To Gerrymander Or Not To Gerrymander?

Gerrymandering is a decennial and highly partisan sport for American politicians and consultants.  And nowhere has it been more so than in three states, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Texas.  Indeed, so partisan has it become that Democrats have convinced an appellate court to side with their interests and force the state of Wisconsin to appeal to the Supreme Court (oral arguments are scheduled for next month).

Gerrymandering can take many forms, some insidious, some partisan, and some plain racial.  In Wisconsin, new territory is being charted in the form of a map that is too partisan.  No Supreme Court ruling has found a map can be too partisan.  The drawing of Congressional and legislative lines is by its very nature a partisan action.

In Wisconsin specifically, GOP officials in 2011 drew a map that locked in their assembly majorities from 2010.  Under unified GOP control the state drew lines that locked Democrats into political irrelevancy (kind of like Illinois, but Democrats did it there so it is fine).

For example, in 2008, the state legislative lines had a slight GOP lean.  That election, Democrats won 57 percent of the assembly vote and garnered 52 seats to the GOP’s 46 seats with 43 percent of the vote (a conservative Independent caucused with Republicans).  In 2012, the changed maps showed their effects.  Democrats won 53 percent of the assembly vote but won a mere 39 seats to the GOP’s 60.  In 2016, Republicans won 53 percent of the assembly vote and an eye-popping 64 seats.

Such results have prompted liberal scholars to come up with mathematical tests to assess whether a map passes the partisan smell test.  In prior court rulings, all but one conservative jurist, Anthony Kennedy, have closed the door on ever saying a map is too partisan.  Liberals would say maps should be non-partisan and ram it down the states throats if they could get away with it.

Using mathematical tests to assess partisanship is fine and all but determining at which point it crosses the line is the difficult part.  More so, can the mathematical model account for partisan or cultural changes over time?

For example, just look at the state of West Virginia (a mostly white state like Wisconsin).  The current map was passed in 2011 by a Democratic Governor and a Democratic legislature.  Last year, every single legislative district voted for Trump.  Today, those Democratic maps have produced a GOP majority in the legislature, an all GOP US House delegation and a GOP Governor.  The mathematical tests used to assess partisanship and violation of one’s 1st Amendment rights would say West Virginia violates this idea.  But one could easily argue, in turn, West Virginians made the choice to vote Republican irregardless of partisanship.  That’s the tricky nature of determining what is and is not too partisan.

Voters move, opinions change over time and it is unlikely a mathematical model of any kind can account for this.  Plus, it would be hard to rationalize being able to meet other state and legal redistricting requirements (compactness, keeping communities of interest together, etc.) on top of this one without seeing some tortured legislative districts.

Certainly, Wisconsin’s situation is unique but one thing it is not is racially based.  The state is more than 90 percent white meaning the map is based exclusively on partisanship.  The same cannot be said for maps in the South.  Specifically Texas and North Carolina (though Alabama deserves a mention here to).  In both states, legislative and Congressional maps have been shot down by the courts over their racial intent.

Unlike partisanship, racial mapmaking has been a big no, no in this country for decades as first defined by the Voting Rights Act.  As a result, many states had to get “preclearance” from the Department of Justice if any electoral changes were made in the state (think changing precinct lines.  Yes, I kid you not).  The Supreme Court saw fit to strike down this aspect of the VRA in 2013 but left the rest of the law intact.Not surprisingly though, the history of race dominated their processes.

In Texas, the state has seen a booming population due to the influx of Hispanics and Asians.  Easily 50 percent of the population growth in the state from 2000-2010 was Hispanic.  But the state GOP, having controlled all statewide offices since 1994 and the legislature since the new millennium worked hard to draw lines that locked in their majorities.  As a result, the Congressional lines of the state resulted in a 24-12 GOP Congressional delegation and lopsided legislative majorities.

Democrats and civil rights groups cried foul even before 2012 and a San Antonio District Court in 2011 found the lines were a racial gerrymander.  The District Court drew temporary lines for 2012 but the Supreme Court struck them down for imposing a burden on the state.  In 2013, Texas made much of the 2011 District Court map permanent.

But a flurry of new rulings have again brought racial gerrymandering to the forefront.  Earlier in the year, a different District Court found the 2011 maps were unconstitutional and soon after the same court found the current 2013 lines were as well.  Specifically, the District Court found two Congressional districts (could have been much worse for the GOP) were racial gerrymanders for splitting up Hispanic communities.  In turn, the GOP appealed to the US Supreme Court and in a one-page order, Justice Alito ordered a stay on the District Court’s ruling.

Similar to Texas, North Carolina’s legislative and Congressional maps have been the subject of racial line drawing.  Interestingly, due to a quirk in state law that allows the legislature to approve new lines without the Governor’s approval the new legislative GOP majorities in 2011 rammed through a partisan map in the fullest.  For decades, Democrats in North Carolina who controlled the legislature did the same thing and now the GOP was returning the favor.

The 2012 results highlighted the significant change.  That year, Democrats won the Congressional and legislative vote 51-49 in the state.  But, the 6-5 Democratic Congressional majority turned into a 10-3 GOP majority and the party gained seats in the legislature (Romney did also win the state).

Due to this the GOP gained a super-majority in the state legislature and with Governor McCrory helming the state the GOP ushered in a plethora of conservative legislation.  However, a series of lawsuits making their way through the courts came to a head this year when it was ruled the state had racially gerrymandered 28 state legislative districts.  Failing an appeal to the US Supreme Court and getting no help from the state’s new Democratic Governor, the legislature redrew the lines and explicitly argued the new lines were meant to emphasize partisanship and not race (a strange admission but one so far the highest court in the land has accepted).

Complicating matters further in many Southern states is the fact race and partisanship go hand in hand.  When 95 percent of blacks support Democrats it is easy to pack them into one district or a handful of districts arguing they can elect the “candidate of their choice,” while maximizing your partisan gain.  The Supreme Court in recent years has handed defeats to Virginia and Alabama based on overturning these arguments as opponents of the maps have cited how it limits the ability of black voters to maximize their voting power.  Such is the contradiction of the Voting Rights Act.

In turn, the Voting Rights Act is showing its age.  No longer is the country divided along two major colors (black and white).  As the country becomes more diverse, courts will continue to disagree with each other and the Supreme Court will find it hard to keep their decisions rational and logical.

Gerrymandering is unlikely to disappear anytime soon.  For all the cries of non-partisan redistricting commissions, many state legislatures are opposed to handing over such power.  Additionally, in states like Illinois and Maryland, the courts often short-circuit such efforts (where efforts are actually led by Republicans).

In sum, two major themes run through American political redistricting.  The first is redistricting is partisan in nature but at what point does partisanship infringe on the right to free speech and association?  Secondly, how does one disentangle race and polarization in an era in the South where 90 percent of whites in some states vote Republican and 90 percent of blacks vote Democrat?

The next few years could go a long way in determining the answers to these questions.

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Ohio and Oregon: Going Opposite Directions

Last Tuesday, Oregon Democratic Governor Kate Brown, the nation’s only LBGT Governor, signed into law the most progressive abortion law into the nation.  The law, passed on a party-line vote by the Oregon legislature (which means not even pro-choice Republicans could support it, they do exist in Oregon) in July makes abortion for any reason legal, puts taxpayers on the hook to subsidize the procedure and even allows illegal immigrants to acquire free abortions at taxpayer expense.

The $10.2 million bill takes effect immediately, allocating almost $500,000 for abortions for the over 22,000 women eligible under the plan.  This includes female immigrants ineligible for the state exchange.

Unsurprisingly, lawsuits are sure to follow.  Opponents argue the law violates the obscure Weldon Amendment, passed in 2004, that prohibits Health and Human Services from providing funding to states that discriminate against healthcare providers.

The initial version of HB 3391 provided few if any religious exemptions.  Providence Healthcare, as a result, threatened to exit the state exchange if changes were not made to the law.  Providence, churches and religious nonprofits are exempted from the law but doctors, nurses and other medical practitioners are not.  Even California and NY State that make abortion free do not have laws that personify “abortion on demand” and their exemptions are much more generous.

In Middle America, another state is taking a drastically different course.  Ohio, led by moderate Governor John Kasich and a solidly Republican state legislature has steadily enacted an anti-abortion agenda which culminated with a ban on abortions after twenty weeks.  Kasich vetoed a fetal heartbeat bill at the same time.

In response to a stunning study on Iceland showing down syndrome has been eliminated not through acceptance or in-vitro fertilization but rather through abortions of prospective parents of children with down syndrome an Ohio State Senator is promoting a bill to ban abortions based on down syndrome.

First introduced in 2015 the idea has been resurrected in the face of actions by states like Oregon and NY State.  The Ohio Senate Health, Human Services, and Medicaid Committee heard proponent testimony for the Down Syndrome Non-Discrimination Act (S.B. 164) on August 22nd, 2017 and the bill is likely to fly out of committee.

In the face of medical advances leading to eugenics Ohio Right to Life President Michael Gonidakis said, “The Down Syndrome Non-Discrimination Act is a crucial step in creating a society that is inclusive of people who are different, no matter how many chromosomes they have.  This legislation is an important part of protecting those most vulnerable from discrimination based on their genetic makeup. We are so thankful for the advocates, families, and medical professionals who came out to stand up for unborn babies with Down syndrome.”

Right to Life is not the only supporter of the bill.  Medical professionals Dr. Dennis Sullivan and Kelly Kuhns both testified in support of the bill.  Sullivan, a Bioethics expert at Cedarville University said such a law is necessary to protect society’s most vulnerable from the unintended consequences of technological advancement.

Most glaringly, while progressives argue limiting women’s access to abortion is discriminatory the same argument is used in favor of banning Down syndrome based abortions.  “Down syndrome isn’t fatal, but discriminatory abortions that target those who have it are. Ohio has the chance to lead the nation and create a society where people with Down syndrome are included, accepted, and loved.” Abortion has to be one of the most tragic forms of discrimination we can imagine,” said Gonidakis. “None of us are perfect, yet babies with disabilities continue to be targeted for elimination based on the notion that some babies are simply better than others. We are all created equal and should be protected as intrinsically valuable members of our one human family.”

As mentioned before, the legislation comes in response to studies showing an untold number of children are aborted who have Down syndrome.  Shockingly,  in Denmark, 98 percent of babies with a positive diagnosis are aborted and in Iceland the number is almost 100 percent . Last year, a French court banned a pro-life commercial featuring smiling children with Down syndrome on the basis that it could “disturb the conscience” of women who had aborted their unborn children.

In an era of intense polarization and social/ideological schisms such maneuvers by elected officials and advocates are inevitable.  But the ideological debate going on today is only surface level.  Below lurk the dangers of eugenics and the warnings many bioethics experts have been telling for years with rapid advancements in medical technology.

Welcome to America 2017!

 

 

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.