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.


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.

At Least We Ended Presidential Dynasties For Ever

There are very few silver linings here, but this is one.

The 2016 election saw the complete repudiation of the idea of presidential dynasties.

Not only did we get rid of the idea of a second Clinton presidency, regardless of its possible policy merits, we also surely saw off the Bushes.

In a supposed republic, that is good news.  Surely it will sink in that if you run a dynasty heir, you end up with all of their baggage and little of their benefits.  So, that, hopefully is that.


Why Business People Fail in Politics — Except the Very Smartest

There is a wonderful chat in the Post today about the difference between Trump’s “analog,” 1980’s national TV strategy, and the Dems “digital,” 21st century, targeted one.  Read it, I have not done it justice.

I want, however, to draw a much more general conclusion.  The reason business people fail in politics is that to make a lot of money you need to provide a product or service that enough people want to pay a lot of money for.  But you do not have to sell to 51% of the market.  In politics, unless you have the help of the Supreme Court, you do have to get to 50% plus one.  So the business skills are about exploiting a niche, hopefully a large niche, but not about necessarily expanding that niche to half – and then running the risk of anti-trust attention.

Surely, that niche strategy is exactly what Trump followed in the primary, winning decisively, but with less than 50% even within his Rep niche, and failing miserably to get to 50% in the market as a whole, and showing no ability at all to get there.

Think similarly about Carly Fiorina, who tried an expansion strategy at HP aimed at very high volume and failed there and in politics.

The exception would be the really smart people who do not simply apply current skills and techniques to the new situation of politics, as Trump surely has done, but rather step back and figure out what the new environment needs and how to do that.  Of course, its clear that Trump is not really that good at business, and so its no surprise that he is also not much good at making the switch.  Indeed, you have to ask what it is about big real estate that makes it so easy to succeed in, and what the success of a manifest loser like Trump in real estate says about other moguls who appear successful in that field.

Finally, Trump’s likely ability to continue to dominate his niche after the election is surely the worst possible news for the Republican party, no matter what strategy they try to adopt to deal with it, assuming indeed, that they are even capable of adopting one such strategy.


In What Order Should States Hold Primaries — a Modest Proposal

After this years disaster, the Republicans are reportedly considering some retuning of the primary calendar.  What’s on the table seems pretty marginal, see here.

But, if you think that early primary states have the most influence, and you want to win the general, there is actually a simple formula: hold primaries in the order of closness of the most recent general election, and have only open primaries.

If, on the other hand, you want a nominee that reflects the “base” put first the states in which the margin was greatest, and do not allow any open primaries.

Thus, in 2016, under the win-maximization strategy, the first primary would have been FL, and  NC, with OH and VA following.  (Chart here).   Interestingly, these four states were all won by Clinton, and three of the four by Trump.  (Kasich won Ohio, his own state.)  Interestingly, one thing this approach might do is encourage politicians who have done well in their own such “close” states to run for President — not a bad thing, I would think.

Using the loyalty strategy, the first ones would have been DC, UT, HA and WY.  (feels less right somehow.) (Link here.)

It hard to argue with the proposition that “close” states will tend to test the impact of different candidates upon likely general election success, although no system is perfect.  The biggest problem with this system might be if a really large state like CA ended up as a very early primary.  But one of the things Trump showed is that so called “retail politics” may be a thing of the past.