Friday, August 16, 2019

Indianapolis Traffic Becomes Dreadful as Bus Red Line Swallows Up Critical Travel Lanes

I drive on Indianapolis downtown city streets often.  I also go to Broad Ripple, about once a week, to catch up with a friend.

Those experiences have changed dramatically this summer.  The last several weeks, I've found myself snarled in long traffic jams on downtown streets, waiting through multiple several cycles of the traffic line before I can move through an intersection.    As far as getting to Broad Ripple, especially from downtown... well forget about that.  Heading north on College Avenue toward Broad Ripple at the end of the day, traffic is backed up literally for as much as a mile.  
Welcome to the Red Line, Indianapolis new rapid transit system, which employs an all electric bus system. 

In implementing  the Red Line, several travel lanes are now dedicated to those buses and verboten for drivers to drive in.  The city has already lost a lot of travel lanes due to the addition of bike lanes before the city's leaders decided to take away more travel lanes.

College Avenue, one of the main thoroughfares by which people head to and from the Broad Ripple area, is one of the streets greatly impacted by the Red Line.  With the new bus system removing two of the lanes, there are only two lanes remaining for the north/south traffic on the road.  Needless to say, College Avenue backs up with an endless parade of cars during rush hour.   The obvious location for the Red Line heading to/from the Broad Ripple area was Keystone Avenue instead of the much more narrow, and residential, College Avenue.  But more money was to be made for developers on College Avenue so that is of course where the bus lanes were located. In Indianapolis, the interest of the city's taxpayers always take a back seat to developers whose ambitions are often funded by those same taxpayers.  And, of course, those developers are all too willing to kick back taxpayer money to the politicians in the form of campaign donations that keep the cycle going.

Part of the allure of the Red Line is that the all electric buses will have zero emissions and, thus, be better for the environment.  (Let's ignore for now the obvious counterpoint that emissions are involved in creating the electricity to run the buses.)  How exactly is the environment made better by greatly increasing the amount of time Indianapolis commuters are stuck in idling cars that are pumping out carbon monoxide as they wait through endless cycles of traffic lights?

The developers of the Red Line argue that, if our bus system is much better, Indianapolis commuters will park their cars and ride the bus instead.  That strategy is called "build it and they will come" approach and it never works.  Mass transit has to be designed to meet demand, not to create it.

Problems with Indianapolis traffic, post Red Line, could have been a major issue for Indianapolis voters when they go to the polls in November.  Yet, Republican mayoral candidate State Senator Jim Merritt, desperate for traction in the increasingly Democratic city, can't bring himself to raise the issue.  Merritt has spent more time talking about food deserts than the city's worsening traffic.  The result is Mayor Joe Hogsett does not have to defend the bus line to Indianapolis voters frustrated that their commutes are now considerably longer.

When it comes to whether taxpayers should subsidize economic development and, in doing so, making the corporate interests wealthier, the leadership of both political parties always line up to stick it to the taxpayers.  Make no mistake about it, the Red Line is all about corporate welfare.  The losers are Indianapolis taxpayers and commuters who drive in the city.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Today's Polls Bring Good News for Bernie Sanders, Bad News for Elizabeth Warren

A couple polls today give the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign some hope.
Sen. Bernie Sanders

A Gravis poll of New Hampshire, puts the Vermont Senator in first place.  Sanders comes in at 21% in that poll, while former Vice President Joe Biden is six points behind at 15%.  Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is the only other candidate in double figures at 12%.

That is the first New Hampshire poll in which Sanders has led in since April.  Biden and Sanders are the only Democratic candidates who have led New Hampshire polls this year.

Then you have the Politico/Morning Consult poll.  While Biden is at 33% in that poll, Sanders is a solid second place at 20%, well ahead of Warren at 12%.  Again, no other candidates are in double figures.

Media types for months have been touting the "surging" Warren candidacy, a claim that is usually accompanied by a contention that Sanders' prospects are floundering.  In the real world, the polls don't show much of that going on at all.  They show only a modest few point gain for Warren during the past several months and Sanders losing little of his supporters to Warren or anyone else.

What I find most interesting is that, despite overwhelming positive media coverage, Warren doesn't appear to be gaining much.  Meanwhile, Sanders' supporters continue to feel the Bern.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

After Trump, America Needs a Nap; Polls Show "Sleepy Joe" Recovered From June Debate Performance

Joe Biden
A few months ago, President Donald Trump coined the nickname "Sleepy Joe" for Joe Biden.  Trump meant it as an insult, that the former Vice President could not match the frenetic, constant news-making that has been the hallmark of the Trump administration.  Meanwhile, Biden's Democratic opponents for President make a similar, albeit more polite, claim.  They advocate for polices that greatly expand the size and role of government.  They argue the 76 year old Biden can't provide the energetic change voters want.

And they would be wrong.  Americans aren't clamoring for new expansive government programs that takes the country closer to socialism.  Americans aren't looking for an energetic leader who leads an administration that is constantly in action, or in Trump's case, turmoil.  Instead Americans are looking for solitude, peace and quiet, a return to normalcy, decency and civility. Not only has the time for Biden to be President not passed him by, this may well be the perfect time for his brand of politics.  After Trump, America needs a nap.

***                         ***                      ***                ***

The polls, even among Democratic partisans, seem to confirm that.  Following July's debate, Biden's poll numbers slipped while California Sen. Kamala Harris, who attacked Biden over his opposition to forced busing (not sure when busing became popular even among "progressives"), gained traction.  A month later, the numbers have reverted to their pre-debate status.  Three polls released today (Emerson, Politico/Morning Consult, The Hill/Harris X) have Biden at 33, 33 and 34 respectively.   Quinnipiac's poll, released yesterday, has Biden at 34.

But Biden's numbers are not the only ones that reverted to the previous norm.  Let's look at the result for the second tier candidates in the Emerson, Politico/Morning Consult, The Hill/Harris X, and Quinnipiac polls:

Sanders: 20, 18, 20, 11
Warren: 14, 13, 12, 15
Harris:  11, 12, 9, 12

Political commentators continue to peddle the narrative that support for Sen. Elizabeth Warren is growing.  The polls just do not show that.  Warren's poll numbers are stagnant and have even dipped some in July.  Harris, meanwhile, is once again struggling to hit double figures.

Although Sen. Bernie Sanders' political obituary has been written by those numerous analysts touting Warren, the fact remains that Sanders remains a modest few points ahead of Warren in virtually every poll.  The good news for Sanders is that he is fending off the challenge from Warren.  The bad news is he appears to have a solid ceiling on his support even among hard core Democratic partisans. 

The nature of news coverage is to promote conflict and to make political races seem more competitive than they actually are.  No doubt the coverage from this week' debate will feature prominently at least one "break out candidate" (remember how Julian Castro was crowned a debate "winner" and new star; his 1% in numerous polls say otherwise), as well as perceived debate winners and losers.  And polls may, briefly, show movement from the debate.  I'm just not convinced there will be a significant long-term change in the polls from this week's debate. 

Bottom line is the Democratic electorate wants to nominate the most electable Democrat and that person is "Sleepy Joe" Biden.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Challenging the Absurd Notion that Donald Trump is a "Patriot" Fighting for American Values

The news the last few days has focused on President Trump's "Go Back" tweet and its aftermath.  To recap, Trump tweeted that four female Democratic members of Congress, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashia Tlaib of Michigan, should go back to their country of origin if they are going to criticize American policies.  Three of the four women Trump targeted are natural born U.S. citizens.  The fourth, Omar, was a Somalian who became an American citizen via the naturalization process, i.e. the legal way which
Trumpers claim to support.

Since the initial tweet, , Trump has doubled down on his attack, attempting to recast his comment more about "The Squad's" supposed lack of patriotism rather than the young women's ethnicity/race.  All four of the women, as AOC often remind us, are "women of color."

Historically, the"go back" slur was employed by white supremacists to demonize African-Americans who fought the status quo of segregation.  So, naturally,  the mainstream media immediately discussed ad nauseam whether Trump's tweet was evidence of his being a racist.  A secondary media focus has been whether the Trump attack is part of a clever campaign strategy by the President as he pushes toward re-election in 2020.

Let me address both of those points.  Of course, Trump, is a racist.  Anyone who has studied Trump's long history in New York, beginning in the 1970s when Trump and his father would redline New York apartment complexes to prevent blacks from moving in, knows the disdain Trump holds for non-whites.  In Trump's defense, he is no doubt a bigger sexist than he is a racist.  Is that a defense?

I get the bigger chuckle out of the nonsense that Trump's "send them back" rhetoric is part of some grand re-election strategy.  Really?  When this started, members of "The Squad" (which may be the worst political nickname ever) were fighting with Speaker Nancy Pelosi who they accused of being against them as "women of color."  That was just a microcosm of a larger battle within the Democratic Party between those who want the party to move to the left and those who advocate a more moderate, and presumably, electable approach. Trump's rhetoric ended Democratic infighting and reunited the party.

But "Send Them Back" motivates Trump's base we are told and, thus, is great strategy!   But Trump's cultish followers are already fully motivated and, no doubt, will be turning out in droves in 2020.  Trump's rhetoric doesn't change that dynamic.  No, what Trump's comments did is motivate Democrats to turn out and drive suburban Republicans away from supporting the GOP.  Trump tried nativist, xenophobic attacks in 2018 and that worked out very badly for the GOP which experienced historic losses in that election.

The assumption for the "Send Them Back" attack, that our President is a patriot who is fighting for our country, is absurd.  As candidate and President, Trump has expressed open hostility to the notion of the rule of law, free speech, law enforcement, separation of powers and checks and balances, an independent judiciary, the independence of the Justice Department, a free press, etc. Trump routinely mocks the notion of America being a beacon of freedom around the world and has turned his back on defending human rights.  He has attacked American allies while giving aid and comfort to America's enemies, even the most ruthless dictators who routinely kill political opponents and journalists.  And let's not forget that Donald J. Trump openly courted and accepted the assistance of a hostile foreign power to win an American election, and has pledged to do so again.

The notion that Trump is a "patriot" is laughable.  Being older, I recall Jane Fonda attacking the United States during a visit to North Vietnam.  Like, "Hanoi Jane" Trump has displayed open hostility toward American values and institutions, far more than those four members of Congress he says need to leave the country.   Trump is not a patriot. Far from it.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Senator Kamala Harris Rewrites the History of Forced Busing in Disingenuous Attack on VP Biden

The issue of forced busing as a remedy for racial segregation is an issue I remember well growing up in the 1970s.  In fact, that was the first issue I tackled as a political commentator when I, as a high school Freshman, wrote a paper in support of busing.  Faced with the constant onslaught of negative stories about the effects of busing, my position soon thereafter evolved to opposition.  

But the fight over busing remains scorched in my memory.  As a result, I was floored when presidential candidate California Senator Kamala Harris decided to make Vice President Joe Biden's opposition to
Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA)
forced busing an issue that proves he's out of step with public opinion, at least public opinion in the Democratic Party.   Senator Harris is only a few years younger than me.  Does she not remember how unpopular forced busing was back then, even among African-Americans?

In 1973, the same year Joe Biden entered the Senate Gallup asked Americans if they supported busing school children from one neighborhood to another as a way of desegregate schools.  Only 4% of Americans supported that position.  Busing wasn't popular with African-Americans either.  Only 9% of black Americans said they supported busing. Over a quarter century later, in 1999, a poll by Gallup found that only 15% of the respondents supported transferring students from their home school as a remedy for segregation.. 

With the issue of busing well in the rear view mirror, politicians like Harris are free to rewrite, and grossly misrepresent, the history surrounding this contentious issue.  Busing never resolved the issue of segregated schools that were a result of segregated, by law (de jure) or by choice (de facto), neighborhoods.  Further, it had the effect of undermining and tearing apart families.  In opposing forced busing and supporting alternatives remedies, Biden was simply representing the wishes of an overwhelming percentage of his constituents.

Senator Harris used the busing issue, and her own personal narrative about her being sent to a better school outside her neighborhood, to imply that Biden was opposed to school desegregation. Nothing could be further from the truth.  Ironically, a remedy that does address the problem of segregated schools, school choice, i.e. allowing students to attend schools outside their home school districts, is vehemently opposed by most Democratic politicians, including probably Harris.

Fortunately for Senator Harris, most people under the age of 50, do not know the history of busing as failed (and highly unpopular) social policy.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Media Declares Elizabeth Warren is Surging!; Polls Say Otherwise

Listen to any of the news outlets and you will come away with the conclusion that Sen. Elizabeth Warren is surging in the polls in the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination.. It is such a constant narrative that I decided to take a look at the polls to see if it is true.

Today (6/20)
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts)
Economist/YouGov:  Biden 26, Warren 16, Sanders 12, Buttigieg 9, Harris 7

Monmouth:  Biden 32, Warren 15, Sanders 14, Harris 8, Buttigieg 5
USA Today/Suffolk:  Biden 30, Sanders 15, Warren 10, Buttigieg 9, Harris 8

Tuesday (6/18)
Politico/Morning Consult:  Biden 38, Sanders 19, Warren 11, Harris 7, Buttigieg 7

Monday (6/17)
The Hill/Harris X:  Biden 35, Sanders 13, Warren 7, O'Rourke 6, Harris 5, Buttigieg 4

Sunday (6/16)
Fox News:  Biden 32, Sanders 13, Warren 9, Harris 8, Buttigieg 8

Tuesday (6/11)
Quinnipiac:  Biden 30, Sanders 19, Warren 15, Buttigieg 8, Harris 7
Politico/Morning Consult:  Biden 37, Sanders 19, Warren 11, Harris 7, Buttigieg 7

In February, Warren was polling in the high single digits.  Now, four months later, post-surge, her RealClearPolitics polling average is 11.9.   Yes, her polling numbers have improved. But a surge?  Hardly. 

As an aside, the state polls show similar results.. Probably most remarkable, and significant, are the most recent polls in Warren's home state of Massachusetts and nearby New Hampshire.

Sunday (6/16) New Hampshire
CBS News/YouGov:  Biden 33, Sanders 20, Warren 17, Buttigieg 10, Harris 7

Sunday (6/9)
Boston Globe/Suffolk:  Biden 22, Warren 10, Buttigieg 8, Sanders 6, Harris 5

So Warren is far behind in her home state and is running third in New Hampshire, which has the all important, first-in-the-nation, primary.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Democratic Presidential Candidates Compete for Second Place; Vote Gravel!

I have never bought the conventional wisdom that the Democratic presidential nomination is wide open.  Barring a health crisis, former VP Joe Biden will win.  The debates and early state caucus/elections are more about auditions to be Biden's running mate than picking a nominee.  My money on that score is on California Senator Kamala Harris with my backup choice Minnesota Senator Amy Klobachur.  While I'm not sure who Biden would pick, I can guarantee his running mate won't be a white male.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is driving in the same lane as her Vermont counterpart from the Senate, Bernie Sanders.  One will eventually run the other off the road.  I think Warren wins that.  She has the same socialist polices as Bernie without the gruff personality.  Plus, she's a woman, which
Former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel
is a major bonus with Democratic voters.

In a field dominated by third and fourth tier candidates struggling to break 1%, Harris and Warren stand out as solid second tier candidates.  But I don't see either as ever displacing Biden.  Neither are seen as electable as Biden.  But more importantly, they are not even winning their home states in the polls.  A California poll released yesterday has Harris in 4th place in her home state, with just 13%. (Warren in the California poll is actually second in that state with 19%.)   A Massachusetts poll earlier this week, had Warren in second, but with only 10%.  Biden led the poll in both states.

Meanwhile, former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg are attempting to drive in the same lane.  (Sorry for continuing to use that tired metaphor.)  O'Rourke is barely a second tier candidate.  At his rallies, O'Rourke appears to be desperately trying to channel President John Kennedy and that schtick is not selling nationally like it did in Texas.  "Mayor Pete," meanwhile, has been the most impressive candidate on the campaign trail.  He has displayed a temperament and intellect that is a wonderful contrast to President Trump.  Buttigieg also has a great resume, including military service that contrasts nicely with Donald "Bone Spurs" Trump.  I do have doubts about his ability to transition after a primary to run a general election, but of all the candidates who could break through and displace Biden as the nominee, my money would be on Buttigieg.

While there are some excellent candidates in the third tier, I think the odds of one of those candidates breaking from the back of the pack and sprinting by Biden are long.  (See, I changed metaphors - horse racing!)  But one of them, not sure which one, will eventually have a moment and move up into the second tier.  But "a moment" among the leaders is all they are likely to have. 

In short, I don't think the Democratic nomination is as wide open as people think it is.

I do note the newest entry into the Democratic race, former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel (gruh - vel').  Gravel has led a very interesting life.  No candidate, not even Biden, can match his personal, professional and political experience...which is not surprising since he's 89 years old.  Gravel is also known for the greatest political commercial ever made.

Vote Gravel!

Thursday, June 13, 2019

How Far Left Will Biden Be Pushed on Abortion?

Former Vice President Joe Biden
Ask any of the gazillion Democrats running for President about abortion and they will tell you the issue is simple.  It's about "women's health care," they declare.  The more extreme Democratic presidential candidates repeat the nonsense, ad nauseum, that opponents of abortion are "just men wanting control women's bodies."   Of course, about 50% of the people who oppose abortion rights are women. Never mind that there is no logical reason that men or women against abortion hold that position because they want to "control women's bodies."  The issue has to be more complicated than that.

And it is.  Despite the rhetoric of the left, the reason there are so many people opposed to abortion rights is that they see the fetus as a living, growing human being.  And medical science certainly backs up that position. 

No doubt that those on the pro choice side are rightly concerned about a woman's autonomy and the need to control her body.  But they are off base when they pretend abortion is not more complicated than that.  There is indisputably a human being growing inside a pregnant woman. That's why the issue is complex and difficult.

As a side note, don't get me started on polls which proclaim overwhelming support for Roe v. Wade.  99% of the public couldn't tell you what the holding of Roe v. Wade is.  That is proven over and over again with polls which show strong majorities do not support abortions that are perfectly legal under Roe.

Enter in the current debate former Vice President Joe Biden.  Biden is hardly a moderate on abortion.  But he seemed, at least, to recognize the legitimacy of the pro life position, even if it rarely impacted his actions as a public official.  But one area where Biden did not have an extreme pro choice position was on the issue of public funding of abortion.  He supported the Hyde amendment, a long holding compromise between the pro-choice and pro-life sides which essentially banned public funding of abortion.  s.

Last week, Biden changed his position on the Hyde Amendment.  He now supports not only abortion on demand until at least viability (more on that in a second) but that taxpayers should have to pay for those abortions.  (The Hyde amendment has the standard exception for rape, incest, life of the mother.)  To say that is an extreme position insulting to those who have grave reservations about abortion, is to be generous.  But that extreme position is the one held by all the other Democratic candidates running for President.

Was it a wise move politically?  There have always been s a significant number of Democratic-leaning voters who are pro life. One poll I saw showed about 30% of Democratic-leaning voters support the Hyde Amendment.  Now those Democrats will not have a primary candidate representing their view.  Biden abandoned those voters in favor of making his position indistinguishable from the other Democrats.  The idea behind the Biden switch no doubt was to deny his Democratic opponents a wedge issue. That switch though opens up the issue of electoral integrity, i.e. is a candidate switching his or her position solely out of political expediency?  Despite protestations to the contrary from the Biden camp, the answer is clearly "yes."

I should clarify:  political expediency for the primary round. There is little doubt that Biden's position against the Hyde Amendment, which is supported by a strong majority of voters, is harmful to his chances as a general election candidate.  No doubt, Trump will bludgeon Biden or what other Democrat is nominated, with the extreme position that taxpayers should be forced to pay for what many view as a morally repugnant procedure that ends a human life.

But for Biden, his abortion capitulation is unlikely to end there.  Next up will be the issue of third trimester abortion and the subset of those late stage abortions, partial birth abortions.  (Yes, partial birth abortion is a real thing and I won't go into the gruesome details over why that descriptive term is used.)   While Roe v. Wade provided for a constitutional right to abortion on demand through six months, the then assumed point of viability (which was altered by Planned Parenthood v. Casey), Roe allows states to ban abortion during the third trimester (except for threats to the health of the mother.)  But that is a policy choice made by legislative bodies.  In the stampede to the left, will all Democratic presidential candidates, including Biden, sign on to this expansion of Roe?  According to my Magic Eight Ball the "signs point to yes."

On the right, Republicans fall into the political quicksand when they adopt pro-life laws that don't have the highly popular traditional rape, incest and life of the mother exceptions. Collectively those amount to something like 1% of the abortions performed.  While I'm aware of and sympathetic to the argument that "all life is precious" for not including the rape and incest exceptions, it does not seem wise to throw the 99% away because you are fighting for the 100%.

Likewise, third trimester abortions are highly unpopular.  They too are rare, making up to about 1% of the abortions performed.    Do the Democrats really want to make the abortion battle about defending the highly unpopular 1% instead of the 99% of abortions performed during first and second trimesters?

Pushing Biden to the left on abortion did him, and the Democratic Party, no favors.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Indy Welcomes All, Indy Pride...Not So Much

I've been watching with amusement the interactions between Indianapolis Republican Mayoral Candidate Jim Merritt and the folks at Indy Pride.  This is how Indy Pride, Inc. describes itself on its website:
Indy Pride, Inc. produces events which educate, honor our history, and celebrate the diversity of the Indianapolis Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer community. We exist to unite and serve our members and the LGBTQ+ community of Central Indiana through leadership development, educational programs, and community events which achieve inclusivity, equality, strong community connections, and awareness of LGBTQ+ issues.
When the Indiana General Assembly a few years ago was considering adopting the the Religious
Freedom Restoration Act,  Many organizations responded with horror.  RFRA would allow discrimination against LGBTQ individuals, we were, wrongly, told.  Locally, groups like Indy Pride pushed the city's businesses to adopt the slogan "Indy Welcomes All." 

Indy Pride sponsors an annual parade in Indianapolis which is set to take place this Saturday.

When Senator Merritt announced he would walk in the Indy Pride parade this weekend in support of LGBTQ rights (as a private citizen rather than a mayoral candidate, not sure there's a huge difference with that), Indy Pride Executive Director Chris Handberg responded that Merritt was "not welcome" at the event.  I kid you not...he actually used tho

Of course, the slogan always had a phony ring.  You are "welcome" if you share a particular position on LGTBQ issues.  If you don't, or God forbid, you dare to practice a religious faith that doesn't reflect the politically correct positions on LGTBQ issues, you are NOT welcome.  If there was any doubt about the hypocrisy of Indy Pride teach tolerance while practicing intolerance, Handberg's actions, which were spurred by complaints from those in and allied with his organization, proved that beyond doubt.

Breaking news is that Senator Merritt today issued a new press release announcing he won't be walking in the parade after all.  In the lengthy statement, Senator Merritt continued his attempt to pander to the LGBTQ community by throwing conservatives and those who believe in religious freedom under the bus.  In the release, Merritt said he didn't know at the time of his vote for RFRA that it could be used to discriminate against the LGBTQ community and cited his later vote for the RFRA "fix" (which didn't actually do anything from a legal standpoint by the way.)
Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis)

So, Senator Merritt, RFRA can be used to discriminate based on sexual orientation?    Name ONE example in which RFRA has been used to deny goods or services based on sexual orientation.

Over 30 states, by statute or judicial decision, have RFRA. Having read every federal and state judicial decision that mentioned those RFRAs, I can't find a single one where the religious freedom law was used to allow a business owner to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. 

After RFRA passed, I was at a legal seminar discussing the law.  An ACLU attorney who was on the panel agreed that RFRA is simply irrelevant to the issue of business owners discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation...that the only thing that matters is whether the jurisdiction has a civil rights law that includes sexual orientation.  Exactly.  Even in those jurisdictions that don't have such a civil rights law protecting sexual orientation, anyone can discriminate with or without RFRA. Again, RFRA is irrelevant to the issue of discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Although not an attorney, Merritt has to know that his newly learned information RFRA can be used to discriminate based on sexual orientation is as bogus as a three dollar bill.  Indy Pride can legitimately complain about Merritt's position on LGBTQ rights, but its the lack of support for a civil rights law which includes sexual orientation they should be complaining about, not his support for RFRA. 

If the folks at Indy Pride were smart and honestly believed the "Indy Welcomes All" slogan they promoted since the RFRA debate, Indy Pride would have welcomed Senator Merritt and used it as a opportunity to educate him about LGTBQ issues.  But Indy Pride needs to stop misrepresenting what RFRA did.  Indy Pride's complaint is about the lack of a civil rights law protecting sexual orientation..  The organization needs to stop distracting from that agenda with unwarranted attacks on religious freedom.

Early Polls Show Trump and GOP Face Possibility of Landslide Electoral Loss in 2020

As I've pointed out on these pages before, Donald Trump is not a strong general election candidate.  Even though he faced the most unpopular Democratic candidate in history, Trump still lost the popular vote and only won the electoral college vote by a very narrow margin. If just 39,000 people in three states (Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania) had switched their vote from Trump to his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton would be in the White House.

Former Vice President Joe Biden
Looking at the 2016 results, one finds that scores of GOP congressional candidates across the country did better than Trump at the polls.  (Indiana was a notable exception to this.)  Trump's win was not based so much on traditional Democrats switching to Republican, but that GOP-leaning turnout being juiced thanks in no small part because of Trump being on the ballot.  Meanwhile, Democrats, dissatisfied with their candidate, stayed home. 

Trump's performance in office has changed that 2016 dynamic.  While the GOP voters remain energized, now Democratic-leaning voters, wanting to send a message to the President, are as well.  In 2018, we had the opportunity to see what happens in the rare election in which both sides are energized.  The result was an historic Democratic victory, winning a, net, 40 seats in the U.S. House.

How bad can 2020  be for Trump and Republicans.  ?  Let's look at some of the state polling:

Texas:   In 2016, Trump beat Hillary by 9 points in Texas.  (By way of comparison, the GOP candidate for State Railroad Commissioner won by 15%).   A Quinnipiac poll released yesterday has former Vice President Joe Biden beating Trump by 4% in Texas.  All the other Democratic candidates poll in the head-to-head contest with President Trump trailed by less than 4 points, well within the margin of error.  Lest anyone think the Quinnipiac Texas poll is an aberration, a late April poll of Texas voters also showed Biden beating Trump by one point in the Lone Star State. 

North Carolina:  Trump won the state by 3.6% in 2016.  In a poll, just released, Biden beats Trump in the Tar Heel state by 11%.  Sanders is up by 8%.  Even South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg leads Trump by 4 points in North Carolina.

Florida:  Trump won the state in 2016 by 1.2%.  He remains surprisingly popular in the Sunshine State two years later.  A May poll shows Biden only running even with Trump.

Pennsylvania:  Trump won this critical state in 2016 by less than 1% of the vote.  A mid-May poll has Biden up 11 points in the Keystone State.  Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is up by 8 and Sanders up by 7.  In fact every Democratic presidential candidate the pollster asked about leads Trump in Pennsylvania except for former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke.

Arizona:  Trump won the state by 3.6% in 2016.  An early May poll shows Biden ahead by 5 points.

Nevada:  Trump lost the state by 2.4% in 2016.  But Biden's lead in a 3/31 poll is only 4 points.  This is an example of a 2016 blue state that the GOP should probably target.  

Iowa:  Although the Hawkeye State is ideally suited for Trump (heavily white and rural) and Trump won by over 9.5 points in 2016, he polls as down to Biden by 6 points.  The same March 25th poll has even Sanders leading (by 2 points) Trump in Iowa.

Wisconsin:  Along with Michigan and Pennsylvania, Wisconsin was a critical victory for Trump in 2016.  He won the state by about .7% of the vote.  In a March poll, Biden beats Trump by 8 points in the Badger State, while Warren and Sanders lead by 4.   In fact, all of the Democratic presidential candidates polll ahead of Trump in Wisconsin.

Michigan:  The closest state in the 2016 election, Trump won Michigan by .23%.  But a poll just released yesterday shows Biden and Sanders beating Trump by 12 points in Michigan.  March polls show Trump trailing badly in the state, with Biden up 8 points, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar ahead by 6 points, Sanders up by 5.  No Democratic presidential candidate polled as running behind Trump.  Even Buttigieg polls ahead of Trump by 6 points in Michigan.

New Hampshire:  Trump lost the state by .37% in 2016 and it is apparently being targeted by the GOP for pickup in 2020.  But February polling show Biden and Sanders both beating Trump by 10 points in 2016.

If you take how the swing states are currently polling (as outlined above), a Joe Biden would defeat President Trump 348-190 in the electoral college.  That's assuming that Florida, which currently polls as even, is won by Trump.  There are other red states - Ohio and Georgia, for example - which are well within striking district for Democrats.

Undoubtedly the Trump cult will call the polls "fake news" and claim that 2016 election results show how wrong the polls were that year.  Except that the polls in 2016 weren't wrong  In every swing state, the election result for that state was within the margin of error in the Real Clear Politics average.  (Wisconsin with a spread of 7.2% was by far the closest to being outside of the MOE.)  To clarify, contrary to how it is reported, the MOE in polling is not the margin between two competing candidates' numbers but rather a statistical aberration for each candidates' poll numbers.  Thus, in a two candidate race a 4 point MOE provides for a possible 8 point swing.

Of course, polls can change. After all, despite the unpopularity of Presidents Reagan, Clinton and Obama at their first mid-term, all ended up with big re-election victories.  So there is a possibility that Trump's popularity could increase and he could win a big re-election in 2020.  But what militates against that happening is that unlike the fluid approval numbers Reagan, Clinton and Obama had, Trump's numbers appear to be set in stone.  Trump's approval numbers have barely moved in two years.  People seem to have made up their minds about Trump early on and nothing seems to be changing that.  Perhaps independent voters would punish Democrats pushing impeach by voting for Trump to have a second term, but that seems like a long shot at best.  

A side note:  A recent story noted the Trump campaign's acknowledgement of the shifting map and the decision by the President's team to target certain Democratic states to offset those rust belt states he turned red in 2016 but are likely to go back to the Democrats in 2020.  The states being targeted are New Hampshire, New Mexico and Nevada.  Odd.  First, those states together have just 15 electoral votes while Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, key states Trump won in 2016, have a total of 46 electoral votes.  There is no chance the Trump campaign is competitive in New Mexico and a win in New Hampshire is unlikely due to Trump's unpopularity there.  Nevada is definitely in play for Trump, but how is Minnesota not on the Trump list of blue states that can be turned red?

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Red State = (Intellectually) Dead State; Why I'm Removing Formerly Influential Conservative Website From Blog Roll

I'm working on updating my blog rolls.  Sadly we've had a number of highly quality local bloggers who have ceased blogging.  I'm going through deleting the feeds on that.  I hope to get find some more local political blogs to feature on the roll.  One blog I can't bring myself to delete yet is the most legendary local political blog of them all - the late Gary Welsh's Advance Indiana.  He was so good at writing on local and state politics.  I surely miss him.

On the other side of the OgdenonPolitics website is a roll of national political and legal websites.  While most of those blogs are still churning out articles, I note one active site that I am removing
from the roll - the once highly regarded (at least in conservative circles) Red State.

Founded by conservative activist Eric Erickson who a few years ago moved on to other ventures, Red State used to be a highly regarded blog featuring intellectuals articulating conservative positions.  No more.  Post-Erickson, Red State editors pushed out the door conservative writers who were not 100% supportive of all things Trump.   Many of the current Red State bloggers write anonymously, using pseudonyms such as streiff (lower case is not a typo), Sister Toldjah (get it?), Bonchie and TLaDuke.  The Red State articles of today are poorly written and offer little more than clownish sniping about "liberals" and the "deep state."  The one consistent feature of the current Red State is that the blog's writers promote Trump talking points 100% of the time.  Bloggers at Red State are not allowed to dissent from the pro-Trump Red State line.

Nor is dissent from Trumpism allowed from Red State readers.  I experienced first-hand Red State's penchant for suppressing dissent when I was personally banned after writing a comment critical of one Red State author's pro-Trump position.  I wrote to Red State several times asking for an explanation as to why I was banned.  Red State's editors wouldn't even acknowledge my request.  I finally established a new Red State account so I could comment again.  That worked until I dared to pen another comment critical of a pro-Trump Red State piece.  Banned again. I tried, once more, to get an explanation from Red State for the ban, but those requests were again met with silence.

So I 've decided to drop Red State from the OgdenonPolitics blog role.  In its place, I've added two:  Erickson's new blog "The Resurgant." as well as my personal favorite "The Bulwark."  Both are excellent sources of information.

Other changes will be coming.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

University of Oklahoma for Two Decades Submitted False Data for U.S. News and World Report College Rankings

If anyone thinks the University of Oklahoma is the only higher education institution doing this, I have a bridge to sell you:
(CNN)The company that makes the annual Best Colleges rankings said that the University of Oklahoma gave "inflated" data on its alumni giving rates for two decades. 
U.S. News and World Report, which produces the coveted Best Colleges said Oklahoma would be listed as unranked in its 2019 edition because of the false data, which stretched back to 1999.
For the 2019 Best Colleges rankings, the university originally said its two-year alumni giving rate was 14% but later informed U.S. News that the correct number is 9.7%, the magazine said. 
The false data affected Oklahoma's placement in the national universities, best value schools, top public schools, best colleges for veterans and A-plus schools for B students rankings and lists, U.S. News said. 
The rankings are based largely on data provided by the universities, such as graduation rates, class sizes and standardized test scores of students. Alumni giving rates make up 5% of the rankings formula because "giving measures student satisfaction and post-graduate engagement," U.S. News writes in its methodology.
    The trouble has always been that there is no good audit mechanism for ascertaining the honesty of the data submitted by these colleges and universities. Combine that lack of oversight with a tremendous competitive pressure for the schools to submit data that makes them look good and you have a recipe for fudging the numbers.

    I went through a similar thing when I tried to get information to support the employment claims of my alma mater, Indiana University School of Law at Indianapolis (now, unfortunately, called the "McKinney School of Law").  I wrote about it on this blog 10 years ago:

    Part of the rankings of law schools is based on employment numbers of graduates, both the average salary and the level of employment. Law schools have for years gone back and forth competing to see who can phony the employment numbers the most. If you want a good laugh, go to a practicing attorney and tell the attorney what the law school is claiming regarding first year salaries and unemployment figures.
    My alma mater? Indiana University School of Law - Indianapolis claims in their 2007 report that over 96% of graduates have a full-time job within 9 months and the average salary for a first year attorney in Indianapolis makes an average of $75,000 a year. Wow. That sounds pretty good.
    You have lies, damn lies, and then you have the employment statistics provided by law schools. Unfortunately too many people read those numbers and believe them rather than talk to actual practicing attorneys about what the job market is really like. Those law students borrow tons of money, sometimes in six digits, only to graduate finding jobs that pay $35,000 a year, that is assuming the new lawyer is lucky enough to even find a job. Law school debt is non-dischargeable in bankruptcy so the graduate is going to have that noose of debt around his or her neck for quite some time.
    Several years ago, I asked for open records requests from IU-Indy regarding the data used to back up the employment numbers claimed by the school. IU refused to provide the documents - surveys of attorneys - claiming they are confidential. The objection was over broad...all the school had to do was redact the confidential information on the document.
    Unfortunately, there is no audit of the data used by law schools to arrive at their employment numbers. The American Bar Association and U.S. News & World Report simply accept the phony numbers as valid. Any law school not playing the game of submitting inflated employment numbers is destined to see their school fall in the rankings.

    The law school employment statistics are based on surveys sent to graduates 9 months after leaving law school school.  I remember during my attempt to get redacted versions of those surveys several years ago that a university official said that when graduates don't return their survey, Indiana University estimates the former students' salary for the report.   Not had that confirmed by others.  How the university uses the surveys to develop the stats submitted to the ABA  is a closely guarded secret.

    Since I wrote the above piece in 2009, the ABA has changed the way law school employment data has been reported.  One change is that more employment categories have been created in an attempt to clarify the actual value of a J.D. in securing employment. Formerly, law schools were claiming credit for graduates who were working non-legal jobs for which the J.D. was of no help.   This included law school graduates working retail and at fast food establishments. 

    In preparing this story, I also looked at the 2018 Indiana University at Indianapolis Law School employment report.  In it I do not see the average salaries of recent law school graduates listed anymore.  Not sure if that is reported elsewhere.  If the posting of these fake average salaries has ceased, then that would certainly be a positive development.  Law schools have been years lying to prospective students about the employment prospects and salaries they can expect upon graduation.

    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.