No Evidence Idaho Voters are Leaving the GOP Party Over the Closed Primary

thIn 2011 the Idaho Republican Party took the “unprecedented” step of closing its primary (HB 351).  Many opponents of the move inside and outside the party argued that it would hurt the party among general election voters.  Democrats gloated it would drive voters into their waiting arms.  Conservatives pushing the closed primary believed the closed primary would help them knock out numerous moderate, Republican incumbents.  Neither expectation has turned into reality.

Admittedly, there is a dearth of election data to parse the results from.  But the one data point we do have, 2012, stands out for two reasons.  First, numerous grassroots conservative groups mobilized to defeat moderate GOP incumbents.  Second, it was the first election since redistricting was completed in 2011.  This meant that longtime incumbents facing tough races were trying to introduce themselves to new voters, new voters possibly more conservative than their former constituents.

The results were depressing for the grassroots.  Only one of a at least four targeted moderate incumbents were defeated in the first closed GOP primary in Idaho history.  Turnout was atrociously low but regardless many moderates survived and moved on to easily win their general elections.

Democrats insisted that the GOP closing its primary in 2011 would drive voters into their party’s arms.  Combined with a number of other policy issues the party had pushed; Luna Laws, Voter ID and protest restrictions, Democrats argued moderate voters would be tired of the extremist wing of the GOP taking over the party.  The results of the general election do not back this assertion up.  More importantly. Idaho’s voter registration numbers do not back up this argument.

The results should be little surprise to Democrats.  The party retook a senate and house seat in District 18 but they lost a house and senate seat in rural Idaho.  In other words, the partisan composition of the legislature did not change.  Secondly, the 2012 election results show that voters did not run to the Democratic Party.  Instead, they stayed with the moderate wing of the GOP and solidly backed Romney over Obama.  In fact, they did so to such a degree Obama only won four of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts and they were all in urban Boise (all four districts also have a solidly Democratic contingent).

In reality Democrats probably knew their argument was a shallow talking point.  In February 2010, Gallup surveyed the strength of the parties in the 50 states.  Despite Idaho at the time not allowing party affiliation, Republicans still had a 15 point voluntary registration advantage.  Democrats have not had over 20 members out of the 105 member state Senate and House since 2010.  Despite having a contested primary in both Congressional districts, Democrats only had a mere 10,000 votes cast to the GOP’s almost 72,000 and in the 2nd Congressional district Democrats fielded a mere 12,000 and change to the GOP’s 73,000 plus.

It is certainly possible the GOP could shed voters in the future.  After-all, urban Boise is a liberal bastion and rural voters are increasingly moving into urban and suburban areas.  But the urbanization of the state is being counteracted by factors beneficial to the GOP.  Boise and Sun Valley might be liberal bastions and Lewiston home to moderates but the Treasure Valley and Northern Idaho suburbs are staunchly Republican and growing demographically and politically more so over time.

Before Democrats argue the closed primary is adversely impacting the GOP perhaps they should get their house in order.  Obviously they are struggling to win over the “moderate” voters they claimed would leave the GOP in droves in 2012.  Issues such as equal pay, gay marriage and abortion might play well with their urban base but they matter little to suburban and moderate Idahoans more worried about rising inflation and the state budget.  Until Democrats start focusing on issues that the majority of Idahoans care about they will continue to have to rely on the GOP to revitalize their struggling party.


Supreme Court’s Decision on Michigan Affirmative Action Case Shows Direction of the Court

supreme-court-stock-photo_1The recent Supreme Court decision on Michigan’s 2006 Civil Rights Initiative, a ballot measure that enshrined in the state’s constitution a “ban public institutions from discriminating against or giving preferential treatment to groups or individuals based on their race, gender, color, ethnicity, or national origin in public education, public employment, or public contracting,” indicates the direction the Supreme Court is going.  Combined with other recent rulings this is an enlightening change from past courts.

The Supreme Court ruled that Michigan’s 2006 ban on Affirmative Action was perfectly legal and reasonable.  The majority six Justices (including liberal Stephen Breyer) found it perfectly acceptable for voters to set policy through the initiative process just as administrators do through rules.  The two dissenters, Justices Sotomayer and Kagan, argued forcefully the courts had a right and a duty to ensure the rights of the minority are protected.  Newsflash, this is what liberals call judicial activism.  Unless it is, like here, on an issue they agree with.

This ruling combined with others, such as on the Affordable Care Act, campaign finance and the TX abortion law, show the court is less activist than its predecessors.  Consider that the court refused to strike down Obamacare.  Indeed, some would argue it went to extraordinary measures to uphold it.  On campaign finance, the court overturned prior rulings.  But the court did so under the rationale that the federal government cannot minimize political groups speech by limiting contributions.  Lastly, on abortion, the court allowed TX’s law to move forward instead of banning it outright.  These decisions taken together indicate a court that is far less activist than in the past.

Need some context?  Under the Warren Court, Roe vs. Wade was written in 1973.  This ruling set in stone when an abortion is okay nationwide and for almost 40 years delayed progress on the issue.  Instead of debates being waged on the rightness of the issue, opponents and proponents have had to argue a legal minefield for or against.  Likewise, in 2004 in Grutter the court allowed Michigan universities to use Affirmative Action if there was a compelling interest. Hence Michigan’s 2006 vote.  Unlike Roe vs. Wade this was allowing a state to pursue its own course on the issue.  In the same mold, this court’s decision stays true with the prior ruling.

Judicial activism is often defined by ideological and partisan interests.  Conservatives argue the court should have overturned Obamacare but liberals would call that judicial activism.  On Michigan’s CRI and TX’s abortion law, liberals argue the court should have overturned both.  Yet, conservatives would likely see this as activism.  Despite the conservative tint to the court it is showing something refreshing and distinctly non-ideological; restraint.

The court is hesitant to overturn state laws but it is not hesitant to overturn outdated federal laws.  In much the same way Roe vs. Wade delayed policy progression on a key issue the Voting Rights Act did the same.  The court limited the law’s power based on its outdated Section IV and V coverage standard and has kicked the ball into the court of the states.  In this sense the court could be considered a very strong states rights court.

Note the four liberal justices are not on board with this direction.  Sotomayer and Kagan in their dissent were particularly vehement about how they “felt” about Michigan banning race based policies.  Their feelings trumped states rights but it also showed-cased the strain of thought from prior courts still holds sway among members on the current court; the court has the right and “duty” to set the course of public policy when necessary.

I doubt Roberts and others would disagree that it may be necessary for the court to set policy in certain circumstances.  But I bet they would disagree over those circumstances.  In Roberts mind the court should be limited.  Even MCRI’s ruling was very particular and did not rule on the merits of race based policies as a whole.  I struggle to think of a case where Roberts would utilize the court to create policy.  I have no such problem seeing the liberal justices doing so.

The Supreme Court’s return to what I believe is its proper role if refreshing.  The public through their elected officials and other electoral and non-electoral means should set policy.  Courts should not.  I am glad the current Supreme Court recognizes it.

Democrats are the party of inequality and here’s why

111007040227-occupy-philly-jon-perez-horizontal-galleryDemocrats have long been on record arguing they fight to end inequality.  It was the hallmark of Elizabeth Warren’s 2012 Senate campaign in Massachusetts.  Barack Obama paid it lip service in 2008 and 2012.  Most recently, Democrats across the country have revitalized the issue as a way to mobilize their base in the runnup to the 2014 midterms.  In reality however, Democrats are the party of inequality.

The proof can be found in an article from the Federalist that cites two studies.  The first study conducted by Bloomberg finds that income inequality, when organized by Congressional district, is “lower in Republican districts than in Democratic ones” and is “highest in the New York City district of Representative Jerry Nadler, a liberal Democrat. Who has the congressional district with the least income inequality? That would be Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann, who represents suburban Minneapolis.”

Another study conducted by the National Urban League finds that income inequality is concentrated in left-leaning cities.  Particularly, ““The San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City metropolitan area has an astonishing $56,000 white-black gap in household median income. The white-black gap in the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington metro area is about $40,000.” Sombody better not tell Nancy Pelosi her efforts to fight income inequality really, really, stink.

Yet another study, this time conducted by University of Chicago public policy graduate student Daniel Kay Hertz, presents a case study of what has happened in Chicago.  Specifically, income inequality has increased in the city by neighborhood as middle class families have moved out of the city into the “collar suburbs” while the wealthy and upper middle class have created enclaves in the city.  Follow-up analysis by Hertz finds that these nicer neighborhoods make it harder for income inequality to be addressed as these wealthy individuals work to suppress new construction and politically fight to keep city services geared primarily towards their interests.  This means that primary city services such as public education, police services and public transportation do not benefit the majority but a specific minority.  And this minority is not Republican.

So, in essence, Democrats are posing as the solution to a problem they have created.  Republicans have not controlled the mayoral offices of a majority of the city;s largest cities since the 80’s.  In fact, other than San Diego, Oklahoma City and Indianapolis, they do not control any other mayoral offices of the 25 largest cities in the country.  Funding more government programs and services in urban areas only means they will get co-opted to serve a special few.  The actual service the agency is meant to provide does not go towards those who need it but those with the means and power to get it.  Thus Democrats have a vested interest in arguing the rich should pay more. If the rich are vilified and yet receive the majority of services both sides win.  Democrats get the vote of the urban masses and the rich still get the majority of services.  This works as long as the trade-off is to the benefit of the wealthy (incidentally, this is why the Left will never be able to tax enough to end inequality).

These studies show that the way most voters see the debate  over the rich paying more between Republicans and Democrats is more complicated than first assumed.  Savvy  GOPpoliticians such as Rand Paul have noticed this and paid increasing attention to it.  Hence, in the case of Paul, it means he has gone after big business and government and is not tied to defending to the rich as much as some of his more traditional GOP counterparts.

For urban residents, predominantly poor blacks in the South and Hispanics in the West and Northwest, a true party of reform is needed to reduce income inequality.  Reform could take many shapes and work on various free-market policies that tie the interests of the wealthy to lifting the poor up.  It likely would require candidates to thread the traditional left/right division and not be easily labelled.  It also would require empowerment of local communities to fight for city services and demand accountability.  Many modern day lefttist Mayors are more concerned with divvying groups up more than lifting them up.  The one thing credible reform would ensure is that government is made smaller and more efficient to provide better services to all.  Republicans should be on board with that.  Democrats and the unions that dominate in numerous urban cities with high inequality, probably not so much.




Signs continue to point to decreased Democratic turnout in November

black-voters-e1349180049192Before Democrats get giddy over recent news about Obamacare they should consider the fact their political base is still not excited about 2014.  This as the White House and Congressional Democrats have brought up equal pay, race and civil rights to appeal to their ideological core.

The latest evidence of a lack of Democratic excitement can be found in two local races; a house race in Connecticut and a city council race in Arlington, Virginia.  Courtesy of the National Review, “Democrats lost their first election for the five-member Arlington County Board in 15 years when John Vihstadt, a Republican running as an independent, won a vacancy on the board with 58 percent of the county-wide vote. Vihstadt assembled an impressive coalition that spanned party lines and included endorsements from the local Democratic prosecutor and the chairman of the Green party.”

In Connecticut, Republican Tami Zawistowski captured a state-house seat from the Democrats with a resounding 58 percent of the vote. The district is a swing seat, having voted narrowly for Romney in 2012.  Under old lines, Obama carried it in 2008.

Democratic concerns with a turnout drop-off are nothing new.  In fact, Obama recently mentioned his party base tends to not turn out in midterms, “They are not sexy.”  But recent events combined with shaky Democratic turnout since the start of 2013 points to significant problems for the party come November.  Consider that Obama carried unmarried women with over 60% of the vote in 2012.  While Democrats maintain an advantage among this group on average, in generic ballot tests, that margin has shrunk to garnering around 58% of their vote and the percentage of the electorate they make up is smaller than 2012.

Consider as well that in November 2013, even as Democrats were carrying all statewide, Constitutional offices in Virginia they gained a mere one seat in the House of delegates.  Ironically, they lost one of theirs making the election a net draw in the House.  In other words, Republicans maintained their legislative edge largely because they won swing and moderate suburbs in NoVA.  Democrats did not win statewide races due to turnout as some reports have suggested.  Rather, Democrats won statewide because they carried rich suburban voters while their legislative candidates did not.  Democrats also suffered a significant drop-off from 2012 even as McAuliffe’s campaign used Obama data to target the base.  That same night, a special election was held in Washington State’s competitive 26th state senate district to replace an outgoing Democrat.  Republican Jan Angel won by 3%.

The evidence of problems for the party does not end there.  Both Virginia Democratic candidates for Lt. Governor and Attorney General were state senators.  Both came from solidly Democratic districts.  Both special elections saw the results go down to the wire as replacement Democrats won by a handful of votes in both races.

The most prominent example was FL-13.  Former Congressman Bill Young’s death left his purple seat open.  Republicans nominated a so-so candidate while Democrats got their dream candidate. The result was the Republican Bill Jolly winning by a surprise 2% when every poll had him trailing on election night. A map provided here shows the change in voting percentage by precinct in the district from 2012 to 2014.

Democrats nationally have thrown out a smorgasbord of issues their base should love; equal pay, abortion, race, and most recently delaying the Keystone Pipeline.  It is too soon to tell if these issues can motivate turnout but for Democrats sake they better hope they do.  Interesting enough, for the most part national polls do not seem to reflect the depressed nature of the party’s base.  Rather, the GOP is doing well because they are running well with moderates and Independents (just like in 2010).

In 2010, turnout dropped from 39% Democratic to 37%, Republican turnout increased and the result was a resounding 63 seat gain in the House for the party (not to mention massive gains in state races).  Democrats cannot afford a similar scenario this cycle fighting on such unfriendly turf.  Worrisome for the party is polls are not reflecting this meaning the party cannot be sure polls showing several endangered incumbents ahead are accurate or not.

Notably, GOP gains have come in special elections in different states.  Each state is different and special elections are fickle things compared to a regular, November election.  They are on weird days and do not carry the weight of a Presidential election (or a midterm).  But today, with so much money being poured into any race it is noticeable that Democrats cannot gin up excitement among their base for even a Congressional race.  Democrats should be worried, even if they feel the political environment is moving back in their direction.



Friday’s Decision on Keystone Could Hand the GOP the Senate

Keystone-PipelineLast Friday the White House released a snippet of news announcing yet another delay to study the impacts of the Keystone Pipeline.  Numerous studies conducted by the EPA and the State Department have  confirmed the pipeline would not have a significant environmental impact.  The Oil and Gas Commission has found it would provide thousands of permanent, high paying jobs to build and maintain.

The reasons for the delay are pretty thin.  The State Department says it needs more time to review the project due to litigation in the Nebraska Supreme Court over the proposed route of the pipeline in that state.  The announcement has drawn bipartisan opposition and for good reason.  But some have more reason than others.

Many red-state Democrats this cycle are running in energy rich states.  Two open Senate seats Democrats are defending are particularly energy rich-South Dakota and West Virginia.  This move puts them even more out of reach for the party.  For Democratic Senators like Mary Landrieu (LA) the move is particularly vexing.

Landrieu has won reelection in the past partly due to her strong ties with the oil and gas industry.  The only Democratic President in office during her time, Clinton, was also deferential to their concerns.  But Obama has particularly attacked the oil and gas industry and put Landrieu in an awkward position.  Landrieu has pledged to use her chairmanship to push for the pipeline but so far all efforts, Republican and Democratic alike, have been for naught.

Landrieu is not the only red state Democrat Keystone will cause problems for.  Mark Pryor in Arkansas and Kay Hagan in North Carolina are also susceptible to fallout from this decision.  North Carolina and Arkansas are not nearly as dependent on energy production as Louisiana but they boast electorates supportive of energy production.  In mid-February the Consumer Energy Alliance conducted a survey on the importance of energy policy in 2014 and to gauge support for the Keystone pipeline in four swing states (CO, NC, AR and LA).   In all four states, over 75% of the public viewed energy policy as important in their vote.  Support for Keystone never dipped below 66% (CO) and Arkansas and North Carolina favor its construction with 70% and 67% respectively.

The latest White House decision must also be weighed against the other unpopular laws and decisions the White House is currently defending.  Despite touting enrollment numbers of over 8 million for Obamacare the lack of data leaves many voters in right leaning states wary of buying the White House line.  The White House’s focus on voting rights, equal pay and civil rights also rings hollow to many red state voters.  Instead of focusing on the economy the administration seems more focused on increasing base turnout.

The bipartisan opposition to the announcement was quick and swift.  Red-state Senators and candidates know they will only survive this election if they maintain or create an image separate from the White House.  It might be a little late however.  In North Carolina and Louisiana, Landrieu and Hagan need strong black turnout to win but blacks are the least likely voting group to favor energy development.  Ditto in Arkansas where blacks are a critical but much smaller voting bloc.  So these Senators might be forced to sacrifice some of their base to court swing voters.

Republicans have telegraphed the primary theme of the fall campaign will be Obamacare.  In energy rich states however, Republican candidates will likely sprinkle in energy policy rhetoric.  In West Virginia, Shelley Moore Capito was one of the first GOP Senate candidates to denounce the decision and called on her opponent, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, to do the same.  In Arkansas and Louisiana, Congressmen Tom Cotton and Bill Cassidy have attacked their opponents on the issue.

Democrats contend that voters will care more about fixing the stuttering economy and bringing affordable Healthcare to everybody.  They also argue energy policy will not be what a majority of voters base their ballot on come November.  They may be right, but Republicans do not need a majority of voters nationwide to cast their ballots on energy.  They simply need enough voters to cast their ballots on the issue in a handful of key states.



A Sebelius Run in Kansas is Doomed

Kathleen-Sebelius5Rumors have recently swirled that former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius might run for Senate in Kansas.  Republican Senator Pat Roberts, assuming he survives a primary challenge, faces minimal opposition in the general.  With some help, Sebelius could give him opposition.  Or at least give the race a little wow factor.

Of course this ignores a number of key facts.  First, Sebelius is not the moderate former Governor of the state.  She is the former head of the botched rollout of a still unpopular law.  In other words, she was the right-hand woman for a President who had the government almost take over a full 1/6th of the economy.

Second, Sebeliu’s tenure as HHS has touched virtually every controversial facet of people’s lives.  You name it and she has been involved.  Deciding whether kids get certain treatments to live or die?  Yep. Allowing 13 year olds to have access to the morning after pill?  You betcha.  Though to be fair a judge ruled so and she just did not appeal the decision.  Don’t count on that to matter to her opponents.  I will spare listing off the other one hundred and ten controversial acts she has overseen.

Third, this is Kansas.  Democrats are so confused by the state they wrote a book about it.  Okay, I kid, but more seriously over at 538, Harry Enten has some startling numbers for Democrats. “Look at the history of voting in the state. The last time a Democrat was elected to the Senate from Kansas was 1932.  That’s not only the longest drought for the party, it’s by far the longest winless streak. (The next longest drought for Democrats is in Wyoming, where they haven’t won a Senate seat since 1970.) Democrats have lost 29 consecutive Senate races in Kansas, and they just don’t win federal statewide races. Since 1940, Lyndon Johnson, in 1964, was the only Democratic presidential nominee to win in the Sunflower State.”

Furthermore, consider that Obama’s approval was 35% in the state according to Gallup in 2013.  A recent poll conducted by PPP found her trailing Roberts 52%-38% and Roberts little known primary challenger, Milton Wolf, leads her by seven.  Despite Roberts being underwater in approval he still crushes her.

Democrats seem to remain confident if she ran she could overcome these obstacles.  This despite the fact we live in an era of divided government and state voting for President increasingly predicting their Senatorial votes.  Sebelius would likely have to outrun the President’s approval by at least 15% and no successful red state Democrats have been able to do that in 2010 and 2012.

If not for the reasons listed above than for one other unnoticed factor.  She infuriates the GOP base only slightly less than Obama does.  She is the face of a law they have opposed for five years running and has tread on some of their most sacred values.  If I were Sebelius I would think about getting another job in DC instead of running headlong into an electoral nightmare.




Ukraine Shows the Constraints of American Foreign Policy Under Obama

russia-ukraineIn 1994 Ukraine was a nuclear power.  Due to the fall of the Soviet Union the country had over 1,800 nuclear weapons.  Both the US and Russia sought to destroy these nukes.  The result was the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances.  This treaty made Ukraine send the last of their nuclear arsenal to Russia for destruction in 1996 and in return the West offered Ukraine strong security assurances.   Well, so much for those assurances.

I doubt few of you need a full rundown on what has transpired recently in Ukraine.  It has been splattered all over the news.  Russia now occupies the Crimea.  More worrisome is the number of troops it has stationed on Ukraine’s Eastern border.  You’d be hard-pressed to find a security analyst who says this is a good thing.

Most recently, in several Eastern border towns, Russian militia groups have popped up to take over government buildings.  Ukraine has responded in force and sent in anti-insurgency forces.  The result has been continuous gun battles occurring in Eastern border towns sympathetic to Russia.

America’s foreign policy under Obama has been anything but consistent.  Obama was for Afghanistan in 2008 and against Iraq and yet he supported a major pullout of troops in Afghanistan against his generals recommendations.  He also pulled troops out of Iraq.  Meanwhile, he helped depose Muammar Gaddafi in Libya (at Europe’s request).  He also called for Hosni Mubarak in Egypt to step down when riots broke out and was literally dragged into condemning the actions of his Muslim predecessor (he was worse than Mubarak).  He barely uttered a word during the Arab Spring of 2009 and has done little to investigate Benghazi (something to hide perhaps).

Ironically, perhaps the only consistent foreign policy decision Obama has made so far is to keep the US out of Ukraine.  The public does not want to be involved, Congress does not want to be involved and Russia and China certainly do not want us to be involved.  If this was the foreign policy era of George W. Bush we might go in or at least arm Ukrainian forces but we now have Obama as President.

Obama, like Clinton, makes his decisions based on the polls.  He always has.  Even when Obamacare was passing with opposition from the public the base loved it.  Libya and Egypt were framed in such a way to garner public support.  The pullouts in Iraq and Afghanistan remain widely popular.

But Ukraine is something vastly different.  It requires the US to stand up to a divided United Nations Security Council, China and most importantly Russia.  Obama’s administration has put a premium on strengthening diplomatic ties with Russia in the hopes of the country working to end the violence in Syria and stall or stop Iran’s nuclear program.

These efforts seem to have amounted to little.  Putin has played America like a fiddle with Syria, Iran and now Ukraine.  In Syria, Russian efforts to promote diplomacy gained them accolades in the UN.  On Iran, Russia has looked like a hero for helping forge a deal between the West and Iran on stopping enrichment until the West can inspect their facilities.  In Ukraine, particularly the Crimean, Putin’s takeover of the region now looks legitimate as a solid majority of the region’s public voted to join Russia in a recent referendum.  In Eastern Ukrainian border towns the same phenomena could occur again.

With the public firmly set against action and only Senator John McCain (R-AZ) making waves in Congress, Ukraine seems likely to receive little support from the West or the US.  NATO does not want to confront Russia for fear of losing access to Russia’s needed natural gas supply.  Obama would have to confront Putin while facing opposition from his own public and Congress.  Even sending aid to Ukraine faces an uphill climb in Congress leaving Ukraine’s strained forces underfunded and under-armed.

Now, Russia has not invaded Ukraine proper and if they did the American public might take more notice.  Taking a small region is one thing but invading a whole, sovereign nation is something else entirely.  Unfortunately, Obama’s administration seems unwilling to buck public or world opinion when it comes to foreign policy and as a result Putin has a free reign to slowly cobble back together the Russian Empire of old.  Putin also is cagey enough not to invade an entire country without strong provocation.

More broadly, the fact the US and the West would buck former defense agreements when it suits their domestic/political interests is a bad sign for ending nuclear proliferation, Asian security agreements and Middle Eastern relations.  All rely somewhat on the West pledging to act in defense of their allies.  If Ukraine is any example, I think many countries would feel justified in telling the West to stick it when it comes to agreements based on mutual security.