Just In Case You Were Wondering…

…no, the Republicans will not in fact learn a goddam thing from this election.

Exhibit A: Jason Chaffetz pledges two years of investigations if Hillary dares to get elected

Exhibit B: Not to outdone, Judicial Watch and the Right Wing Howler Monkey Media Chorus demand to know why Hillary hasn’t already been impeached

Exhibit C: First John McCain then Ted (Zodiac Killer) Cruz pledge to block all SCOTUS nominees as long as Hillary is president

No matter how large Hillary’s margin of victory, no matter if they lose the Senate or even the House, no matter the fact that this will mark 6 out of the last 7 presidential elections where the Republicans will have lost the popular vote, they will. not. change. Obstructionism has been baked into the GOP since at least Newt Gingrich. Elections are NEVER over, elections NEVER have consequences unless Republicans win, and Democrats are NEVER legitimately elected. My only hope is that Hillary knows this and, unlike Obama, will not waste a moment attempting to negotiate with them. If she gets both Houses of Congress, she should ram through a progressive agenda like LBJ, front-loaded with things like a stimulus package and student loan debt relief that will produce quick results;,if she doesn’t take the House, spend the next 2 years putting up popular proposals for them to shoot down and campaigning like hell for 2018. That’s how you get Capone. Play hard ball from Day One.

Published in: on October 26, 2016 at 9:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

The System IS Rigged (Against Third Parties)

More political science geek ranting:


Why does America have a two party system? Why has there never been a third party president? Because it’s an unintended consequence baked into the Constitution.
Look at countries with stable, multiple-party systems: Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, Israel. What do they all have in common?  They’re Westminster-style parliaments, meaning the head of government (the prime minister or chancellor) is elected by majority vote of the legislature. That means minor parties that can never win a majority on their own can wield power by winning enough seats that a major party will have to form a coalition with them in order to form a government.  The minor party then gets rewarded with cabinet seats and power over the major parties’ agenda. If the major party goes too far, the minor party can threaten to leave the coalition and cause the government to fall.

The United States by contrast has a unitary executive (the president is both head of government and head of state) who is elected separately from the legislative branch. That’s why we can and frequently do have divided government, one party controlling Congress and one the White House, something unheard of in other countries. Coming in second in a presidential election gets you exactly the same as coming in third or twentieth: nothing. How much influence did George Romney or John McCain have in the Obama Administration? George W. Bush lost the popular vote in 2000 but you didn’t see him appointing Al Gore to the cabinet. Since there’s no reward for almost winning a presidential election, third parties can’t really do much of anything except (rarely) serve as spoilers.

So should third parties just give up? Not necessarily but they should stop wasting scarce resources on vanity presidential campaigns that are never going to win. Instead, in my opinion, they should concentrate on House elections. Coalitions matter in the House, since the Speaker is elected by majority vote. The last really successful third party, the Populists, wielded at least some power in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries by winning seats in Congress, while never really getting that close to the White House. Thanks to modern, hyper-partisan gerrymandering, the majority of House districts aren’t the least bit competitive. This suggests that a party like the Libertarians might win in some Republican districts with a coalition of Democrats and Republicans who are put off by social conservatism and the Religious Right. There might be some Democratic districts where Greens could be competitive, though that seems less likely.

Sadly for them, the Libertarians have blown a golden opportunity to at least make a decent showing this year. With two historically unpopular major party nominees and most Americans desiring change, the Libertarians are getting more media attention, and thus more free publicity, than at any time in their history, maybe more than any third party candidate since Ralph Nader or H. Ross Perot. Rather than capitalize on this, they nominated a doofus like Gary Johnson who consistently embarrasses himself every time he’s interviewed by stumbling over softball questions and then poutily declaring that his ignorance is somehow a virtue. They’d have been better off with former Massachusetts Governor William Weld at the top of the ticket, but instead he’s pretty much written the whole thing off to concentrate on defeating Donald Trump. Yet another example of how third parties can’t seem to win for losing.

Published in: on October 12, 2016 at 9:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Abraham Lincoln was NOT A Third Party Candidate, Dammit!

This has always been a pet poli -sci nerd peeve of mine, even more so now that Gary Johnson supporters are using it. Let’s review some historical facts, shall we?

  1. The two major parties in America from 1833-1854 were the Democrats and the Whigs. The last Whig majority in the House was the 30th Congress (1847-1849) and their last Senate majority was the 28th Congress (1843-1845). The Whigs were annihilated in the presidential election of 1852, carrying only 4 states with a total of 42 electoral votes for Winfield Scott versus 27 states and 254 electoral votes for Franklin Pierce. Clearly, the party was already on its last legs.
  2. There were four candidates for the presidency in 1860: Lincoln for the Republicans, his longtime rival Stephen A. Douglas for the Democrats, sitting Vice President John C. Breckenridge for a breakaway faction of rabidly pro-slavery Southern Democrats, and John Bell for the hastily-assembled “Compromise party,” the Constitutional Unionists. The Whigs couldn’t even drum up a candidate. In fact, they had already been reduced to lamely endorsing the Know Nothings in 1856;
  3. The Republicans were already a major force in Congress, despite having only been formed in 1854. The 34th Congress (1855-1857) started with 9 Republican Senators and only 8 Whigs; it ended with 13 Republicans and 7 Whigs. In the House, all of the non-Democratic members united in an Opposition Party. The 35th Congress (1857-1859) ended with 20 Republican senators and no Whigs; 92 Republican House members and no Whigs. At the time of the 1860 election, Congress had a majority of 26 Republican senators and 116 Republican House members. Again, there were no Whigs left.
  4. By any reasonable measure, then, the two major political parties in America by at least 1860 were the Democrats and the Republicans. Lincoln was not by any stretch of the imagination, a third party candidate.

Rant completed.

Published in: on October 11, 2016 at 8:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Trump Agonistes, Part 2

So I’ll freely admit to being surprised that Trump wasn’t quite as batshit crazy as I thought he’d be. No doubt that creepy, sniffly, stalkery performance was his idea of subtlety. Maybe if this had been the Trump we saw at the first debate (an asshole, but not a dangerously unhinged asshole) he wouldn’t be in free fall now. But it’s pretty clear after last night’s checklist of long discredited conspiracy theories, he’s only interested in his base now, which mercifully for the Republic is not nearly enough to win. It’s also clear that the campaign is being run pretty much exclusively by the Neo-Nazi (they prefer “altright”) Breitbart wing of the far lunatic fringe. 

As the Trumpkins turn their fury on Boy Speaker Paul Ryan, and the GOP’s idea of good news is that their nominee has never sexually assaulted his campaign manager and their vice presidential nominee isn’t quitting, the big remaining question is what happens on November 9? Since it’s looking increasingly likely that Hillary will win in a landslide, what will Trump do? It seems completely out of character for him to throw himself on his fainting couch and poutily concede like Romney. Would he simply refuse to concede, concession speeches being a gentlemanly tradition of the sort he normally shits on anyway? Or would he go full Robert Mugabe and insist he’s really the president? As bizarre as this election has been, there’s almost nothing outside the realm of possibility, from him forming a “shadow cabinet” ensconced in Orthanc to him actively encouraging his legions of Frogmen to “take back” the White House or disrupt the inauguration. And here’s where we get into the danger zone. I can’t see his fat keyboard kommando twitter-warriors storming a barricade but what about a handful of deranged lunatics? Lone wolves? I have to admit, the thought worries me. It’s replaced the the dread that a moron like Trump might get his tiny hands on nuclear weapons, but it hasn’t diminished.

How far will he go?

Published in: on October 10, 2016 at 4:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Trump Agonistes 

The BEST case scenario for Trump tonight is that he only performs as badly as he did in the first debate. Actually, I take that back; the best case scenario is that he fakes a stroke and simply doesn’t show up. As for the worst case…well, given his recent angry retweets about “traitors,” it’s not hard to imagine him suffering a total meltdown on stage and getting into a screaming match with an audience member or storming off the stage, or otherwise completely losing his shit.


And then what happens? With his creepy ‘Moon Over Parador’ style rally in front of Orthanc, Trump already puts me in mind of Nixon right before he resigned, stumbling around the White House drunkenly ranting at the portraits while Kissinger tried to hide the nuclear codes. Would Trump go even further and exhort his deplorable army of Frogmen to actual violence? There’s almost no scenario too far-fetched at this point, unfortunately.

Finally, another prediction: one of the weirder legacies of this election will, I think, be a record number of faithless electors. Many states, including Texas, have laws against them, but those are almost certainly unconstitutional.

Published in: on October 9, 2016 at 10:04 am  Leave a Comment  
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First Takes

  1. Trump won’t drop out. I can’t imagine his colossal ego allowing him to entertain the notion;
  2. If he does, the GOP is screwed. The ballots are already printed. It’s too late to even add a write-in in most states;
  3. This will be spun to delegitimize Hillary Clinton, e.g., she only won because of those tapes;
  4. The always remote chance the GOP would learn anything from this election is even more remote, e.g. he only lost because of those tapes. We can double-down on the racism, white nationalism, and xenophobia;
  5. The chances his psychotic followers will do something violent & stupid have increased to a frightening degree.
Published in: on October 8, 2016 at 5:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Predictions

  1. No matter how large Hillary’s margin of victory, the MSM will deny it’s a “mandate”
  2. No matter how large Hillary’s margin of victory, Republicans will claim it was due to “voter fraud”
  3. Sometime between Election Day and her Inauguration, congressional Republicans will announce they intend to reflexively and unanimously oppose anything and everything Hillary proposes
  4. Republicans will do something of unprecedented partisan stupidity early on: disrupt the official counting of the electoral vote, try to block all Cabinet appointees, refuse to invite her to Congress for her first SOTU. Something.
  5. This something will be quickly explained by the MSM as “just the way both sides act these days”
  6. Assuming they keep the House, Republicans will announce a new investigation of Hillary’s Benghazi emails to Bill Clinton’s half brother
  7. They will NOT confirm Merrick Garland
  8. Early in her presidency, Republicans will try to force Congressional Democrats to do something craven, like the absolutely cowardly “defunding” of ACORN
  9. On Wednesday, November 9, 2016, it will become the received wisdom of the Republican Party that Donald Trump was a liberal Democrat and lost because he wasn’t conservative enough
  10. No matter how large Hillary’s margin of victory, Republicans will not learn a goddam thing.
Published in: on October 3, 2016 at 8:02 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Wherein I Respectfully Disagree


I disagree with the notion that Hillary Clinton has no responsibility to answer for Bill Clinton’s policies for two reasons:

1) He’s a former Democratic President who made policy decisions (NAFTA, Welfare Reform, the Crime Bill) that are still affecting the country today. It’s altogether fitting and proper to ask the current nominee of the Democratic Party whether she agrees with those policies, whether they’ve proven to be mistakes over time, and what if anything she would change about them. And;

2) Hillary Clinton was never a traditional First Lady. She was, and was presented to the public as, a trusted policy advisor to Bill. She was in charge of his disastrous healthcare reform effort. Just like any other former Clinton Administration figure, it’s entirely right both to hold her accountable for his policies she agreed with and press her on which of his policies she would change, if any.

Published in: on October 1, 2016 at 11:41 am  Leave a Comment  
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Working for a Living

  
A new study of welfare programs in several countries pretty convincingly debunks the common wisdom that “giveaway programs” make poor people lazy. Nearly all the programs studied were “conditional cash transfers,” meaning you had to do something (like getting your kids vaccinated) to get the money. It supports my long-held theory that policy makers on the Left and Right both make a fatal mistake in assuming that poor people are somehow intrinsically different in thought and motivation than the rest of us.

Published in: on November 20, 2015 at 12:07 pm  Comments (2)  

Excerpt from Ben Carson’s Interview on CNN

Published in: on November 7, 2015 at 8:33 pm  Comments (1)  
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