Are We Headed For a 2018 Veto Proof Budget?

Two events in the last couple of days suggest that Democrats and Republicans may have to combine to pass a veto-proof budget for next year.

Trump has announced that a shut down would be a good thing.  That might be good for Republicans fearing a primary, but not for those fearing the Democrats, as many will be  by the fall.

The 2017 budget appears to be relying on a coalition of Democrats and Republicans, put together over Trump’s at least apparent disapproval, to get over the top.  Moreover, the budget contains a surprising number of “up your’s Donald” provisions, and almost nothing of what he wants.

So, a veto proof budget may be the only way to keep the country functioning, and that may align with congressional and Senate interests in both parties.

What a year!

P.S.  The used to be a joke that new Congressman of both parties were told by thee seniors – “always remember who the real enemy is.” The newbie would name the opposing party and the elder statesman would reply: “No, the Senate.”  Maybe the answer in both parties, and now both chambers, is becoming “the President.”

Hard not to see why.

 

Applying the “Rules” for Government Shutdown Crises to the Current Situation

There are two basic rules for government shut downs:

  1.  Congress gets blamed not the White House.
  2. Shutdowns are an opportunity to the Executive to demonstrate competence.

So, it is a reasonable question ask how these will apply this time around.

With respect to the blame game, the normal rule would be to blame Congress — and typically the majority party, which will be different from the President.  It is going to be really hard to pin the blame on minority democrats, and although ironically, their choices are driving all this.  But apart from this, the reason that the White House usually wins the messaging, and ultimately the substance, wars, is that it speaks with one voice.

So you can throw that out the window this time.  The messaging chaos, the internecine battles, and the constant leaking almost guarantee that the White House can not win this one, except with very narrow constituencies.

As to the  opportunity to demonstrate competence, note that I said “demonstrate,” not “achieve.”  Anyone who can see anything in the history of the last 100 days that suggests any competence to demonstrate — I have an infrastructure bill to build a new Brooklyn Bridge to sell you.

Much more likely is that the bureaucracy will not go out of its way to minimize harm — except to the most vulnerable, and those efforts will be undercut by those wearing the metal flag pins, and in turn the facts will be leaked.  It will be chaos.

The Democrats know all this, so they have no incentives to trade.  It could be a long shutdown.  What a way to celebrate 100 days, unless Republicans realize that a small set of relatively minor defeats is better than a very big one.

The US Has Three Paties, Not Two, and Coalition Government, Not Single Party Government

Brilliant and transformative reporting by Politico on the collapse of  the Trumpcare/Ryancare agenda shows that we have passed a critical step in moving from having two parties to three.  A consequence is that we no longer have single party government, but coalition government — and a dysfunctional coalition at that.

The key paragraph describes the crucial March 6 meeting of the Freedom Caucus, just after the release of the plan.  The members of the Caucus were deeply aware of the intense pressure about to be put on them, and fearful of one on one appeals:

In a conference room in the Rayburn House Office Building, the group met that evening and made a secret pact. No member would commit his vote before consulting with the entire group — not even if Trump himself called to ask for an on-the-spot commitment. The idea, hatched by Freedom Caucus vice chairman Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), was to bind them together in negotiations and ensure the White House or House leaders could not peel them off one by one.

With about 36 members, and although only about two thirds formally took the pledge, given the numbers, that was really the end of the game.  The Caucus were so protective of each other that at one meeting, when Ryan tried to get each of them to state where they stood, the gorp in effect refused.

So, going forward, once the Caucus takes this position, nothing can get passed without Democratic help, and that’s even before counting the most moderate members of the House.  Perhaps even more importantly, the group has demonstrated that they are willing to take and hold by such a position, regardless of cost to President, Speaker, and their nominal party and its agenda.  Add the requirement of a coherent intellectual structure (which they have, using a technical definition of coherent) and you pretty much have at least a congressional party in the Freedom Caucus.

There are many problems with having coalition government, but right now perhaps the worst is that there is no institutional experience in managing such a situation.  Indeed, the only ones who seem to have thought it through are the Democrats, including particularly Nancy Pelosi, who had in the last Congress brilliantly kept her caucus in line and used that unity, with the very skilled help of the President, to extract maximum advantage.

Going forward, this means huge leverage for the Democrats, provided they maintain the message discipline of keeping sufficiently quiet that they do not force the two Republic sub-parties back together.

It also means that there has to be a serious question as to whether through public splits and primaries the sub-become really separate parties, and perceived as such by the public.  It helps that there are already strong links to at least two Senators.

Trump is already attacking Ryan, even if only indirectly so far.  Given the Caucus veto on any successor, and given the total lack of appeal of the job of speaker, its hard to imagine any path forward that way.   It is all a recipe for disaster for the group formerly known as the Republican Party.

 

The Party-Switch Way Forward For the Senate

While there are many reasons for the slowness of the institutional response in the political system to Trump, one actually can be fixed quite easily.

Right now, the press are energized, the courts seem to be standing up for judicial supremacy, and the investigatory agencies are still able to get the most disturbing facts before the public.

The problem is that there is no truly independent set of investigations going on, because of the Republican failure.

The simple solution is for three or more senators to shift parties for the purpose of establishing the appropriate investigatory process.  Such a switch, perhaps by McCain, Lindsey and one more, could be limited to the organization of the Senate, and the Rs could still vote with their colleagues on all substantive matters if they wished.  Those three would have to expect to be primaried, but who knows, by the end of this they might be the safest Republican senators.

Anyway, just the threat of this should be enough to get McConnell to back down, set up a true investigation, and allow it to go wherever it goes.  The tax returns alone might be enough.

 

One of the Opportunities that a President Trump Opens Up To Recast the Political System — A Broader Range of Viable Candidates

Amid the shock, fear, and gloom, it may be harder to see beyond to the opportunities that Trumps non-plurality election may create.

At a minimum, the election shows that the electorate is willing to consider a broader range of kinds of people as potential presidents.  Indeed, the election of Obama and the nomination of Hilary Clinton, and perhaps even the success of Sanders, showed the same thing, albeit in a different way.

So perhaps, we should be thinking about what kind of a person progressive might be grooming to be a candidate, and thinking way beyond the traditional categories of governors, senators, and maybe mayors.

Maybe we should be thinking about people whose candidacy would be about their history with ideas and movements, rather than with power.

Maybe the feminist candidate should be someone who has run Emily’s list, not been a Senator.  Maybe the equality candidate is someone who has promoted equality through projects and advocacy, rather than writing tax bills.  Maybe the innovation candidate should be someone who has created not leveraged businesses, but whole new kinds of ideas that also work in the market.  Maybe the authenticity candiate is someone who has spent a lifetime bursting bubbles of pomposity.

In any event, they should be people capable of communicating real ideas, grounded in understanding and direct experience.  That would demonstrate authenticity far better than a rosy biographical video.  They should also be capable of taking on Trump tweet for tweet, fact to lie, vision for fear, community against division, day after day, with equivalent attention.  Al Frankin, time to go back to your roots.

A primary election between a number of such people might well yield a much stronger ultimate candidate and be a proving ground and launch pad for a cabinet of experts, rather than of plutocrats.

Lets start thinking about those kind of candidates, and how they should be positioned.

P.S.  This would actually require that the DNC be ready to return to the structural organizing role that the RNC in fact played in this election, because such candidates would not necessarily have built up the needed organizatins themselves — and that, as we learned with the Clinton campaign, might be a strength.

Official Report on Russian Hacking Recommends Actions by Organizations

In order to understand what is happening in the world, everyone should look at the new DHS/FBI Report on the Russian hacking.  It is here.  This para introduces the chilling facts:

This Joint Analysis Report (JAR) is the result of analytic efforts between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). This document provides technical details regarding the tools and infrastructure used by the Russian civilian and military intelligence Services (RIS) to compromise and exploit networks and endpoints associated with the U.S. election, as well as a range of U.S. Government, political, and private sector entities. The U.S. Government is referring to this malicious cyber activity by RIS as GRIZZLY STEPPE.

The document lists extensive steps that organizations should take to protect themselves and to check for attacks.  While most of us probably do not think of ourselves as part of this world, we all need to be vigilant, if only because of the stakes.  The more active, the more potentially at threat.

“Loose systems sink democracy.”

Legitimacy After the Electors and The Russians Have Spoken

I have previously written to make the point that a President legally elected without a popular vote majority has legal and constitutional legitimacy but not political or moral legitimacy.

That is still true, and hopefully helpful, but no longer a sufficient analysis.  Now I offer a number of additional propositions that would apply in a reasonably healthy republic.  (The word President should apply with equal force to  a “President-elect.”

A President whose formally legal election has been conclusively proved to have been procured by crime or external influence does not enjoy legitimacy of any kind beyond the formal title.

A President, about whose election serious questions have been raised by credible US government institutions as to whether crime or external influence produced the result, is one whose legitimacy is in serious doubt.

A president faced with such serious doubt about their legitimacy should regard it as their first task to resolve that uncertainty, regardless of risk to their continued power.

The duty in this situation of other political and legal actors, and indeed of citizens, is to take every step to resolve that uncertainty, regardless of consequences to their careers or institutional roles.

During the period of uncertainty during which the facts and outcome impact are being explored, the President and other political and legal actors should refrain from actions that assume the legitimacy of the President, other than those actions immediately necessary for the defense of the nation, and those actions that were not in any way at issue in the election as to which doubt exists.

If, after exhausting all efforts to discover the facts and the impact of those facts, doubt remains about what caused the result, the President and the political and legal system should should consider the President to have only qualified legitimacy, with the President’s duty to act on behalf of all Americans being even greater than usual, their responsibility to seek consensus and common ground overwhelming, and with any claims of authority for controversial actions illegitimate.

Finally, it must be emphasized that, if we are to take our Constitution seriously, these principles should apply even when President who had a majority of the electoral college also had a majority of the popular vote, they apply with even greater force when the formal winner did not win even a plurality of the popular vote.

I would urge people to talk with those of all political persuasions about these principles, not in order to delegitimize the apparent victor, but in order to create some consensus about the principles that should guide the nation’s actions.

I believe these principles to be unassailable (although I would welcome suggested improvements).  What would surely be more in dispute is what has to be done if and when a President and/or party fail to follow them.