans are projected to lose as many as 35 seats when the counting is all done.  That would top the 32 seats lost by Republicans in President George W. Bush's second midterm in 2006.  In 1974, in the aftermath of Watergate, the Republicans lost 48 seats.

In state legislatures, the Democrats on Tuesday won over 300 Republican-held seats.  (During President Obama's eight year tenure, over 1,000 state legislative seats switched from Democrat to Republican control.  Trump is well on the way of matching that should he be elected to two terms.) Democrats claim the party has taken control of the Colorado Senate, the New York Senate, the Maine Senate, the Minnesota House and both legislative chambers in New Hampshire. The Democrats now have a majority of State Attorneys General.  The Democrats wrested control of the Governor's office from Republicans in Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico and Wisconsin.  While the Democratic gubernatorial candidates polled ahead, albeit slightly, in Ohio, Florida and Georgia, losses in those races did not offset the very good night the Democrats had in other governor races.

Several of my fellow Republicans have been sounding the alarm about the long term damage Trump is doing to the Republican Party, i.e. that he is narrowing the GOP's appeal as he drives young people, women, college graduates, and minorities away from the Party of Lincoln.   That will only get worse as shifting demographics continue to deemphasize the Trump's political base, i.e. less educated white voters.  Certainly the 2018 election results proved our fears about what Trump is doing to the GOP is real.  Will the Trumpers finally wake up to that reality?  I am going out a limb (not) and say "no."

Monday, November 5, 2018

Expect the Unexpected on Election Day

In high school I played baseball with someone who would always warn that in the sport you should "expect the unexpected."  I have never forgotten that phrase.   It didn't make much sense,...but now, decades later, I find it the perfect admonition for what to look forward to in assessing the results of the 2018 midterm elections.

Never before have I seen more races well within the polling margin of error (MOE), even how the media misdefines that term.  To correct a misconception repeated constantly by the media, MOE does not relate to the difference between two candidates' poll numbers.   Rather, MOE is a statistical error range which applies to both candidates' poll numbers.  So a 4 point statistical margin of error actually creates a 8 point, not a 4 point, potential swing.  Nonetheless, MOE is not the major problem with the polls compared with tomorrow's results.  The major problem is the sample taken by the pollsters.  It is extremely challenging for pollsters to create a polling model which matches turnout.  This is particularly true in this election in which it appears we will have heavy turnout by both parties, a rarity in the history of mid-term elections.  But I digress.

Let's make a few predictions anyway, starting with the easy ones.  Only 1/3 of U.S. Senators are up every 2 years and this election cycle the Democrats are faced with a terrible map as the party is defending scores of Democratic seats in Republican states.  I think the most likely scenario is that the GOP picks up 1-2 Senate seats, thus retaining control of that body.  Democrats are slight favorites to pick up Republican Senate seats in Nevada and Arizona.  Clearly the Democratic incumbent is going to lose North Dakota.  Incumbent Bill Nelson probably will eek out a very close election win in Florida due to the popularity of the Democratic nominee for Governor Andrew Gillum.  Republicans have an excellent shot at winning in Missouri and Montana.  I think Donnelly will narrowly survive in Indiana due to modest Republican margins in the Indianapolis suburban doughnut counties.  As far as getting a Democratic Senate majority, the party need to run the table successfully defending the party's incumbents in heavily Republican states, while scoring an upset in Tennessee or Texas.  Those states are probably too Republican for the Democrats to win this cycle.  The untold story is that without building up a big margin in the Senate in 2018 when the map is very favorable, the GOP will almost lose the Senate in 2020 when the map is not as favorable.

In the House, it seems highly likely that the Democrats will finish the night with a majority.  The million dollar question is the number of seats the Democrats will gain.  To gain a majority, the Democrats need a pickup of 23 seats..  I think 30-35 seats would be a good, conservative prediction and the one I'm going with.   Indiana incumbent members of Congress will likely win, though the margins in the 2nd and 9th districts could well be in the single digits.  I'm also keeping an eye on the 5th district which includes the northern Indianapolis suburbs.  I think anti-Trump sentiment in wealthy, highly educated Hamilton County is likely to keep incumbent Republican Susan Brooks numbers down, resulting in a much closer race than in previous elections.

What has nbot gotten the coverage this year, but which, going into redistricting following the 2020 census, is more important than control of the U.S. Congress, are the Governor races.  The Democrats are poised to wrest seize control of Governor mansions in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Florida.  They also have a shot at winning Georgia.  Although those states have Republican legislatures, having a Democrat governor would even the field when it comes to redistricting.

In Indiana, I expect the GOP to lose several seats in the Indiana House and a few in the Indiana Senate.  (I think Mike Delph loses to J.D. Ford in one of those races.)  Both houses of the Indiana legislature are likely to keep large Republican majoritiess.

The statewide races in Indiana, will go Republican, but by reduced margins from what is normal for mid-term elections.

While one should expect the unexpected, tomorrow, there is one thing that is certain as death and taxes:   Donald Trump will claim the outcome, regardless of the result, is a great personal victory for him and any electoral failure is the fault of someone else.  And you can bet too that his Kool-Aid drinking supporters will buy that spin.  Of course, they should not.  Donald Trump has repeatedly said the 2018 midterm is a referendum on him.  If he, in the midst of a soaring economy, loses the House, that should send a message to Republicans everywhere that hate-based politics known as Trumpism is sinking the Republican Party.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Will the Mid-Term Results Finally Cause Republicans to Wake Up to Trump's Electoral Weakness?

To hear President Trump and his his followers tell the story of the 2016 election, Trump proved a champion vote-getter and political messenger, a one-of-a-kind politician whose coattails propelled Republican candidates up and down the ballot to victory.  Trump won his soaring victory with the support of numerous Democrats crossing over to vote Republican for the first time.    Trump is as great a politician as great as Ronald Reagan, they declare, and some suggest even better.  
Pres. Ronald Reagan

Shockingly, the supposedly anti-Trump mainstream media has simply accepted this narrative as true. But the 2016 election results reflect a far different story.

In 2016, 241 Republicans won seats in the United States house. In how many of those districts did Trump run better than the GOP candidates?  24.  In other words, in over 90% of congressional districts, the winning Republican congressional candidates was more popular than Donald Trump. 

Hillary Clinton was, by far, the most unpopular candidate the Democrats ever nominated.  Yet Trump managed to lose the popular vote to her by over 3 million votes.  While Trump won the Electoral College, if just 39,000 votes in three states were switched we'd be talking about President Hillary Clinton facing her first mid-term election.

When Reagan won his landslide victories in 1980 and 1984, he did far better than Donald Trump in running ahead of winning GOP congressional districts..  In 1980, in a three way presidential race (John Anderson ran as an independent and garnered 6.6% of the popular vote), he led 38 of the winning GOP candidates at the polls.  In 1984, Reagan ran ahead of 59 GOP congressional candidates who won their district.

Trump was not a popular Republican on Election Day 2016 and he is even more unpopular today, entering his first mid-term with the lowest favorability rating of any President at this point.  Trump did not lead Republicans to victory in 2016.  He road on the coattails of the popularity of Republicanism and, even more so, the unpopularity of the liberalism of the Democratic Party.  For more popular GOP candidates to tie themselves to an unpopular President spouting racism and hatred, someone deeply hurting the Republican brand with millennials, educated voters and non-whites, is incredibly foolish.

Friday, November 2, 2018

The Death of Two Asylum-Seeking Saudi Arabian Women in New York: Murder or Suicide?

You be the judge.  New York Times reports:
A person strolling through Riverside Park last Wednesday afternoon spotted something jarring on the riverbank and called the police. 
There, below a small pier that juts out from the park at 68th Street, lay the bodies of two young women, bound together by duct tape at their waists and ankles. They had not been in the water long, the police said. Clad in similar black leggings and black jackets with fur trim, their bodies bore no obvious signs of trauma. 
By Friday, detectives had learned the women were sisters from Saudi Arabia who lived in Fairfax, Va. 
Rotana Farea was 22; Tala Farea was 16. They had a history of going missing, and they had recently requested asylum in the United States, the police said. 
But beyond that, the circumstances of their deaths have remained a mystery. Investigators have struggled to piece together how two young women from a city more than 250 miles away turned up along Manhattan’s Hudson River shoreline.
A medical examination revealed the sisters had water in their lungs which is an indication that they were alive when they went into the water.  New York Police Department told the media that there is "nothing to suggest ...foul play" was involved and that the women likely committed suicide.  One working theory is that they jumped off the George Washington bridge as part of a suicide pact.  
Suicide by drowning is rare. The body's instinct for survival usually takes over during the long suffocating process involved in drowning.  Very few people who commit suicide want the additonal suffering involved in drowning to end their lives.
No evidence of foul play?  Hmm, how about they were tied together with duct tape?  Do the crack NYPD investigators believe they tied themselves together at water's edge then jumped into the water? And how exactly did they tie themselves together?  Wouldn't there have to be a third person involved?

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

New Poll Shows Democratic Challengers Competitive in Indiana's Fifth and Ninth Congressional Districts

In my last blog post, I bemoaned the lack of polling in Indiana's congressional districts and said that three of them, the Second, Fifth and Ninth had the potential to be interesting.  Turns out on the very day I posted the article, a polling outfit was concluding polling in two of those districts.

Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN)
According to a poll conducted by Change Research, 9th District Congressman Trey Hollingsworth leads his very well funded Democratic challenger Liz Watson 52% to 45%.  That 7 point margin is within the margin of error.

(Note:  The media almost always reports margins of error incorrectly.  If a margin of error on a poll is 4 points, that means a potential 8 point swing as the MOE is on both sides of the numbers.  For example, with a 4 point MOE, a race that is 54R-46D coudl be anywhere from 58R-42D to 50R-50D, thus an 8 point swing on the 4 point MOE.)

A more shocking development is that the polling firm has the Fifth District even closer.  Change Research's poll has Republican Susan Brooks ahead of her cash-starved Democratic challenger Dee Thornton 50% to 44%.  GOP members of Congress in suburban districts are struggling this election cycle due to Trump's unpopularity among well-educated, affluent Republicans.  As the Fifth District is dominated by northern Marion County and wealthy Hamilton County, it makes sense this district could be more competitive than it has in the past..

For some reason Change Research did not poll the Second District race between Congresswoman Jackie Walorski and her Democratic opponent, Mel Hall.  It is the only district in Indiana,that political analyst Charlie Cook suggests has an outside chance of being competitive.  Cook has labeled the district as "likely Republican."

The Change Research poll results need to be taken with a huge grain of salt.  As a polling outfit, Change Research's work product is given a C+ rating by the website FiveThirtyEight and the polls conducted by the company don't make the standards to be included in the polls listed by RealClearPolitics, the resource for most political junkies looking for survey results.  While Change Research's online polling technique is relatively new, its C+ rating is still well ahead of the D- grade FiveThirtyEight gives to Survey Monkey, another online pollster regular employed by media outfits.

Monday, October 29, 2018

With Week to Go Before Election, Still No Independent Polling in Indiana U.S. House Races

As a political geek, for months I have been eagerly anticipating poll results in the Indiana congressional races.  While independent polling outfits have conducted surveys in scores of congressional races across the country, there, to date, has been no such polling in the Indiana U.S. house races.

The lack of polling reflects the fact that the experts do not believe any Indiana congressional districts are likely to switch hands a week from tomorrow.  But it is not clear that working assumption is correct.   While Republicans only have two impossible targets for pickups, the Indianapolis-based Seventh Congressional District, based in Indianapolis and the First District, based in Lake County, the
Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN)
same is not true of the Democrats do have a legitimate, albeit longshot, chance of picking up one maybe two seats in Indiana. 

In the Second District, Republican Jackie Walorski is facing off against South Bend businessman Mel Hall.  Walorski won the district by just 1% in 2012, but the last two elections has won by 20% plus.  While the district has a lot of Republican-leaning rural area, the urban area in the district is dominated by Democratic-leaning South Bend.  The district has the potential to be much closer this year than in 2014 or 2016.  This is especially true with Hall outraising Walorski $3,028,831 to $2,580,624.

The Ninth District might also prove to be competitive.  Located in the southeastern part of the state, the district is represented by Trey Hollingsworth.  His Democratic opponent, Liz Watson, has outraised Hollingsworth ($1,946,998 to $1,385,135) and has been consistently running ads on Indianapolis TV.  I haven't seen any Hollingsworth ads, but possibly may have missed them.  That district is also serviced by the Louisville and Cincinnati media markets.  While Watson has run a spirited race, the rural area that dominates the Ninth District is the heart of Trump Country.

Although unlikely to be competitive, I would like pollsters would look at the electorate in the Fifth Congressional district which is anchored by Hamilton County and the northern Indianapolis.  Incumbent Republican Susan Brooks won the district by 27 points in 2016 and enjoys a sizable financial advantage over her challenger Dee Thornton.  Brooks raised $1,294,790 for the race while Thornton has only received $175,216.  With a well-funded opponent, the Democrats might have had a legitimate, albeit a long-shot, at competing in the suburban dominated district.  Brooks, after all, has to carry the baggage of Donald Trump in northern Marion and Hamilton Counties where he is not terribly popular.  Of all Republicans appearing on the county-wide ballots in Marion and Hamiltonin 2016, Donald Trump performed the worst.  A well-funded Democrat could have tied Brooks more closely to Trump and, thus, encouraged Republicans to cross over in favor of Thornton.  This race is likely to be closer this time, but without Liz Watson type money Thornton does not have a realistic shot at winning.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Deficit Spending Soars Under Failed Leadership of President Trump, Republican Congress

One of the reasons I became a Republican is that the GOP historically had a more realistic approach to deficit spending, i.e. that absent an economic downturn, the United States should not be spending more than it takes in.  Although Republicans usually fell well short of that philosophy in practice, the need to control deficit spending was at least an organizing principle of the GOP.

Guess that is no longer true.  The Wall Street Journal reports on the soaring deficits under all Republican leadership in Washington, D.C.:
WASHINGTON—The U.S. government ran its largest budget deficit in six years during the fiscal year that ended last month, an unusual development in a fast-growing economy and a sign that—so far at least—tax cuts have restrained government revenue gains.

The deficit totaled $779 billion in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, up 17% from $666
billion in fiscal 2017, the Treasury Department said Monday. The deficit is headed toward $1 trillion in the current fiscal year, the White House and Congressional Budget Office said. 
Deficits usually shrink during economic booms because strong growth leads to increased tax revenue as household income, corporate profits and capital gains all rise. Meantime, spending on safety-net programs like unemployment insurance and food stamps tends to be restrained. In the last fiscal year, a different set of forces was at play as economic growth sped up. 
Interest payments on the federal debt and military spendingrose rapidly, while tax revenue failed to keep pace as the Republican tax cuts for both individuals and corporations kicked in. The problem with the tax cuts passed at the end of 2017 is that the decreased revenue was not accompanied by corresponding spending cuts. Instead Congress passed a budget dramatically increasing spending across the board. Then you had the added problem that the tax cuts came during a time when the economy was already experiencing solid growth. A smart move would have been to wait until the inevitable economic downturn to cut taxes, particularly corporate taxes. Instead the tax cuts ended up pouring gasoline onto an economic inferno.

There was no reason to stimulate an already stimulated economy.  We were already at full employment. Now the Federal Reserve is having to raise interest rates to stop inflation from taking root, a byproduct of an overheated economy.  Higher interest rates mean higher deficits.

We are on track to have annual deficits in excess of $1 trillion with a growing economy.  The total national debt is currently closing in on $21.66 trillion dollars.  Interest paid to service the debt is the fourth largest item in the budget and is on the way to becoming the second largest item in a decade or so.

Did I also mention that the Chinese own much of our national debt?  What could possibly go wrong?

Monday, October 15, 2018

Expect First Post-Kavanaugh Poll to Show Republican Braun Surging Ahead of Democrat Donnelly in Indiana

Justice Brett Kavanaugh
Just a prediction, but I fully expect the first post-Kavanaugh poll to show Republican challenger Mike Braun moving several points ahead of the race against Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly.  (Pre-Kavanugh polls had Donnelly up 2-3 points, well within the margin of error.)  I've been saying all summer, that Donnelly was going to win Indiana.  That though was before Judge Justice Kavanaugh happened.  Donnelly, as did all Democratic Senators except Joe Manchin, voted against Kavanaugh's confirmation.

While Democrats continue to look strong in House races, Republicans Senate candidates are surging in the polls.  This morning, an Emerson poll showed Republican Dean Heller, the most vulnerable incumbent Republican in the Senate, up 7 points.  The most recent polling of the next most vulnerable Republican seat, the one vacated by Arizona Senator Jeff Flake who didn't seek re-election, show the Republican Martha McSally up 6 points. Democratic efforts to take Republican seats in Tennessee and Texas appear to be falling apart post-Kavanaugh, as Republicans now have double digit leads in both states.  Meanwhile, in North Dakota, the most vulnerable incumbent Heidi Heitkamp trails by 12 points.

Still waiting on post-Kavanaugh polls in Missouri and Indiana, but I expect the Republican candidates in both states to have moved ahead.  If the Kavanaugh-impact holds on for the next three weeks, I look for the GOP not only to continue control of the Senate, but to pick up as many as three additional seats.

The 2018 election was well on its way to being a referendum on President Donald J. Trump's first two years in office.  The historically unpopular President Trump agreed to the notion of his first (and hopefully only) mid-term being a referendum on his term in office.  And it was not going well for Republicans.  Not only was the GOP poised to lose as many as 40 seats in the House, they even faced the possibility of losing the Senate despite having an incredibly favorable map.

Then Brett Kavanaugh happened.   The President is simply wrong when he says Kavanaugh was "proven innocent."  The fact is we simply don't know what happened 36 years ago.  But to many, people it was seen, rightfully so, as a left-wing attempt at 11th hour character assassination to stop the appointment of a well-qualified justice to the Supreme Court.   A lot of people, even many women, are offended by the notion that a man who is accused of sexual misconduct for something that happened decades earlier should be assumed to be guilty, even without corroborating evidence.   They were likewise turned off by the mobs of people (including some who were paid by left-wing groups) who descended on the Washington, D.C. to ambush Republican members of Senate in an attempt to create viral video moments.  The strategy backfired, big time.

As a conservative Republican, I am embarrassed every single day that Donald J. Trump is the leader of my party and has inherited the legacy of Ronald Reagan.  As was proven yesterday during the 60 Minutes interview, Trump is incredibly ignorant and lacks the temperament and judgment to be President.  You could walk into any downtown Indianapolis building, after hours, find a janitor cleaning the place, and that person would be better suited to be President of the United States than one Donald J. Trump.

But the fact that we have in office, thanks to my Republican Party the most unqualified President in history, doesn't make the Democrats right about the issues or that any tactics are okay in the pursuit of victory.  The Democrats were spectacularly wrong in how they handled the Kavanaugh appointment and the polls reflect that.

Three weeks remain to return the mid-term election to being a referendum on Trump instead of on the Democratic Party policies and tactics.  That, however, may not be enough time to save several Democratic Senate candidates, including Indiana's Joe Donnelly.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

CEO Jeff Bezos Announces Amazon Increasing Warehouse Workers' Pay to Minimum of $15 an Hour, While Actually Paying Them Less

No one is more brilliant at public relations than Amazon's Jeff Bezos.

As founder and CEO of Amazon, Bezos has managed to make himself the richest man in the world, all the while running a business that rarely sees a profitable quarter.  Bezos does it by continually coming up with new ideas, getting massive publicity for those ideas, and then having people throw money at his company.  Of course, those ideas rarely translate into a profit, but never fear, Bezos is on to another idea to keep the money coming in.  Ponzi anyone?

Bezos' PR genius reached new heights this week.

He announced that Amazon is raising the minimum pay at its warehouses to $15 an hour.  In conjunction with that increase, Bezos indicated he would urge that Congress increase the minimum
Jeff Bezos
wage to $15 an hour. Bezos was lauded by Vermont Senator (and socialist) Bernie Sanders who had previously introduced legislation aimed at forcing Amazon and other companies to offer workers higher pay so they didn't have to seek out government benefits.  Senator Sanders praised Bezos for the move.

Apparently, it doesn't take much to dupe Senator Sanders.  But, to be fair, plenty of media types were duped as well as they, without investigation, reported the move as beneficial to Amazon employees.

To begin with, most Amazon warehouse employees were already near $15 an hour, an almost mandatory rate to get decent employees in the current competitive job market.  Most Amazon employees will see a $1 or $2 increase in their hourly pay.  But here is the kicker.  In conjunction with the raise, Amazon will no longer give employees stock and will cut out monthly bonuses known as variable compensation pay, commonly referred to as VCP.

Having worked at Amazon, I know how lucrative VCP can be.  VCP is based on attendance and the performance of the building.  Show up for work and if the building does well, an Amazon employee can earn up to 8% of his monthly paycheck in the form of the VCP bonus.  During the several month peak season, this bonus doubles to as much as 16%.  The monthly bonus I received ranged from $100 to $500, or more, depending on the month.  I would estimate that, over the course of a year, I earned about $3,000 in VCP, quite likely more.

Do the math.  If my pay goes up $1 an hour, that is an extra $2,080 in my paycheck over the course of a year.  If VCP earned over the course of a year is $3,000 while a single share of stock is $2,000, pray tell how does an extra $2,080 puts me ahead?   Amazon responds that the extra $1 or $2 is more certain.  But VCP was certain too.  You simply had to show up for work as scheduled, and you were going to receive at the very least the attendance portion of the bonus.

Jeff Bezos' announcement is not about helping Amazon workers.  It is about garnering positive press coverage while trying to force his competitors to pay more for their workers via a government-imposed mandatory minimum wage.  Bezos is doing all this while scoring positive coverage from a compliant media accustomed to simply reprinting unquestioningly anything he has to say.

The Bernie Sanders of the world are focusing on the wrong issue. Amazon's pay and benefits have always been better than average when it comes to warehouse work.  The problem with Amazon is the horrific, often inhumane working conditions at their facilities that have been detailed in scores of media accounts.  The fact is Bezos, a card-carrying liberal, treats his workers like he is running a 19th century sweat shop.  If Bezos truly wants to do right by his workers (and stop the excessive turnover rampant at Amazon facilities), he might try treating them with respect and dignity.  After all, aren't liberals like Bezos supposed to be about standing up for the workers?

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Character Assassination Attempt on Kavanaugh Hurting Swing State Democratic Senate Candidates

It is being reported that the supplemental FBI report has failed to corroborate the sexual assault allegation made by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.  Not surprising.  We're talking an allegation of something that supposedly happened 36 years ago between high school kids for which there was only one other witness.

Likewise, the report apparently didn't find corroboration for the allegation by Deborah Ramirez that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her in college.  Again, not surprising given the age of the supposed event and the lack of people present. 

Judge Brett Kavanaugh
I am roughly the age of Kavanaugh.  I couldn't begin to tell you what parties I attended in high schools a matter of fundamental fairness is on the accuser to prove it happened.   The notion that the burden switches to the accused because Supreme Court confirmation is only a "job interview" and not a criminal or civil matter is to ignore the reality that a person's career and reputation is at stake.  For many people that is a much bigger matter than the potential consequences associated with a criminal charge or a civil lawsuit. 
and college (though there weren't that many) or what I did during those parties.  If I had to prove something didn't happen 36 years ago, I'd be screwed.  It is virtually impossible for someone to prove a negative, i.e. that something that did not happen.  That is why the burden of proof a

I watched some of Dr. Ford's Senate testimony and didn't think she was a particularly strong witness.  I was shocked when viewing the news coverage universally lauded her testimony as being credible and persuasive.  (As an attorney, I've seen plenty of witnesses who were more credible witnesses than Ford despite the fact they were lying.)  There was a lack of critical media coverage of Dr. Ford's  testimony, in particular pointing out the inconsistencies in the story she was telling.  Then Kavanaugh opponents and the media further overreached, digging up every negative thing they could on the judge and including drinking habits, yearbook entries, etc.  It appeared they were moving the goalposts and piling on.

Not surprisingly, that approach spurred a backlash.  There were Republicans like me who had serious reservations about Kavanaugh's views on his perceived lack of constitutional limits of executive power and refusal to agree to recuse himself on matters relating to the Russian investigation, a matter of grave concern to the future of President Trump who appointed him.  But when I saw Democrats ditch what could have been a legitimate argument against Kavanaugh's confirmation to engage in 11th hour character assassination, I went to my partisan corner.  I will never forget the disgusting spectacle of the Democrats' last minute attempt to smear Clarence Thomas' reputation to keep him off the bench.  Like Kavanaugh, an FBI investigation did not corroborate the accusation against Thomas. But Kavanaugh can bet, like as to Thomas, history will be rewritten so he is guilty.

Kavanaugh's approval numbers are in the toilet, though much of that is tied to his close association with a very unpopular President.   Nonetheless, the Kavanaugh confirmation is a voting issue for many conservatives in red-leaning states with Democratic Senators on the ballot this year.  Republican challengers in those states are seeing their numbers surge of late.  In North Dakota, challenger and GOP congressmen Ken Kramer is shockingly 12 points ahead of Democrat Senator Heidi Heitkamp.  In Tennessee, Republican congresswoman Marsha Blackburn was even or slightly behind former governor Phil Bresden.  But the Kavanaugh confirmation battle has given her a recent 5 point lead.  My guess is that West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin will soon announce his support for Kavanaugh to avoid the sinking poll numbers fate of other red state Democratic Senators.   I think there is also an outside possibility that Indiana's Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly will reverse course and back Kavanaugh.

If Kavanaugh is, as I suspect, confirmed, my guess is that recent GOP enthusiasm for the mid-terms will wain while Democratic turnout in the mid-terms will soar.  Thus, the Kavanaugh surge for Republicans is probably short-lived.  That is just the way these things work.  When one side gets what they want, they tend to relax while the losing side gets energized.

Clarence Thomas' success in fending off Anita Hill's sexual harassment claim came at a price.  It led  led to the Democratic backlash in 1992 referred to as the "Year of the Woman."  Then that 1992 Democratic victory led to the great Republican wave in 1994. 

Likewise, that period (the early 1990s) marked the end of a several year period when character issues, including sexual misconduct, played a front and central role in politics. People though grew tired of the emphasis put on those character issues resulting in the pendulum swinging back, allowing Bill Clinton and Donald Trump to become President despite their well-documented history of sexual misconduct.

Republicans, with Kavanaugh, are likely to win this round.  But the Kavanaugh confirmation is likely to rebound to help the Democrats prevail in November.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Democrats Well on Their Way to Gaining House Majority

For the Democrats to win a majority in the United States House of Representative, a pickup of 23 seats is needed.  As things stand now, it appears that the Democrats will exceed that goal by some 13 seats.

Cook Political Report tracks competitive House seats using the following classifications:  Likely Democratic, Lean Democratic, Democrat Toss Up, Republican Toss Up, Lean Republican and Likely

CPR lists 3 Republican seats as likely to flip to the Democrats while 10 GOP seats are identified as leaning Democratic.  On the other side, there is only one district (the newly redrawn PA-14) that is currently held by a Democrat which is "likely" to be won by a Republican. There are no districts held by a Democrat that "leans" to the Republican challenger.

Meanwhile there are 31 congressional districts which are listed as "toss-ups."  Of those districts, 29 currently have a Republican incumbent.

Toss-up districts generally go to one party or the other.  Rarely are toss-up districts split down the middle between the parties.  The last few elections, about 89% of the toss-ups have gone to the prevailing party in the election.

The Democrats are heavily favored on the generic ballot.  Let's be conservative though and say they win only 75% of the toss-up districts.  That makes the numbers as follows:

GOP Districts Likely Democrat:  3
GOP Districts Leaning Democrat: 10
Toss-Up Districts Switching from R to D (x 75%):  24
Dem District Likely Republican: -1

Projected Net Democratic Gain:  36 seats

That is a pretty conservative estimate, as things stand today, of how many seats the Democratic Party could win.  If the Kavanaugh nomination fails, I could see that energizing Republican voters to help hold down their losses, though stopping the Democrats from taking a majority in the House seems almost out of reach for the Republicans.  Where a failed Kavanaugh nomination would help the most in in helping the GOP keep a majority in the Senate by ginning up Republican enthusiasm.

That is what the U.S. House races look 40 days out.  Bet the farm.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Blocked on Twitter by "This Week" Panelist Matthew Dowd

As a political nerd, I enjoy watching the various Sunday morning news/commentary shows.  My favorite is This Week, at least when George Stephanopolis is hosting.   I know Stephanopolis worked for President Clinton, but, despite his liberal personal views, he does an excellent job of bringing balance to his program and has a knowledge for domestic politics that is matched by maybe only Chuck Todd, host of Meet the Press, my second favorite Sunday morning program.

This Week generally features a strong panel of commentators who bring balance and thought to discussion of the issues.  One of my favorite panelist is (was?) Matthew Dowd, formerly chief strategist for the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign and currently an ABC political analyst.  I don't always
Matthew Dowd
agree with Dowd, but I think he approaches issues thoughtfully and with independence.   We need more of that from political commentators.

Last Sunday though Dowd had an off day.  During the panel of This Week, Dowd stated that in any situation in which a man is accused of sexual misconduct by a woman, absent proof of innocence put forward by the man, the woman must be assumed to be telling the truth and the man should be assumed to be guilty.   Dowd's reasoning?   That for the past 250 years when there has been "He Said She Said" moment, the woman has not been believed.

I certainly do not buy Dowd's working assumption.  The fact is in the "He Said She Said" cases, there often is no corroborating evidence and credibility of the parties is a draw.  It isn't that the woman isn't being believed, but that we don't assume that people who are accused of wrongdoing are guilty.  In baseball, the tie goes to the runner.  When there is an accusation of wrongdoing, the tie goes to the person accused. That is fundamental fairness because it is virtually impossible to prove a negative, that something did not happen.

Setting aside Dowd's faulty working assumption, he is taking the position that a man accused of wrongdoing by a woman should be assumed to be guilty because of how completely unrelated women accusers' allegations have been handled in the past.   That is a preposterous position.

Just days before his appearance on This Week, Dowd tweeted that Clarence Thomas is a "sexual predator."   Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines a "sexual predator" as "a person who has committed a sexually violent offense and especially one who is likely to commit more sexual offenses."   Anita Hill's allegation was that Thomas described to Hill scenes he had seen in pornographic movies and asked her for dates.  Assuming that those allegations were true (and they were highly disputed) they establish Thomas is a sexual harasser not a "sexual predator."  Huge difference.

Although I generally agree with Dowd, I felt compelled to let him know he is wrong on the issue.  I took to Twitter.  When I saw a comment by someone who agreed with Dowd's commentary, I posted this response, which not only went to that person but also Dowd.
"So women, unlike men, never lie?  That is such an incredibly sexist, denigrating attitude."  
I then started to write Dowd directly to demonstrate why his position is wrong, i.e. to give him examples of women falsely accusing men. (Maybe Dowd should try talking to some former male Duke lacrosse players?)  Before I finished my comment, which took more than one tweet, Dowd blocked me from following him or seeing any of his tweets.  Wow.

I just assume that people who appear on TV panel discussion shows have thick skins, that they are used to criticism of their views and are willing to listen to alternative views.  I especially assumed that was true with regard to Dowd who had criticized Trump for being thin-skinned and for only soliciting positive feedback.  (I would link to those many tweets of Dowd's but I'm blocked from doing so.)  Dowd clearly does not practice what he preaches.  On what little I can see of his Twitter feed via a Google search,, Dowd says he "rarely" blocks anyone on Twitter and only those people who "won't listen to facts."

"Won't listen to facts?"  Actually that precisely describes Matthew Dowd's approach to the sexual harassment debate.   Dowd complains about Trump's dishonesty (rightfully so) while engaging in his own brand of own dishonesty telling Twitter followers he only blocks those not open to an honest discussion of the issues.  Clearly Dowd is not going to tolerate any criticism of his views and will shut down anyone who dares to prove him wrong.

Dowd is too thin-skinned to take the criticism and feedback associated with being a political analyst.  He should consider another line of work.

Monday, September 17, 2018

The Kavanaugh Accusation - Is #MeToo Morphing Into #MenGuilty?

As the great Yogi Berra used to say, it's "deja vu all over again."

Trump Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh now stands accused of sexually assaulting a woman (girl?) in high school. The accusation came from a woman, a college professor, who originally wanted to remain anonymous, a woman who has now been persuaded to come forward to testify in the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify after testimony in the committee was concluded.

I've seen this movie before.

Turn back the clock to 1991 and the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill confrontation .For those too young to
Justice Clarence Thomas
remember, Thomas was appointed to the Supreme Court by President George Bush.  The Senate Judiciary Committee spent several days hearing testimony about the appointment. The testimony closed and the committee was set to vote when a previously anonymous accuser, Anita Hill, was encouraged to go publicly forward with her accusation that Thomas Sexually harassed her while she worked for him at the Office of Civil Rights.  Supposedly Thomas asked her for dates, described scenes from pornographic movies to her, and once infamously joked that someone had put a pubic hair on his coke can.  While those accusations could certainly constitute sexual harassment, they seem mild in a post-Harvey Weinstein era.

It should be noted that the Anita Hill accusation was the culmination of a long effort by Democratic partisans to derail the Thomas nomination.  Liberal groups had run scores of national ads to get people to come forward to dish dirt on Thomas.  Investigators went through Thomas' garbage, obtained a list of his movie rentals.  They were ruthless in trying to find dirt to derail the Thomas' nomination.

Thomas denied Hill's accusation, declaring it to be a "high-tech lynching," a partisan maneuver intended to keep him off the bench.  After a contentious hearing, Thomas ended up prevailing in the U.S. Senate, with 52 Senators voting for his confirmation, including 11 Democrats.

In the nearly quarter decade since, the revisionist history line from many of the media is that Anita Hill was "vindicated" and the all male Senate panel at the time was "tone deaf" to Hill's accusations.  Utter nonsense.   People who sexually harass women, exhibit a consistent pattern of behavior.   They just don't confine their lecherous behavior to one woman.  Thomas had zero history of harassing women in the work place and scores of women who worked for him came forward to praise him for being an excellent boss who never did anything untoward toward his female employees.  In the "He Said She Said" confrontation, the Senate Judiciary Committee, rightly, chose not to assume Thomas was guilty and voted to confirm him..

The additional media narrative is that nothing was "learned" following the Thomas-Hill hearing and the our patriarchal political system continued to march on without missing a step.  That simply is not correct.  There was indeed a backlash to the Thomas-Hill hearings, a backlash that that in 1992 became known as the "Year of the Woman," featuring women winning elected office in record numbers.  During that time frame if a man was accused by a woman of something, he had to be guilty. Why would the woman ever accuse a man falsely after all?

The 1992's version of the #MeToo movement, however,  reached too far and produced its own backlash, a nearly quarter century during which women's accusations against powerful men were discounted at best, disbelieved at worst.  It was an environment in which lecherous men like Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein were able to rise to power despite the very credible women who were willing to come forward and tell their story.  Unlike with Thomas and Kavanaugh, Clinton, Trump and Weinstein have exhibited a long pattern of misconduct when it comes to women.

I don't know what Brett Kavanaugh did as a high school student in the 1980s.  But I do know it is wrong to simply assume that a man is guilty because a woman accuses him of wrongdoing. Believe it or not, women sometimes, for an assortment of reasons, lie.  Unless there is some tangible evidence supporting the accuser, one has to give the accused the benefit of the doubt, especially on something that supposedly happened 35 years ago.  That is just fundamental fairness.

A movement that encourages women to come forward and speak out about sexual harassment and misconduct by male bosses should be encouraged indeed celebrated. But that movement cannot morph into being a "#MenGuilty" movement. For if it does, it is likely to spur another 25 year backlash that hurts, and not helps, women.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Republicans Making the Mid-Term Election About Impeachment May Backfire

With the tax cuts and soaring economy not appearing to work for Republicans in the mid-term elections, GOP leaders have seized on another strategy - making the mid-term election a referendum on impeachment.

The theory is that by pushing impeachment, the Democrats would overplay their hand, causing a backlash among the voters.  As a result, the GOP could avoid what appears to be a blue wave.   While the GOP was eagerly luring the Democrats to take the impeachment bait, most strategically-oriented Democrats avoided the subject.

That was up until Tuesday when the guilty plea by former Trump "fixer" Michael Cohen identified (albeit not by name) President Trump as an unindicted co-conspirator in violating felony campaign finance laws by arranging hush payments to two women Trump wanted silenced before the election.  The payments, arguably, had the effect of defrauding voters in the historic close election. The facts outlined in the guilty plea certainly raise the possibility that Trump committed high crimes and misdemeanors, the standard for impeachment.

Then you have the continuing Mueller investigation which is clearly closing in on the President, both on the obstruction and, quite likely, the conspiracy front as well.  Of course, the President and his defenders keep screaming that there is "no evidence of collusion!"  That assertion is pure nonsense. The President and his "attorney" Rudy Giuliani both admitted that the Trump Tower meeting was an effort to get dirt on Hillary Clinton.  The premise of the meeting outlined in an email to Donald Trump, Jr. was that the damaging information was being provided was all part of the effort of the Russian government to aid the Trump campaign.  Trump campaign officials were clearly more than willing to work with an enemy of the United States to win an American election.   The Trump Tower meeting was, at the very least, an attempt to collude.  One can argue that those efforts did not rise to the level of a criminal conspiracy (which is the actual crime, not collusion) or the President was not aware of what his son and other campaign officials were doing (he almost certainly was), but it is nonsensical to say there is no evidence of collusion. 

So, as I predicted months ago, the issue of whether Trump should be impeached is likely to be a front and center issue in the mid-term elections.  Republicans would be wise though to not celebrate such a development.  First, polls show that nearly half the country support Trump's impeachment, and that was long before Tuesday's legal developments.  (For example see this Public Policy Polling poll.)  The notion the public would be outraged by Trump's removal from office through impeachment is not well-founded.  

Second, if Republicans make the mid-terms about impeachment, and the Democrats win bigly, seizing control of the House in the process, then Democrats will have little choice but to impeach Trump in 2019.  This is especially true if he long-anticipated Mueller report lays out additional grounds for concluding that Trump committed "high crimes and misdemeanors."

Trump's safety net is the U.S. Senate.  Even if a Democratic majority House impeaches Trump it takes 2/3 of the Senate to remove a President from office..  Considering the number of Democratic Senators residing in red states who are up for election in this cycle, it is virtually impossible for the Democrats to do little more than break even. With 51 current Republican Senators, after the election there will still need to be at least 17 Senate Republicans crossing over  to vote with the Democrats to remove the Republican Donald Trump from office.

Many observers say that is an impossibility.  I don't agree.  First, unlike in the House, the Senate contains a number of Republican Senators who have long been critical of Trump.  Let's say that the Mueller report outlines facts that demonstrate that Trump (besides election finance violation), has conspired with a foreign power hostile to the United States to win the 2016 election and then obstructed the investigation aimed at finding out what happened.  Consider too the possibility of a mid-term election in which the GOP is slaughtered at the polls, losing the majority and suburban seats once solidly Republican.  

At that point, the President will no longer be an asset and many Republican Senators may decide to rid the party of the albatross that is Donald Trump, choosing to instead try their luck with President Pence in 2020.  Pence, stained by the Trump legacy, Pence will likely lose, but at least the losses down the ballot will less than they would be with a damaged Donald Trump at the top of the ticket.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Indianapolis City Councilor Pleads to (Non-Sexual) Battery on a Child, Resigns from Council

The Indianapolis Star reports:  
Indianapolis Councilor Jeff Miller has admitted touching two children "in a rude manner" as part of a plea deal that triggers his resignation from the City-County Council.  
Miller, 51, pleaded guilty Wednesday to four felony counts of battery on a person less than 14 years old, ending a case that began in November when Marion County prosecutors charged him with three counts of child molestation.
Hamilton County Prosecutor D. Lee Buckingham II, who took over the case in January as
Former Indianapolis Councilor Jeff Miller
special prosecutor, reached a deal with Miller's attorneys that downgraded the charges while still resulting in felony convictions.
Miller was sentenced to four years of probation, with some conditions. Hendricks Superior Court Judge Mark A. Smith ordered Miller not to interact with children under 16 without permission from the court. Miller will not serve jail time and does not have to register as a sex offender, according to the terms of his plea agreement. The convictions could be reduced to misdemeanors once Miller completes probation.
Anyone who reads my blog regularly  knows I'm no fan of Jeff Miller.  He is the worst type of Republican, someone who takes the GOP label but does not exhibit any fiscal conservative leanings whatsoever.  Miller was always the first to sign on to any tax increase and corporate welfare scheme proposed by the Ballard administration.  He was not a friend of taxpayers, not even close.

Having said that, there should be questions raised as to whether Democrat Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry was pursuing political objectives in filing child molestation charges against Miller.   The Miller charging information contained needless salacious information, such as his limited and awkward sexual history with women.  Then there are the original charges of child molestation.  There did not seem to be any evidence that Miller massaged the children to gratify his own sexual interests or that of the child.  That is a necessary element of the crimes with which Miller was charged.

The whole thing smacked of throwing everything at Miller in an attempt to force him to resign.  Republican Miller has managed to attract a lot of Democratic support in his inner city district.  With him off the ballot the Democrats will surely pick up the seat in the next election.

Miller though was extremely smart not to resign initially.  Resignation from a political office is something often included in a plea and there is no reason for a public official to give away that bargaining chip without getting anything in return.  The risk was enormous for Miller to go to trial, so he opted, wisely, for a deal.  Simple battery (i.e. unwanted touching), albeit on someone considered to be a child, is a low level felony that can be easily converted to a misdemeanor down the road.  He does not have to serve any jail time.  He does not have to register as a sex offender, because he wasn't convicted of a sexual offense.

This is yet another issue that makes me question the ethics of Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry.  Too many Democrats give him a pass.  Whether it is the Omnisource payoff to drop a felony prosecution, Curry's tremendous expansion of the use of civil forfeiture, or the phony charges filed against Brandon Johnson, Prosecutor Curry's continues to exhibit troubling conduct in carrying out his official duties.  A county prosecutor in Indiana has tremendous power. It is important that he or she not abuse that power.  Curry appears to be doing exactly that.