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
Republican.

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.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Uncounted Provisional, Absentee Ballots Provide Opportunity for Democrat to Win Ohio Special Election After All

Yesterday I wrote an article on the special congressional district race in Ohio in which I said GOP candidate Troy Balderson "appears" to have narrowly edged out the Democrat Danny O'Connor in a heavily Republican district located near Columbus, Ohio.   On election night, Balderson's lead was over 1,700 votes, giving him a nearly 1% edge on his opponent.  If the margin is less than .5% then under Ohio law an automatic recount is triggered. The speculation was whether the uncounted
Franklin County Recorder Danny O'Connor
provisional and absentee ballots might be enough to kick the race into recount territory which Balderson would like to avoid.

It "appears" now that a recount may be the least of Balderson's fears.  First, Franklin County, home to Columbus, Ohio, discovered some uncounted ballots which, when counted, narrowed Balderson's election night lead of 1,754 to 1,564.   Then there remains 5,048 absentee ballots and 3,435 provisional ballots to count.  The latter ballots are from people who do not appear on the voter registration rolls, but who are willing to sign an affidavit saying they are eligible to vote.  If just 59% of those 8,481 ballots break for the Democrat - which is quite possible given the enthusiasm gap favoring the Democrats in the district - O'Connor wins the election by 77 votes.

While I am not sure how many provisional ballots are typically cast in Ohio congressional races, the figure of 3,435 seems extraordinarily high.  What you are likely to see - if the winner ultimately "appears" to be O'Connor after counting these additional votes - are Republican attorneys challenging the provisional ballots that put the Democrat over the top.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Ohio Special Election Results Confirm Almost Certain Blue Wave This November

Yesterday, the special election in Ohio Congressional District 12 provided yet more evidence that a blue wave is coming this fall.   In results from last night, it appears that Republican Troy Balderson will narrowly defeat Democrat Danny O'Connor.  The final result depends on absentee and provisional ballots, but Balderson will likely win by a few hundred votes when all ballots are tallied.

Ohio District 12 is a heavy Republican district which has been held by the GOP since 1980.  Republican Pat Tiberi won the district by nearly 37 points in 2016.  Tiberi ran far ahead of Donald Trump who won the district by 10 points.  Then in 2018, Balderson wins it for the GOP again, but this
time with less than a 1% margin. 

Over at Fox News, a political analyst (I use that term charitably) declares the result of the Balderson-O'Connor contest to be a sign there will be no blue wave this fall and the positive impact of Donald Trump's last minute visit had on Balderson's victory.  Of course, that's crap political analysis.  Ohio District 12 was competitive in the special election for one reason and one reason only:  Donald J. Trump.

Supposedly Balderson was cringing about Trump's last minute visit to the district, which no doubt ginned up the Democratic opposition to his candidacy much more than it motivated Trump Republicans.  Fortunately for Balderson, he also had the endorsement of a politician in Ohio who. unlike Trump, is actually popular with general election voters, Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich who also used to represent the district in Congress.  On election night, Balderson thanked Trump, but neglected to mention Kasich's support which no doubt was much more helpful in securing the narrow victory.  Not smart since Balderson will need Kasich's support to win in the remtach set for November.

Taking a closer look at the county-by-county vote in Ohio 12 is noteworthy.  The Franklin County portion of the district, the northern suburbs of Columbus, Ohio, went heavily for the Democrat in contrast to recent history.  Delaware County, the wealthy suburban county immediately north of Franklin County, used to vote heavily for Republicans and gave Tiberia 72% of the vote in 2016.  In the special election though, Balderson only received 54%of the vote in Franklin County

In politic prognostication, the margin of election victories matter.  When heavily Republican districts are barely being won by the GOP, that means there are a whole slew of closer districts which will not not survive the blue wave that only a fool does not see is coming.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Majority of People Supports Roe v. Wade...Or Do They?

Yesterday I tuned into the Morning Joe political show.  The discussion focused on the newly-appointed, not yet confirmed, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.  The hosts put up a new NBC / Wall Street Journal poll which showed 71% of the people were against reversing Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that established a constitutional right to abortion.  

As is typical with the media, these "Do you support Roe v. Wade" poll results were accepted as proof
that the pro-life position on abortion is highly unpopular and it is a winning political issue for Democrats who skew heavily pro-choice.  Of course, that overlooks the fact that the pro-life Republican Party have been beating the Democrats at the ballot box us using the abortion issue for 40 plus years.  But let's not confuse left-leaning journalists with facts.

NBC News reporter Heidi Przybyla appearing  Morning Joe program said the notion that Roe established "abortion on demand" is simply a false anti-abortion rights talking point  She then decried the possibility, if Kavanaugh is confirmed, that, even if Roe is not overturned, there will be a continued chipping away of abortion rights with the court allowing states to enact restrictions.

The "abortion on demand" language may be a pro-life talking point but that does not make it false.  In 1973, the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade did read into the Constitution a sweeping right to abortion that included unfettered abortion on demand during the first two trimesters of pregnancy.  In 1992, Planned Parenthood v. Casey reaffirmed Roe v. Wade, modifying its holding only slightly by replacing the artificial second trimester cutoff point, which no longer approximately reflected viability which had moved to an earlier point due to medical science advances.  Casey did allow states to enact more regulations on abortion prior to viability, but only if those regulations did not impose and "undue burden" on the right of a woman to seek an abortion.  That means government cannot place "substantial obstacles" that result in any woman wanting an abortion being able to get one. 

Since 1973, states have tried to pass laws regulating the abortion procedure. Most of these laws are highly popular with  the public, but they have been struck down as not being permitted under Roe/Casey.    Let's examine some of the latest (May 2018) Gallup polling on abortion.
Abortion should be legal under all circumstances: 29%
Abortion should be legal under most circumstances:  14%
Abortion should be legal only in a few circumstances: 35% 
Abortion should be illegal in all circumstances:  18%
Should abortion be legal in the first trimester:   60% yes, 34% no.
Should abortion be legal in the second trimester: 28% yes, 65% no.Should abortion be legal in the third trimester:  13% yes, 81% no 
Should abortion be legal "when the woman doesn't want the child for any reason":  46% yes, 53% no 
Other measures requiring parental consent and informed consent laws are also quite popular although those poll questions were more dated.
The highlighted responses are completely contradicted by the actually holding of Roe v. Wade.  So then why is Roe so popular?  

Simple.  It is because the general public does not know the sweeping abortion rights Roe v. Wade establishes as required by the Constitution.  No doubt those people answering the polls think the decision only provides a very limited right to abortion,.  

That Roe v. Wade, the one establishing only a limited right to abortion, is the one they want upheld.  Unfortunately, that is not the real holding of Roe v. Wade.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

In Declaring Support for Trump, Indianapolis Star Cartoonist Confuses Trumpism With Conservativism

Let me just say that  I am long a fan of Indianapolis Star cartoonist Gary Varvel's work.  In an era in which our local paper has shrunk in size, importance and quality, the Star has managed to retain one of the best, if not the best, political cartoonist in the country.  The fact he has also been (note the use of the past tense) a solid conservative, makes it even better.

In a column yesterday, Varvel explained how he went from being a Trump critic to a Trump supporter.
Gary Varvel
The thesis of his pieceis that Trump has proven himself a true conservative by his actions and thus deserving of the cartoonist's support.

In a comment to the article, I wrote how Varvel is confusing Trumpism with conservativism.  Here is that comment with some editing and additions:
Sorry, Gary Varvel, but I respectfully must question your conservative bona fides. You may have been late joining the Trump cult, but you're clearly drinking the Kool-Aid now, abandoning all objectivity and independent thought at the door. I'm sorry, but we real conservatives don't support huge federal deficits, including supporting a tax cut funded completely by borrowing against the next generation. We don't support ridiculous trade wars that result in higher prices for consumers and costs Americans their jobs.  
We real conservatives don't attack American democratic values and institutions, including calling our free and independent press "the enemy of the state." (No one knows better than me the liberal bias among reporters. But our free press is the only thing that can ultimately hold public officials accountable.) 
We conservatives support the rule of law. Trump clearly believes he is above the laws that others need to follow.
A true conservative would be upset about a foreign power, especially one hostile to American interests, meddling in our elections and would demand to know what happened.  Instead, Trump and his minions in Congress are doing everything they can to obstruct and discredit the investigation, protecting not only the administration from accusations of wrongdoing but Russia as well.  That is not conservativism.
We conservatives support open, honest government.   We don't support elected officials using their positions to personally enrich themselves as this President and others in his administration have done. Corruption should not be something tolerated because of the team jersey one is wearing.  
We real conservatives don't engage in race baiting and respect women, including those who are harassed in the work place or are sexually assaulted by powerful men.  Conservatives support women feeling empowered to speak out.  Trump mocks those women and their new found freedom to support sexual harassment.  To Trump, the man is always wrongly accused...unless he's a Democrat.
Real conservatives value democracy around the world and support liberty and human rights. Trump attacks democratically-elected leaders who defend freedom in their own countries while embracing dictators who kill political opponents and journalists and engage in horrific human rights abuses. 
I'm sorry, Mr. Varvel, you are no longer a "conservative." You are a Trumpian. There is a difference. A huge difference.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Indiana GOP Leaders Reaction to Attorney General Groping Allegations Reveals Double Standard

The Indianapolis Star reports:

Three of Indiana's top Republican leaders called on embattled Attorney General Curtis Hill to resign following allegations that he inappropriately touched four women at an Indianapolis bar in March.
In coordinated statements Thursday night, Gov. Eric Holcomb, House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate leader David Long demanded that Hill, a fellow Republican, step down immediately. They also called for an Indiana inspector general investigation — which Inspector General Lori Torres said Friday morning would occur. 
Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill
A chorus of other voices, including Lt. Gov Suzanne Crouch and Secretary of State Connie Lawson, both Republicans, would soon join.
...
In their joint statement, Long and Bosma said they believe Hill's accusers "are telling the truth regardless of the attorney general’s denial of these allegations."
Then you have a statement a few days ago from Indiana Republican Party Chairman Kyle Hupfer:
“It’s important to be clear: As the Republican Party, we have zero tolerance for sexual harassment, and that’s the standard to which we all should adhere. Actions like these alleged have no place in public life or anywhere else."
Sounds good, except when you consider that Chairman Hupfer is also a big supporter of President Trump who is credibly accused of sexual assault by some twenty women, sixteen more than the number who accused Hill.  Last night at a rally in Montana, Trump mocked the #MeToo movement that has encouraged women like Hill's accusers to come forward and talk about sexual harassment.  Yesterday was also Fox News executive Bill Shine's first day on the job joining the Trump administration with the title "Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications."    Shine was fired at Fox News for his role in covering up sexual harassment at the network, including incidents involving Roger Ailes and Bill O'Reilly.

Attorney General Hill should not concern himself about resigning because there will no doubt be a job waiting for him in the Trump administration.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Anger Over Trump's Internment of Children Finally Awakens Republicans to Fact Trump Is Political Liability

President's Trump's policy of separating children from their parents who attempt to cross the U.S. border illegally (and contrary to the President's lies, it is his policy, not the law) has infuriated all but the most die hard members of the Trump cult  It seems the Trump policy, more than any other, has finally awakened the public to the fact that our President, far from being a "patriot," cares not one bit about the American people. Of course, many of us would say that fact should have been obvious from Trump's history before arriving in the White House. After all, the man tried to use eminent domain to take away a little old lady's house for more parking for limos for his casino, ran a bogus "university" that bilked hundreds of thousands of dollars from people desperate to improve their lives, and has stiffed scores of employees and small business owners. And that's the short list.

Maybe more importantly, the anger the Trump policy is creating might have finally awakened Republicans in Congress to the fact the Trump is leading them off a political cliff.  While it is virtually impossible for the GOP to lose the Senate in 2018, a strong economy and gerrymandering could have kept the inevitable double figure loss of GOP House seats to a minimum. Trump's internment of children, however, could instead lead to staggering losses in the House one that might lay the ground for Trump's impeachment if the coming Mueller report sets forth the case (it likely will) that the President committed impeachable offenses.  Trump has few Republican fans in the Senate. If the GOP is slaughtered in the 2018 mid-terms, do not think for a second that 17 or so GOP Senators can't be found to vote for Trump's removal so he's not a political albatross in 2020.

Trump did defeat 16 other GOP candidates during the nomination process.  But in politics you are not a "winner" unless you succeed in general elections.    There is absolutely nothing to suggest Trump has broad Reaganesque-like appeal to the general electorate that would justify so many elected Republican officials ditching their integrity and values to board the Trump Train.  Trump lost the popular vote to the most unpopular Democratic candidate in history.  He only won the Presidency thanks to the Electoral College.  If 39,000 votes in three states were switched, we'd be talking about President Hillary Clinton instead of Donald Trump. Every drive through Columbus, Indiana?  Less than the population of Columbus decided the 2016 election.

There is nothing that has happened since the 2016 election that suggests Trump has broadened his very narrow appeal.  Indeed Trump has shrunk the size of the Republican Party and turned off independents.  Then you have continually evolving demographics which favor Democrats.  As I said on election night, Trump's election will prove to be the greatest thing that every happened to the Democratic Party.  The unpopularity of Trumpism will for decades taint my GOP and the conservative values I have supported all my life.  Nothing "winning" about that.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Apology to Commentators on Blog

My apologies to those who have attempted to comment on my recent blog articles.  Apparently the feature is not working.  I will work to try to get it fixed.  Until then, perhaps people should just consider I am right so why bother with a response?  Unless, of course, it is to publicly congratulate me for being right.  I like it when people do that.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Toll Roads Appear on Horizon Thanks to Indiana General Assembly

During the 2017 Indiana General Assembly, our legislators increased the gas tax by 10 cents a gallon.  While I was concerned about such an increase, particularly because the gas tax is not dedicated 100% to road improvements, my bigger concern was a provision in the bill which bestowed upon the Governor the unilateral authority to impose tolls on Indiana interstates.  

I loathe toll roads.  Tolling limited access roads like interstates divert large volumes of traffic to non-
tolled, local roads not capable of handling the additional vehicles.   Those cars end up in neighborhoods where people work and play.  Their safety is endangered.   Home values decrease as more cars speed by residents' front doors.

There is one thing though I hate more than toll roads.  I utterly despise when legislative bodies abdicate their responsibility by giving the executive what should be legislative power, particularly when it is a blank check to raise my taxes (yes, tolls are a tax).  Undoubtedly Republican legislators who control the legislature were thinking they  could escape responsibility for raising taxes in the future by giving Governor Holcomb the power to impose tolls, a move that would be highly unpopular with voters.  Plus, their thinking is that since the Governor is a Republican, he can be trusted  to handle the tolling authority in a responsible, i.e. conservative, way. 

For the sake of taxpayers, let's hope so.   From an Indianapolis Star article from Monday:
 
A strategic plan that could clear the way for Indiana to add tolls to its interstate highways, including inside the I-465 loop in Indianapolis, is being developed by a state contractor.
The state just signed a $9.6 million contract with HNTB Indiana Inc. to study the impact of tolling and provide project planning if the state chooses to move forward with tolling
The administration of Gov. Eric Holcomb is required to study tolling under the road-funding plan lawmakers passed in 2017 but hasn't officially decided to impose the fees on motorists. 
Under the law, Holcomb also is permitted to draft a strategic plan "if the governor determines that tolling is the best means of achieving major interstate system improvements in Indiana." 
Delegates to the 1850 Indiana Constitution Convention purposefully gave the Indiana General Assembly the power to check the power of governor.  That is not done when the legislature bestows upon the Governor what is essentially legislative power.  It is particularly irresponsible when the legislature gives the governor the unfettered authority to raise taxes.  If tolls happen in Indiana, which looks very likely, let's not forget to blame the legislators who made those new taxes possible.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Closer Look at California Primary Results Reveals Democratic Surge in Participation

After writing about the California primary election results being favorable for the Democrats, I ran across an article written Dan Palmer of The Hill who wrote an article titled "There is No 'Blue Wave' in California."  In the article, Palmer aggregates the partisan vote in the California jungle primary and then concludes that, since Republican candidates received more vote than the Democratic candidts in virtually every key district the Democrats have targeted, the GOP will win those districts in the fall.

The article includes a description of Palmer's background:
Dan Palmer is a Republican donor and conservative political strategist. He served as executive director of United We Stand, planned the potential transition of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and supported the campaigns of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif) and President Trump.
Given Palmer's background, I am certain he is well aware of the absurdity of his political analysis.  No
doubt he is simply doing what so many conservative commentators are doing these days, telling their audience what they want to hear rather than the far more painful truth. (For another recent example, take Newt Gingrich's piece "The Red Wave is Growing.")  

In analyzing election results, you compare apples to apples, oranges to oranges.  Mid-term elections get compared to mid-term elections.  Presidential election years get compared to other presidential election years.  Why?  Those elections feature starkly different electorates.  Likewise, those who turn out for a general election are far different than those who turn out in the primary which proceeded it. 

That is a phenomenon I personally experienced while running for the House in 2000.  I won the primary for the northwest Indianapolis district.  My Republican opponent and I combined had the primary vote than did the Democrat.  But on the day of the general election, I did not beat my opponent 2-1, but rather only received, rounded off, 40% of the vote.  What happened?  Different electorate.  Voters did not like George W. Bush in that district, and they turned out in droves to vote against him.  My candidacy experienced the collateral damage of increased Democratic-leaning turnout spurred by a race at the top of the ticket.

Again, no doubt Palmer is well aware of the silliness of extrapolating primary vote to predict general election results.  But the primary election results can be used to measure partisan trends in those California Congressional districts.  In employing the apples to apples, oranges to oranges principle of political analysis, I have compared the aggregate partisan primary turnout in 2014 compared to 2018 in the key California districts at play this fall.  Below is what I found.




District 7 10 21 22 25 48 49 50
2014 GOP Vote 34,197 27,495 24,039 49,255 32,028 63,513 56,558 48,413
2014 GOP Pct 51.9 57.3 64.2 74.4 66.7 72.3 61.5 73.7
2014 Dem Vote 31,726 20,465 13,402 16,986 16,005 24,384 34,849 17,269
2014 Dem Pct 48.1 42.7 35.8 25.6 33.3 27.7 38.5 26.3
2018 GOP Vote 37,627 48,475 23,575 42,554 46,042 55,842 53,343 64,706
2018 GOP Pct 46.6 52.2 64.0 59.1 52.9 53.5 48.8 64.0
2018 Dem Vote 43,039 44,437 13,821 29,406 40,992 48,517 55,927 36,439
2018 Dem Pct 53.4 47.8 36.0 40.9 47.1 46.5 51.2 36.0
Democrat Primary Share Increase 10.6 10.2 0.4 30.6 27.637.625.419.4

These tables show that while both parties experienced much higher primary vote in 2018 than 2014, the Democrat primary vote share increased in every district, some districts significantly.  
That is consistent with the markedly increased Democratic turnout that has has been seen in virtually every special election race since the 2016 presidential election.   Primary results do not mean the Republicans will lose those districts, however.  Again, the general election electorate is much different than the much smaller turnout that happens in a primary.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

California Primary Election Results Fuel Democrats' Hope For a Congressional "Blue Wave"

A few years ago, California, via referendum, adopted a "jungle" primary system.  Basically the way it works is that all primary candidates are lumped onto one ballot for the voters and the top two candidates move on to the general election, regardless of party.

It was a reform supported by then Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.  However, like most election reforms, there have been unintended consequences.  One of those "unintended consequences" is that in a multi-candidate field, the primary vote could be so splintered that candidates from one of the
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Russia)
major parties could be closed out of competing in the fall despite the fact that party could prevail in the general election.  California is particularly ripe for such an outcome because the state has easy access ballot law leading to primary races featuring a lengthy list of candidates.  In several races on Tuesday, candidates finished second, and advanced to the general election round, with as little as 15% of the vote.

On election night 2018, the Democratic takeover of the House, if it happens, may come down to late-reporting California.  There are a number of takeover targets in California in which Republican congressional candidates but are vulnerable due to Trump's unpopularity in their district  But the jungle primary presented the very real possibility that the Democratic primary vote would be so splintered that the GOP candidates would take the top two positions, leaving the Democratic opponent closed out of a very winnable general election race.

A review of Tuesday nights election results reveals that with the exception of one congressional contest, California Democratic candidates avoided being shut out of the general election.  Here are the election results in a few of the most prominent such districts:

California 10
Denham (R)  24,640  37.7%
Harder (D)  10,244  15.7%'
Howze (R) 9,394  14.4%

Calilfornia 39
Kim (R) 18,851  22.0%
Cisneros (D) 16,623  19.4%
Liberatore (R) 11,990  14.0%

California 48
Rohrbacher (R) 33,198  30.4%
Keirstead (D) 18,827  17.2%
Rouda (D) 18,782  17.2%
Baugh (R) 17,601  16.1%

California 50
Hunter (R) 43,233 48.7%
Campa-Najjar (D) 14,445  16.3%
Wells (R) 11,626  13.1%

A notable exception is California 8, a district based in San Bernandino County that is currently represented by Rep. Paul Cook, a Republican.   That district though was always a long-shot for Democrats to win.

California 8
Cook (R) 29,403 41.5%
Donnelly (R) 16,024 22.6%
Doyle (D) 15,264 21.4%

By any objective measure, the Democrats should be happy with the California election results which set up the party to win several California congressional districts in the Fall.  But over at Fox News Trump TV, analysts don't deal in objectivity.  They deal in propaganda as well as the proverbial whistling while walking by the graveyard..  Fox News analysts are celebrating the second place primary finish of GOP gubernatorial candidate John Cox who had the enthusiastic backing of President Trump.  While the importance of having a major GOP statewide candidate on the general election ballot (top ballot races spur turnout and the Republicans were shut out in the CA Senate race) cannot be underestimated, the notion that a Republican, much less one closely tied to Trump, is going to win the California governorship this Fall is absurd. 

Equally absurd is one Fox analyst who extrapolated the party primary vote in key races to what is likely to happen in the general election.    As any political analyst knows, the voters who go to the polls in a low-turnout primary do not equate, in any way, those who vote in a general election.  I know that from personal experience.  As an Indiana house candidate for a district on the northwest side of Indianapolis, I won the GOP primary in 2000.  My primary vote and that of my GOP rival totaled more than twice the Democratic vote in the district.  So did I win the general election, much less 2-1?  Nope, I received about 40% (I always round up) of the vote that Fall.  Voters in my district did not like George W. Bush and Democratic-leaning voters turned out heavily to vote against him.

There was certainly nothing in Tuesday's California election results that indicates the possibility of a blue wave this fall has diminished.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

A Constitutional Amendment Is Needed to Clarify and Limit Presidential Pardon Power

One semester while teaching political science classes, I assigned a unique exercise.  After reviewing the text of the Constitution and its amendments, including how various provisions in that document have been interpreted, I asked my students to write about a particular constitutional provision the Framers got wrong and how that provision should be changed.

I was unprepared for the response.  Most of my students wrote that the Constitution was perfect as was written.  Not a single syllable needed to be changed.  From my students' responses, you would think the assignment was to identify changes to the Bible.   While I had succeeded in teaching my students about what the Constitution said and what the courts have ruled the document's various provisions meant, I had failed to teach my students how to think creatively, to ponder, even question, the application of the
Constitution in practice.

Far from perfect, even the Framers realized very quickly they had a glitch in the original embodiment of the Electoral College, a problem that became apparent with our first constitutional crisis, an electoral college vote tie in 1800 between, then, Vice-President John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.  The 12th Amendment fixed that flaw, abandoning the idea of the single electoral vote (with the Vice-President being the runner-up) for the idea that electors would cast two votes, one for President and one Vice-President.  As a side note, no my conservative friends the Electoral College is not now operating as intended even as set out in the 12th Amendment.  The Electoral College has always intended to be a bulwark against the democratic impulses of the masses by leaving the decision of the President up to a wise group of citizen representatives elected by the less wise voters.  The Electoral College was never intended to rubber-stamp the decision of the voters, even at the state level.

I can easily think of things in the Constitution and its amendments that could, indeed should, be changed.  I think all 435 members of the House having to run every 2 years is a bit much.  The line between Congress' power to declare war and the President's powers as Commander-in-Chief could use clarification.    I was never sold on the two term limit for President established by the 22nd Amendment.  It makes the President a lame deck that second term, rending him (or her) ineffective.   I also think the 2nd Amendment was poorly crafted and could have better written (to more clearly protect private ownership of guns).  Then you have things in the Constitution that are written well, such as the 10th Amendment, which have been rendered practically useless by judicial interpretation.

One provision though that has not gotten much attention is the President's constitutional power to pardon.  Article II states:
The President...shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.
That is it  The language does not appear to provide any limit (with the exception of impeachment and that it be a federal crime) to the President's power of impeachment.  That lack of context, lack of limiting language, led to the President and his "attorney" Rudy Giuliani to recently claim that the President has the absolute right to pardon anyone.  This interpretation allows for the legal use of the pardon power to obstruct the Mueller probe by pardoning those caught up in the investigation (including President pardoning himself).

Did the Framers actually intend the pardon power to be as sweeping and open-ended as suggested by the lack of limiting language in Article II?  Highly doubtful.  The Framers were, in fact, very fearful of centralized, unchecked power, including a strong chief executive exercising king-like powers. It makes no sense that the Framers intended to sharply curtail the power of the President in several areas (which limits have been eroded over the years thanks to a complicit Congress and the federal courts' expansive interpretation of the Commerce Clause) on one hand, but give the President absolute, unchecked power in another area.

The Framers intent can be garnered from looking at the history that guided the adoption of the pardon language.  In the late 18th Century, when our current Constitution containing the pardon language was drafted then ratified, criminal prosecutions were handled almost entirely by states.  There were very few federal crimes at the time of the Constitution.  Crimes like treason and bribery were handled by the feds from the early days of the Republic, but almost all other federal crimes required the involvement of  the federal government or its officials somehow.  Indeed, the very limited nature of the then federal criminal code is highlighted in Federal Paper #74 in which Alexander Hamilton reassures readers that the President's unilateral pardon power in the Constitution is not too broad (and there was no need for legislative approval) by discussing its application involving just one federal crime, treason.

During the last 150 years, our Congress has passed numerous federal criminal statutes, using as a bridge to that authority the Commerce Clause.  Many if not most state criminal laws now have a federal equivalent.  Today, our federal government employs an army of prosecutors and judges to enforce the ever increasing number of criminal statutes passed by Congress.

While the number of federal crimes and prosecutions has expanded exponentially, the language setting forth the President's pardon power remains the same.  While I would like to see the federal role in criminal law enforcement cut back substantially, that back door way of of placing proper limits on the President's pardon power seems to be a pipe dream.  To mix metaphors, that ship has sailed.

My proposal is more direct.  A simple constitutional amendment that requires that the United States Senate approve all pardons.  The Senate has to approve treaties, cabinet appointments, judges, why not pardons?

Senatorial approval of pardons is not that much of a hurdle for a President, but it would likely stop the problem of a President misusing his authority to pardon friends, political supporters, or even the more obscene use of the pardon power to obstruct a criminal investigation into wrongdoing involving the President's campaign or his administration.