Neosporin for those who #FeelTheBern

Clinton_Sanders

Senator Sanders has been a consistent and powerful voice in American politics. He has forcefully fought for those who are often unable to fight for themselves. He has often given a strong voice to those without one. His willingness and ability to fight for such critical policy issues that are not popular with the establishment and status quo party elites, ideas that others are willing to compromise on rather than expand, is noteworthy. I truly believe that he has been the change in the world that he wants to see. He is man of conviction and principle, unwilling to seek his own assent at the expense of those less fortunate. I hope and pray that he never, under any circumstance, ever stops speaking truth to power. He is the patron saint of the poor and downtrodden. May God grant him many years. He is my ideal presidential candidate. I #FeeltheBern, quite strongly. Yet, unfortunately, I still cannot vote for him. I know too much about our current system. Please do not misunderstand me. I am not worried about whether or not Bernie can win a general election. There is a mathematical path, although increasingly improbable, to the nomination and general election victory. However, my trepidations are strictly focused upon the notion that he could and would win; a President-Elect Sanders gives me serious cause for concern, particularly as it pertains to the progressive cause and continuing the work that President Obama has advocated.

Even a cursory look at history, political science, or even math tells us a profound, undeniable truth about what politics will look like beginning in January 2017. The unproductivity and polarization within the 114th Congress has been intense and will continue into the 115th Congress. There is some evidence it will get slightly better, but it will not be enough to support a Bernie Sanders Administration. Do you remember the “Hope” and “Change” that the new President Barack Obama would bring in 2008 and during his presidency? There were a little over 500 promises to be exact. According to PolitiFact’s assessment, he broke his promises 22% of the time and compromised on 25% of his promises. Obama was able to deliver on only 45% of those promises. Obama was a liberal’s liberal in the Senate, slightly left of the party median. Most importantly, what he promised is significantly different politically from what Senator Sanders is currently promising. Do we think that that a President Sanders could do better on broken and compromised promises? Given the nature and political make-up of the incoming Congress, it is highly improbable.

Remember, because this is the most important aspect of the Presidency when it comes to domestic policy, Obama had a filibuster proof majority in the Senate and 255 Democrats in the House of Representatives when he took office. He helped to usher in some of the most consequential reforms and legislation in decades: the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act as well as the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act. These pieces of legislation, and others, were lauded by the Democrat Party as the new era of liberalism, an incremental addition to the New Deal and the Great Society. And, yet, upon further inspection of these ‘liberal’ polices, we find that they are, in fact, watered down versions of progressivism, a slightly left of center neo-liberal justification of the realities of the private/public partnerships that Senator Sanders is fighting against. Even more importantly, however, is the fact that as a Senator, Barack Obama was able to compromise and work with other Senators to produce legislation. As President, the Congress (mostly the Democratic members) was willing to work with him. History, and political science research, reveals some inkling that this would happen as he was running for office. He won 100s of endorsements from those in Congress. In fact, one of the Senate’s most historical and influential members, Robert C. Byrd endorsed Obama for President, saying he was a “shining young statesman.” The impetus for his endorsement came from their similar policy positions regarding the War in Iraq, Byrd said. This is a far better mechanism of determining how effective presidents will be, as it pertains to policy and legislative accomplishment.

Currently, Bernie Sanders has 3 endorsements from the House of Representatives, wherein he served for 16 years, and 0 endorsements from the Senate, where he has spent the last 8 years. To put it in perspective, Hillary Clinton has 140 total endorsements. At this time, 40% of the Senate and 35% of the House of Representatives have endorsed her for President.

Senator Sanders is 0.326 points from where President Obama was while in the Senate, which is nearly twice as ‘liberal’ as the current president, wherein the Republican Party controls the current Senate. Importantly, the projections that the Senate and the House will remain in Republican control are noteworthy. The path to a Democratically controlled Congress is narrow; a filibuster proof one is nearly improbable. Just as concerning, there are data-backed assessments that Senator Sanders will continue to not produce the same enthusiastic turnout among African-Americans or Hispanic voters that Senator Obama did in 2008, which reinforces the notion that Bernie would not have the same political capital in Congress that Obama had in 2009. The results in the recent South Carolina Primary is nearly an irreversible application of Neosporin for those who #FeelTheBern.

Moreover, Senator Sanders cannot point to a single piece of legislation or major negotiated deal brokered by him during his time in the Senate. The one deal on veteran’s benefits he did make, which had bipartisan support, fell through because it ended up being too good of a bill with too many benefits. We have no indications that he would be able to compromise or work within the congressional context inherited in 2017. For instance, some of the policies he is proposing now consist of:

  • Free Public College Tuition
  • By the end of his 1st term in Office, not have the most prisoners in the world
  • Single Payer Healthcare System
  • A 3.5% Unemployment Rate
  • Paid Leave
  • More than Double the National Minimum Wage
  • A $1 Trillion Carbon Tax that redistributes the wealth back to the poor
  • A $1 Trillion Infrastructure Spending Bill

These policies, many of with which I wholeheartedly agree, are so far beyond the median voter’s preferences and what is politically feasible the current political system cannot take them seriously. This is to say nothing of the math errors that boasted the economic growth they would engender. Historical assessments, mathematical projections, and political science research shows us that despite how much we may want a revolution like Bernie advocates, unless the revolution extends to the far reaching political offices such as local prosecutors, state legislators, governors, and the U.S. Congress, electing Bernie Sanders to the Presidency will not and cannot produce a domestic policy change of the aforementioned magnitude, wherein the political structure of government is fundamentally altered. The math just does not support such a notion.

Senator Sanders seems to think that he can treat the Presidency as tantamount to a Green Lantern comic book hero figure, wherein he can will his way to policy change if he just tries hard enough. This is such a ludicrous supposition. Presidents do not always get policy results. Sometimes they are incredibly ineffective. They can, however, sometimes change the discussion of the policy agenda, but this is not always the case, according to the research. Presidents do, however, always attempt to set the agenda, as difficult as it is. Their success depends upon any number of factors. Senator Sanders could be effective in this measure of the Presidency, but it is not guaranteed. One thing we know, for absolute certainty, according the research, is that presidents cannot ‘will’ their way to anything with strength, sheer force, or the exertion by which they try. They need Congress, the public, and the media as well as context, business interests, and special interests to be successful in domestic policy.

Unfortunately, this is the nature of the system. I do not like it anymore than you do. There is a context in which each political actor must function. There are entrepreneurs that can sometimes change the system and broaden the context the policy discussion. It is this reality for which we should thank Bernie Sanders. His presence in the primary against Hillary Clinton has masterfully challenged the establishment. The debates, the primaries, and the caucuses have pulled Hillary further to the left of each policy position, sharpened her debate skills, and forced her to think about her candidacy as something other than a guaranteed win. All of which will serve her well in the necessity of keeping Trump, a bloviating ignoramus, from obtaining institutional power.

Yet, the system still seems broken for those below a certain income bracket. Our voices in the policy discussion are nearly silenced. Of course we are frustrated. Of course we want change. We see the process taking forever. We see the status quo remaining stronger than ever. We can clearly see our ideal candidate, historically on the fringes of politics, challenging the establishment within the party. Briefly, we let our hope and hearts get the better of us, we think we should throw our support behind him because his voice and arguments matter. We think he can change the entire system. I implore you to slow down, take a deep breath, and acknowledge that Senator Sanders cannot fix the problem on his own; he needs all of the actors in the system to change as well. Before you say you must vote your conscious, think about the fact that by doing so, you could be contributing to the dismantling of the progress made thus far.

Unless there is a massive movement that will completely alter the entire structure of our government in this one election, which is so unlikely, your conscious, moral vote is immoral. Arguably, one could make the assertion that the reason so many state legislatures and policies reflect the conservative, regressive, backward approach to life that some 18th Century agrarian philosophers had, is the very fact that Barack Obama was elected and ushered in healthcare reform. He was perceived as too progressive, looked too different from the ‘norm’. His policy proposals and accomplishments, whether true or not, were perceived as too far from the median. Republicans used these perceptions to mobilize voters, even though voter turn out was at its lowest, to make it harder for minorities to vote, to roll back much of the progress on a women’s right to choose, and to economically bankrupt public education. I would challenge you to ask yourself where were you in 2010 or 2014.

Now, imagine Senator Sanders, a Democratic Socialist, getting elected. What do you think the response will be when he proposes free college or a single payer health system or paid leave for poor, working minorities? If you really want to help the progressive movement, if you want policies that reflect your liberal ideology, choose the candidate that will incrementally get those policies for your children and their children. It is too late for us.

The real revolution is built upon compromise. Compromise is progressivism. Real policy change will only occur incrementally, over time. As adults we must compromise. Hillary Clinton is our compromise. Hillary Clinton is our most effective option. Let us all vote with our reason, logic, and minds, not our hearts, passions, and ideals. Idealism is for babies. Always getting what you want is for toddlers. Compromise is adulthood. So, for those of us that #FeeltheBern, I have to say, “Grow up”. Vote for the Establishment. Vote for Compromise. Vote for Hillary Clinton.

I’m with Her!

A Trump Administration: “It’s Not Personal, It’s Just Business”

* Photo by Gage Skidmore

“The Donald” has finally announced this candidacy for the Presidency. He is one of nearly 20 candidates vying for the Republican nomination. As a political scientist, I am aware that it is nearly impossible for him to win his party’s nomination, let alone the general election. The fundamentals of presidential elections are fairly decent at predicting presidential election outcomes, sometimes before the election even begins, especially when you factor aggregating polls into the forecasting model. You can see the research here, here, here, here, and here. Having said that, I think I can say fairly confidently that he will not be the president beginning in 2017. Even though a Suffolk University poll has him in second place in New Hampshire, it is one poll in one state. At most, it might prolong the inevitable demise of his campaign. And yet, there is no way to fully predict elections due to the vicissitudes of politics and pertinent events that may transpire in the future.

So, I can’t help but wonder, what if he actually won? What would a Trump Administration look like? Here are few, quick thoughts about what it might look like.

1. He was at the forefront of the absurd attempt to delegitimize President Obama’s citizenship. How would that play out after he assumed the presidency after Obama? Would he not follow/honor what Obama had done as president?

2. He has been known to say, “I have made the tough decisions, always with an eye toward the bottom line. Perhaps it’s time America was run like a business.” Trump has repeatedly skirted responsibility for his terrible and risky decision-making in many business deals, currently owning 4 corporate bankruptcies. Yet, he has mostly been immune from the consequences of those decisions because of bankruptcy law. Imagine if he had the protections of Executive Privilege to delay the necessary elements of transparency. He wouldn’t be the first.

Moreover, while in office, he would have immunity from any decision he made. That is a legal protection for the president. Remember when Nixon said, “When the President does it, it’s not illegal”? That is essentially true, according to the Supreme Court. Of course there is some debate about what prosecution would/could happen after he left office. However, one just needs to think about how President Bush’s actions pertaining to the detention and torture ‘enhanced interrogations’ of enemy combatants have been perceived at home and abroad. Some legitimate organizations such as the ACLU want to launch an in-depth investigation into his alleged war crimes and President Obama has simply said, “We need to look forward, as opposed to backwards.” Prosecuting a president after leaving office would be incredibly difficult. Even if prosecution were to take place, it is highly likely that the next president would simply pardon him, as Ford did for Nixon.

3. To get a better picture of how Trump might handle some if the more delicate aspects of the presidency such as the art of diplomatic relations, we can look at how he has historically handled some tense and public disagreements with other strong personalities in the past. This is the only measure we have because he has not held any public office.

  • Rosie O’Donnell: She said a few things about his personal life and his business life that he did not like. He not only threatened to sue her and take money from her, but he called her a “loser” and a “big, fat pig” on multiple occasions.
  • Martha Stewart: In an open letter, he wrote a harsh criticism of her work. It is not the same caliber as his bullying of Rosie O’Donnell, but it was far from diplomatic.
  • Mark Cuban: Trump has few insults and personal attacks for Cuban on Twitter. The heated exchange can be found here.
  • Barack Obama: More importantly, it is well documented on twitter how he has talked to and about President Obama (Birth Certificate, College Transcript, Mental Health). Is this how he would try to negotiate with other Heads of State? Would he dangle Foreign Aid to other countries as a condition.

I can’t help but wonder what type of “Rhetorical Presidency” he would have. What would such statements do to international relations with Russia, China, Iran, etc.?

4. His historical record on race and racial tensions is concerning. How would he handle the public problems and issues associate with race in public policy?

  • In 1973, he was sued by the Justice Department for racial discrimination for not renting to African Americans.
  • He has repeatedly claimed that the most of the crime committed is by “Blacks and Hispanics”.

Would his approach to race and crime have a significant impact on the policy problems that we face today in incarceration and health care?

5. Univision media did something that Trump did not like and he responded by banning all employees from visiting his hotel in Miami. Could we see this as a foreshadowing of how he would handle the media’s criticism of his presidency? After negative articles or the major networks not giving him the time he wanted to speak to the nation, would he then ban said media outlets from the White House? NBC has now cut ties with him. Are they next?

6. Trump has in/famously said, “I don’t have to be politically correct. I don’t have to be a nice person. Like I watch some of these weak-kneed politicians, it’s disgusting. I don’t have to be that way.”  I assume that he means the ‘weak-kneed politicians’ have a bit of self-control as it pertains to what comes out of their mouth. Would he become one of those ‘weak-kneed politicians’ after assuming the presidency?

The constraints constitutionally embedded into the Office of the Presidency are incredibly important. They were debated by serious people and ratified in a democratic manner. These constraints are just as the important as the constraints public opinion imposes upon the president. The need to constrain political behavior due to the necessity of reelection and historical legacy reduces the negative outcomes associated with the boisterous overbearing personalities that are uninhibited by their wealth and status in public life. As Neustadt said, the presidency is no place for amateurs. They must be able to bargain if they are to be successful. Presidents have to be serious people with serious approaches to public problems. They cannot be bloviating ignoramuses.

I think the moral of the story is that ELECTIONS MATTER!

 

P.S. 

I thought it might be fun to think about his presidency in a less serious way.

I think that vetting female candidates for office to be appointed to the Administration or Judiciary, which would be a rare occurrence, would only take place after the potential candidate has secured a top three placement in a Miss America Type Pageant. In fact, the rules for women in a Trump Administration will be the same as the rules for the Miss America Pageant.

———————————————————————————————————-

*The image is taken from Wikimedia Commons, a “media file repository making available public domain and freely-licensed educational media content.” The photograph is of Republican Presidential Candidate, Donald Trump. The Photo was taken by Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons. The file can be found here.

Midterm Election Night Analysis

Below you will find some of the comments I sent to the media, who asked for them, after the 2014 Midterm Elections in the U.S. and in West Virginia particularly.

What surprised you about the results? (National Elections)

Honestly, I am not really surprised by the overall results of the election. It is not surprising that the Republicans kept their majority in the House of Representatives. Also, given the election models I have seen, it is highly likely that the Republicans will take control of the Senate as well. In fact, every president since Harry Truman (1946) has lost same party seats in the House of Representatives, with two exceptions, 1998 and 2002. In 1998, we can speculate that the strength of the economy and President Clinton’s high popularity had the most to do with the net gain of 4 House seats. In 2002, we can, again, speculate that President Bush’s high approval ratings and the proximity to 9/11 played a major role in the net gain of 8 House Seats. In terms of the Senate, the same is basically true as well. Most presidents have lost same party Senate seats in the midterm elections, especially when they are considered lame ducks. Bush gained two Senate seats in 2002, Reagan gained 1 in 1982, Nixon gained 2 in 1970, and Kennedy gained, I think, 3 1962. Every other president from Truman onward lost Senate Seats in the midterms.

This fundamental election reality can basically be explained by the economy and presidential popularity, which are often correlated. When presidents are popular and on the ballot themselves, they allow potential congresspersons to ride into Washington and the statehouses on their coattails. When the presidents are not very popular and not on the ballot, the opposing party is able to exploit this to their advantage. Thus, using the president’s unpopularity and policy priorities against the president’s party in the midterms, presidents often lose same party seats in both chambers of the Congress. Additionally, candidates can blame the incumbent president for, basically, all of the problems facing the electorate.

In terms of the WV races, again, I am not really surprised by the overall outcomes. Thinking about what I said earlier, President Obama is incredibly unpopular in West Virginia. As was the case in 2010, he lost the greatest amount of House of Representative seats in modern American history, more than any other president. In 2014, his approval rating is a little less than it was in 2010 this close to the election, which is not surprising for a lame duck president. Nevertheless, that will surely hurt the Democratic candidates in their bids for election. Pertaining to the economy, some of the most pertinent and important indicators are significantly better such as unemployment and overall economic growth. However, not everyone can feel those changes and thus do not think the economy is better or as good as it is for some individuals.

Who were the biggest winners? 

I am not sure who the biggest winners are in the election. However, I think it is safe to say that, potentially, the biggest loser in this election is West Virginia. In the last 4 years, WV has lost Senator Byrd, Senator Rockefeller, and Congressman Rahall, who had a combined 117 (80 years for Byrd and Rockefeller) years of service to West Virginia. Despite what one thinks of either of these three politicians and their political positions, they have brought an inestimable amount of money, jobs, and resources back to West Virginia, whether in the form of earmarks, funding formulae, or capital projects. All of that seniority, positions of power, and political influence will be gone from the Congress. Capito has some clout but much of that will not transfer from the House to the Senate. Those that represent WV in Congress are nowhere near as politically powerful as the three aforementioned. I think that there will be a change in the relationship between WV and the federal government after this election; WV will not have the political clout it has had for decades and will lose much of what it gets federally. This will obviously change as the elected grow into their positions. Granted, some will think this change in power is a very good thing, both politically and ideologically.

Who ran the best campaigns? 

I am not really sure how to answer this question. There are too many value judgments assumed in the terms. One could say that whomever won ran the best campaign. The truth of the matter is that nearly every campaign is negative. The reason being that it actually works, despite how much we do not like it. The negative approach to campaigning has been around since the beginning of the Republic. (In)Famously, Thomas Jefferson’s campaign called John Adams a, “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.” Which, in turn, the Adams campaign responded by saying that Jefferson was, “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.” Negative campaigning is here to stay.

Secondly, every campaign ad in WV seemed to consist of who was more like President Obama and how that is bad. Each ad was more about the fear of what the other candidate would do, how they would do it like Obama, and the reasons for why you should not vote for that person. Each person ignored the good that has been done by some of Obama’s policies, particularly how the uninsured rate dropped from 17% to about 6.5%, as one example. Aside from that, neither candidate really did a good job of explaining what they would do in Washington. Nevertheless, this is typical. It is easier for a candidate to run against something than for something, as it is more difficult to hold them accountable that way.

How the Jenkins/Rahall race was run, challenger vs. long-standing incumbent?

I think each side of the campaign, particularly Congressman Rahall, would like everyone to think that the race was dominated by outside interests and ‘dark’ money. Granted, this is the most expensive campaign to date. The estimates are as high as $3.6 billion spent on every midterm race in this election. Some estimates state that half of all spending in the WV-3rd District, however, are independent expenditures. So, there is some truth to his claim. We will not fully know, however, because after the Citizen’s United Supreme Court case, many of the contributions and expenditures do not have to be disclosed.

However, Rahall has raised about $1 million dollars more than Jenkins and he has the incumbent advantage. House races are a little more complicated to predict. Nevertheless, the incumbent advantage for House members typically means that Rahall has about a 90% chance of holding onto his House seat. Having said that, now that WV is rapidly shifting from a blue state to a red state, there is no way that Rahall’s victory is that secure. The very fact that he engaged in the debate with Jenkins this year indicates that his internal numbers show that he would possible lose this race. Granted, the early voting for his district showed a strong turn out for the Democrats, which are often more likely to vote early. However, it does not mean that they all will vote for him. As most predictions have the 3rd WV congressional district leaning Republican.

As it pertains to the Tennant and Capito Senate campaign, I am both really surprised and not really surprised at the same time. Given that most individuals vote according to their registered party, it is odd that Tennant was not able to win this election. Democrats outnumber Republicans as registered voters well over 20%. Moreover, almost 18% of registered voters in WV are independents. We have to assume that many of those independents lean democratic and would typically vote democratic. This is somewhat surprising that Tennant could not secure a victory with such an advantage.

However, it is not that surprising when you factor in how unpopular President Obama is here, almost 63% of persons polled think he is not doing a good job as president. Capito’s campaign strategy mostly hinged on connecting Tennant to Obama, making their policy actions tantamount—eradicating the Democratic advantage. Moreover, most of the predictive analytics I have seen on the WV Senate race gives Tennant only a 2% chance of beating Capito. It does not mean she cannot win; however, it means that the chances of her winning are seriously diminished and improbable. This is not surprising given the fact that Capito outraised Tennant by nearly $4 million. Typically, not always, but mostly whoever raises the most amount of money for a Senate campaign wins that campaign.

Having said that, WV has elected its first female Senator, which could be a sign of things to come for some of the gender inequality in our elected positions. Some would welcome this trend given that WV has only 5% of its elected state and national figures as women. Although that number will not change that much given that Capito is simply going from the House to the Senate and her House seat will be replaced by a male. It could signal a shift in who runs for office in WV.

What does this election say about voters looking to 2016? 

Secondly, I think that it is important to note that this is WV’s first Republican Senator since 1956, which is probably a sign of things to come for WV. WV will most likely move from a solidly Democratic state to a Republican state in the upcoming years. Some of this will depend on the major party candidates for president in 2016. For instance, Hilary Clinton does quite well in WV as did her husband. If she is the candidate, we could possibly see a Democratic renewal of state and national seats as they ride her coattails to victory (assuming of course she runs and wins).

As the famous quote goes, “all politics are local.” Which, to me, means that this midterm election does not say much about how things will go nationally in 2016. It is, without a doubt, too early to tell. There is no mandate and there certainly is no 2016 mandate. If anything, it shows that those who decided to vote in WV, which I assume will be around 30% of eligible voters, simply did not like Obama and connected the state’s Democrats to him despite their desperate attempts to separate themselves from him and his policies.

Thank you for your time. I hope this helps.

I hope all is well,

Damien