Congress • Democrats • Electoral College • Elizabeth Warren • Post

Democratic Candidates Aren’t on a Winning Track

Presidential candidates from both parties usually sound hard-core in the primaries to appeal to their progressive or conservative bases. But for the general election, the nominees move to the center to pick off swing voters and centrist independents.

Voters put up with the scripted tactic as long as a candidate had not gone too extreme in the primaries and endorsed positions too far out of the mainstream.

A good example of this successful ploy was Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. In the primary against Hillary Clinton, Obama ran to her left. But he was still careful not to get caught on the record going too far left. That way, he was still able to tack to the center against John McCain in the general election.

As a general election candidate, Obama rejected the idea of gay marriage. He blasted illegal immigration. He railed against deficit spending. And he went so far as to label then-President George W. Bush as “unpatriotic” for taking out “a credit card from the bank of China in the name of our children, driving up our national debt.”

The result was that Obama was elected. After taking office, in cynical fashion he endorsed gay marriage, ran up far more red ink than did Bush, offered blanket amnesties and relaxed immigration enforcement.

Yet the current crop of would-be Democratic nominees has forgotten the old script entirely. Nearly all of them are currently running so hard to the left that the successful nominee will never be able to appear moderate.

Bernie Sanders leads the charge for abolishing all student debt. Kamala Harris wants reparations for slavery. Joe Biden talks of jailing health insurance executives if they falsely advertise.

The entire field seems to agree that it should not be a criminal offense to enter the U.S. illegally. The consensus appears to be that no illegal entrant will be deported unless he or she has committed a serious crime.

Not a single Democratic candidate has expressed reservations about abortions, and a number of them have fought proposed restrictions on partial-birth abortions.

Elizabeth Warren has said guns are a national health emergency and would not rule out the possibility of federal gun confiscation.

Early in the campaign, no major Democratic candidate has questioned the Green New Deal and its radical proposals. No one has much objected to dismantling U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or scrapping the Electoral College. An unworkable wealth tax and a top marginal income tax rate of 70 percent or higher are also OK.

Yet none of these positions currently wins 51 percent of public support, according to polls.

What are the Democratic frontrunners thinking?

Maybe the candidates assume that the present Democratic Party is so radical and so steeped in identity politics that everyone must run to the left of all other rivals, even if insincerely so. Then, once nominated, the survivor can back off from his or her earlier radicalism, move to the center in the general election and hope that voters prefer a centrist hypocrite to an unapologetic radical.

A second theory is that we are watching a sort of progressive feeding frenzy. Twenty or so candidates have become disconnected from reality. In their echo chamber, they have no idea that they are talking radical nonsense.

A third possibility is that the Democratic candidates believe the polling on these issues is wrong. They may assume that the American people either have moved hard left and really do believe in a radical agenda, or can be persuaded with enough time and effort.

There is a fourth hypothesis. It may be that the Democratic Party would rather lose in a fashion it considers noble than win insincerely.

Maybe the goal for Democratic candidates is to advance the hard-left cause, even if Democrats suspect it will mean that their nominee will lose to Donald Trump in the November 2020 election.

Such blind idealism is not unprecedented in American electoral history. Republican nominee Barry Goldwater knew early on that his hard-right positions would likely mean a big loss to Democratic incumbent President Lyndon Johnson in 1964, but perhaps Goldwater hoped to lay the foundation of a new conservative movement.

George McGovern, the 1972 Democratic nominee, may have suspected that he would be demolished by incumbent Richard Nixon. But the hard-left McGovern nonetheless sought to preach a new sort of progressivism rarely embraced by Democrats.

Goldwater and McGovern lost in landslides. Yet eventually, true-blue conservative Ronald Reagan became the heir to Goldwater in much the same way that Obama would become their heir to McGovern.

If all of these explanations seem far out, it’s only because the current Democratic candidates sound far out—as if they either don’t know how to win in 2020 or don’t care to win at all.

Photo Credit: Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call

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Democrats • Elections • Electoral College • Post • The Left

The One-Two Punch to Knock Out Electoral Democracy

If you thought, or hoped, that the brave (or nobly self-interested) Democratic Governor of Nevada, Steve Sisolak had done in the push for a National Popular Vote by vetoing the bill, think again.

On June 12, 2019, Oregon Democratic Governor Kate Brown signed it into law for her state. As of this writing 15 states and the District of Columbia, each with 196 electoral votes, purport to have ratified it. According to its terms as few as three more states (say Texas, Michigan, and Pennsylvania) with 74 electoral votes need to enact the bill for it to go into effect. Should it go into effect, the compacting states, together accumulating a majority of the Electoral College, will cast their electoral votes for whomever is the plurality winner of what the scheme’s backers call “the national popular vote”: whichever presidential and vice-presidential slate gets a plurality of votes when the total votes of all the states (compacting and non-compacting) are aggregated.

The scheme, of course, is an effort to change the Constitution without the bother of securing the consent of three-fourths of the states that the Article V Amendment procedure requires. It is also of questionable validity without the consent of Congress.

While the Supreme Court might rule against allowing an interstate compact to go into effect without the prior Congressional consent that the Constitution’s Article I section 10 requires for states to enter into interstate compacts, it also might not. And since the National Popular Vote folks think they can change the Constitution while flouting the rules for changing the Constitution, they might feel equally free to ignore whatever the Supreme Court tells them the Constitution requires. And whatever can or cannot get through today’s Congress is no guarantee that some future Congress might not find the National Popular Vote acceptable while ignoring the pesky requirement of prior Congressional consent.

Yet the basic reason why the so-called National Popular Vote scheme threatens democracy is that it does not, and cannot, enact a national popular vote that is nationally regulated and supervised. The whole scheme rests on the constitutionally entrenched state control of the selection of presidential electors. What its backers call the “national popular vote” is, as they themselves acknowledge, the aggregate of votes in 51 separate jurisdictions with 51 separate sets of ballot access laws, voter identity checks, and voter eligibility requirements.

Nothing in this scheme, for example, requires that any participating state let any particular candidate on the ballot. The same California legislature that has enacted the National Popular Vote is considering a bill—a bill that has already passed the California Senate—that would require every presidential or vice presidential candidate to release his or her tax returns. The Hillary Clintons and Joe Bidens, candidates foresighted enough to launder their payola through tax-exempt foundations or by having the bribers hire their kids for ludicrous wages, can release their tax returns without fear.

And if state officials can’t steal an election legally, they can always do so illegally. In states like Washington and Oregon, which have only mail-in balloting, or in states like California, which allow absentee voting without any demonstrated need, federal authorities cannot in practice keep officials from flooding or allowing activists to flood the “state popular vote” with out-of-state residents with fake addresses, who mail in ballots in every state for which they can download and send in a ballot, or outright ghost voters who are nothing more than a name and a fake registration. With the electoral college as it is, one-party states like California can allow as much fraud and force as they like, but they can only swing their own state’s electoral votes. With the National Popular Vote scheme, California officials can swing Maryland’s and New York’s electoral vote by stuffing ballot boxes without bothering to leave Sacramento.

Electing the president of the United States by national popular vote might be a bad idea, but it is not transparently fraudulent to argue that American should adopt, by an Article V Amendment, a genuine nationally, that is to say, federally, supervised popular vote. Americans might prefer the kind of system that the Chileans used to elect Castro’s buddy Salvador Allende, or a national two-round popular vote of the kind French used to put in the utterly feckless François Hollande. But claiming to enact a national popular vote while trusting the integrity of the process to the competence and disinterestedness of state officials who have little incentive to be either competent or disinterested just might be the biggest election swindle in American political history.

Photo Credit: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

2016 Election • America • Deep State • Democrats • Donald Trump • Elections • Electoral College • Post

Stealing the 2020 Election: How it Could Happen

Errant flashlight beams occasionally escape the basement window of the courthouse as off-book campaign workers carefully replace another seal on a box of completed ballots. At two minutes a ballot, the team will barely finish in time to slip away before the early shift opens the building so the sheriff’s deputy can load the boxes to transport for final counting. Suddenly the snap of a light switch drowns the flashlight beams in merciless fluorescent light. The conspirators freeze as a pair of legs descends the stairs.

“What are you doing?” A voice asks, half puzzled and half accusing.

“Making corrections.” One of the workers responds as he brushes No. 2 pencil eraser crumbs from a ballot.

“This is a waste of time.” The consultant tells the workers. “I have a better way.”

Such is the scene that might play out in the hours after a future presidential election. Why would workers toil for hours to change individual ballots? The same result was achieved in 2016 when only two people were persuaded to change their votes. These two people, who were totally anonymous and unelected, nullified hundreds of thousands of lawfully cast ballots as they succumbed to a secret campaign of intimidation and persuasion in the weeks after the 2016 presidential election.

Politico noted that activists publicly doxxed personal contact information for many electors— “and it’s been used to bury them with massive email campaigns.” Famous actors made a public appeal to the electors to nullify American votes using out-of-context quotes from the Federalist Papers. Sharon Geise, an elector from Mesa, Arizona, estimated 8,000 emails flooded her inbox in the days leading up to the official Electoral College vote in the 2016 presidential election. The four electors from Idaho reported harassing phone calls from activists pressuring them to nullify the ballots cast for Donald Trump.

The effort failed to change the ultimate outcome in 2016. But it did result in the nullification of hundreds of thousands of votes lawfully cast for Donald Trump as two electors from Texas did indeed change their votes.

On October 30, 2016, days before the election, then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) wrote the FBI accusing it of covering-up “explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisers, and the Russian government.”

After the initial results of the election in November surprised the Clinton campaign, the Russia collusion hoax became the means by which Democrats would attempt to nullify votes by flipping the Electoral College electors. The effort climaxed in the days between December 9 and December 17, 2016. America came within a hair’s breadth of the 2016 presidential election being overturned through a collaboration of the Clinton campaign, the media, and like-minded public officials.

The CIA made the first move. On December 9, the CIA leaked an accusation that Russia “interfered in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency.” On December 12, 2016, just one week before the electors were to cast the final votes for president, a group of mostly Clinton-supporting electors sent a letter in which they demanded a “briefing” from the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. The letter appears to have been informed by the notorious Steele dossier commissioned by the Clinton campaign and other partisan misinformation. The letter cited an account of Roger Stone’s communication with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange (which was false) and asserted that Stone knew about the hacked emails before they were released (which was also false).

The letter also cited unspecified contact between unspecified Trump aides and those associated with the alleged Russian election interference. This likely is a reference to the Steele allegation that Cohen traveled to Prague to pay-off Russian hackers (which was also false). Or it may have been a reference to the Steele dossier’s claim that former campaign manager Paul Manafort coordinated communication between the Russian government and the Trump campaign (also false). The letter further claimed that Carter Page met with the Putin aide in charge of the Russian intelligence on the U.S. election. That appears to refer to a meeting between Carter Page and Igor Divyekin (which didn’t happen).

Clearly somebody dripped Steele’s poison into the ears of compliant electors to build peer pressure against the Trump electors.

The Clinton campaign formally requested that the electors receive the requested briefing. In lofty tones, the Clinton campaign chairman, John Podesta, lectured, “The bipartisan electors’ letter raises very grave issues involving our national security . . . Electors have a solemn responsibility under the Constitution and we support their efforts to have their questions addressed.” Keep in mind, Podesta would have known that the Clinton campaign secretly commissioned the fabrication and dissemination of the Trump-Russia collusion allegations.

Imagine the result if the director of national intelligence had sponsored the Steele falsehoods to American electors with no resources to investigate or dispute the smears. It’s difficult to imagine the plan would not have worked.

But somebody blinked. On December 16, 2016, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a press release acknowledging the request to brief the electors but declining the invitation to conduct it. The communique made an oblique reference to the classified nature of the underlying information. But this classification could have been lifted by presidential decree in a matter of minutes.

The real reason the electors were not so briefed might have been that insiders had already spotted critical flaws in Steele’s allegations. For example, an astute State Department official, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kathleen Kavalec, tipped-off the FBI that Steele incorrectly claimed the payments for the Russian interference were made through the Russian Consulate in Miami (a consulate that does not exist). Also, the FBI travelled to Prague in October of 2016 to run-down a promising arrest of a Russian hacker. It’s likely that they also used the trip to look into reports by Steele that Michael Cohen traveled to Prague months earlier to pay Russian hackers.

We now know that the Prague hacker had nothing to do with the 2016 election and that Cohen did not travel to Prague in 2016. Both Kavalec and senior Justice Department attorney Bruce Ohr warned the FBI that Steele had transparently political motives. Ohr also knew from his own Russian source that the claim that Manafort coordinated with the Russians was “preposterous.” The briefing the electors would have received was just a regurgitation of the lies commissioned by the Clinton campaign.

It didn’t need to be true. It just needed to work.

Viewed in the context of the 2016 election, the present-day effort to end the Electoral College is not about amending the Constitution but about softening-up the playing field for the next post-election campaign to flip electors. By running up vote totals in states like California, Democrats can claim a moral victory in the popular vote to justify an attack on the Electoral College’s constitutional result. In this way, padded vote totals in blue states can be combined with “troubling intelligence” reports by insiders in the deep state to make the next play to overturn an “unacceptable” election result.

That’s exactly what happened in 2016 and there is every indication that the technique will be refined and ratcheted up in 2020. This is the electoral vulnerability that must be addressed if we are to preserve self-government. Imagine the chaos that would have ensued if Clinton succeeded in flipping enough electors to capture the presidency. States should act to eliminate this vulnerability by installing failsafes to overrule citizen electors bribed or threatened into nullifying votes. A single unelected elector should not be allowed to nullify thousands of votes.

Photo Credit: Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

America • Democrats • Elections • Electoral College • Identity Politics • Post • The Left

Paying Off the Many, At the Expense of the Middle

Fifteen states have voted to recognize the National Popular Vote (NPV), a proposed interstate compact that pledges the electoral votes of every state to the winner of the overall popular vote in the next presidential election. Nine Democratic presidential candidates have pledged support for the idea. Why such enthusiasm? Hillary Clinton.

Clinton won the popular vote without winning over middle America. She won with a popular landslide in California (61 percent) and the Left Coast (50.1 percent in Oregon and  52 percent in Washington) and the other huge metropolitan areas in New York (59 percent), New Jersey (55 percent), Massachusetts (60 percent), and Illinois (55 percent), but lost nearly everywhere else.

The Electoral College helps shape how people run for elections and it influences the way they govern. It forces a more generalized concern for the interests of all areas of the country rather than a special focus on only the most populous. Instead of simply going where the votes are, candidates must go where the electoral votes are. The Electoral College ended up protecting Middle Americans and geographic balance, exactly as it was designed to do, when it helped Donald Trump win the presidency. This is a feature, not a bug, of the electoral college in our late republic.

Strangely, moves toward the popular vote claim to represent the goals of the many, but in practice they really reflect the passions and interests of the few.

Under the NPV, candidates will only campaign in big cities and make promises to the residents of big cities—promises which often come at the expense of those who are in charge of producing the country’s food and energy resources in Middle America.

Hidden in the populist pledge to follow “the true voice of the people” is another left-wing instrument of oligarchy. In fact, it is a tool which would escalate to the emergence of a new feudalism in American politics.

The New Feudalism
Under feudalism, a massive peasantry sat beneath an immobile elite of churchmen and noblemen. Today, thinkers like Joel Kotkin and Victor Davis Hanson worry that states like California are slipping into a “new feudalism.”

The emerging feudalism replaces noblemen with tech and finance tycoons, and priests with the press and universities. Members of this ruling elite are the new “experts” who run our regulatory bodies and provide the bulk of financing for Democratic campaigns.

The power of these classes is affirmed by serfs: lower class urban populations who get just enough from government to keep them dependent, but never enough to improve their station. Their benefits include housing vouchers, state funded daycare, Supplemental Security income, and Medicaid—conditions their overlords would never accept for themselves but are happy to pay, if only to assuage the peasantry and gain their votes.

Peace from the urban poor, however, comes at a price that the middle classes cannot afford to pay. As the preferences that animate this feudal structure of our cities moves to the country under the NPV, the problems of cities spread along with them. More and more states which are composed of the country’s middle class will now find themselves caught between the interests of the oligarchs and the underclasses they have drawn to themselves for their own purposes.

The citizens of “flyover” states who voted for Trump—disproportionately in rural areas—do not fit neatly into the new feudal structure. A majority of middle class Americans will never be serfs or lords. They own property, are more suspicious of big government, and are less dependent on state handouts. If forced to pay the taxes necessary to sustain a feudal system, these middle-class voters would be forced to move—much as we see is already happening in states like California.

America’s Rural Crisis
After the Great Recession, the people sitting at the top of the feudal structure continued to benefit from jobs well positioned to thrive in the newly-regulated state: law, corporate finance, Big Tech, university administration, education, and government.

The more those sectors expand, however, the more our country’s impetus toward corporate feudalism grows. America’s rural populations—the independent yeomen in this equation—are the populations that suffer the most.

The numbers affirm this reality. In the distressed communities index assembled by the Economic Innovation Group, the number of Americans living in prosperous ZIP codes increased by 10.2 million to a total of 86.5 million after 2008. The “great reshuffling of 2008” has been a job boon for the managerial classes living in wealthy ZIP codes. To cite just one statistic, “prosperous ZIP codes added more business establishments during the recovery years than the bottom 80 percent of ZIP codes combined.”

With the runaway growth of prosperous ZIP codes and the population boom in those districts, we learn that the rural populations have hemorrhaged in middle America, falling by 3.4 million residents—losing thousands of small businesses, and escalating dynamics which break down small communities.

Implementing the NPV nationwide would serve as yet another blow to rural and middle America. Presidential candidates would no longer need to campaign in the distressed rural regions or even pretend to care about their interests. Feudalism could easily move to the rest of the country.

A Suburban Response
How should conservatives react to these trends? Should they compete with democratic candidates in the cities? Become the party of enterprising cities ourselves? Become part of that scene? Maybe.

But maybe there is a way to look after the interests of distressed rural communities in ways that also appeal to the suburban vote, which continues to be the true battleground of American politics. In addition to a winning strategy in the Electoral College, Republicans need to increase their hold on suburban America if the Democrats continue to dominate the cities.

For President Trump, this means forming a suburban coalition of voters who are not staked in strictly rural, or strictly distressed, ZIP codes. Since suburban voters are far from monolithic in their views, conservatives need to consider how to appeal to suburbanites without alienating the reliable rural voters.

Perhaps the best way to think about where to draw the line when forming these new wedges comes down to who received a university education. University-educated suburbanites are upward members of the managerial class and see themselves as potential members of the landed gentry, with the goal of living in a prosperous ZIP code. These members fall on the left side of the “diploma divide” we see in our politics.

A large portion of suburban voters, however, still lack college credentials  and are not necessarily part of “distressed communities” index—at least not yet. These voters have no place in the feudal vision of our progressive overlords. Like the rural yeoman, they likely consider themselves to be “middle class,” but work in industries such as construction, facilities, manufacturing, or transportation.

Consider Juneau County in Wisconsin, where President Trump in 2016 outperformed President Obama’s 2012 total by 33 points. While there has been little distress in the community since the 2008 recession, 64 percent of the residents have a high school degree.

Or look to densely populated Woodbury County in Iowa, where Trump outperformed Obama by 20 points. Although not in the “at risk” index, 55 percent of the workers in Woodbury completed their education at high school.

In Ohio, think of Sandusky County, which flipped eight points from Obama to Trump. Though not a “distressed community,” nearly 65 percent of the population only has a high school diploma.

As it stands, the distressed suburban voters constitute 18 percent of the suburban bloc, while the prosperous suburban voters constitute 21 percent. This leaves 61 percent for the rest to fight over—and I would offer that the majority of them do not have college degrees. Even though more Americans than ever have a college education, they still only constitute one third of the country.

Appealing to suburban voters and replicating instances like Juneau, Woodbury, and Sandusky nationwide would be a strategy to win over suburban voters.

Such a plan could create a majority coalition that would resist the National Popular Vote. The interests of a suburban and middle class party would align more with the rural yeomen than with those of voters who aspire to be at the top of a new feudal America.

Photo Credit: iStock/Getty Images

America • Americanism • Conservatives • Electoral College • Government Reform • political philosophy • Post • self-government • separation of powers • The Constitution • The Culture

The New Social Contract We Must Reject

America’s public life is disordered; our discourse toxic. Competing lists of scandals and abuses (calls for impeachment, “nuclear options,” attacks on free speech, and so on) are long and shop-worn—and often miss the real issue that something profound, systemic, and dangerous has happened to our nation. A hostile ideology now permeates the institutions that inculcate our children’s values, that shape or manufacture public opinion, and that supply the public with our only menu of political options from which to choose.

In effect, our ruling class has declared a new social contract, and they expect us to accept in silent acquiescence.

A social contract reveals itself in action, not ideas, and the true nature of the new, progressive contract emerges in countless examples of applied tyranny rather than its rhetoric of liberation. If we allow this new social contract to become our national norm, we will no longer be Americans in any meaningful sense. We will descend from a self-governing people into the subjects of social democratic elites who will dictate what kinds of political, economic, and social relationships we have with one another and with our new rulers.

American public life grew from a creative tension between two competing but ultimately compatible visions of who we are and what makes our common life meaningful. In effect, Americans have lived in and between two social contracts, which we have come to call “liberal” and “conservative.”

Our liberal social contract is largely individualistic; it stresses natural rights, political consent, and legal protections that extend from protecting contracts to guaranteeing equality of opportunity. Our conservative social contract, accepting much of liberalism, undergirds it by emphasizing the ties of community—of family, church, and local association—that make economic and political cooperation possible and help give life meaning. Freedom and stability, rights and duties, personal drive and the deeper ties and shared stories that bind us, these seeming contradictions have served as the poles of our common life, allowing us to forge a society of dynamic, ordered liberty.

Things have changed. Whether in the sweeping power grab of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s “Green New Deal,” the old-style socialism of Senator Bernie Sanders, or the dogged resistance of “mainstream” Democrats to any judicial nominee who recognizes the duty of judges to follow rather than make law, formerly fringe positions have coalesced into a new consensus on the left more radical than anything we have seen previously in our two-party system.

How did this happen?

Barack Obama’s vapid speechifying about America’s coming “fundamental transformation” sounded sophomoric to many of us but inspired others—activists, academics, journalists, and politicians—to believe their vanguard had finally captured all the important cultural and political high ground. The words were conceptually empty but nonetheless important as they signaled a coming out for this vanguard. Feeling free to use naked power to implement their new social and political model, progressives largely immobilized non-progressive elites whose foolish complicity in the building of the new paradigm left them without a script.

This paradigm owes much to the most radical of American Progressives from a century ago. It is laid out most fully, however, in a work of academic philosophy, the 1971 book A Theory of Justice by Harvard philosopher John Rawls.  At one level, Rawls merely restates old leftist prejudices, and his abstruse language hardly conceals the radicalism of a “social contract” demanding that we reject our lived culture, our inherited principles, and the defining traits of our American character in favor of a radical, inhumane, and fundamentally unjust “theory of justice.”  

On another level, Rawls offers the purest form of political abstraction that supported a method of analysis perfectly attuned to the desires of a new generation of radicals for moral certitude and for those who cannot tolerate dissent or pluralism.  In this way, Rawls crafted a very useful and seductive theory for people who want action. Rawls’ contract begins with the question: what type of society would an individual choose from behind a “veil of ignorance” completely masking every aspect of a distinctive self:  gender, class, talents, physical limitations, religious and moral beliefs? Rawls’ answer is a “fair” society, in which the only permissible inequalities would be those that produce disproportionate benefits to the most disadvantaged. The cold abstraction of Rawls’ system produces moral heat against all forms of difference and inequality, and against anyone who fails to parrot the claim that its principles are self-evident. And so, dissent from the new orthodoxy is portrayed as a sign of racist rage and a selfish thirst for power, political majorities are dismissed as brainwashed rubes or mere fictions, and open opposition to the new order is deemed treason. Rawls’ theory effectively closes the mind of disciples in order to prepare them for the long march to power.

If we have learned anything over the last two and a half centuries it is that nothing is so dangerous to real, particular, breathing humans as moralism devoted to abstract visions of the good. Unfortunately, we seem perpetually destined to unlearn such lessons. “Free” college, medical care, and guaranteed incomes, courts determined to legislate against the expressed will of the people, and the poisonous demands of today’s identity politics all share a hostility to the norms of personal responsibility and traditions of due process deeply embedded in our liberal/conservative consensus. They demand rejection of tradition and opportunity in favor of using government and radical pressure groups to redistribute wealth and power according to political standards.

Political conflict is nothing new in America. Nor is all political conflict the product of disagreements over our social contract. For example, much of the tragedy of race relations historically has stemmed from primitive emotions and bad, race-based pseudo-science. But at the core of today’s toxic politics is a battle for America’s soul. We must choose: Are we, as a people, dependents of a central government and those who perpetually run that government, looking for administrators to protect us from all the tragedies of life—including sickness, poverty, feelings of inferiority, and speech we find hurtful? Or are we a free people, possessed of a common story as well as our own stories in our own communities, capable of governing ourselves provided each of us is given fair treatment and room to move in the public square?

The Rawlsian contract demands that every form of inequality—political, economic, and social—pass muster according to rigorous, unrealistic criteria. In effect, every aspect of our lives is to be judged by the most “woke” among us, who will then use the power of the state to enforce their judgement. Promising liberation, the Rawlsian social contract would reduce each and every one of us to a featureless cog in a great machine of constant social reconstruction. This most political of social contracts is the real foundation for the politics of envy and resentment promoted by Occasio-Cortez, Sanders, and their enablers.

At its heart, the Progressive social contract is a rejection of society itself in favor of a pervasive, inescapable politics, guided by a permanent ruling class insulated from the people by tenure, lifetime appointments, civil service rules, and a corrupt political system. Real political consent comes, not from behind a veil of ignorance, nor from the kind of mass, national elections called for by those who would destroy our Electoral College. It comes from people within their own states and local communities. National politics and promises must take a back seat to local concerns and loyalties if we are to regain self-government. For this to happen we first must call out those who would shame normal Americans into submission. It is time to call a radical a radical and a socialist a socialist. Most important, it is time to remind ourselves that, whether conservative or liberal, a majority of Americans still believe in self-government and ordered liberty; this is what has bound us together, and what must continue to bind us together if we are to remain a free people.

Photo credit:  Getty Images

America • Electoral College • History • Post • The Constitution

How the Electoral College Squelches Faction

Ever since the political establishment was rocked by Hillary Clinton’s loss in the 2016 presidential election, the Electoral College has been under renewed scrutiny. It has withstood the charge that it is undemocratic since this accusation was made by the Progressive historians Charles Beard and James Allen Smith early in the 20th century. But it may not withstand the intensifying criticism that is a relic of a Constitution deemed to be “pro-slavery.”

Today’s academics almost uniformly accept that the Constitution was “pro-slavery.” In this they follow the critique of the Constitution leveled by radical abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison in the early 1840s. While Garrison focused his criticism on four clauses (the Three-Fifths Clause, the Slave Trade Clause, the Fugitive Slave Clause, and the clause promising states federal assistance against insurrection), Garrison’s followers have extended his criticisms, and now contend that slavery was behind a dozen or more of the Constitution’s provisions, including the Electoral College.

One notable dissenter from the “Garrisonian critique” is Princeton historian Sean Wilentz. In his recent No Property in Man: Slavery and Antislavery at the Nation’s Founding, he contends that the Constitution and its framers were as much anti-slavery as pro-slavery. It was therefore surprising, given the thesis of his book, that in it he conceded to Garrison’s followers the argument that the Electoral College was “pro-slavery.” Even more surprising was that Wilentz recanted his agreement with them while his book was still hot off the presses. Recently he revised his own argument, writing in the New York Times, “The Electoral College Was Not a Pro-Slavery Ploy.” The Times did not allow this heterodox opinion to go unchallenged, however, and immediately published a rebuttal by Yale’s Akhil Reed Amar: “Actually, the Electoral College Was a Pro-Slavery Ploy.” Readers must be left wondering, who is right?

To answer, one must begin—unlike Amar and Wilentz—at the beginning. On the convention’s first full day, May 29, the delegates were introduced to a plan of government proposed by the Virginia delegation, largely based on the work of James Madison. It proposed a radical change in the form of government that united the states, replacing the confederation with a truly national government. This included a provision that “a national executive be instituted, to be chosen by the national legislature . . . to be ineligible a second time.” The term of office was left unstated.

Begin at the Beginning
The Convention proceeded through the Virginia Plan point by point. By June 1 they reached its provision for the creation of an executive, which they debated for nearly a week. Recalling their rule by the British monarchy, delegates were wary of executive power and sought to structure it carefully. After they explored concerns about modes of election (by direct popular vote, indirectly through electors, or by appointment of the national legislature), the term of office, the question of re-eligibility for office, and the seemingly archaic point of whether executive power should be vested in one person or in a committee of several, a loose consensus emerged. Executive power should be vested in a single person to be elected by the national legislature for a seven-year term, ineligible for re-election. (To be clear, this consensus, including election by the legislature, emerged before the notion of a “three-fifths compromise” had been introduced.)

This was one small point of consensus amidst an unstable mix of competing opinions and interests. On June 6, after the convention completed its first discussion of the Virginia Plan, two fault lines began to appear when South Carolina’s Charles Pinckney and John Rutledge moved “that the first branch of the National Legislature be elected by the State Legislatures, and not by the people.” This proposal broke open the floodgates for debate about what role the states would play in the proposed national government. Within a week William Patterson of New Jersey accused the nationalist Madison of “pushing things too far” and presented a purely federal plan. The New Jersey Plan failed, but Virginia’s plan was mortally wounded. Delegates were coming to understand that the new government would be partly national and partly federal.

Likewise, where the Virginia Plan had proposed that representation in the national legislature “be proportioned to the quotas of contribution, or to the number of free inhabitants,” the South Carolinians would insist on June 11 that “the States ought to have weight in the government in proportion to their wealth.” The idea of representation based on free inhabitants was a non-starter for the deep South. James Wilson (the nationalist and antislavery delegate from Pennsylvania) sought to avoid replaying debates from the Confederation Congress about whether or not slaves should be counted in calculating quotas of contribution, and he brought up the proposal (never ratified by the Congress) by which slaveholding states would be taxed on their number of free inhabitants, plus three-fifths of their slave populations. The introduction of the three-fifths ratio into the debate about representation and taxation was a concession by the convention that the union was divided, part slave and part free.

For a month the convention, riven by these profound differences, battled over issues related to representation in the national legislature before sealing the pivotal Connecticut Compromise on July 16. The new government would accept the equality of states in the Senate, and allow for Southern states to include three-fifths of their slave populations for the apportionment of representatives in the House. After this compromise, delegates returned to discussion of the executive to find their earlier consensus had broken apart. By July 19, the states accepted unanimously Gouverneur Morris’s proposal “to reconsider generally the constitution of the Executive.” Elbridge Gerry complained, “We seem to be entirely at a loss on this head,” and proposed delegating the details to a committee; this proposal was rejected. On July 26, Virginia’s George Mason moved the convention return to its consensus from early June: “that a National Executive be instituted, to consist of a single person, to be chosen by the National Legislature for the term of seven years, to be ineligible a second time….” It passed.

At this point the convention adjourned while a small committee produced a draft of the Constitution. Delegates re-convened on August 6, and the Committee of Detail’s report was read. Discussion of the executive did not occur until August 24, when it was again agreed that executive power should be vested in a single person. The proposal that the executive “be elected by ballot by the Legislature” raised objections, and four different modes of election were proposed and voted down. This inconclusive debate over the executive continued until August 31, when the delegates, exhausted, created one final committee (with a delegate from each state) to handle “such parts of the Constitution as have been postponed, and such parts of Reports as have not been acted on.” This committee created the Electoral College.

The Path to Error
With such a convoluted backstory to the debate over the executive and creation of the Electoral College, and with no records left behind by the committee that created it, how could scholars like Professors Amar or (once upon a time) Wilentz claim so unequivocally that it was “a pro-slavery ploy”? The answer, as we hinted, is that they begin looking at the convention from the middle and ignore its dynamics. They both cite the same fragmentary comment James Madison made on July 19, that if the executive were elected directly, Southern states “could have no influence in the election on the score of the Negroes.” Amar: “… Southerner James Madison explained why this was a political nonstarter: Slaves couldn’t vote, so the slaveholding South would basically lose every time in a national direct vote. But if slaves could somehow be counted in an indirect system, maybe at a discount (say, three-fifths), well, that might sell in the South. Thus were planted the early seeds of an Electoral College system.” Wilentz: “…the Virginia slaveholder James Madison—the most influential delegate at the convention—insisted that while direct popular election of the president was the ‘fittest’ system, it would hurt the South, whose population included nonvoting slaves.”

Frankly, it strains credulity to assert that Madison’s observation amounted to some sly, Svengali-like suggestion implanted in the minds of his fellow delegates, who either were blind to the ploy or eager to accept. To the contrary, in the wake of the Connecticut Compromise vote on July 16, which Madison bitterly resisted, he was at the nadir of his influence in the convention. More to the point, Madison’s comment, on which Amar and Wilentz placed so much importance, came as delegates reevaluated their earlier consensus on the executive in light of the pivotal Connecticut Compromise.

Revisiting the question of the executive’s re-eligibility for office, many endorsed reeligibility as a way of encouraging the executive to strive for re-election through meritorious service. The problem, though, was that if the executive was elected by the legislature, the re-election process would be susceptible to conspiracies or corruption. Rufus King ruled out election by the legislature; and though he thought “the people at large would choose wisely,” he worried about the “difficulty arising from the improbability of a general concurrence of the people in favor of any one man.” He thought appointment by electors chosen by the people “would be liable to fewest objections.” Wilson declared, “It seems to be the unanimous sense that the Executive should not be appointed by the Legislature, unless he be rendered ineligible a second time; he perceived with pleasure that the idea was gaining ground of an election, mediately or immediately, by the people.” With a growing consensus for re-eligibility, and against election by the legislature, the question was whether the people should elect the executive directly or through electors. Patterson proposed a compromise by which electors would be “chosen by the States in a ratio that would allow one elector to the smallest, and three to the largest, States.” Ellsworth suggested population levels to go along with this scheme.

Madison, prefacing his purportedly sinister statement, concurred that it was “essential” that the executive be appointed in a way that insured independence from the legislature, and he agreed with King and Wilson that election by the people was “the fittest in itself.” Madison then observed, as Amar and Wilentz note, “The right of suffrage was much more diffusive in the Northern than the Southern States; and the latter could have no influence in the election, on the score of the negroes.” But Amar and Wilentz refuse to allow Madison to finish his thought. He concluded, “The substitution of Electors [for a direct popular vote] obviated this difficulty, and seemed, on the whole to be liable to fewest objections.” Selectively reading the convention’s debates, and selectively editing Madison, Amar and Wilentz wholly inverted Madison’s intent, which was to avoid the thorny issue of representation of Southern slaves.

Garrisonian Compass is Wrong
Why do scholars of the caliber of Amar and Wilentz begin to examine the convention and even pull their key quotation from James Madison from the middle? It is because they remain in the thrall of the Constitution’s most profound and influential critic, William Lloyd Garrison. Garrison became convinced that the Constitution was “pro-slavery” after the Supreme Court—led by Chief Justice Roger Taney—effectively had adopted this this view in the infamous 1842 decision, Prigg v. Pennsylvania. Accepting that the Constitution was “pro-slavery,” Garrison rummaged through James Madison’s account of the convention’s debates for “such extracts… as relate to the guilty compromise that was made at the formation of the Constitution.” Ever since, scholars, including Amar and Wilentz, have been unable to look at the convention innocently. As a result, for the 179 years since Madison’s Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 were published, historians have approached them to document (or refute) the Garrisonian view that the Constitution was “pro-slavery.”

In doing so, scholars rely too heavily on Madison. Those scholars who follow the Garrisonian critique inevitably approach Madison first and foremost as the revealer of the convention’s dark secrets. Some treat him as a dim and bumbling character, like Forrest Gump, narrating events he does not fully understand. Others, like Amar and Wilentz, treat him almost as a villain from a James Bond movie, so proud of his complex and diabolical scheme that he cannot help revealing its shocking details. In either case, they accept Garrison’s premise that the fix was in, the convention was about immoral or evil compromises on slavery, and the only use for Madison’s “notes” from the convention is to expose those compromises.

Madison Becomes Both Central and Not Central Enough
At the same time, this approach, while making Madison central to unlocking the secret intent and motives of the convention, does not rely on Madison heavily enough. It ignores the convention’s context within the broader process by which America’s national institutions developed following the War for Independence. More, it ignores Madison’s unparalleled contributions to that process, most notably his careful study of the Vices of the Political System of the U.S., and his effort to correct those vices. Indeed, his contributions to the convention all can be profitably viewed through their tendency, as he put it in Federalist No. 10, “to break and control the violence of faction.”

This constant emphasis on breaking and controlling the violence of faction even includes his reflections on the challenging issue of the executive. In a long speech on July 25, Madison returned to the point Amar and Wilentz emphasized. Again fearing “intrigue with the legislature,” Madison wished to avoid a situation in which the executive “would derive his appointment from the predominant faction.” He was leaning now toward direct popular election, but once again pointed to “the disproportion of qualified voters in the Northern and Southern States….” Against this potential objection, Madison hoped, “this disproportion would be continually decreasing under the influence of the republican laws introduced in the Southern States;” perhaps he referred to a manumission law Virginia passed in 1782. He concluded in a spirit of conciliation that “local considerations must give way to the general interest. As an individual from the Southern States, he was willing to make the sacrifice.”

On issues related to the executive, which were deferred until the convention’s very end and delegated to a committee, even Madison himself did not have a consistent view. Thus, just as it is wrong for scholars like Amar and Wilentz to have seized on one fragment to explain Madison’s—and the convention’s—intent on the Electoral College, it is misguided for defenders of the College to assume it is above reproach as the product of the framers’ great wisdom. Instead, it is best to accept, like Madison, that while “the convention should have been forced into some deviations from that artificial structure and regular symmetry which an abstract view of the subject might lead an ingenious theorist to bestow on a Constitution planned in his closet or in his imagination,” the convention’s delegates shared a “deep conviction of the necessity of sacrificing private opinions and partial interests to the public good.” On issues of electoral politics, all Americans should emulate Madison and seek to avoid the violence of faction.

America • Center for American Greatness • Democrats • Donald Trump • Electoral College • Environment • Identity Politics • Post • The Constitution • The Left

Constitutional Fairyland

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Another week, a new harvest of insane Democratic pre-electoral hobby horses. Various of the numberless swarm of presidential aspirants in that party have glibly chimed in with their views of how to modify American government to assure a permanent “progressive” majority. Gathering steam now are absurd ideas to side-step the Electoral College, pack the Supreme Court, lower the voting age to 16, and divide the political rubble heap of California into three or four states to create more Democratic senators.

All of this is nonsense, emanating from the same political fairyland as the 12-year elimination of carbon use and bovine flatulence. La Pasionaria Occasion assures us her Green New Deal will not lead to millions of unemployed as the leaders of organized leaders claim, but too a “reinvigorated workforce.” That is a (presumably) unintended recourse to Orwellian newspeak: involuntary unemployment is rarely reinvigorating.

Would-Be Rulers East and West
The bunk about the Electoral College is an attempt to subvert the basis of the American federal system. Little states such as Delaware and Rhode Island had the same number of senators as large states like Virginia (which then included West Virginia) and Pennsylvania, for the reason that their interests as states were just as significant as those of the large ones—and probably in need of even greater protection. (Philadelphia in 1787 was the second largest English-speaking city in the world, with 34,000 people, though a long way behind London, 20 times as populous.)

The champions of the project to negate the Electoral College recognize the practical impossibility of amending the U.S. Constitution for such a partisan measure. In practice, an amendment requires a two-thirds majority of each house of Congress and the concurrence of three quarters of the states, and evidently partisan measures have no chance of leaping these hurdles. Especially in this case, where all the states with fewer than ten electoral votes are effectively disenfranchised, the opposition of a majority of states could be assured in advance.

The detour proposed is that states determine that all their electoral votes shall be cast for whichever candidate receives the largest number of votes. In effect, the Democratic Party elders in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco want to take for themselves the power to overturn the verdict rendered by 20 or more states in all parts of the country. A federation equitably homogenizes the collective will of the whole country and balances out the great cities and the more thinly populated states, the regions, and the vastly differing socio-economic characters of the different states.

The whole idea is based on the false notion that the present system throws up presidents who receive fewer votes than their chief competitor. This has happened with John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson in 1824, Rutherford Hayes and Samuel J. Tilden in 1876, Benjamin Harrison and Grover Cleveland in 1888, John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960 (if the Democratic votes in Alabama for Senator Byrd are not falsely awarded to Kennedy), in the Bush-Gore election of 2000, and the Trump-Clinton election of 2016. Calling upon small states to fall on their swords and put their votes where New Yorkers and Angelenos and Chicagoans want will not achieve the goal of “making every vote count” that is claimed. This is part of the leftist misspeak that holds, inter alia, that “pro-choice” means pro-choice when it really means pro-abortion, and that euthanasia is “death with dignity” and death from a wasting illness is not. (In general, suicide is not usually the most dignified way to die, though it can be. The point is that it should not be allowed the benefit of that phrase uncritically.)

If the advocates of eliminating the Electoral College really wanted the candidate who received the most votes to win (of course, JFK and LBJ would be no better known today than Michael Dukakis and Lloyd Bentsen), then they should advocate that there be, as in the French presidential system, a run-off between the top-two candidates where there is not a majority on the first round. In 2016, Trump, on the second ballot, would have taken most of the Libertarian votes and the McMullin third party votes in Utah, and Clinton would have taken most of the Greens . . .

And Trump still probably would have won.

Under this proposal to end the Electoral College, entire election campaigns would be conducted in the 25 or 30 largest metropolitan areas, altogether excluding states with fewer than 10 electoral votes: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North and South Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming—27 states with 147 electoral votes. Why should these states waive their right to influence elections just to add to the political stature of such unworthies as Chuck Schumer, Kirsten (“I chose brave”) Gillibrand, Bill de Blasio, Kamala Harris, Gavin Newsom, and Rahm Emanuel? This is a greater enthronement of shabby bossism than ever prevailed in the piping days of Boss Tweed, Tammany Hall, and the Kelly-Daley years in Chicago, (which, with Lyndon Johnson’s skullduggery in Texas in 1960 led John F. Kennedy to say: “Thank God for a few honest crooks”).

Partisan Nostrums Disguised as Reforms
The court-packing scheme is completely spurious. There are three co-equal branches of government. Apart from deciding on the number of judges, nothing entitles the legislature to tinker with the composition of the Supreme Court. The current proposals to impose term limits, apportion appointments to each president, and so forth are just cruder forms of meddling than even FDR attempted by seeking to expand the court. He had won a colossal reelection victory, sweeping in huge congressional majorities behind him in 1936, and he still failed to add a few judges “to lighten case-loads.” (He did succeed in frightening the Supreme Court to be careful about invalidating his legislation, and ended up appointing seven of the nine justices.) On that occasion, the all-time heavyweight political champion of the country was rebuffed by his own congressional majorities, very loyal in almost all other matters. This proposal is just a suicide mission.

The rest of it—lowering the voting age and splitting California into several states—is just a naked partisan power grab. At times, the young were more Republican—and so was California when it was the state of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. These things can change.

In pointing this out my intent is not to protect the Democrats from suffering from their tendency to believe that conditions in each state will be as they are now. My point is to protect a system that generally works well and has the legitimacy accorded it from 230 years unbroken practice, from the infantile tinkering of hacks like the egregious Democratic Party Chairman Tom Perez.

All of these partisan nostrums aren’t reforms, they are just the less than righteous grumblings of people who thought they had durably gamed the system already after they watched in horror as this president dumped their apple-cart and lumped in the look-alike Republicans going through the motions with the Democratic winners who show their gratitude by going to the funerals of Republicans they defeated in presidential elections.

The Reagan legacy was squandered when George H. W. Bush allowed the charlatan Ross Perot to take 20 million mainly Republican votes, and we got the Clintons—“New Democrats,” who metamorphosed into the new normal, flat-lined Obama welfare state. It is clear from the tenor of the Democratic race this year that these wished for “reforms” are just another wheeze of the “OBushintons” to re-establish a permanent majority for their soft-left vote-harvesting declinism: the disintegration of the American state in equal opportunity self-denigration in favor of every aggrieved claimant group, foreign and domestic.

It won’t fly, and if these numberless, faceless candidates push any of this silliness, they will regret it. They are already like an awkward wave of people going over a minefield and detonating everything. At some point they are going to have to try to mount a serious campaign. Joe Biden, inadequate as he is, will make every Trump vote count, and will enable the Democrats to solemnize their electoral death with dignity.

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Administrative State • Congress • Democrats • Donald Trump • Elections • Electoral College • Post • Progressivism

The Electoral College Power Grab

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Colorado, along with several other states, is considering a measure to join what is known as the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Billed by its proponents as a means of improving the fairness of presidential elections, it’s actually little more than a Democratic power-grab designed to ensure that the president is elected by overwhelmingly left-leaning cities, sympathetic to the rule of the administrative state.

While the effort was given a boost by George W. Bush’s win in the 2000 election, it has really been energized in the wake of Donald Trump’s victory in 2016. In both cases, the Republican won the Electoral College while losing the mythical National Popular Vote (NPV), the aggregate total of votes in the 50 individual state elections plus the District of Columbia.

Having worked tirelessly for over a century to transfer power from the states to the federal government, and from the legislative to the executive branch, Democrats saw themselves with nearly an unbreakable lock on the Electoral College, and with it, the only office that—in their “fundamentally transformed” regime—mattered. The big decisions all would have been made, and even a conservative constitutionalist president would only retard progress.

Donald Trump shattered that illusion, at least temporarily, by winning the presidency. Worse, from the Democrats’ point of view, Trump has proved more hostile to the regulatory state than most observers had any right to expect. He has rolled back regulations, killed others using the Congressional Review Act, and appointed originalist Supreme Court justices.

The National Popular Vote movement, while bipartisan, will serve the interests of the Democratic party and the bureaucratic class.

This Isn’t New
Democrats and discontented NeverTrumpers would like to pretend that the phenomenon of winning the presidency despite losing the popular vote is new. It’s not. Not only has it happened before, it’s come very close to happening on many other occasions.

In 1976, swap 12,500 votes in Mississippi and Ohio, and President Ford is re-elected—despite losing the popular vote by 2 percentage points. In 1960, swap 38,000 votes in New Jersey, Illinois, and Texas, and it’s President Nixon rather than Kennedy. In 1916, swap a mere 1,900 votes in California, and Charles Evans Hughes narrowly defeats Wilson in the Electoral College, despite losing the overall popular vote by more than 3 points. Between 1876 and 1888, the electoral and popular votes diverged twice, and came within a hair’s breadth of happening twice more.

In 2004, John Kerry came within 60,000 swapped votes of carrying Ohio and the presidency. Democrats hinted darkly that Diebold voting machines somehow stole the election for President Bush, ignoring the deep “injustice” that would have come from a President Kerry winning with a minority of the popular vote.

Despite Appearances, The Dems Are Consistent
The only principle at work here is partisan advantage.

Consider how the Democrats have behaved concerning the alleged plague of gerrymandering. Every time the Democrats have won a majority in the House—every single time, as far back as we have records—they have over-performed their percentage vote, sometimes by astonishing amounts. Between 1966 and 1970, the Democrats’ share of the aggregate House popular vote would have entitled them to majorities of 11, seven, and 39 seats. Their actual majorities were 61, 51, and 75. There was no movement among Republicans to move Congress to a system of proportional representation.

Suddenly, when the Republicans outperform their aggregate popular vote, and by far lower margins, it’s a crime against humanity. Holder’s and Obama’s redistricting commission isn’t about fairness; it’s about locking in “fair” elections in red-leaning states while preserving partisan advantage in a few large states where they can run up huge margins.

Since the 2014 midterm elections, we’ve also seen increasing complaints about the Senate’s equal representation and calls to increase the number of Supreme Court justices the next time the Democrats control both Congress and the White House. For all the talk of Trump’s being an imminent threat to American political institutions, it’s the Democrats who have tried to undermine their legitimacy.

Why This Matters Now
The means Democrats here employ are intended to advance very specific political goals. Progressive cities love the administrative state.

Congress has surrendered so much of its legislative power to the executive branch, making giving speeches easier and more rewarding. The Supreme Court, under its doctrine of “Chevron deference,” allows those same bureaucrats to determine the scope of their own authority. Regulatory agencies, in violation of every constitutional principle of separation of powers, now act as their own legislative, executive, and judicial branches.

While Congress has nominal oversight authority, these agencies are accountable only to the president and his political appointees. Only the most energetic and involved president can hope to make a dent in their powers, and even then only through the end of his term in office.

Today, the federal bureaucracy reaches down into the lives of its citizens as never before. When we’re voting for president, we’re no longer voting only for a person to lead us through war or persuade the Congress to pass major legislation. We’re voting for the person who can choke off financing for gun stores, put men in the women’s bathroom, force college men to face campus kangaroo courts, fail to enforce immigration law, halt nuclear energy permitting, override local zoning, force millions into energy poverty, and millions of other to buy overpriced health insurance.

Moving to a NPV for president doesn’t just let the liberal cities and the increasingly liberal suburbs pick the president, it lets them set policy for every state, city, and county in the United States.

The Strategy and Constitutional Challenges to It
Constitutional amendments require two-thirds approval of each house of Congress, then ratification by three-quarters of the states. Small states are unlikely to agree to dilute permanently their voting power for president.

The folks behind this idea believe they can bypass the amendment process. Instead, they have resorted to an Interstate Compact, to take effect when states having 270 or more electoral votes have approved it. This strategy requires the approval of far fewer states, and has allowed it to make significant progress under the radar by avoiding the focused national discussion that a constitutional amendment would attract.

Right now, proponents claim they are only 98 electoral votes away from having the compact take effect. If enough states were to pass it, other states would have to sue to stop it, and the most likely argument would be that compacts or agreements between states need congressional approval. Virginia v. Tennessee (1893) clarified that requirement. The key section of the ruling reads:

The mutual declarations may then be reasonably treated as made upon mutual considerations. The compact or agreement will then be within the prohibition of the Constitution, or without it, according as the establishment of the boundary line may lead or not to the increase of the political power or influence of the states affected and thus encroach or not upon the full and free exercise of federal authority.

The NPV compact clearly and unequivocally increases the political power of the large states that have passed it, and diminishes the political power of the smaller states that have not. That is the entire purpose of the compact.

The justices also discuss if Congress might assent after a compact is approved, rather than before: if the compact merely recognizes a pre-existing fact, or, “where the agreement relates to a matter which could not well be considered until its nature is fully developed, it is not perceived why the consent may not be subsequently given.” Neither of these conditions exists for the NPV compact. Consent must be obtained before it is passed.

There’s an excellent reason for requiring congressional approval for an interstate compact or a constitutional amendment—it gives other states and the federal government, which might be affected by it, a vote in the process. The NPV process, which seeks to diminish the power of the small states without even asking them, is the very definition of illegitimate.

In addition, there are two subsidiary arguments persuasive to justices in an originalist state of mind. First, electors were clearly intended to represent their states. Selecting them based on voters outside their own state betrays that purpose.

Second, the move from the Electoral College to a national popular vote represents a radical change in the way we elect our president. Such changes should be subject to the close scrutiny and sustained national debate that only the constitutional amendment process affords. Sneaking an interstate compact through selected state legislatures evades that debate, and the consent it implies.

That Republican legislatures have approved an interstate compact with Republicans on its board of directors doesn’t make this any less of a progressive power grab. Republicans have allowed themselves to be hornswoggled before on such things. Right now, when rural areas are overwhelmingly represented by Republicans, and the party is seeking to regain its footing in battleground suburban and liberal urban areas, there is no excuse for going along with a plan to reward permanently its opponents at the expense of its supporters.

Photo Credit: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Administrative State • Center for American Greatness • Deep State • Elections • Electoral College • Identity Politics • Immigration • Post • The Left

Census Fight Is About Dollars and Votes

While the national debate continues over how secure our border will be, another aspect of illegal immigration continues to snake its way through the courts.

In 2017, the Trump Administration added a question about citizenship to the upcoming 2020 census; simply, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” Predictably, the administration was besieged by lawsuits from the Left, calling such a question unconstitutional, illegal, “a direct attack on our constitutional democracy,” and predicting it would “inject fear and distrust into vulnerable communities.”

Never mind that questions about citizenship appeared on every long form census from 1820 to 1950. On the short form census, questions about citizenship were asked through 2000, and continue to be asked on the American Community Survey, which goes out to one in 38 households annually (go figure, the Left has not raised ire about the citizenship question on the ACS). Moreover, countries around the world, including Australia, Germany, and Canada, ask about citizenship—maybe because the United Nations recommends it.

Also glossed over in the foamy outrage on the Left is the rank and hypocritical irony that census documents ask about race, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, homeownership status, electricity bills, job status, age, and even the number of toilets in each house—but a question about citizenship is somehow considered too invasive.

There is ample evidence to suggest that the judge’s ruling was ill-informed and partisan. The Justice Department has already asked the Supreme Court to weigh in. But the legal analysis aside, there are two key aspects to this debate. The first is to knock down the claim that the Trump administration is using the census as a means toward deportation. They’re not. But the second is to explain why the determination of citizenship is vitally important to the basic functioning of representative government.

A Question about Citizenship, Not Legal Status
Chief among the Left’s talking points against posing a question about citizenship is that it will undercut participation in the Census, because illegal immigrants will fear deportation.

This is a handy talking point, but one not supported by facts. For starters, this is a question about citizenship—not legal status. Plenty of visa holders and permanent residents are here legally, but are not citizens. Moreover, the Census Bureau is limited by the “72-Year Rule,” which prohibits the disclosure of personally identifiable information to any agency or individual until 72 years after its collection.

In other words, even if a respondent were to scrawl “I’m here illegally” in red marker across the top of a census form, the Census Bureau would not send that person’s information to Immigration Customs and Enforcement. They’re legally barred from doing so.

But again, that’s not even what the citizenship question is asking. It’s not asking for legal status. Just whether or not you are an American. Surely, if the Left is worried about stoking fear of deportation, they might be equally as concerned with the question that asks if respondents are “of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin.” If this question, which has existed on the Census for years, has not deterred participation of illegal immigrants, it’s unclear how asking about citizenship might.

Money and Power
Ultimately, though, the Left’s concern with Census participation does not arise out of some benevolent impulse toward civic participation. Rather, it stems from their two chief concerns, which govern everything: money and power.

Those on the Left, particularly the plaintiffs in this case, are preoccupied with ensuring as much federal money as possible flows to their states, which have very high illegal immigrant populations. (Indeed, in his ruling, Judge Jesse Furman sided with the plaintiffs, agreeing that their loss of “political power” to non-government organizations operating in New York and California was somehow a compelling argument against including a citizenship question on the 2020 Census.)

In doing so, they are arguing implicitly for continued funding for sanctuary cities—cities that receive federal money, but explicitly refuse to enforce federal immigration laws against those who live there illegally.

But perhaps more important is the role that illegal immigrant populations play in something called apportionment—the drawing of congressional districts based upon population. After each census, House seats are reapportioned according to the population of each state. Electoral College votes, which elect the President of the United States, are apportioned according to the number of each state’s congressional representatives.

States with high percentages of illegal immigrants, have a distinct political advantage over states that do not. In fact, the state of Alabama recently filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Census Bureau claiming that four House seats were wrongly apportioned based on inclusion of illegal populations.

The Left believes that any attempt to define the number of individuals here illegally will diminish their political power. Congressional districts would be redrawn based upon numbers of citizens, with more of them located in rural communities, which tend to vote Republican.

In other words, the Left is more concerned with weighing the rights of those here illegally than they are of American citizens. This is unsurprising. Access to power is the motivating force of the Left when it comes to immigration policy.

A Cynical Gambit
When the Left looks at illegal immigrants, they don’t see people; they see dollar signs and votes. Why else would they refuse to address our broken border security policy, which results in young children being victimized by sex traffickers, exploited by drug mules, and subject to dangerous physical conditions? Why else would they refuse to concede to any immigration reform except total amnesty and, essentially, open borders?

The census question has become a proxy for the Left’s thinly veiled agenda to maintain and control access to political power for decades to come. They’ve given up on attempting to convince their fellow Americans that their ideas are good. They’d just rather fling open the doors to America and create a new constituency out of whole cloth; one who can be convinced to believe they are in debt to Democrats.

It’s a cynical gambit, but a very real one. And it’s why attention must be paid at every level—to the big, flashy debates over the border wall, and the smaller, but equally important questions on the Census.

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America 2.0

The government so carefully and brilliantly designed by the Framers and embodied in the Constitution is no more.

Don’t believe me? Here is James Madison’s description of that government in Federalist 45:

The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce…The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.

This certainly does not describe the government headquartered in Washington, D.C. today. Its powers are no longer “few and defined.” That means our central government is no longer the federal government of the Founders. As the government in Washington has inserted itself into every area of the “lives, liberties, and properties of the people,” the powers of the central government have become “numerous and indefinite.”

Recently, it started requiring schools to allow boys who “identify” as female be given access to the bathrooms and showers heretofore reserved for girls, and the rest of us to purchase government-approved health insurance plans. The health insurance mandate violates the clear intent of the Framers. The gender identity mandate goes far beyond that to violate plain common sense.

The health insurance mandate makes it quite clear that the government of America 2.0 is no longer bound by the Constitution. Once upon a time in America, there would have been universal agreement that the insurance mandate known as Obamacare would have required an amendment to the Constitution before it could be passed—and in those days neither the amendment nor the legislation would have passed. Today, Congress routinely passes legislation that violates the Constitution and the Supreme Court, as we saw with Obamacare, cooperates. That means the people in the government, though they swear an oath to uphold the Constitution, are in fact no longer bound by the Constitution nor do they feel bound by the oath they have sworn.

Legislation that routinely violates the Constitution should come as no surprise. The Progressives have made it clear from the beginning that they reject the Constitution and the Founders’ vision. But what are we to make of government bureaucrats imposing the crazy rule about boys in girls’ bathrooms? After all, it is one thing for the people in government to be able to operate free of the Constitution’s constraints on their power, but to be free of the constraints of common sense and common decency is unfettered power on a whole new level.

Isn’t it clear that the purpose of the bathroom mandate is to show us that we now have rulers—and to rub our noses in it?

In the Founders’ vision, we the people are sovereign and the government “by, for, and of the people” is only the agent of the sovereign people. As Chief Justice John Marshall wrote: “It is the plain dictate of common sense, and the whole political system is founded on the idea, that the departments of government are the agents of the nation.” No longer. Our ruling elite has been having its way with us, using the power of the government in Washington, aided and abetted by its cheerleaders in the press.

That is why our ruling elite is so upset by the election of Donald Trump. Trump wrecked their well-laid plans. They had it all worked out in advance. 2016 would be Clinton versus Bush, again, and it was to be Hillary’s turn. But Trump spoiled everything, defeating Jeb! and then—horror of horrors—defeating Hillary, too. Unbelievable and unforgivable.

Trump in the Oval Office is why the ruling elite is going all-out in a way we have never seen before. It is not enough for them to force us to accept boys in our daughters’ showers at school. Our ruling elite needs to make it perfectly clear to us that electing an outsider who campaigns against them is not acceptable and will not be permitted to stand.

They mean for us to understand who is the boss in America 2.0.

America • Americanism • Center for American Greatness • Democrats • Donald Trump • Elections • Electoral College • Greatness Agenda • Political Parties • Post • Republicans • self-government • The Left • the Presidency

The Trump Coalition and the Electoral College

The Electoral College has been in the news recently despite the fact that the presidential election is still over two years off. President Trump kicked this discussion off by saying that he supports eliminating the College and replacing it with a nationwide popular vote. This was quickly followed up by the Connecticut state legislature’s passage of a bill adding the Nutmeg State to a growing list of states who have joined the National Vote Compact. Once states that total 270 electoral votes have joined the compact, it commits those states to award all their electoral college votes to the winner of the national popular vote regardless of which candidate won the most votes in that state. For the first time in a while, talk of replacing the electoral college has become serious.

I do not want to revisit the shopworn arguments for and against the College. Rather, I want readers of American Greatness to think about the political reasons why change will increasingly be discussed and how proper political action now would pre-empt serious calls for change. The fact is that unless the composition of the Trump Coalition broadens and grows, presidential victories will only come through ever shrinking popular minorities leveraging their strength in the Electoral College to produce College majorities. This cannot be good for our nation’s health.

President Trump lost the popular vote by nearly three million votes. Despite many allegations, there is no serious evidence that illegal alien voting caused this to happen. He lost for two simple reasons: most Democrats stayed loyal to Hillary Clinton, and about three million people who voted for Mitt Romney switched sides. The corresponding switch of about five million Obama voters to Trump did not offset these facts.

Trump won the Electoral College because the current Clinton-Democratic coalition is heavily tilted toward large metropolitan areas. Thus, the millions of Romney-Clinton voters drove up the Democratic margin in California and cut the Republican margins in Arizona, Texas, and Georgia without moving a single state. The Obama-Trump voters, however, were concentrated in large Midwestern states and hence could move those places from blue to red.

These developments mean that unless Trump can become more popular with upper-income, educated, more moderate Romney-Clinton voters or find a way to win more working-class non-white Democrats, he can only win re-election by again losing the popular vote and winning the Electoral College. Should this happen, it would be first time in our history that two consecutive presidential elections went against the popular vote winner.

Demographic changes also make it more likely that Trump’s—or any Republican building a coalition like Trump’s—vote deficit is likely to grow. That’s because America’s younger citizens are much likelier to be non-white, and much less likely to vote Republican, than the older whites who will pass away in the coming decades. A state-level analysis of political trends and demographic change by the States of Change project demonstrates this clearly. If President Trump receives the same shares of the vote among different demographic groups in 2020 as he did in 2016, even the small changes that will have occurred would cost him the crucial Midwestern states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania and hence the election. If he increases his share of the vote among non-college educated whites, however, he and his successors could win the Electoral College through 2036 even as the GOP nominee loses the popular vote by ever increasing margins.

Should this arise, calls to change the Electoral College—or moves by Democrats to ratify the National Vote Compact—will surely increase. No one could dispute that these Republican victories would be unconstitutional, but modern democratic legitimacy rests on more than following legitimate practices. If a popular minority continues to rule for an extended period solely because of the Electoral College, calls to alter this anti-majoritarian institution will surely follow as night follows day.

This may not trouble you but consider what a frustrated minority could do. The constitution clearly gives states the sole discretion over how electors are selected. Should this situation arise, it would be constitutional for a Democratic-controlled legislature in a state to decide to award electoral votes proportionally or, in an extreme case, to simply award them via a vote in the legislature without any popular vote at all, as South Carolina did until the election of 1868. Purple states with voter-sponsored initiatives, like Florida, could via a popular vote proportionally award delegates even where Republicans control the state legislature. You might cry foul, but these maneuvers rest on as solid a constitutional ground as the College itself. And maneuvers like this will be attempted if a popular majority increasingly believes the College prevents it from winning.

This makes it even more important that President Trump and his allies seek to broaden their political support. Rather than rely on popular toleration of minority rule, Trump’s team should be inclusive in their search for new allies. That means trying to increase voter support among college-educated voters who may find Trump unseemly but find progressives unacceptable. That means broadening support among working-class voters of all races who don’t want progressive culture warriors in their churches, homes, and schools but do want the federal government to have their backs in the face of an uncertain economic future. Most of all, it means finding ways to unite all the non-progressive elements into one party unified by a positive vision for America rather than simply assembling a coalition of the besieged.

Ronald Reagan called this party “The New Republican Party”. For a host of reasons, his successors never built this party, which in turn leaves us where we are today. Demographic change means that Republicans and non-progressives must act now if they do not want to cede political control to the Left. The Electoral College has given us time to construct this party, but we cannot rely on the College forever. Rather, “it is for us to be here dedicated to the great task that remains before us . . . that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth”.

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Administrative State • America • Americanism • Center for American Greatness • Democrats • Donald Trump • Elections • Electoral College • Government Reform • Identity Politics • Immigration • Post • Trump White House

Citizenship Should Count in Census

Our system of government is, at least technically, that of a republic. In the original Constitution, state legislatures chose Senators, and, even now, an Electoral College technically elects the president. But the House of Representatives was and remains the “people’s chamber” and is supposed to represent the people in a “one man, one vote” fashion.

But which people? And how should that people be counted in the census for purposes of apportioning congressional districts?

The Founders provided for the inhabitants of the United States to be counted every 10 years in the form of a census. This required more than a mere count of living people. Implicit in the Constitution was that the government would be one made up of free people, that is, of citizens. Thus, various classes of people would be counted in the census—free, indentured, Indian, and slaves—but each would be provided different weights for the purpose of apportionment of congressional districts.

The (pre-amendment) constitutional text is straightforward: “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.”

While the “three-fifths compromise” is supposed to scandalize us today, critics forget that the large slave-owning states of the South wanted slaves counted as whole persons for census purposes, whereas the Northern states wanted them treated in the same manner as Indians, with no weight provided to slave populations that would increase Southern representation in Congress. The compromise maintained the union, but diminished the political power of the slave-owning South. The non-counting of Indians and reduced count of slaves—indeed, the failure to even use the word slavery in the Constitution—exemplified the moral foundations of the Constitution, as well as the ethos of its authors: it was fundamentally created as the charter of a free and self-governing people . . . but a people nonetheless.

The Constitution, and every government whether constitutional or not, is preceded by a particular people, a nation, which is the combination of particular persons, defined by their loyalties, bonds, and history, as well as the geography they call home. While our Constitution had legal and philosophical antecedents in the English Bill of Rights, the common law, and the practical experience of self-government in the colonies, the boundaries of the people entitled to that protection had to be defined, just as did much as the new country’s geographic boundaries.

For the early United States, this peoplehood excluded unrepentant Loyalists, who had their property expropriated, after which many fled to Canada or other parts of the British Empire. During and after the Civil War, those who had fought for or served the Confederacy were deprived of the right to vote for an extended time. The constitutional provision quoted above was, in fact, altered by the 14th Amendment, which allowed a reduction in apportionment to reflect the presence of former Confederate soldiers and officials who lost their right to vote.

As now, there were also aliens in the country legally, but they could not vote. How this population affected congressional representation varied by time and place, but generally the districts were supposed to be equal in their “free” population. In a series of decisions in the 1960s, the Supreme Court disallowed legislative districts with uneven populations that were designed to enhance the power of one or another political party or group.

Today, we have a large class of illegal aliens. These are noncitizens with no formal political power and no right to vote, yet these make up a sizeable portion of the population, particularly in certain parts of California, Arizona, New York, and Texas. According to the Census Bureau, “all people (citizens and noncitizens) with a usual residence in the 50 states are to be included in the census and thus in the apportionment counts.”

This practice is not required by any constitutional provision. As the Supreme Court noted in its unanimous 1966 decision of Burns v. Richardson, “[the Court] had never suggested that the States are required to include aliens, transients, short-term or temporary residents, or persons denied the vote for conviction of crime, in the apportionment base by which their legislators are distributed and against which compliance with the Equal Protection Clause is to be measured.”

In other words, who to count for apportionment following the census is a matter for Congress to consider when dealing with special cases, such as aliens, illegal, or otherwise.

The big brouhaha criticizing the 2020’s Census including a question on citizenship—apparently eliminated from the primary “short” form only in 2010—has little to do with high principle, and much to do with political power. Not only apportionment, but federal benefits of various kinds, hinge on the size of a locale’s population, whether it consists of citizens or not. While Hillary Clinton extolled the coasts as dynamic places full of entrepreneurs, New York and California have been losing people, particularly among citizens fleeing for lower crime, lower tax, and lower diversity places in the interior. But each has a large illegal alien population.

The argument for including questions of citizenship on the census—and excluding noncitizens from being included for the apportionment of congressional representation—is fairly straightforward: the current failure to do so increases the political power of places with large numbers of illegal immigrants, by potentially increasing the number of such districts on the margins and also by augmenting the relative power of voters in these districts.

The effect is identical to the asymmetry that would have arisen in the absence of the three-fifths compromise. Including illegal aliens in congressional apportionment confers political benefits on places economically dependent upon large, marginalized, noncitizen populations. As Justice Story noted in his Commentaries on the Constitution, “If they were to be represented as property, the rule should be extended, so as to embrace all other property. It would be a gross inequality to allow representation for slaves to the southern states; for that, in effect, would be, to allow to their masters a predominant right, founded on mere property. Thus, five thousand free persons, in a slave-state, might possess the same power to choose a representative, as thirty thousand free persons in a non-slaveholding state.”

The Founders were no doubt familiar with the practice of the English Parliament, where, at the time, there were numerous “rotten boroughs.” These small “buyable” parliamentary seats, effectively created an anti-democratic roster of offices, which only retained the outward appearance of representation. Today, a large illegal alien population creates a similar problem, allowing an additional seat or two to places like California to be elected by a comparatively small number of eligible voters.

Government of “we the people,” must, first and foremost, restore power to the actual people—the citizens. The United States is not just a land mass, a shopping mall, or a military base. It is a country made up of a people, and the government’s duty is to promote that people’s “union” and “common welfare.”

Adding the citizenship inquiry to the census will enhance our collective knowledge of the extent and expense of the alien population among us. With all the talk of “foreign influence” in the last election, the most dramatic form of foreign influence is the presence of millions of illegal aliens “living in the shadows,” who affect the tone, expense, and efficiency of government at every level where they reside. The only reason they were ignored in the last census was the Obama Administration’s efforts to increase the political power of the most left-leaning portions of the country, while concealing from the country as a whole the extent of illegal aliens in our midst.

This mercenary calculation only enhanced the power of those legislators, bureaucrats, and political parties that have revealed themselves as perfectly content with foreign influence, so long as that influence draws the country further away from its philosophical origins and dilutes the unity of a people rooted chiefly in their status as a nation of free and equal citizens.

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2016 Election • American Conservatism • Americanism • Center for American Greatness • Conservatives • Deep State • Defense of the West • Democrats • Donald Trump • Electoral College • Foreign Policy • Government Reform • Greatness Agenda • Post • Republicans • The Constitution • The Left • The Media

Taking Trump Seriously

Trying to take Trump seriously, Michael’s Barone’s column in the Washington Examiner on Thursday, is significant for at least two reasons. One is that anything Barone writes is certain to be thoughtful, authoritatively researched, and grounded in reality. His columns, like his work in general, are not fired mainly by ideology but by a desire to understand. What Cardinal Newman said of Aristotle could, mutatis mutandis, be said of Barone: about most things, to think like him is to think correctly.

But there is another sense in which this particular column is significant. Given Barone’s stature as a conservative but non-ideological commentator, his judicious and fair-minded assessment may mark a turning point in the broader public reception of President Trump’s initiatives.

Remember: the moment that Donald Trump achieved the impossible, defeating the anointed candidate Hillary Clinton, a vast coalition formed like a toxic mold to blight his presidency and deny him the legitimacy that he had won at the ballot box and the Electoral College.

Irony-free females in pink “pussy hats” marched in their thousands to protest against Trump’s “vulgarity”; B-list Hollywood narcissists made embarrassing videos in which they pleaded with members of the Electoral College to renege on their responsibility to vote for their party’s candidate; frenzied commentators at CNN, MSNBC, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and other outposts of woke hysteria regurgitated rumors, fantasies, innuendos, and gossip on the basis of “sources” indistinguishable from their personal political animus; black-masked members of Antifa and kindred covens of criminal disgruntlement rampaged on college campuses, destroying property and injuring people with whom they disagreed in order to protest the violence and intolerance of Donald Trump; the entire academic establishment, that sprawling congeries of preening though unearned smugness and moral self-infatuation, contracted in one brow of hate-spewing woe to demonstrate its unwavering commitment to sclerotic ideological conformity.

“The Embarrassing Ravings of a Mad Uncle”
All across the fruited plain, pampered members of the entitled class shouted at others to “check their privilege” while signaling their approval of a “resistance” movement whose only reality was a resistance to the results of a free, open, and democratic election. On the one hand, it was a perfect illustration of what Charles Mackay called 
“the madness of crowds”; on the other, it was a vivid embodiment of something Sigmund Freud might have congregated under the heading of “infantile neurosis.”

Speaking of neurosis, poor Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) described the tax-reform plan that Trump just signed as “the end of the world,” “the worst bill in the history of the United States Congress.” Back on planet earth, businesses and markets disagreed. A couple of weeks ago, Trump’s major speech on national security, backed up by a detailed white paper on the subject, put the world on notice about the lineaments of an America First foreign policy.

These and other developments—from symbolic initiatives like Trump’s decision to move our embassy in Israel to Jerusalem to game-changing actions like his robust support for America’s energy industry—have made the skirlings of anti-Trump hysterics seem more and more like the embarrassing ravings of a mad uncle.

Why Seriously, Why Now
Michael Barone’s column, taking its cue from
 Salena Zito’s observation that, during the 2016 presidential election campaign, anti-Trump pundits tended to take candidate Trump “literally but not seriously,” opens a new chapter in the evolution, and the rehabilitation, of Trump’s reputation.

“As 2017 is on the point of vanishing,” Barone writes, “it’s worth asking whether it’s time to take Trump seriously, if not literally, as a public policy maker.”

That’s a question that Latinists would describe as a nonne question, i.e., one expecting the answer “Yes.” Barone focuses on two areas, economics, and national security, and two columnists, the free-marketeer (and therefore Trump skeptic) Tyler Cowen and the Trump-friendly commentator David Goldman, to make the point.

Cowen, although skeptical of Trump’s protectionist rhetoric, “sees a pattern where others see only mayhem.” Barone quotes Cowen in a recent Bloomberg column: “The real significance of the Trump economic revolution is a focus on investment.” If this challenges the post-World-War II consensus, so be it. That system was devised some 70 years ago to deal with the reality of a war-savaged Europe and Japan. Times have changed, but not the stale, conventional wisdom. As Barone notes, “A revived Europe has turned sluggish, while low-wage nations in Asia, Latin America, and even Africa are open for investment. First Japan, then China, now others will be moving up as competitors.” In order to meet those new competitors, the United States must compete on a level playing field, a field that favors the Trumpian slogan “fair trade” over yesterday’s mantra “free trade,” whereby “free” was meant a policy that systematically disfavored American workers.

“America,” Barone observes, “has proved competitive at the top levels. But a country whose labor force is always going to include many low-skill workers may have some continuing interest in incentivizing low-skill employment. That’s not Cowen’s view or mine,” he allows, “but it’s apparently President Trump’s. Maybe it’s not just dismissible as crazy ranting.”

Can you hear the tide turning? Listen: drawing on a brilliant column by David Goldman in Asia Times, Barone acknowledges the tension between Trump’s sober national security proclamations and his sometimes incendiary tweets. But he goes on to outline the advantages of Trump’s aspirations:

The national security strategy has a tough enough approach to Russia to disabuse all but the most dogmatic believers of the notion that Trump is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Manchurian candidate. It is sharply critical of some actions by President Xi Jinping’s China. It drops former President George W. Bush’s earnest promotion of democracy in the Middle East and former President Barack Obama’s gauzy faith that Iran will abandon its nuclear weapons program and become a normal constructive power in the region.

The point is not that Barone agrees with Trump. About many things, I suspect, he does not. The point is rather that one of our most thoughtful commentators understands that Trump’s perspective is not necessarily jejune, crazy, or counterproductive.

Rational Re-Thinking of the Postwar Consensus
For example, although Trump’s national security platform reaffirms America’s commitment to NATO (while at the same time calling on our European allies to do more to support their defense) it also relocates the center of gravity of U.S. concern from Europe to Asia. “Europe,” Barone observes, “seems almost a footnote.”

For the last seven decades, of course, Europe was at the center of America’s foreign policy concerns. In the aftermath of World War II, “policymakers believed it was in America’s interest to revive and subsidize Europe.” That was then. “Trump believes that time is over.” Again, the issue is not whether one agrees with Trump’s assessment, only whether his is a justifiable perspective. And it is precisely this that Barone grants him: “That’s one rational response, though you and I may not agree, to how things have changed over 70 years.”

The revelatory novelty, and the admirable maturity, of Barone’s column suggests just how caught up in yesterday’s presuppositions is the conventional thinking—let’s not call it “wisdom”—that undergirds the policy establishment that has set itself tooth-and-claw against Trump.

Barone’s calm, dispassionate description of alternatives suggests two things. One, that the dreaded “normalization” of Donald Trump is proceeding apace, just as it did with Ronald Reagan, who also had been dismissed as an evil, warmongering moron before he was declared a statesman of rare genius. Two, that the vaunted policy establishment in Washington and the media, to say nothing of its support groups in academia and the world of celebrity, are just about to suffer a disestablishment that will rival in vividness, if not in carnage, what Henry VIII visited upon the monasteries of Tudor England.

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2016 Election • America • American Conservatism • Americanism • Democrats • Donald Trump • Elections • Electoral College • GOPe • Identity Politics • Immigration • Political Parties • Post • Republicans • The Left • Trade

Where Else Do Establishment Republicans Have to Go?

In a recent column, I advised conservatives and populists not to alienate less doctrinaire conservatives because they need their votes in general elections. A number of readers pointed out they have reason to be angry with “the establishment,” especially on matters like immigration and government spending. They have a great point.

Just as conservatives and populists need to avoid permanently alienating those to their left, establishment conservatives need to keep their friends to their right happy too. Like it or not, we are co-dependent in this relationship.

The Trump-Republican coalition is a tricky one to manage. It includes those derided “establishment” conservatives, fiscal or liberty conservatives, social conservatives, and non-conservative populists. Take one part of that quartet away and Democrats (often progressive Democrats) come out on top. Each group, therefore, has an interest in keeping the union intact.

Establishment conservatives, though, often seem to forget this. They think they can anger social or liberty conservatives without consequence because, as they often say, “where else do they have to go?” They might be right when it comes to the general election, as for most conservatives fear and hatred of the Left drives them to support even a very flawed nominee. But that is not true when it comes to party unity, as the last seven years demonstrates.

Alienation on the Right

This failure goes back for decades. The first President Bush angered liberty conservatives when he raised taxes despite saying that he would never do so (“read my lips”). His first pick for the Supreme Court, David Souter, quickly became an ally of the progressive wing, thereby infuriating social conservatives. His son learned from these lessons and made sure that he was solidly conservative on taxes and Court appointments, discounting the Harriet Miers misstep. But otherwise the liberty conservatives were treated much as they had been treated under Bush’s father.

In its effort to court the center, the Bush Administration often failed to offer much to the liberty-focused right beyond tax cuts. It focused on increasing spending in areas like education and Medicare. Rarely if ever was offsetting those increases with cuts elsewhere in the budget on the table. Thus, spending grew even with complete Republican control of the federal government from 2002-2006.

Bush’s desire to court the burgeoning Hispanic population also led to the failed efforts to reform immigration. Conservatives fearful of another Simpson-Mazzoli Act, the 1986 bill that was supposed to end illegal immigration via a compromise of amnesty and employer sanctions, rose up in opposition. That was enough to derail the Bush effort, but establishment Republicans since have done little to tailor their subsequent plans to address the conservative objections. As a result, immigration has exploded into a defining issue that separates the two parties, divides Republicans against themselves in race after race, and arguably is responsible for the Trump presidency.

Social conservatives fared better under Bush, but establishment conservatives elsewhere often flee their side when the going gets tough. The battle over the Indiana religious liberty law is a case in point. Despite the fact that social conservatives view such protections as essential in this day and age, as soon as pressure was brought to bear on Indiana businesses establishment Republicans caved, forcing the passage of a much-watered down version of the act to the dismay of social conservatives nationwide. Many large establishment GOP donors, like investor Paul Singer, also supported same-sex marriage in the days before the Obergefell decision. There’s a reason social conservatives have been the only party faction to oppose most Republican nominees during the primary process since the early 1990s.

Dissecting “the Autopsy”

The disdain and condescension establishment conservatives often feel for their more ideological cousins was on full display in the RNC analysis of the 2012 election debacle. Commonly known as “the autopsy,” the authors argued that many voters perceived the GOP was uncaring.

Rather than conclude, however, that maybe establishment GOP positions and priorities might have something to do with that perception, the authors cast sole blame on key priorities of both wings of the conservative movement. The party, the autopsy argued, needed to be open to immigration reform and same-sex marriage in order to attract Millennials and Hispanics. What movement conservatives would get from such an arrangement was strangely, but predictably, overlooked.

The manifest poverty of the autopsy’s argument was on full display in that painful debacle known as the Jeb Bush candidacy. Despite $100 million and the tacit support of much of the party’s elite operatives, donors, and officials, Bush flopped miserably in the primaries. Movement conservatives hated him, as poll after poll showed, but what was telling was that the voting constituency for establishment Republicans—the “somewhat conservative” voter—abandoned him too. Indeed, they preferred Mr. “Build the Wall,” Donald J. Trump.

Jeb Bush had once said he was willing to lose the primary to win the general, which was interpreted to mean that he would not veer right as that would cost him the presidency. Instead, he was humiliated, shown to be the head of a tribe of chiefs with no indians, and the man who trounced him did so by rejecting,  ostentatiously, the autopsy’s path. Trump’s victory was due in no small part to precisely that rejection, as only such a rejection could have procured the overwhelming support he obtained among the voters he needed to win, the blue-collar populist white voters who dominate the Midwest.

Where Will the Establishment Go?

Have establishment conservatives learned anything? If they want to remain important players in a Republican party that governs, they have to find ways to end the civil war that divides all types of conservatives and weakens them, often fatally, before they can even face the Democrats. That means they need to think of movement conservatives and populists as potential coalition partners rather than as what many movement voters perceive as marks in a big con game. And ending that perception means thinking about what deals they can strike that would make these people satisfied that they are not being taken for a ride.

The alternative for establishment GOP voters is not bright. While many might feel more culturally comfortable in a Clinton-led Democratic coalition, it is hard to see what they might get out of such an arrangement. The Democrats are going through their own Tea Party moment, with progressives who have been angry at Clinton triangulation and moderation for over twenty years bent on “resistance” and a move to the left. Joining that party might give establishment Republicans the trade and immigration deals they prefer, but in exchange for sharply higher taxes on the well-to-do and greater regulation of business and private activity. That’s a pretty high price to pay just so you can enjoy your company at party social gatherings.

The better course for the establishment is to stop the unnecessary bloodshed. The Trump presidency offers a unique opportunity for all sides in this debilitating battle to come to grips with their situations and work together. Trump’s very ideological amorphousness is a plus in this cause, as it allows him (and those in his administration who share this goal) to play the honest broker. It would place him in the role he plays best, dealmaker, and it would allow him to create something that none of his rivals have come close to building, a dominant party of the center-right that holds sway for a decade or more. But such an endeavor can work only if the potential partners all accept the invitation in good faith, and that decision must come from them and them alone.

For that to happen, all party factions must recognize that each is a minority of the country, and that they gain strength by uniting together rather than by pretending that they represent something greater on their own. Whether they realize this in time is perhaps the great challenge of this presidency.

 

2016 Election • America • Big Media • Department of Homeland Security • Electoral College • Immigration • Kris Kobach • Mike Pence • Political Parties • Post • The Constitution • The Left

Dead Man Voting

Most Americans may be unaware of the Diplomatic Security Service, “the law enforcement and security arm of the U.S. Department of State. It bears the core responsibility for providing a safe environment for the conduct of U.S. foreign policy.” In the course of those duties, the DSS conducts investigations, and one will prove of great interest to American voters, taxpayers, and—incidentally—fans of “The Day of the Jackal.”

In that 1971 novel, the Organisation de l’Armée Secrète (OAS) hires a British citizen to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle. For this task, the assassin secures a passport in the name of a deceased person.

Decades later, that kind of identity theft was still possible in the United States.

As the DSS recently discovered, a Mexican national named Gustavo Araujo Lerma applied for a U.S. passport under the assumed identity of Hiram Enrique Velez, a deceased U.S. citizen. Federal courts are charging that Araujo Lerma, 62, used this fake ID for more than 25 years and obtained legal permanent resident status for Maria Eva Velez, 64, with the help of that fraudulently obtained passport. The couple had previously married in Mexico but did so again in Los Angeles in 1992 under the fake identity. This allowed Velez illegally to gain status as the purported wife of a U.S. citizen.

The government also alleges Araujo Lerma “committed illegal alien voting” by using the identity of the late Hiram Velez in at least five federal, state, and local elections. If any election officials caught on to this voter fraud—a felony—they weren’t talking. Legitimate citizens and legal immigrants could be forgiven for wondering how many other fake-documented foreign nationals have cast ballots in American elections, even though it supposedly never happens.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton carried the popular vote by a count of 2.8 million and her popular-vote victory was due almost entirely to California, where she received more than 4.3 million votes than Trump. The president, who carried the day in the Electoral College, estimated that 3-5 million illegals had caused him to lose the popular vote. Trump duly launched a commission on voter fraud headed by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. That probe had Democrats running to the barricades, bullhorns in hand.   

“There’s simply no evidence of widespread voter fraud in this country. Period,” said U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who at 84 is seeking another six-year term in office next year. California’s secretary of state, Alex Padilla, sued to block the federal probe from seeing the data with this explanation:   

California’s participation would only serve to legitimize the false and already debunked claims of massive voter fraud made by the president, the vice president, and Mr. Kobach. The President’s Commission is a waste of taxpayer money and a distraction from the real threats to the integrity of our elections today: aging voting systems and documented Russian interference in our elections.

As Fusion GPS confirms, the Russian interference tilted to Hillary’s side. The “voting systems” work well but the process of verifying voters could well be aging. Back in the day, as “The Day of the Jackal” showed, everything was on paper and officials had to wade through boxes of material. Now birth, death, and passport records are all computerized, and identities can be verified easily.

The Diplomatic Security Service should check all passport applications for the past 25 years to see how many belong to dead people. Then cross-check the voter rolls to see how many of the falsely documented voted in federal, state, and local elections, in the manner of Gustavo Araujo Lerma. If convicted, he faces 15 years in prison and his wife 10 years, plus fines of $250,000. After all, document fraud and identity theft are not victimless crimes.

Nearly 3 million illegals live in California and the real count is doubtless much higher, same for the alleged 11 million illegals nationwide. Twenty states, including the sanctuary state of California, are blocking access to voter data, so legitimate citizens and legal immigrants can be forgiven for giving President Trump the benefit of the doubt on the 3-5 million illegal votes.

Meanwhile, is it possible that any of the falsely documented are not only voting but running for public office? Consider California’s state senate leader, who seeks to replace Feinstein in the U.S. Senate.

As Christopher Cadelago of the Sacramento Bee notes, “the name on his birth certificate isn’t Kevin de León.”  The author of California’s “sanctuary state” legislation is also on record that members of his family used false identification, including fake social security cards.

Did anybody in the family get a fake U.S. passport? Did any vote in federal, state, and local elections, in the style of Gustavo Araujo Lerma? The Diplomatic Security Service of the U.S. Department of State might want to look into it.

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2016 Election • America • American Conservatism • Americanism • Center for American Greatness • civic culture/friendship • Democrats • Donald Trump • Electoral College • Greatness Agenda • Political Parties • Post • Republicans

Toward a Winning American Majority

The world is obsessed with Donald Trump. Hardly a day goes by without my receiving an email, a call, or a tweet from someone, somewhere who wants me to tell him what the president will do next. I always oblige as best I can, but the fact is these queries aren’t often about the real story unfolding before our eyes. The important question for anyone interested in America’s future is not “what will Trump do next?”; it is “what are the terms on which America’s next dominant political coalition will be formed?”

President Trump is an important, even decisive figure in this, but as a democratic leader he can do no more than what public opinion permits. He can shape it, he can mold it, but he cannot ignore it or battle against it. What he can do, and what any politician who aspires to be transformative tries to do, is to build from the disparate strands of opinion a strong coalition that shares some common principles and is defined against a common enemy. With that in place, a leader can truly make America great again.

I’ve been writing and speaking about this topic for the last eight years in columns, articles, and talks, as well as in two books on the Republican Party and on Ronald Reagan. American Greatness’ editors have read my work and invited me to share my thoughts with you as a bi-weekly columnist starting today. Since the American Greatness project—how to build, in theory and in practice, a durable and coherent political coalition conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all Americans deserve respect and dignity—is near to my heart, it was easy for me to accept their offer.

Over the coming months, I will try to explain how such a coalition represents the views and dreams of the vast majority of Americans; what challenges exist in bringing that coalition together; and what sort of policies are needed both to unite the different factions within that potential coalition and to define future battles in ways that both advance core principles and keeps a common foe in sight. Sometimes I will discuss these ideas in light of recent events, while other times I will simply talk about the issues and opinions that are important even if they are not currently in the news. In all cases, I will keep my eye on the ball: what does America need to be great and which Americans need to unite to keep it great.

You might be surprised by how little I will discuss the president. That will be by design. His views and personality will be important in how these forces are divided or combined, but he himself is not the reason we are having the debates we are having as a nation. He won his election because he responded to overlooked and latent political demands, not because he created those demands with his campaign. He is a demand-side, not a supply-side, figure.

We cannot control what Trump does, nor can we even influence it if we do not know what we want. Those of us who desire an America that works towards fulfilling her destiny as the nation best suited to develop and enhance human nature and human happiness must know how to get there on our own. If President Trump were to leave office tomorrow for whatever reason, we must know how to act. We can only do that if, in addition to knowing who we are for and whom we are against, we also know what we are for. This has to be about more than personalities.

I am for a political movement that builds on, but is not coextensive with, the existing conservative movement. The conservative movement is currently not a movement at all, but rather is an alliance of discrete groups with differing and competing agendas. They agree on what they are against: transformation of America into a centralized, government-directed state, open denigration of religion and traditional values, and surrender of American freedom and security to determined foes abroad. But they strongly disagree on what they are for. This, not feckless leadership in Congress or a directionless administration, is why the current Republican majority is unable to do much of anything even when it has control.

The current political configuration on the Right has another essential flaw: it does not represent the majority of Americans. Much has been made of President Trump’s ability to win millions of votes among whites without a college degree in the Midwest and other places rarely visited by our nation’s elites. Republicans win these voters at the statewide level, but they rarely win them nationally because these voters don’t want current national Republican policies. Instead, they are the swing voters in American politics and have been since at least the election of 1896. As I will explain in the future, they sit between the traditional “Left versus Right” politics, and hence are the only group who can join with one partisan coalition and make it a majority. The fact that they have not done so in the past 20 years speaks volumes as to why our politics are divisive, corrosive, and indecisive.

Ronald Reagan always understood this. He told Americans when he endorsed Barry Goldwater in the television speech that launched his political star that “there is no such thing as Left or Right, there is only up or down.” There can be no winning an American majority that does not recognize those who still believe that maxim, and feel betrayed by political classes that see only left or right. My column will be dedicated to the idea that Americans want and would vote for the “up party” if only they had one to vote for. In the coming months, I hope to build for you a vision of what that up party looks like, stands for, and represents. For such a party, only such a party, one that unites what is common for all Americans regardless of color, creed, or gender, can maintain and enhance the virtues that truly make America great.

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2016 Election • Administrative State • America • American Conservatism • Center for American Greatness • Congress • Conservatives • Deep State • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Electoral College • GOPe • Republicans • separation of powers • The Culture • The Left • The Leviathian State • The Resistance (Snicker)

Republicans and the Lost Art of Deterrence

In a perfect and disinterested world, when Washington, D.C. is deluged in scandal, a nonpartisan investigator or prosecutor should survey the contemporary rotten landscape. He would then distinguish the likely guilty from the probably falsely accused—regardless of the political consequences at stake.

In the real cosmos of Washington, however, the majority party—the group that controls the House, Senate, presidency, and U.S. Supreme Court—if it were necessary, would de facto appoint the government’s own special investigatory team, and then allow it to follow where leads dictate. Its majority status would assure that there were no political opponents in control of the investigations, keen on turning an inquiry into a political circus. That cynical reality is known as normal D.C. politics.

But in contemporary Republican La-La Land, the party in power with control over all three branches of government allows its minority-status opponents to dictate the rules of special investigations and inquiry—a Jeff Sessions recused, a Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) excused from his investigations of unmasking and leaking, a Robert Mueller appointed as special counsel, friend of to-be-investigated James Comey, and employer of partisan attorneys.

Is naiveté the cause of such laxity? Do Republicans unilaterally follow Munich rules because they hope such protocols will create a new “civility” and “bipartisan cooperation” in Washington?

Demonizing Resistance 
Or is the culprit civil dissension among the ranks, as the congressional leadership secretly has no real incentive to help the despised outsider Trump? When Republicans get re-elected on repealing and replacing Obamacare during the assured Obama veto-presidency, and then flip in the age of surety that Trump would reify their campaign boasts, should we laugh or cry? Is the Republican establishment’s aim to see Trump’s agenda rendered null and void—or does intent even matter when the result is the same anyway?

Or is the empowerment of progressive conspiracy-mongering due to fear of the mainstream media, which demonizes principled resistance to progressivism and lauds unprincipled surrender to it?

Or, lastly, is the cause a bewildering misreading of human nature? I say “bewildering” because conservatives supposedly brag that they are the more astute students of unchanging human nature, while progressives are purportedly naïve believers in therapeutic remedies to perceived human frailties?

If any of the above, the Republicans had better soon wise up. For eight months, progressives have swarmed the media and our politics with false charges of Russian collusion, aimed at delegitimizing both a president and his conservative agenda.

In a logical world in which Republicans enjoy monopolies on political power, they would have dispensed with the progressive strategy of emasculating the Trump administration through endlessly hyped fake news accounts of quid pro quo Russia-Trump subversion. And they would have done so by themselves taking the offensive.

Endlessly refuting each week’s new progressive charges—no, Donald Trump did not watch sick sex acts with prostitutes in Moscow; no, Donald Trump did not send his lawyer to Eastern Europe to rig the election; no, three swing states did not have their voting machines rigged; no, the electors will not betray their constitutional responsibilities; no, Trump is not going to be removed through impeachment, the 25th Amendment, or the Emoluments Clause—achieves nothing but to undermine public confidence in the conservative effort to undo the Obama agenda. They are no more serious stories than the scandal sheet allegations that Trump shorts his guests a scoop of Häagen-Dazs, that his wife is an illegal alien, or that his son is autistic. Apparently, Republicans don’t get it that when a president is smeared as watching urine-porn in Moscow or getting Russian hush money for undermining Hillary’s campaign, then the abyss between such charges and assassination chic in the popular media, is considerably narrowed.

Go Full-Bore on Real Scandals
The salvation of both the Trump Administration and the Republican congressional fate in the 2018 elections is to reestablish political deterrence—accomplished by going on a full-fledged offensive against real, not merely perceived or alleged, political scandals. Only that way will the accusers feel the predicament of the accused, especially as there is real merit to Democratic liability in a way that charges of Trump collusion have largely proved a political fraud. Only when deterrence is achieved, will the Democrats be forced to concentrate on agendas, issues, laws, and messages, not on ambushing the president.

The Republicans should announce far more forcefully to the media that Vladimir Putin may have been funneling via shady third-parties millions of dollars to anti-fracking groups. Such collusion, if proven through investigation, really is treasonous—given that the crashing price of oil, brought about solely due to North American frackers, is about the only check on Putin’s ambitions that the West enjoys. So, to take one example, did the San Francisco-based, family-controlled, and hedge-funded Sea Change Foundation receive laundered Russian money to help enhance its anti-fracking messaging? If so, when, how, and who?

Secondly, Republicans should go full bore on the most explosive scandal of the age, the House Intelligence Committee’s investigations into the surveilling, unmasking, and leaking of American citizens by key members of the Obama Administration, likely done for perceived political advantages.

Rather than envisioning the ethical Devin Nunes as a liability to be controlled, the House leadership should see him as an asset to be encouraged to uncover inconvenient truths—especially given that progressives see the unprincipled Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) as a resource in hiding a scandal. After all, what in the world was the self-righteous and self-described civil libertarian and humanitarian Samantha Power doing, as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, in allegedly reading, unmasking, and leaking intelligence reports on conservative private citizens during a national campaign?

Thirdly, we forget that Hillary Clinton’s scandals were terminated not by exonerating investigations, but by the fact that she lost a presidential campaign, and thus they were no longer deemed disruptive of an election.

No one has ever really understood exactly why Russian interests paid such lucrative honoraria to Bill Clinton or gave so lavishly to the Clinton Foundation, or why they cut an advantageous deal to acquire substantial interests in North American uranium holdings, but apparently did not prove so generous both before and after Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state and her announced presidential candidacy. When Clinton not only destroyed requested emails, but also lied that they were all neither classified nor connected to government business, and faced no consequences at a time when regular citizens went to jail for such transgressions, then there is no equality under the law left to speak of.

Fourthly, what an Orwellian world it is when progressives allege “obstruction of justice” (which  Mueller’s burgeoning team of lawyers is apparently investigating) in the case of Donald Trump’s sloppy, off-handed, and out-loud wishes to FBI Director James Comey that he hoped “good guy” Michael Flynn did not get ruined by a loose investigation.

Yet obstruction is not much pursued even when no one seems to deny that former Attorney General Loretta Lynch met stealthily for private discussions with the spouse of a suspect of a current Justice investigation (subsequently dropped), and when she unapologetically seems to have directed the self-described moralist, Director Comey again, to alter the nomenclature of his ongoing investigation of fellow Democrat and presidential candidate Clinton (and Comey shamelessly acceded to Lynch’s detailed requests).

Fifthly, there is the surreal case of Imran Awan and his tribal clan, the frauds, cheats, and possible blackmailers, who worked as techies for Democratic congressional representatives and in particular for former Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Schultz apparently maintained some unfathomable relationship with the disreputable Awan that would force her into utterly untenable positions to protect his skullduggery. And unlike other allegations of collusion, the Florida congresswoman appears on video unapologetically threatening the chief of the U.S. Capitol Police with “consequences” unless he returns computer data concerning possible crimes to Awan.

Reestablish Deterrence or Lose
Finally, no one has ever fully gotten to the bottom of
the Fusion GPS/Steele dossier, the fountainhead (thanks to Buzzfeed and CNN) of the entire Russia-Trump collusion mythos.

The much passed-around file was one of the most repugnant episodes in our recent checkered history, with evidence of ethical and perhaps legal wrongdoing on the part of Republican primary candidates, the Clinton campaign, the office of Senator John McCain, the FBI, and the Obama administration, who all at various times trafficked in preposterous and pornographic untruth, in some cases leaked the smears to the toady press, and apparently believed that it was the silver bullet that would put down the Trump werewolf.

Reestablishing deterrence—or what a mellifluous constitutional scholar and recent Nobel Peace Laureate once variously called “taking a gun to a knife fight,” “getting in their faces,” and “punishing our enemies”—is not quite Old Testament eye-for-an-eye, but rather, given human nature, the only way to stop a progressive and media lynch mob.

In the old West, a sheriff did not save those falsely accused in his jail by walking outside to the street to calm an armed and frenzied hanging mob through reason and appeals to sobriety.

Content created by The Center for American Greatness, Inc is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

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2016 Election • Administrative State • America • American Conservatism • Center for American Greatness • Conservatives • Deep State • Democrats • Donald Trump • Economy • Education • Electoral College • Energy • Environment • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • Healthcare • Hillary Clinton • History • Immigration • Israel • Political Parties • The Left • The Media • The Resistance (Snicker) • Trump White House

Trump’s Quiet Victories

It requires a bit of perspective to see the trend in Washington: nothing fails to succeed like success. When presidents have threatened the Washington condominium of Tweedledee liberal Democrats and barely distinguishable Tweedledum Republicans, and then were seen as successes, opposition flaked off in retreat.

So it was with Richard Nixon, who arrived in Washington with all the baggage from the Alger Hiss affair and the Helen Gahagan Douglas Senate election (in which she called him “Tricky Dick” and he called her “the pink lady-right down to her underwear”), and the Chequers smear, but moved with agility abroad and at home. The president ran gradually better in the polls and was widely respected by the moderate and conservative majority of voters. Of course it all blew up when he mishandled the Watergate affair, but for four years the glacial mass of his opposition melted steadily.

Ronald Reagan incited fears of extremism and was represented as a simplistic dolt who should still be selling 20-Mule Team Borax in a cowboy outfit on television. But he was amiable, a magic public speaker; his tax cuts induced an immense economic boom, and his defense build-up culminating in comprehensive anti-missile defense deescalated and ultimately won the Cold War. The alarmists fell silent and he did not really attack the great Washington sleaze factory’s activities, so they endured him and closed in behind him when he returned to California.

As was foreseen, the response of the solid anti-Trump press after the election was not that public grievances against Washington must be based on something, but rather that there were more racist, sexist, gun-happy, Bible-thumping, lager-lout philistines than had been appreciated.

Donald Trump has not just been a distasteful opponent, as the D.C. political establishment generally considered Nixon; or a convivial Californian outsider like Reagan, who changed economic and strategic course but didn’t attack pillars of Washington incumbency. Nixon and Reagan had contested numerous elections as Republicans, and despite the odd rhetorical flourish, weren’t going to do more than make course corrections from their Democratic predecessors, Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter.

But Trump was different. He launched a movement, paid for his own campaign, (no ghastly fund-raisers with the dumb, opinionated rich), dismissed the Bushes, McCain, and Romney as Clinton-Obama sound-alikes, and frontally assaulted Wall Street, Hollywood, the national media, the lobby system, and every adult in Washington D.C. (which voted 96 percent against him).         

Trump’s crushing victory in the Republican primaries was attributed to the weakness of the other candidates―he would hit a stonewall with Hillary. His victory over Hillary was a freakish product of the vagaries of the electoral system (from which John Quincy Adams, Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, JFK, and George W. Bush also benefited), and of Russian interference via Wikileaks and otherwise, and the conduct of FBI director James Comey. (Comey was at first praised for his “integrity” for recommending against indictment of Mrs. Clinton after recounting a sequence of her likely illegalities.) As was foreseen, the response of the solid anti-Trump press after the election was not that public grievances against Washington must be based on something, but rather that there were more racist, sexist, gun-happy, Bible-thumping, lager-lout philistines than had been appreciated.

In office, the fallback position of the irreconcilables has been that he could not get anything done. Yet he has dismantled the entire self-garrote apparatus promoting global warming and impeding off-shore and shale-oil production, and is dismantling and reversing the welter of financial regulation designed to promote the Dodd-Frank myth that Congress had lacked the authority to prevent the economic calamities created by official inflation of the housing bubble up to 2008, (with the full approval of the Congress). There is steady promotion of charter schools over the ignorance factories of the state school systems reduced to mockery by the teachers’ unions to which the Democratic Party is bound from sandal to mortarboard. 

In foreign policy, though, it is early. The Iranians shriek that the Americans and Russians are replacing them in the Middle East with the Turks; Assad now knows that gassing civilians can be hazardous; Hamas pretends to accept Israel’s right to exist, and the North Koreans denounce China, which created this Frankenstein Monster and sustained it to irritate the West, and which is now reducing trade across the Yalu. The direction, however tentative, is away from the universal contempt for the Obama policy of simply ordering, like a dancing master, that America’s friends and enemies change roles and places.                   

Now it is Trumpism, and not the corrupt left, that is advancing in ant-like, unpublicized, but constant forward movement, every week. The House health care vote confirms Republican solidarity, just six months after Speaker Ryan declined to share a platform with candidate Trump. Trump’s followers, who knew it would be a slog, are solid at near his electoral result in the mid-forties in the polls. His outnumbered media supporters and talk-show and social media backers are in place, despite some grumbling about the Syrian Tomahawk attack from the magnificent Ann Coulter and some others. The intellectual left has gone all the way to the end of the diving board. Michael Kinsley (as intellectual as left-wing journalists get in the U.S.) declares the president a fascist, as if mentioning the side on which his hair is parted. Christopher Browning in the New York Review of Books, with a few pro forma distinctions, laboriously likened Trump with Hitler, at such length that the unwary might imagine that there was a comparison to be made.

The party of Jefferson and FDR is unrecognizable, but it can still be distinguished from a liberal ISIS. The president’s shortcomings are overly notorious, but his enemies are no longer of this world. He will win, and change the nation for the better.

The bizarrerie of the intellectual right is illimitable. My dear and esteemed friend George Will, after an acrobatic exercise in the columnar snobbery that Trump was unaware that Andrew Jackson died 16 years before the start of the Civil War, (Jackson was concerned about the danger of civil war throughout his presidency, as George knows and Mr. Trump was alleging), has fled into the television embrace of Rachel the Madd and Mika Buzzfeed at MSNBC, the most astonishing flight since Joachim von Ribbentrop went to Moscow. They have all walked the plank; President Trump has induced self-destructive political bilharzia in the deranged effigies of once-serious and important people. I still love them, but I grieve for them.

The rank and file Democrats have plumbed new depths of scatological banality. The party chairman, Tom Perez, occupies a post once held by serious people like James A. Farley and Larry O’Brien. But Perez cannot speak a public sentence without assimilating the president to excrement. The people won’t have it. The self-targeted Democratic torpedoes, which Trump had the tactical intelligence to goad and then to consign to due process, were the lies about collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign, and the challenge to the president’s constitutional authority over immigration, (reinforced by ninjas smashing and burning at Berkeley, and the mobbing of travelers at airports around the country and overseas). The torpedoes will come home on those who launched them in the next few months, warhead-first and at high speed. Then, frenzied partisanship will start to give way to the instinct of self-preservation, and the locked-arm solidarity of the Never-Trumpers will start to break up. The party of Jefferson and FDR is unrecognizable, but it can still be distinguished from a liberal ISIS. The president’s shortcomings are overly notorious, but his enemies are no longer of this world. He will win, and change the nation for the better.

Content created by The Center for American Greatness, Inc is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com

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2016 Election • America • Big Media • Democrats • Electoral College • Hillary Clinton • Republicans • Sports • The Left • The Media • Trump White House

Nate Silver and the Fetish of Data-Driven Journalism

“Sir, the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1.”

“Never tell me the odds!” ―C-3PO and Han Solo

 

Yogi Berra famously threw the fat lady off her stage in 1973 when he said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” With the rise of and reliance upon data-driven modeling of elections and sports we might just as well rephrase it as, “It’s over before it begins.” But we’d be wrong to do so.

Like most oddsmakers going into Super Bowl LI, Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.com, owned by ESPN, predicted the New England Patriots to win. Going into the half-time as the Falcons were up 28-3, the site gave the Patriots a less than 1 percent chance of winning. FiveThirtyEight tweeted: “That Patriots drive took another 5:07 off the clock and actually dropped their win probability from 1.1% to 0.5%.”

Of course we all know what happened next. In yet another brilliant statistical upset in a year of upsets, the Patriots defied all probability after the half. They scored 25 unanswered points, taking the Super Bowl into an historically uncharted overtime which they then proceeded to win—giving America, and the world at large, a clinic in determination, momentum, and the ability of human beings to surmount even the greatest of statistical odds.

It was a lesson in the value of risk taking and accomplishment; values that were once core elements in the American mythos but that increasingly have fallen out of favor in exchange for the perceived infallibility of data-driven models and analyses.

Since the mainstreaming of data punditry, exemplified by Nate Silver’s meteoric rise and FiveThirtyEight’s hallowed place in the culture, we’ve seen a cultural shift with regard to the use of statistics and data. Big Data, polling, and more specifically, Silver’s predictions, have become the equivalent of a mic-drop in any conversation about sports or politics. Throughout the election cycle, on TV shows and social media feeds across the country, his pronouncements were treated as sacrosanct papal bulls. His data-driven analysis, whether accurate or not, provided gravitas for those seeking a more commanding way to eviscerate opponents in debate. “Silver gives Hilary a x percent chance to win the election” became the trump card in any conversation.

We’d moved to a point where we seemingly were willing to assign data modeling more value than the possible variances, irrationality and risk-taking inherent in human decision-making. This happened during the Super Bowl just as it happened during the election. In both cases, statistical models were held up as unassailable predictors.

And in both instances, they were wrong.

For his part, no matter how certain Silver was of his model, he’d often hedge. In October 2016, under the headline “Clinton Probably Finished Off Trump Last Night,” Silver wrote: “I’m not sure I need to tell you this, but Hillary Clinton is probably going to be the next president. It’s just a question of what ‘probably’ means.” (emphasis added) He then spent the bulk of the article convincing us that Clinton would win, but at the end noted the possibility he could be mistaken. When results of the Republican primary, the Michigan Democratic primary, and the general election proved him very wrong, Silver’s postmortem explanations moved the goalposts, claiming event X or event Y was unprecedented, thus skewing the initial models. Even after the Super Bowl, in an attempt to make light of the situation, he tweeted: “At least the Falcons won the popular vote.” To which a user responded, “Nate, you don’t get to make election jokes.”

Silver also acknowledged in a lengthy post-election analysis that subjective best guesses and metrics are often baked into the stats when unprecedented things happen. By saying this Silver, admits that pure stats—facts, figures, polls, and data—might work for averages and as descriptors, but they cannot accurately adjust for extraordinary events and people. This was best summed up by David Morris, when he wrote about Silver’s failure to predict Trump’s victory in the Republican primary: “Unlikely events like the Trump nomination are, by their very nature, impossible to predict.”

The models, thus, don’t ever really predict the future. They are informed best guesses that describe how current events would likely play out if those events and the responses to them conformed to the past. The trouble with trusting the Oracle, however, is that when history occurs, it is often a break with the past.

Silver’s accuracy is not the issue here. Everyone get things wrong from time to time. It’s just that despite being fabulously wrong over and over again, and despite his admissions of fallibility, people still cling to his pronouncements as the ultimate argument from authority. This signals a more profound structural problem with the culture—one too eager to find quantifiable solutions to complex and often unquantifiable situations, especially when those quantifiable solutions comport to their views of the world as it should be.

It’s not Silver. He’s just the fetish for the phenomenon.

Jason Rhode, in Paste Magazine, opens his withering critique of Silver with a quotation from Federalist 55: “Nothing can be more fallacious than to found our political calculations on arithmetical principles.” And yet today many seem to believe that Silver is arithmetic made flesh, as such he’s an avatar of a cultural desire for statistical certainty in light of a constantly changing and often unpredictable world of human interaction and politics. He is Hermes bringing us the word of the gods. But sadly, we miss the point of hermeneutics, that discipline of critically assessing the nature of Hermes’ message.

Instead, invoking FiveThirtyEight seems to bestow upon the speaker of the Silverian incantations an air of both intellectual superiority and mathematical indifference. “Nate Silver predicts…” is akin to saying “Shut up idiot, what do you know? The numbers don’t lie, don’t doubt your betters!” But that appeal to Silver is really an appeal to the illusion of a fully predictable future.

Ultimately, an overreliance on Silver—and Big Data in general—is a quasi-religious attempt to bring order out of chaos, an almost fundamentalist approach that borders on number zealotry. It’s an attempt to overlook how little we know about what we imagine we can design.

The American zeitgeist until quite recently has been opposed to this view of human nature and events. From our movies which stress against-the-odds comebacks to our national mythos as the set of upstart colonies that managed to defeat the strongest empire on earth at the time, we have reveled in being exceptions to the rule. This thinking, in turn, has lead to a national character that stressed self-reliance and risk taking.

But now, with a large segment of the population and an even larger segment of our leaders all too happy to reduce human interaction to data points, we run the risk of becoming an increasingly risk averse and technocratic society where people value comfort over vision, ease over innovation and utility over passion.

Statistics are an integral component in decision making, but as the caveat during every infomercial tells us, “Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.” Ultimately, the Super Bowl, the election of 2016, and so much of history show us the problem with technocrats and those that would use the pronouncements of statisticians as some guaranteed proof of outcome. They can’t take into account human ingenuity, grit, and the ability to create hope and momentum in the face of time decay and defeat. Silver’s failures of late are so traumatic to those who would quote him as scripture because it upends their notion of a society and a human nature whose interactions can be easily reduced, predicted and thus controlled.

2016 Election • American Conservatism • Conservatives • Cultural Marxism • Donald Trump • Electoral College • Hillary Clinton • Republicans • Trump White House

Winning the War and Losing the Peace

Conservatives and Republicans tut-tutting along with Dems over what amounts to the latest excuse for why Hillary lost the election are setting themselves up for coming legislative defections and defeats.

The campaign didn’t end on election night. That’s the message for America from the bipartisan uniparty headquartered in Washington, D.C.—the one that Trump supporters voted to evict on November 8. Having lost the election they’re back with a new narrative, the sole goal of which is to undermine the legitimacy of Donald Trump’s presidency before he even takes office.

We shouldn’t be surprised by the lengths to which the Left will go to retain their grip on power. As a people for whom politics largely has replaced religion as the source of meaning in their lives, it’s all they’ve got. But their enablers and fellow-travelers on the #NeverTrump Right are more surprising and, in their own way, more pathetic.

Recall that Hillary Clinton was more than a little reticent about conceding defeat in the face of an overwhelming loss. Her much touted but evanescent “blue wall” collapsed becoming the least effective defensive obstacle since France’s Maginot Line. Reporting since the election tells us that she was in an uncontrollable rage and could not even muster the grace to address the thousands of supporters waiting for her in the Jacob Javitz Center in New York or the millions of Americans watching on television.

Shortly after the election the Clintons and their friends on the Left allied themselves with Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s absurd effort to recount ballots in a handful of states that Clinton lost (Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan). Stein claimed that her motivation was to “ensure the integrity of our elections.” Tellingly, she had no interest in the integrity of elections in states that Clinton won by surprisingly small margins like New Hampshire and Minnesota.

Stein asserted in multiple lawsuits seeking to force recounts (she missed the statutory deadline to request a recount in Pennsylvania and so was forced into Court) that voting machines had been hacked. Every court that heard these claims denied them because of a lack of evidence. Got that? Stein and Clinton had their day in court and were denied relief because their claims lacked evidence. In fact, U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond said in his ruling that the claim of hacking “borders on the irrational.”

When the recount strategy fell apart for lack of evidence the narrative morphed from hacked voting machines to “Russian hackers” and a “hacked election.” It’s a claim that’s meant to sound terrible while remaining vague enough to avoid refutation. It’s also a phrase that doesn’t really mean anything and that’s the point. Because it’s real purpose is to stoke despondent Clinton voters’ resentments and leave them with the impression that Donald Trump’s presidency is somehow illegitimate. The claims are a savvy way of preparing the political battlefield and give Democrats some leverage in their uphill battle to stop Trump from enacting his agenda.

Still, on the eve of Donald Trump’s presidency, a presidency that is paired with a Republican controlled Congress and can accomplish so much good, it is frustrating to watch stubborn NeverTrump conservative intellectuals and pundits play the part of useful idiots. The wildly overblown claims of a “hacked election” are a totally transparent trap baited and set by the Left to undermine Donald Trump’s presidency and stymie his agenda. But their ideology, which has been reduced to mere negation of all things Trump, blinds them to the trap set by the likes of Van Jones, John Podesta, and Chuck Schumer.

The claims of a “hacked election” are nothing more than warmed over stories about the emails from the DNC and John Podesta’s Gmail account that WikiLeaks released in the summer and fall. The entire country knew all about this before the election and concluded that the story was not who did the hacking—everyone knew the emails had been hacked—but the information contained in the emails.

The fact that the scandals, dirty tricks, and potentially illegal activity revealed by those emails turned many Americans off on the notoriously distrusted and disliked Hillary Clinton cannot be blamed on Vladimir Putin, WikiLeaks, or anyone else. The blame rests squarely on the shoulders of the Democrats themselves.

Ultimately, their goal is to take a scalp or two by defeating some of Trump’s cabinet nominees, especially Senator Jeff Sessions who is widely hated and feared on the Left, and to slow the repeal of Obamacare. The only way they can do this is by driving a wedge between Trump and some of the weaker members of the Republican caucus in Congress. They hope that endless repetition of the “hacked election” claim will leave behind a taint of illegitimacy that will become the wedge they can use. This is especially so in the Senate where Democrats have their sights on Senators like McCain, Flake, Graham, and Snowe who have demonstrated a preternatural desire to buck their own party.

Republicans should see Democrat claims for what they are: a brazen attempt to gain political advantage by creating a phony crisis of confidence. Trump voters won a resounding victory on November 8 but NeverTrump conservatives threaten to lose the peace by playing into the Democrats’ cynical attempt to blame foreign intelligence agencies, rogue states, and lone wolves for their loss. Hacking of government systems and political operatives has been happening for decades. It’s an important security issue but it’s not news.

The real story is the corruption and shady deals that the hacked emails exposed. The American people understand this—it’s one of the reasons they elected Donald Trump. Let’s hope Trump’s critics on the Right figure this out before they hand Democrats any unearned victories.