Strange Op-Ed on “Can the Democrats Move Right?’

Ross Douthat has an op-ed in the Times that I find hard to understand.  I think his suggestion is that you move to the center (and I do not think he means Rockefeller Center) because that’s how you win elections.

But which of these arguments as to why Democrats should do this works as reflecting accurate facts?

Democrats lost the popular vote.

Democrats lost the demographic groups that are expanding.

Democrats lost to a campaign that embraced the agenda of corporations and banks

Democrats lost to a person who has shown he values the “family values” that Democrats supposedly have contempt for.

The key to winning was states that will gain electoral college votes, specifically those in the Midwest.

The voters agreed with the wining candidate on most issues.

The policies the winner seems to be pursuing will help the people who voted for him.

There are plenty of reasons for the defeat, and they will become clearer over time.  But I very much doubt that any of them really support a “move to the right” strategy, even though after most elections moving to the center would be a good idea.

No, this election needs a more sophisticated analysis of what is going to happen to low-information voters as they realize that the job situation for them is going to get worse and worse into the foreseeable future, and specifically, that the person they voted for does not have their interests at heart.  In other words, what does the fact that Tea Party voters, feeling betrayed, turned to Trump, tell us about what Trump voters will do after realizing a second betrayal.  Or rather, what will happen when the Trump campaign is willing to turn more intensively to demagoguery to hold their voters support in the face of that risk (like recycling the flag issue, surely not.)

The answer, surely, is simply turning low information voters into high information voters.







Another Way to Track Impact of the ACA Repeal

A few minutes ago, I blogged about the idea of creating a registry of people who have died as as result of repeal of the ACA.

Maybe the Democrats should try to get a bill passed that CDC should take on the tracking task.

If it were not passed, at least when Republicans attached the validity of the data in the non-governmental one, the response would be:  “You can not complain, you prevented the establishment of a registry upon which all could rely.”

Its a time for creativity and determination.




The Caligula Presidency – and its Long Term Effects on the “Imperial Presidency” Trend

If Trump’s latest tweets really do indicate a lack of connection to reality, maybe the right way to think of him as the “Caligula President.”

Lovers of Robert Graves “I Claudius” and its BBC/PBS derivative (great write up here) still remember John Hurt’s brilliant depiction of Caligula as in “People really are despicable,” followed by immediate evil scheming.

But you had a world leader on the edge of disconnection yet functional and brilliantly intuitive enough to get and hang onto power.

Remember, however, that Caligula was followed by Claudius (whose big advisor was Herod), who then tried to “Re-Republicanise” Rome, obviously to no great success, but at laest had some effect in de-imperializing the imperial Imperium.

Seriously, regardless of how the detail works out in the short term, a Trump presidency is almost bound to cause advocates of a muscular presidency to have second thoughts, and those who have supported a system of checks and balances to be newly re-energized.  That should be true on both sides of the aisle, but it will take time to play out.

It is worth noting that as the world becomes more multi-polar, the need for centralized power will become less, and the need for international legitimacy greater.

Its always darkest before the storm. — oh sorry, dawn.

Till then, enjoy Claudius.


Trump Just Moved the Fascism Doomsday Clock Closer to Midnight — 25th Amendment Remedy Standard is Arguably Met Already

In terms of our democracy, Trump’s statement today is the most dangerous thing he has said since the election.  From Politico:

Donald Trump on Sunday used the platform of the presidency to peddle a fringe conspiracy theory to justify his loss of the popular vote, claiming without evidence that millions of people voted illegally Nov. 8.

Trump’s tweets marked an unprecedented rebuke of the U.S. electoral system by a president-elect and were met with immediate condemnation from voting experts and others. And they offered a troubling indication that Trump’s ascension to the highest political office in the United States may not alter his penchant for repeating unproven conspiracies perpetuated by the far-right.

“In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” Trump wrote on Twitter. There is no evidence to support Trump’s claim and PolitiFact ruled it false.

This is bad enough when he did win the Electoral College, while losing the popular vote very significantly.

But imagine for a moment that this is four years later, and President Trump has lost the Electoral College (regardless of what happens in the popular vote.) and he makes this statement

We would just have been given the most serious constitutional crisis ever.  Its not many steps to an actual coup, and perhaps leads there inevitably.

So, I am urging now that such a failure to acknowledge reality should be seen as making the President, in the terms of the 25th Amendment “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,” thus requiring a triggering of the 25th Amendment process to remove the President.  Its going to ask a lot of the Vice President and Cabinet, or alternative Congressional designee group, as outlined in the Amendment, to start this process, but this may be the first real indication it might become necessary, and Trump and Congress need to be on notice and ready.

So I now think the Trump Fascism Doomsday Clock should be moved closer to midnight by one quarter of a minute.  I hope someone takes this project on, and gets experts to vote on a permanent ongoing tracking system, with a proper starting point.

Focusing Research To Support an “Appropriate Unrigging” Agenda By Getting Beyond Symptoms

If I am right that our change strategy has to be based on understanding how Trump voters and potential Trump voters think about the term “rigging,” then we need to be doing research that shows how and why the system is rigged, and for whom.

My own personal feeling that much of the problem is that research, after currently being mediated through the media, ends up reporting on symptoms, but not on causes and dynamics.  For example, the recent numbers on suicide, health and life expectancy in declining counties did get widely reported, but I bet they made it through as just that, leaving the impacted population to fill in their own “low information” explanations, that probably focused on external threats, (drugs and foreign competition), rather than lack of opportunity caused by American corporate decisions, lack of health care caused by Republican de-funding, etc. (That hypothesis in itself would make a fascinating research project)

While we can not reshape the media, at least in the shot term, I fear, we can start to do research that focuses not so much on the symptoms, but on government and corporate behavior, with symptoms as only the afterthought, and with analysis of the mechanisms of the impact that causes those symptoms.

We should be conducting focus groups and testing messages that are specifically not about getting short term support for specific changes, but getting insight into people’s understanding of underlying dynamics and finding what would disrupt or replace those understandings.

For example, this paper from the FTC on big data raises many questions about the possible discriminatory and exclusionary impacts of big data.  I would suggest that these impacts might include pricing policies that have discriminatory impact on the declining county areas, others that make it harder for people from those areas to apply for jobs, or even get health care assistance online.

So the research needs to be about the direct line from the corporate behavior, in this case the use of big data, to the impacts that the population of those areas feel.

An economist would say these big data techniques help make markets even more perfect.  Others might experience them differently.  The point is for research to provide the information and does not allow victims to be set against each other.


Impeachment and Conflicts of Interest

It has been pointed out that conflict of interest laws often exempt the President.  It also seems, that media coverage notwithstanding, the President-Elect and his team purport to be unconcerned about the massive lurking potential conflicts in almost any action Trump might take domestically or internationally. (Does that sound like an overstatement?  If you think so, I challenge you to find an action that he might take or not take that will not impact one or other of his business interests, positively or negatively, directly or indirectly.)

So, aside from the fact that other legal protections do put some constraints on Trump, we might start thinking again about the impeachment power, at least for after either 1) a wave election in 2018, or 2) Republicans finally figuring out that they have been totally conned, or 3) both of the above.

There has been, of course, endless debate about the meaning of the Impeachment Clauses, but what we do now is that their meaning is subject to a lot of change depending on whose ox is going to be gored.

At a minimum, however, there is surely an argument that when the law exempts Presidents’ behavior from being regulated, for something that is surely profoundly wrong, there is a stronger argument for treating it as within the scope of impeachment.  I suspect that many of the English impeachment cases were about personal enrichment.  The above link references one case of an allegation of payment to Lord Palmeston by the Tsar of Russia.


Clinton Campaign Is Mistaken Officially to Support Wisconsin Recount

A recent article pointed out that the successful O’Neil strategy to contain and defeat Reagan was to give him rope, and to not defeat the agenda in the short term in Congress through control of the calendar.

I think that Hilary officially joining the Wisconsin recall campaign will seem like a sour grapes strategy.  If the recall delegitmates or, less likely reverses, the result, Clinton gains regardless of her formal position, I would think.

But by continuing to make it a Trump Versus Clinton narrative, you only delay the time at which the public will turn from its (non-plurality) choice.

If, even worse, this means that Clinton has not yet recognized how bad the family is as the carrier of the democratic and Democratic message, we are in for an even tougher time.  Sorry to be blunt.