Moderate Wing of GOP Flexes Clout

Over the past several years the conservative wing of the GOP has flexed its considerable clout.  From Sequestration to the Fiscal Cliff to the Government Shutdown to pushing out Speaker Boehner, conservative members have pushed their party to take a hard right stance on many, many issues.

With control of all levers of government they are not letting up.  The so called Freedom Caucus, a group of about 30 conservative lawmakers, killed the first version of the AHCA when they decided  the bill did not repeal and replace Obamacare.

Depending on how you look at it, the revised AHCA is a victory for the Freedom Caucus and its power.  The only reason the bill came back up was because Paul Ryan and President Trump gave into many of the Caucus’s demands.  Most significantly, the new bill would let states opt out of many of the ACA’s most significant requirements.

But, this caused another headache for leadership and reflected the power of a rising group of Republicans, the Centrist/Moderate wing of the party.  When leadership gave into Freedom Caucus demands they lost a dozen fence sitting moderates.  The bill was unacceptable to members who wanted to protect the least fortunate.

As a result, leadership and conservatives had to huddle with moderates to carve out concessions for a number of them (including $8 billion in new funding to support coverage for people with preexisting conditions).  If the House was just the teaser for moderates power, the Senate is where they will determine the future of the law.

The bill is still more conservative than not.  Medicaid Expansion is repealed in two years (unless states can fund it), mandatory coverage for preexisting conditions is gone and moderates could only get a billion dollar slush fund in concession.  That said, moderates made sure states had to apply for a waiver to opt out of the ACA’s essential coverage requirements and they also were instrumental in passing the law.  Moderate Republicans are not fans of the law, but they made sure their voices were heard in the process.  Ultimately, they might have shaved some of the roughest edges off the law for the Senate.

Moderates did not just show clout on healthcare recently.  On the budget deal, moderates took the lead in negotiations and eliminated poison pills out of the final package.  They sidelined contentious issues like cuts to HUD and building a border wall and instead focused on increased spending for the military and border security.  Quietly, moderate leadership told the White House a lot of what they wanted to do to Sanctuary Cities and Planned Parenthood could be done administratively.

Moderates might have had their biggest success on Trump’s Religious Liberty Executive Order.  The initial draft of the bill would have allowed organizations to “discriminate” (according to some) in hiring and other decisions based on sexual orientation.  The EO released last Thursday simply makes it easier for religious institutions to engage in political activity (hint, they already do).

Already, in the Senate moderates are flexing their power.  As soon as the AHCA passed in the House word spread the Senate would not vote on the House bill.  Instead, a working group which has been in contact with House Leadership is crafting their own plan.  This is not surprising considering statewide races in which Senators run are a different beast than smaller and more homogeneous Congressional districts.

Moderate concerns over the bill in the Senate reflect those of moderates in the House.  Repealing Medicaid Expansion might cut off insurance access to those who are 138 percent or below the poverty line.  That is huge because more than half of the people that did not have coverage before the ACA fell below that income level.  While a majority of those still without insurance today are young and healthy, fully 30 percent have ongoing medical issues.  Repealing Medicaid Expansion would only make it tougher for them to gain access to care, let alone insurance.

The uninsured are largely poor and young.  Gaps in the law and court decisions have removed coverage requirements for millions of individuals.  For example, millions reside in states that have not expanded Medicaid (my home state of Idaho being one).  Additionally, the Supreme Court’s decision in 2012 to let states decide to expand Medicaid left millions in limbo and threw out the stick arm of the law.

This is not even including the millions who remain uninsured even with the ACA.  Of course, the government says a majority can afford coverage (20 percent out of 29 million) but I doubt the government really knows what affordable is to a single guy living on $25K a year in a city.

Considering these factors, it is not surprising to see why moderates in the House and several GOP Senators balk at the House bill.  By cutting back federal involvement in health insurance so sharply millions will likely lose coverage.  It is easy to see why members would be concerned.

There is also the electoral component.  The Daily Kos, the liberal cheer-leading arm, led off with a piece the other day about how so many moderates were endangered voting for the law.  Of the Republicans sitting in Clinton districts, 14 voted yes to 9 who voted no.  In fact, more Republicans sitting in Trump districts (11) voted no than Republicans in Clinton districts.  Considering the impacts of this bill it is little wonder why liberals are cheering.

But, moderates might have/will save the day for their party.  By changing the House bill the Senate might give the GOP a fighting chance to argue the bill does in some form protect the least fortunate.  Additionally, the Senate crafting a different and revised version might be just enough to allow the party to win over more of the public and piece together a conservative/moderate majority in the House/Senate on the piece of legislation.

Time will tell, but right now moderates are increasingly showing their clout on healthcare and other issues.  Who says centrism* is dead?

Note: Centrism today is a lot different from past electoral cycles.



What’s Behind Teresa May’s Surprise June Election Announcement

In 2015, Conservatives (the Tories) roared to a majority in Parliament.  Labor, led by the feckless Jeremy Corbyn, finished well below its final polling average.  During the campaign. then Prime Minister David Cameron in a bid to appease UKIP supporters, promised a vote on leaving the European Union (Brexit).  Ultimately Cameron acquiesced and the country is reeling from the consequences.

Despite Cameron abiding by his promise he stepped down in late last year after Brexit.  He had backed staying in the EU and many loyal, Conservative supporters did not trust him as a result.  His replacement, Theresa May, also initially backed staying in the EU but has 100 percent backed the will of the voters.

May has not had an easy initial go of it.  She only maintains a nominal majority of 10 seats (330 out of 650) and her efforts to implement Brexit have been stymied by the Courts and members of her own party.  Unlike UKIP, Conservatives have long been divided on the issue of the EU which is why they have shed voters in local elections to UKIP.

This is probably why May was even considering holding a snap election at all.  Two recent polls released this weekend, showing the Tories with massive 21 point leads, probably pushed her the rest of the way.  If these polls hold all the way up to June 8th, the Tories stand to gain a 100 to 200 seat majority in Parliament (their biggest ever).

The unpopularity of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also has to be playing a big part.  According to the polls almost or 50 percent of voters see Teresa May as the right leader for Prime Minister.  But Corbyn is third behind the “Don’t Knows.”  His party is divided between his far left acolytes and a more centrist Parliamentary contingent of which 90 percent do not recognize him as the leader of their party.

It is possible after this election Labour becomes the third largest party in Parliament after shedding seats in Scottland to the SNP and dozens of seats to the Tories and Liberal Democrats (the last pro-EU party in the UK proper) in June.  Corbyn’s relentless drive to make his party adopt his left-wing cultural and fiscal policies has made Labour blue-collar seats ripe for the plucking.

Further benefiting the Tories is UKIP is disorganized.  May’s full throated endorsement and pursuit of Brexit has made the independent, nationalist UKIP lose its appeal to many Tory voters.  Further, without Brexit to campaign on the party is now left to reorganize and decide what issues it wants to campaign on moving forward.

Ultimately though, while all these factors might have influenced May to hold an election, the biggest factor might be that May feels she needs an election under her belt to guide the party.  Specifically, an election victory of sufficient magnitude would give her a mandate to govern the UK.  Further, the June election will coincide with elections in France and Germany and a Tory victory could give her the leverage she needs to negotiate with these countries leaders and get a better deal for her nation.

It is also possible May be deciding it is smart to hold an election when the economy is doing well.  Brexit could have destabilizing effects and her party would probably be blamed.  Before that happens, it would be foolish not to bolster her party’s majority and her power.

The political and international context of this election aside, it is interesting this election will feature two firsts for the nation in a generation.  May, 60, and Corbyn, 67, are septuagenarians.  This is the first time in over 60 years the UK is faced with a choice between two septuagenarian major party leaders.  The nation has had a generation of young leaders from Tony Blair to David Cameron guiding its sails since the 90’s and the political battles fought have largely been over a matter of degrees.

There is no matter of degrees between Corbyn and May.  Corbyn is a left-wing ideologue fighting for trillions in new spending and an eternal rebel in his party.  May, is the eptiome of a small “C” conservative Englander and is fighting to streamline government.  When voters go to the polls in June they may never have faced such a stark choice.




Why Betsy DeVos Excites Me

As somebody who is married to a teacher, has a registered disability and has a Master’s degree I should be vehemently opposed to a Betsy DeVos nomination. I’m not. Instead I’m excited.

Why? After all, detractors point to her lack of experience on crafting education policy or education in general. And, of course, Elizabeth Warren thinks she supports gay conversion therapy.

So, again, why? Because I move beyond that. Context is important here. She’s not applying to be a teacher, a principle or a superintendent. If that was the case I’d want her to have a background in education. But she’s not. She’s heading a byzantine bureaucracy not a school.  At some point it simply becomes impossible for somebody to relate their experience as a teacher into national policies that impact all schools.

Now, with that out of the way I am excited about DeVos for three reasons. First, she’ll bring an outsider perspective to education policy. Second, she has promised to obey legislative and executive edicts. Lastly, she is a rabid supporter of choice and charter schools.

When you operate so long in a certain setting you tend to mimic that setting. Likewise the policies and rules from that setting. For example, Arne Duncan, Obama’s Secretary of Education mimics the top down approaches of liberal policy experts. It’s about control.

Duncan hails from the Chicago School District where he was Superintendent.  In that district rules and policies are crafted based on standardization and simply getting students up to a minimal standard.  This one size fits all approach has been mimicked in federal education policy since Obama took office.

In contrast, DevVs, does not have this problem. She might be a novice on policy but that is what staff is for. And let’s be honest, lower-level staff at the Department of Education implement actual policy.

Secondly, she grasps her role in the system. Since 2009, Obama and Duncan have ignored congressional wishes in education. In particular, the ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act), passed in 2015 by bipartisan majorities.  The president has largely ignored the parts of the law he did not like as has Duncan. In her confirmation hearing, Devos said she would implement it as Congress intended. Finally, somebody who understands their role.

Finally, she is a real, honest to god supporter of choice. She doesn’t just talk about it but practices it. Her foundation has given millions to charters and private schools in Michigan and nationally.

We actually have an Education Secretary who understands and supports choice. This might actually mean national policy is crafted to allow states to spend more money on charter schools.

Charter schools and choice is a tricky issue. Many teachers, my wife included, see them as a threat. Others, including minority families trapped in failing schools see them as godsends (NYC and New Orleans).

Depending on the state many charter schools suffer in ways traditional public schools do not.  For example, charter schools in many states cannot collect property taxes or pass supplemental levies.  They are funded solely through private donations and state general funds.  This puts them, oftentimes, in troubling financial situations on a consistent basis.

Additionally, depending on how policy is crafted and what decisions are made down the chain you can have strong charter schools in poor districts and alternatively, charters doing little but catering to affluent white areas.

Fortunately, as a proponent of choice she seems to understand the concerns and alternatives. Still, even so, she iterated in her hearing that states and localities should decide where and how they spend money. Not the Department of Education.

I can hear the gasps now about my excitement. How can I overlook all her flaws?  Why, she can’t even decide whether she supports proficiency or improvement. Well, her strengths outweigh her weaknesses.

Obama promised to be a champion for the urban kid and yet appointed a life long union bureaucrat to implement change.  That bureaucrat wasted billions trying to force schools to change in exchange for some federal cash.

For all the talk of Trump being a racist he appointed somebody who wants all kids to succeed whether white, brown or black. That is exciting in itself.

The Democratic Party Just Proved How Left They Are

Democratic-National-ConventionThe “moderate” Democratic Party died last week.  The Platform Committee of the Democratic National Committee ratified the most liberal draft policy platform in the history of the party and it looks likely the party will move even further left in the coming years.

This can be summed up due to 3 random factors converging.  The first represents Sanders transformation of the Democratic Party.  Sanders campaign successfully integrated many liberal activist groups and voters over the course of the campaign.  For example, in NY State he courted anti-fracking activists and in Washington State garnered the endorsement of environmental groups.

As the Sanders campaign probably started to sense it could not win the election it began to foment more of a revolution through the party platform.  Sanders and his allies used their leverage (millions of voters strong) to push for a more progressive and ideological agenda.

Secondly, the timing worked out.  In 2009, the Democratic coalition was an unwieldy alliance of progressive and conservative legislators.  But fast-forward to the results of the 2010 and 2014 midterms and many of those conservative to moderate members of Congress and legislators are gone.  There is now less resistance in the party to a more progressive platform.

Lastly, Clinton and Sanders are far more ideologically in sync than many individuals honestly think.  So are their supporters.  Clinton backers might be more upscale and politically savvy but they largely want to achieve the same goals as Sanders supporters.

Of course, there were disagreements within the party.  Labor unions strongly opposed the TPP but not necessarily anti-fracking amendments.  Likewise, environmentalists only opposed TPP because of a lack of environmental safeguards but were fervently opposed to fracking.  As a result, many “unity amendments” that tried to unify various positions were proposed and failed.

Even so, the party platform is the most liberal in history.  The party called for tuition free college (which Clinton backed last week) and extremely strong anti-trust laws, strong support for wind and solar power at the expense of much cheaper and more useful natural gas and a trillion dollar infrastructure plan.

But, by far, the biggest shift was the party’s open adoption of support for a “Public Option”” in “Medicare for all.”  Notably, the platform makes no mention of how to pay for such a massive entitlement (just like free college) but its adoption is a sign that the Democratic Party is becoming more of a European style center-left welfare party.

The party used to defend gun rights (even as it banned assault weapons).  No reference to gun rights is to be found on the draft platform.  On a host of racial and social issues the platform moves left.

The platform calls for the abolition of the death penalty at all levels.  No language is found on how government can work with faith-based institutions to better people’s lives (this was in the 2012 platform).  However, the document does call for overturning decades of Supreme Court decisions regarding campaign finance.

Race is placed front and center in the platform.  The document pledges the Democratic Party to promote racial justice as well as environmental and climate justice.  In addition, the document reads like a manifesto with its call for criminal-justice reform and push for societal transformation to make it clear “black lives matter and there is no place for racism in this country.”

Bernie Sander’s helped pushed the party to the left and it is possible that at the Convention the party could move even further.  But, for right now, it stands ready to adopt the most liberal platform in America’s history.




What Trump Can Teach The GOP

160224112545-trump-nevada-victory-speech-780x439The Republican National Convention is less than 10 days away.  Talk continues to persist of a coup, yes another one, to overthrow Trump at the Convention.  Or at least to stage a public protest.

These actions might appeal to the ideological diehards in the party but in reality the activists and writers fomenting this resistance are in denial.  The insurrection is likely to fizzle and gloss over the issue that Donald Trump has exposed the GOP must fix.

Since the Bush years, the GOP has made a business out of putting ideology over meeting the needs of voters.  Sure, calling for tax cuts and fewer regulations sounds good.  But, in reality, some regulations are better than others and not everybody should get a tax cut according to the public (rich people, anybody).

Say what you will about Trump, the trash talking nominee of the party, but he recognized the economic needs and concerns of voters.  He didn’t luck into the nomination.  He defeated 16 rivals, many of them up and coming stars in the party.  He assembled a broad coalition of voters ranging from evangelicals in Mississippi to secular moderates in Massachusetts to retired suburbanites in Florida.

Mr. Trump’s appeal is simple.  He recognizes peoples need to belong.  To have sovereignty and control over their destiny.  Witness his comments after Brexit when he said  “People want to see borders.  They don’t necessarily want people pouring into their country that they don’t know who they are and where they come from.”

Thus it is Mr. Trump who is echoing the nationalist themes and worries of many voters not just confined to the US but many Western Democracies.  Yet, many GOP elites and elders continue to be blind to his appeal.  To be fair though, many of these leaders have found success in promising smaller government and less taxes in the Obama years.  Why should they think voters don’t support their agenda (well, ask Mitt Romney)?

Such a theme was common among many GOP Presidential contenders.  Marco Rubio is remembered for his robotic talking point of how Obama is systemically changing the country.  Most Republicans agreed with one addition.  America is already changed.  It is a nation buffeted by globalization and the aftershocks of the Great Recession.

It’s an argument Trump consistently echos.  In Appalachia, Trump talks of how free-trade policies have moved jobs overseas and taken the US’s wealth and factories to Mexico.  He talks about the repercussions of these policies where inner cities continue to lack jobs and the factories continue to remain closed.  In something new for the GOP, Trump talks about how big business and the special interests dominate while the average American struggles.

It’s a message reminiscent of Bernie Sanders and might explain why Sanders has been lukewarm in his support of Hillary.  Bernie may dislike Trump’s bluster and dislike of Latinos but the message Trump echoes is a message Sanders disseminates.

Trump’s appeal is thus bipartisan in nature.  He would not be the first Republican to try such a message.  Eisenhower, a nonpartisan former general until he ran for President, built bridges with House and Senate Democratic majorities which boosted the economy and led to successful Civil Rights legislation being passed.

Eisenhower’s understudy, Richard Nixon did the same.  He crafted an agenda that appealed to the growing bloc of conservatives in the party but also the public with the creation of OSHA and the EPA.  Even Ronald Reagan and HW Bush made concessions to Democrats to craft successful legislation.

But the ghost of Barry Goldwater came back to haunt the party, especially during the time of Bill Clinton.  The party became more ideological and unwilling to try new ideas to solve problems.

Take the case of Marco Rubio in the primary as an example.  To combat poverty the junior Senator suggested tripling the EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit) for low income families.  Such a plan actually had the support of the President and Hillary Clinton but was pilloried by GOP elites because it increased the deficit and used government to help solve a problem.

This is a cycle Trump’s candidacy could potentially break.  As a result it worries many establishment Republicans.  Trump’s white identity politics narrative is troubling but it is no worse than the kind of identity politics Democrats have fostered.

Democrats let the GOP integrate many former Southern Democrats into their ranks as long as they benefited from the integration of blacks into their ranks.  Likewise, Democrats were silent as whites migrated to the suburbs of Detroit, Milwaukee and elsewhere as long as these cities remained under their control.

The conservative beef against Trump goes beyond the talking points (he doesn’t lay out policies, he insults everybody, he can’t speak in complete sentences).  No, it is that he does not recite conservative boilerplate ideology.  Trump rarely talks about liberty or the Constitution.  He doesn’t specifically say America is exceptional.    This is heresy to many true believers.

As a conservative this is certainly a worry of mine.  But these points do little to address the needs of voters.  Ideological certitude can often mask the cries of what voters really need.  If Republicans had really wanted to understand voters they would have noticed polls that showed Tea Party supporters (for example) supported smaller government but wanted Social Security and Medicare strengthened.

It was inevitable that Trump would be pushed to the right.  But he has also maintained his moderate edge by refusing to promise tax cuts for the wealthy and fighting gay marriage.  Indeed, he has positioned himself as a compromiser which is why even moderates Trent Lott and Bob Dole preferred him over Ted Cruz.

Trump’s primary issue is not convincing his loyal following that he would help them.  He has to broaden his appeal to the middle and upper middle class and convince them his Presidency would also benefit them.  If he can do so and start to bring the party along he could be a formidable foe to his already damaged opponent.

Perhaps the best poster child for a Trump candidacy would be Nixon.  He ran a polarizing, law and order campaign that divided the nation along economic and racial lines.  Yet, he won a landslide reelection in 1972 and guided the nation out of Vietnam, normalized relations with the Soviet Union and opened talks with China.  He appointed Democrat Patrick Moynihan to spearhead his urban policy which showed he was no ideologue.

Trump has shown similar tendencies.  He has refused to pick a true believer conservative for his VP choice.  Most notably, he has avoided taking strong stances on hot button social issues like abortion, gay marriage and transgender bathrooms.

Of course, Trump could give us the self-destructive Presidency of we’ve witnessed with the Trump Institute and Trump University.  One would hope the people he appoints would be able to head this off however.

Many conservatives in the halls of academia and political power spitting out the same old talking points and views have contributed to the rise of Trump.  If not for demographic factors Trump might be the favorite this November.  These individuals are loathe to admit it though.  George Will (who I like) has said he is leaving the GOP to become an Independent.  In reality, Will’s vision of what and who the GOP should represent is vastly different than most Republicans (few of us live in the DC bubble).

Win or lose, Trump’s candidacy will have a lasting impact on the GOP.  Future Republican contests might feature more centrist conservatives vs. the Ted Cruzes of the party.  It is possible this could broaden the GOP and start to shift, even if slightly, the continued polarization of the US electorate where 90 percent of liberals vote Democrat and 80 percent of conservatives vote Republican.  Mr. Trump probably summed it up best in May when he said, “This is the Republican Party, it’s not called the Conservative Party.”  Trump certainly is leading this transformation of the GOP.





Brexit Is A Sign That Culture Is Replacing Ideology As The Key Political Divide

brexit-beckons-as-97-of-britons-think-david-cameron-cant-get-a-better-eu-deal1Barely a week ago the voters of the United Kingdom narrowly approved a referendum to leave the EU.  The result underscored how economic pressures and demographic change is shifting the political paradigm in much of the industrialized, Western world.

Initial speculation on the result of the referendum somewhat favored how it benefited Trump.  In reality though, while Trump mimics many of the anti-globalization and nationalistic trade tendencies of the “Leave” campaign it underscores just how much tougher a road Trump has to travel to succeed with the same theme in the US.

Brexit did crystallize the deepening political fault lines in UK politics though.  It also highlighted some of the factors driving the Trump-Clinton contest.  More importantly, it foreshadowed a likely long-term realignment of the electoral base of both Republicans and Democrats and perhaps a reshuffling of critical swing states.

Unsurprisingly, UK politics tends to correlate with American elections.  That’s why the Brexit election day surveys mimicked the results of a US election.  The Leave campaign carried over 60 percent of those without college degrees, a majority of seniors and whites overall.  The Leave campaign was strongest in rural areas outside of major cities.  The Remain camp won a majority of college graduates, the young, ethnic minorities and urban voters.  Short of Northern Ireland and Scotland, the only other region to vote to Remain was London with almost 60 percent support.

This voting pattern replicates many American elections.  Republicans are increasingly becoming the party of older, non-college educated whites, men and the religiously devout.  The Democratic Coalition is growing among single women, the urban, the young and minorities.  Obama won in 2012 by amassing a 5 million vote advantage in the country’s most urban areas.

British voters pessimistic abut the economy and next generation’s chances, hostile to unchecked immigration and multiculturalism as well as changing cultural norms were most likely to support Leave.  A full 80 percent of Leave voters said immigration negatively impacted the UK.  That closely mimics the number of Trump supporters in a new survey.

Brexit showed the power of anti-immigration, anti-globalization, older whites who are rural and non-college educated.  The problem for Trump in replicating Brexit is that these voters are less of the American electorate.  In the UK, about 90 percent of referendum ballots cast were from whites.  In November, most experts predict whites will cast just over 70 percent of ballots.  In the UK, 53 percent of whites voted to leave.  Due to racial and ethnic cleavages in US politics Trump will likely need 60 percent or more of whites support to win.

Resistance to the Leave campaign came strongly from college-educated and urban UK whites.  It is hard not to see a similar dynamic playing out in the US.  The loss of the GOP’s managerial wing is not a new phenomenon.  Since 2000, Democrats have carried more college educated voters than non-college educated.  But, historically, Democrats have struggled to hold a majority of college-educated whites in Presidential elections.

There is evidence this election could see that change.  Numerous national surveys have shown Clinton leading among these voters.  However, Trump leads among white men and Clinton among white women and with fewer men attending college it is likely this is benefiting Clinton.

The Trump-Clinton contest is certain to accelerate the party’s long term resorting and shift it from a primarily geographical and demographical shift to a cultural one as well.  Democrats will increasingly become the party of urban cosmopolitanists comfortable with cultural and economic changes while the GOP coalition will become more traditionalist and resistant to change.  We could see this immediately in the 2016 contest’s swing states.

Historically, Democrats have run extremely well in the older, more white Rust Belt.  This has occurred even as the heavily white South has shifted firmly to the GOP.  Since 1992, Republicans have only carried Rustbelt states 3 times out of 30 chances.  Contrast this with the GOP carrying Sunbelt States 17 times out of 30 chances.

However, these results do not tell the whole story.  Since 2000, GOP vote totals have increased in the majority of Rust Belt states while Democrats were able to carry many Sun Belt states in 2008 and 2012 including GOP bastions such as North Carolina and Virginia.  This has occurred as globalization has benefited many Sun Belt states and caused many Rust Belt voters to feel globalization has left them behind.

Party and ideological loyalties were scrambled during the Brexit vote.  A full third of Labour voters (far more than initially thought) voted to Leave.  A majority of Conservatives voted to leave but the breakdown of their votes was interesting.  Labour dominated London overwhelmingly voted to stay but rural, labor strongholds voted to leave.  Likewise, Conservative suburban and urban enclaves voted to remain but were overwhelmed by Conservative votes to Leave.

Much as Labour has done since the 90’s to pivot to a more urban, inclusive, demographically welcoming party Democrats have done the same.  The result has been domination in the US’s urban enclaves.  But, in doing so, they have ceded their ancestral base to the GOP.  To incorporate these voters the GOP may be sacrificing many of its college educated supporters.

Brexit points towards a reshaped UK political order that revolves more around cultural affinities and values-particularly immigration and globalization-than economic class.  Trump’s campaign has mimicked this shift and doubled down on it.  As a result, the Clinton-Trump race could usher in a new, defining divide in American politics.




Post Scalia Supreme Court Drifts Left

SCOTUSbuilding_1st_Street_SE.JPGConservative hopes this session were high.  After-all, the cases on the docket ranged from abortion to unions to immigration reform.  With a 5-4 majority on the Court it seemed conservatives could shift the legal landscape of this country sharply to the right.

What a difference six months makes.  In February, conservative lion Antonin Scalia died and left the court with a 4-4 split. Or more accurately, a 3-4-1 split. Suddenly, the dreams of conservatives upending decades of liberal precedence were up in the air.

Still, there was hope.  In the form of swing vote Anthony Kennedy and probably the most conservative liberal member on the Court, Stephen Bryer.  Also, the Roberts Court had been known for its caution in crafting sweeping rulings and this limited any damage that could occur to conservative causes if things went south.

With the term over it is clear just how much the death of Scalia has turned the court to the left.  The 4-4 deadlock on union dues allowed the 9th Circuit Court’s ruling on dues to continue unabated.  This was the first major debate for conservatives of the term but it would not be the last.

In a 4-3 decision, with Kennedy siding with the court’s liberals, the affirmative action policies of the University of Texas-Austin were upheld.  But, by far, the biggest defeat was the 5-3 decision in Whole Women’s Health vs. Hellerstedt.  The ruling, penned by Bryer, shot down TX and 2 other states restrictions on abortion.  Kennedy, known for his moderate positions on the issue, had again, created a liberal majority.  Worse, Kennedy again sided with the court’s 4 liberals to deny an appeal from a group of Washington state based pharmacists who objected to being forced to provide emergency contraception more recently.

Without Scalia on the court it has inevitably drifted left.  But, it has only drifted as far left as Kennedy has wanted it to go.  A full-bore liberal Kennedy is not.  Remember, he sided with conservatives in Citizens United, tried to overturn Obamacare, he issued an emergency stay on the White House’s Clean Air Plan and has sided with conservatives on every campaign finance case.  So calling Kennedy a liberal is a stretch.

It is more accurate to say he is a libertarian/moderate on social issues and a conservative on the scope of governmental power.  For example, in the rulings regarding affirmative action and abortion, the rulings were tailored specifically to the cases.  This means that while liberals may be hailing the rulings as giving them precedent to continue such policies or limit restrictions on abortions that is all they do.  They simply stake a line in the ground saying that their are limits to religious freedom, abortion restrictions and the like.  Indeed, Kennedy joined with the court’s then 4 conservative justices in 2013 to uphold Michigan’s 2012 vote banning affirmative action policies.

Of course, this is not what conservatives envisioned with majorities in Congress.  Arguably, the 2016 election could have the biggest impact on the court.  If Clinton is elected it is very likely she could replace Ginsburg as well as Kennedy or a conservative justice.  The line staked in the ground via recent rulings would not be viewed as precedent for how far states can go to limit abortions or preserve affirmative action, but rather as a starting point to expand them exponentially.

Trump, if for no other reason he lacks ideological underpinnings of any type, could probably be swayed into appointing conservative justices.  They probably would not be pure on every issue but more in line with the mold of Roberts vs. Alito or Thomas.  Conservatives could probably live with that trade-off.