Tag Archives: Donald Trump

Obama, Trump and Governing: Armageddon or a Breath of Fresh Air?

Carrie Fisher. forever Princess Leia, passed, and a few of the online comments are poignant,

I for one hope she is not resting, but at this moment being beamed to a galaxy beyond our imaginations, where she will adventure on … There has been a profound disturbance in the Force, as if thousands of voices have cried out in sorrow. 2016 cannot end soon enough.

Yes, 2016 has been a difficult year, the passing of icons as well as another force in the galaxy, the election of Donald Trump.

The passing of the torch is not without rough edges;  Obama in an interview muses that he could have been elected to  third term, (without that pesky 22nd amendment) and Trump tweeted back, no way.

Volumes will be written parsing his eight years at the helm: was he a memorable president, or was he the professor-in-chief? An op ed in New York Times asks: Was Barack Obama Bad for Democrats?

He rescued an economy in crisis and passed the recovery program, pulled America back from its military overreach, passed the Affordable Care Act and committed the nation to addressing climate change. To be truly transformative in the way he wanted, however, his success had to translate into electoral gains for those who shared his vision and wanted to reform government. On that count, Mr. Obama failed.

Mr. Obama also offered only tepid support to the most important political actor in progressive and Democratic politics: the labor movement.

Ta-Nisi Coates, in a lengthy essay in The Atlantic, “My President Was Black,” lauds his president,

… [With a Trump win] I knew what was coming—more Freddie Grays, more Rekia Boyds, more informants and undercover officers sent to infiltrate mosques.  

And I also knew that the man who could not countenance such a thing in his America had been responsible for the only time in my life when I felt, as the first lady had once said, proud of my country, and I knew that it was his very lack of countenance, his incredible faith, his improbable trust in his countrymen, that had made that feeling possible. The feeling was that little black boy touching the president’s hair. It was watching Obama on the campaign trail, always expecting the worst and amazed that the worst never happened. It was how I’d felt seeing Barack and Michelle during the inauguration, the car slow-dragging down Pennsylvania Avenue, the crowd cheering, and then the two of them rising up out of the limo, rising up from fear, smiling, waving, defying despair, defying history, defying gravity.

For years the arguments and books and PhD dissertations will debate: Is Obama the president who set the path for a caring/safe/prosperous world, addressing the critical issues of climate change and averting a worldwide conflagration, or, an aloof scholar who lost control of Congress and lost large segments of the American people. for some, an anti-Semite supporting policies that could lead to the destruction of Israel.

Trump, also, is reviled by many and revered by others.

For the last six years of the Obama administration Congress was led by Republicans, who thwarted many of the Obama initiatives and proposed a range of bills that died in the Senate.

For the first time in decades one party, currently the Republican Party will control both houses of Congress and the White House. Yes, the Cloture Rule in the Senate requires 60 votes to bring a bill to the floor; however, cabinet nominees only require a majority vote; additionally presidents have wide ranging powers in rule-making and establishing foreign policy. been

I have spoken with Trump supporters who argue that for decades Democratic administrations have created more and more entitlement programs. Social Security Disability Insurance, SNAP (food stamps), Medicaid and a host of others. They argue that entitlement programs discourage recipients from ever seeking employment setting up generational poverty dependent programs as well as unsustainable debt.

“The only way we can break the cycle of poverty is to force those dependent on the programs to seek employment and that will only happen if government sharply reduces the benefits, yes, there may be ‘hard years,’ in the long run we will benefit the entire nation.”

I have doubts, serious doubts about this approach, I read widely about a guaranteed national income; a discussion for another time

A swash-buckling, saber-rattling president, aggressive generals in leading policy positions, cabinet members antithetic to the department they are tasked to run and deficit hawks wanting to reduce the debt at all cost, and a president threatening tariffs to squeeze trading opponents.

is Trump the “right” leader; leadership has been the subject of debate for a millennium.

In the thirteenth century Catholic theologian and philosopher St. Thomas Aquinas wrote,

If it is natural for man to live in a numerous society, it is necessary that their should be provision for ruling such a society. Where there are many men and each seeks that which is agreeable to himself, the group will soon fall apart unless there is someone who cares for these things that concern the good of the aggregate …

In addition to that which works for the private advantage of each there should be something that acts for the common good of the many …

If the multitude is governed by a ruler for their common good, the government is right and just and appropriate … if the government is directed not to the common good, but to the private good of the ruler, then it is unjust and perverted. (St Thomas Aquinas, Concerning the Rule of Princes (1266)

Twentieth century Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr also mused over the role of governmental leadership.

Niebuhr maintains that “…it may be taken as axiomatic that great disproportions of power lead to injustice,” and he adds “…the larger the group the more certainly will it express itself selfishly in the total community.” This is because “…it will be more powerful and therefore more able to defy  any social restraints which might be devised.” He insists that “…there has never been a scheme of justice in history which did not have a balance of power  at its foundation.” But he sees danger also in the balancing of power with the possibility of anarchy.”

He concludes that “… a healthy society must seek to achieve the greatest possible equilibrium of power, the greatest possible number of centers of power, the greatest possible social checks upon the administration of power, and the greatest possible inner moral check on human ambition, as well as the most effective use of forms of power in which consent and coercion are compounded.” (Reinhold Niebuhr on Politics, 1960).

Will the Trump administration work for the “common good of the many” or, will he work for “the private good of the ruler,” and, if so, according to Aquinas,  he will be  “unjust and perverted.”

Will our next administration evidence “the greatest possible equilibrium of power … the greatest possible social checks … the great possible inner moral checks on human ambition?”

As we edge toward the new year a gloom has descended, the deaths of iconic Americans compounded by fear, fear that our new president will drive the nation, and perhaps the world towards an Armageddon.  Most of us ignore the other side of the coin, the Trump supporters who see a new awakening, a potential sea change in the direction of the country.

I have no idea who is correct. The polls had Hillary comfortably in the lead, the New York Times gave her a 93% chance of winning two weeks before the election and an 83% chance on election day. Why were the pollsters so wrong? Why were the “experts,” the sages who dominate the air waves and opinion columns so off course? Is our future as bleak as The New Yotk Times forecasts?

The ultimate poll will be the American people, the “wisdom of crowds; from 140-character tweets to governing is a huge leap. In mid-March we will reach the debt ceiling limit, in prior years the White House and the Congress negotiated a way around the crises: not this time. Our new president and the Republican Congress will make every attempt to use the “crisis” to “balance the budget,” proposing  sharp reductions in entitlement programs ranging from Medicare to food stamps to Social Security. Perhaps the “crowd” will agree, these are necessary to avert economic ruin, or, the fickle “crowd,” that elected president-elect Trump will rise up in anger.

A divided America, some seeing dark clouds and a treacherous future, others rays of sunlight. I’m keeping my umbrella handy.

Trump, ESSA and Education Policy: Musing Over the Future of Public Education

Unlimited power is … a bad and dangerous thing; human beings are not competent to exercise it with discretion, only God alone can be omnipotent … no power on earth is so worthy of honor for itself; or for reverential  obedience to the rights which it represents that I would consent to admit its uncontrolled and all-predominant authority.

In my opinion the main evil of the present democratic institutions of the United States does not arise … from their weakness but from their overpowering strength; and I am not so much alarmed at the excessive liberty which reigns in that country as at the very inadequate securities which exist against tyranny.

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America.

A year ago the Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the successor to the much reviled No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. The new law was the result of a few years of behind the scenes negotiating, the bill was bipartisan with Senators Lamar Alexander (R) and Patty Murray (D) leading the way.

While the law still requires annual grades 3-8 testing and the public reporting of the results states are given wide discretion in the design of accountability metrics.  States are currently deeply engaged in drafting plans that must be submitted to the feds by September, 2017. Some states are working with Linda Darling-Hammond at the Learning Policy Institute, others with Michael McGee at Chiefs for Change (See advocacy here) or the Council of State School Officers (See CCSSO guide here). States are grappling with designing accountability plans: how you measure and report student outcomes? Stick with the current pen and pencil, or computer-based testing, move to performance tasks, portfolios or other types of “authentic” assessments, and, as the law requires, are these new tools evidence-based in their reliability and validity?

The law itself, hundreds of pages of dense legal jargon must be reduced to regulations and the process is lengthy and tedious. The negotiated rule-making process, the posting of draft regulations, a lengthy public comment period and the final release of the regulations within the last month.

How will the new administration, the new Secretary of Education, implement the rules, and, can she change the regulations?

Betsy DeVoss has been one of the leading proponents of choice in the nation. Ideally choice means that each parent would be provided with a voucher, or coupon, or whatever term you use that is equal to the cost of education in a state and the parent could present the voucher to any school: public, charter, private or religious. Education; however, is a state function; over 90% of funding for schools is generated through local property taxes or state revenues, the feds on provide Title I dollars and other federal grants. DeVoss cannot impose vouchers; although she can hang the bait of increased dollars for those who take the bait.

Janelle Scott, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, in a recent peer-reviewed article challenges the assertion that choice produces better outcomes. Read the essay here.

Even though ESSA is the law of the land and the regulations have been established the Secretary still interprets the law. The Secretary may issue “Dear Colleague” letters clarifying elements within the law and regulations (See examples of Dear Colleague letters here). “Dear Colleague” letters undermine the intent of the law or regulation.

How can the Secretary influence the distribution of federal education dollars?

The largest pot of federal dollars are Title I funds based on poverty metrics, distributed to states, school districts and schools. (See a detailed description of Title I here). Charter and religious schools also receive Title I funding under federal statutes. The formula for the allocation of federal dollars is complex and the Secretary plays a role; although, the states play the major role in determining cut scores for eligibility. For example: how do you measure poverty? Free and reduced lunch forms? federal census family income data? Should you concentrate the dollars: meaning should fewer schools receive more dollars?  These are debates that have been ongoing for years.

DeVoss will attempt to both reward charter and religious schools and encourage vouchers. Let us not forget that Arne Duncan offered competitive grants under Race to the Top to encourage Obama-Duncan policies, example, charter schools, Common Core, teacher evaluations plans, etc.

Will the Secretary decide how ESSA is applied to opt out schools?

The answer is yes, if she wants to play a major role. ESSA, and its predecessor required a 95% participation rate on the required standardized grades 3-8 tests. The purpose was to discourage/prevent schools from conveniently excusing kids who were likely to do poorly on the test; no one envisioned the opt out movement. Some states specifically prohibit. or specifically allow parent opt outs whiles others are completely silent. (Read description here). In January, 2016 the feds sent a letter to all states setting forth potential actions against states with low participation rates,

In addition, an SEA has a range of other enforcement actions at its disposal with respect to noncompliance by an LEA, including placing a condition on an LEA’s Title I, Part A grant or withholding an LEA’s Title I, Part A funds (see, e.g., section 440 of the General Education Provisions Act). If a State with participation rates below 95% in the 2014−2015 school year fails to assess at least 95% of its students on the statewide assessment in the 2015 − 2016 school year, ED will take one or more of the following actions: (1) withhold Title I , Part A State administrative funds ; (2) place the State’s Title I , Part A grant on high-risk status and direct the State to use a portion of its Title I State administrative funds to address low participation rates; or (3) withhold or redirect Title V I State assessment funds.

New York State, by far, has the largest number of schools/parents with low participation rates; there are a number of other states, i. e., Illinois, Maine, Connecticut, California, Colorado Idaho, North Carolina Delaware Wisconsin Washington and Rhode Island.

The law is clear, the feds can reduce Title 1 funding to states with low participation rates; to complicate many of the opt out school do not receive Title 1 funding, or receive relatively little Title 1  funding. Does the state allow Title 1 students to receive fewer dollars or does the state transfer funds form opt out to Title 1 schools?

I suspect the choice forces will do everything possible to fracture public education. Deepen the moat, sharpen the pikes, the next few years will be parry and thrust.

Trump, Abigail Adams and Jefferson: Has the “Mad Cry of the Crowd” Seized Our Nation?

Within a few years of the end of Revolutionary War former solders were still unpaid, farmers were losing their farms, speculators were snatching land; the gap between the rich and the poor was widening, the goals of the revolution were crumbling. Appeals to state legislatures demanding debt relief went unanswered; Daniel Shay led a rag-tag army that prevented courts from convening and threatened to seize weapons in armories.  The new nation appeared to be on the verge of anarchy.

Abigail Adams wrote to Thomas Jefferson,

 Ignorant, restless desperadoes, without conscience or principals, have led a deluded multitude to follow their standard, under pretense of grievances which have no existence but in their imaginations. Some of them were crying out for a paper currency, some for an equal distribution of property, some were for annihilating all debts, others complaining that the Senate was a useless Branch of Government, that the Court of common Pleas was unnecessary, and that the Sitting of the General Court in Boston was a grievance …

 Instead of that laudable Spirit which you approve, which makes a people watchful over their Liberties and alert in the defense of them, these Mobish insurgents are for sapping the foundation, and destroying the whole fabric at once. 

  I cannot help flattering myself that they will prove Salutary to the state at large, by leading to an investigation of the causes which have produced these commotions. Luxury and extravagance both in furniture and dress had pervaded all orders of our Countrymen and women, and was hastening fast to Sap their independence by involving every class of citizens in distress, and accumulating debts upon them which they were unable to discharge. Vanity was becoming a more powerful principal than Patriotism. The lower order of the community were presst for taxes, and though possessed of landed property they were unable to answer the Demand. Whilst those who possessed Money were fearful of lending, least the mad cry of the Mob  should force the Legislature upon a measure very different from the touch of Midas.

Abigail was incredibly prescient.  The “regulators” (the name adopted by the Shay army) can easily be compared to the current Trump voters. Disillusioned, ill-prepared for the 21st century economy and angry; instead of marching against the government they marched against the establishment, and, while Shay’s army was put down with force the new “regulators” seized control of the nation.

A few months after the Adams-Jefferson correspondence the delegates to the constitutional convention began trickling into Philadelphia. A new constitution, a successful battle over ratification, the Federalist Papers, the election of George Washington and the selection of an outsider, Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury. Hamilton, the immigrant from the Caribbean island of Nevis, saved the nation. His economic policies, a national bank, the federal assumption of debts, borrowing to create  infrastructure programs secured credibility for the fledgling nation, in spite of the increasing opposition by Madison and Jefferson,

A month later Jefferson responded to Adam’s letter

The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the Atmosphere.

In 1787 the rebellion was put down aggressively by troops, the “little rebellion” that Jefferson liked did not succeed. Or, perhaps the rebellion will be the new “regulators,” the opponents to the Trump administration “rebelling” against a government that appears to be tearing down decades of bipartisan progressive leadership.

The Trump cabinet nominees are more radical than the nominees that Rubio or Cruz may have made. An Attorney General nominee with racist roots, who opposes the Voting Rights Act, opposes protecting the rights of the disabled and on and on, in many ways rolling back the nation to the 1950s. An Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) head who is a climate change denier, an Education Secretary who supports unregulated charter schools and vouchers as well as prayer in he schools, basically an enemy of public schools.

What is especially interesting is how the stock market has responded; instead, as predicted by many, a sharp drop the market has hit all-time highs – the “Trump Bump.”  Has the Trump rhetoric freed up dollars and sent them into the market? Do the usually cynical and tough hedgefunders think that Trump can pump a trillion or two into a massive infrastructure program, renegotiate deals with China and bring jobs back to America?  New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman thinks not. Even conservative former Congressman Joe Scarborough, “Morning Joe,” questions Trump assertions that the government can both spend trillions on infrastructure and reduce taxes.

How will the new administration react to the first crisis?

Italy is tottering on the brink of an economic collapse that could drag down the European Banking system with a world-wide domino effect. Russia and/or China could decide to test the new administration with aggressive actions in the Baltic or in Hong Kong. Acting aggressively in the Middle East, sending in more American troops could further destabilize all-ready fractious part of the world. Obama’s reaction to he 2007-8 fiscal debacle was laudatory, the accretion of recession to depression was halted and slowly but surely our economy recovered. All of the economic indicators show we have returned to a pre-recession economy; however, the constant attacks from the right, that have little basis in reality, played a role in the Trump victory.

I am both cynical and fearful.

How will Trump react when the crisis occurs?

In the years leading up to World War 2 many millions of American were still suffering, ten years after the beginning of the Great Depression. The rise of Hitler was viewed as a European problem, the isolationists and the pacifists in Congress refused to allow us to aid our allies across the Atlantic as the continent fell to the Nazis.  At home the Dies Committee, lead by Congressman Martin Dies persecuted Americans accusing them of being Communists, to Dies a much more serious threat than Hitler. Anti-Semitism was rampant, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion accepted as gospel, and, lynchings were commonplace. Attempts to pass a federal anti-lynching law were thwarted by southern congressman and FDR made a political decision not to pursue the issue.

George Santayana, the Spanish philosopher, reminded us that if we don’t learn from the lessons of history we are fated to repeat them.

I fear that as the economy falters, as a crisis abroad escalates the response will be to blame the unions, blame the civil rights advocates, blame the Jews, blame the immigrants, the minorities, blame the press, deflect blame and use the same scapegoating strategies we saw in Germany in the thirties and during the recent presidential campaign.

We live in a new world of communications, I may watch MSNBC, others may watch Fox, and fifteen million Americans subscribe to Trump’s Twitter feed. With a few finger taps the President-elect can send a 140 character message directly to his subscribers, bypassing the traditional sources of news. In fact the very definition of “news,” the code of conduct of journalism has changed. The “first out” wins, a Trump twitter assault on whoever becomes the news story repeated endlessly by the traditional media outlets. News stories no longer require two sources to validate the source as taught in journalism schools; reporting the tweet becomes the story. There are no rules on Twitter, or on Facebook. No one vets the story, the accusation, in fact, fake stories become the news.

Those of us who live in Northeastern cities or the cities along the West Coast live in a bubble. At 5:45 in the morning of Election Day I waited outside my polling place on a long line. It was a party; we were going to elect our first woman president, a woman with decades of experience, actually the most qualified person ever to run for president.

A month after the election we are still suffering from a new illness – post election PTSB. We are shocked, how could this have happened? Everyone we know was deriding Trump and voting for Hillary.

On the other hand I know too many voters who decided they couldn’t vote for Hillary and stayed home, or voted for Jill Stein, or, voted for Trump as a protest vote, after all, he could never win.

Maybe I am overly concerned, perhaps the optimistic market is an accurate predictor of a rosy economic future, or, maybe my concern is real, maybe we are on the cusp of the Inferno, and   whatever our differences we should unite and fight back before the Ninth Circle engulfs us.

Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.

Niemöller is perhaps best remembered for the quotation:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Why do Trump, Pence, DeVos and Republicans Support Charter Schools, Education Vouchers, “privatizing” Social Security and Medicare/caid? What Does Supporting “Small Government” Mean? And, Will Trump Build a Statute of Ayn Rand on the Washington Mall?

Almost all the people I know are shocked and appalled at the election of Trump. I will not rehash the autopsy, the deep analysis and commentary parsing the election. I will examine why Trump, Pence, Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos, Speaker Paul Ryan and many of their wealthy supporters believe they have the true path.

Adam Smith, an 18th century Scot, political scientist and economist wrote The Wealth of Nations, often referred to as the “bible of capitalism.”  Smith coined the term, “invisible hand,” that somehow by “pursuing his own self-interest” the rich benefit all of society.

The rich…are led by an invisible hand to make nearly the same distribution of the necessaries of life, which would have been made, had the earth been divided into equal portions among all its inhabitants, and thus without intending it, without knowing it, advance the interest of the society …  Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was not part of it. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it.                                                                                       

Couple the writings of Smith with German Sociologist Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism  who examines the theosophy of John Calvin, the concept of predestination, the concept that economic success is proof that you are one of the select, chosen by God for salvation.

Historian R. H. Tawney wrote,

Adam Smith …  saw in economic self-interest the operation of a providential plan… The existing order, except insofar as the short-sighted enactments of Governments interfered with it, was the natural order, and the order established by nature was the order established by God.

Tawney, a Christian Socialist reviled what he saw as a perversion of religion,

A society which reverences the attainment of riches as the supreme felicity will naturally be disposed to regard the poor as damned in the next world, if only to justify itself for making their life a hell in this.

For centuries wealth melded with religion.

At the other end of the spectrum is Karl Marx, the antithesis of Adam Smith. (Read a comparison of Smith and Marx here).

The European depression of the 1920’s and the Great Depression began with the stock market crash of 1929 challenged long standing economic theory. The “invisible hand” did not reach down from the heavens,

FDR, assuming the presidency in 1933, in the very depths of the depression vigorously intervened; federal program after program to put the nation back to work. FDR was viewed as a savior, elected four times, who led us out of the depression as well as our leader during World War Two.

Keynesian economic theory, the government has a crucial role to play; deficit spending to create demand and put us back to work was not universally accepted.

On the other side of the coin are the followers of Ayn Rand, the author of Atlas Shrugged, (1956), her magnum opus that has become the guiding light for those on the right, including the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan.

Rand savaged the post-FDR view of the role of government that she defined as “collectivist.”

Collectivism is the tribal premise of primordial savages who, unable to conceive of individual rights, believed that the tribe is a supreme, omnipotent ruler, that it owns the lives of its members and may sacrifice them whenever it pleases.

 a philosophy of supreme self-reliance devoted to the pursuit of supreme self-interest appears to be an idealized version of core American ideals: freedom from tyranny, hard work and individualism. It promises a better world if people are simply allowed to pursue their own self-interest without regard to the impact of their actions on others. After all, others are simply pursuing their own self-interest as well.

Rand is enormously popular across college campuses today. The “hero” of Atlas Shrugged is John Gault, “… a ruthless captain of industry who struggles against stifling government regulations that stand in the way of commerce and profit. In a revolt, he and other captains of industry each close down production of their factories, bringing the world economy to its knees. ‘You need us more than we need you’ is their message.”

Do Ryan, Pence and DeVos worship statues of Gault?

The sharpest critic of our public school system is the Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Freedman; in his Capitalism and Freedom (1962) Freedman laid out his views of education, views clearly at the core of the Trump/Pence/DeVos education philosophy,

Governments could require a minimum level of schooling financed by giving parents vouchers redeemable for a specified maximum sum per child per year if spent on “approved” educational services. Parents would then be free to spend this sum and any additional sum they themselves provided on purchasing educational services from an “approved” institution of their own choice. The educational services could be rendered by private enterprises operated for profit, or by non-profit institutions. The role of government would be limited to insuring that the schools met certain minimum standards, such as the inclusion of a minimum common content in their programs, much as it now inspects restaurants.

 With respect to teachers’ salaries, the major problem is not that they are too low on the average, but that they are too uniform and rigid. Poor teachers are grossly overpaid and good teachers grossly underpaid. Salary schedules tend to be uniform and determined far more by seniority, degrees received, and teaching certificates acquired than by merit.

If one were to seek deliberately to devise a system of recruiting and paying teachers calculated to repel the imaginative and daring, and to attract the mediocre and uninspiring, he could hardly do better than imitate the system of requiring teaching certificates and enforcing standard salary structures that has developed in the largest city and state-wide systems. It is perhaps surprising that the level of ability in elementary and secondary school teaching is as high as it is under these circumstances. The alternative system would resolve these problems and permit competition to be effective in rewarding merit and attracting ability to teaching.

I understand, and vehemently disagree with this perverse combination of philosophy, religion and a defense of ruthless aggrandizement. I am far more sympathetic to Karl Marx, “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people”.

Thirty years ago I exchanged my apartment and lived in Paris for a month, my first trip was to the The Communards’ Wall (Mur des Fédérés) at the Pere Lachaise cemetery ”… where, on May 28, 1871, one-hundred and forty-seven fédérés, combatants of the Paris Commune, were shot and thrown in an open trench at the foot of the wall. … the wall became the symbol of the people’s struggle for their liberty and ideals.”  Rationalizing the plutocracy, the oppression that has created an underclass, the use of religion to justify inequity is despicable. My ancestors lived in ghettos, oppression was their reality, pogroms a fact of life, and, those who failed to flee Europe died in the holocaust. My wife’s forbearers were transported in slave ships. We live in a nation, far from perfect; however a nation that has offered opportunity to generations of immigrants. Immigration is our life-blood; we receive the “first round draft choices” from around the world; immigration has a Darwinian aspect.

An “invisible hand” is not hovering to “save us,” greed, racism, anti-Semitism, avarice can steer our nation to anarchy, can set neighbor against neighbor. We face an uncertain future.

Pence, DeVos and Ryan worship at the altar of Rand and Freedman.

Does Trump worship at the altar of Machiavelli?

Trump, New Federalism and the Devolution of Government: Will Political Rhetoric Morph to Political Pragmatism?

Have you ever given any thought to why our nation is called the United States of America? Are we “one nation, indivisible” or fifty states retaining power delegated and not prohibited by the 10th Amendment?

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

A little history:

The Revolutionary War (1776-1783) was grueling, the colonial armies lost battle after battle, the British controlled the cities; it became a war of attrition with the British people increasingly resisting the expense of the war.

The rebellious colonies needed a governmental structure and the Articles of Confederation (drafted: 1776, affirmed: 1781) loosely aligned the thirteen colonies. By the end of the war the governing structure was subject to criticism, in fact, the Articles threatened the existence of the new nation.

After the war, nationalists, especially those who had been active in the Continental Army, complained that the Articles were too weak for an effective government. There was no president, no executive agencies, no judiciary and no tax base. The absence of a tax base meant that there was no way to pay off state and national debts from the war years except by requesting money from the states, which seldom arrived.

The nation struggled through the eighties, and in the spring of 1787 delegates trickled into Philadelphia. There was agreement that the Articles must be amended; however, Madison and Hamilton had different ideas. The delegates came and went, threatened to leave permanently, schemed, formed alliances, compromised and in September affirmed a new document: a constitution.

Throughout the fall and winter, one by one the states ratified the new constitution. The Federalists and the anti-Federalists argued pro and con across the nation;  Madison, Hamilton and Jay wrote 85 essays, the Federalist Papers, today we would call them op eds.

Hamilton and Madison proposed instead of the absolute sovereignty of each state under the Articles of Confederation, the states would retain a” residual sovereignty” in all those areas which did not require national concern.

This assent and ratification is to be given by the people, not as individuals composing one entire nation, but as composing the distinct and individual States to which they respectively belong.

Survival as a respected nation required the transfer of important, though limited, powers to the central government. They believed that this could be done without destroying the identity or autonomy of the separate state

The constitution remained silent on the question of slavery, even though most of the states attending the convention had outlawed slavery. The question of slavery was “reserved” for the states.

The passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, in the waning months of the Civil War required extensive political maneuvering by Lincoln. The Reconstruction Amendments were slowly and inexorably eroded by the Black Codes in the decades after the war. The Supreme Court deferred to the states in a number of decisions. For example, in 1896 the Court ruled that “separate but equal” public facilities were constitutional.

It wasn’t until the Great Depression and the actions of President Roosevelt that the federal government began to act aggressively. Presidents, from Roosevelt to Obama increasingly interpreted the constitution in a way that shifted powers away from state capitals to Washington.

Opposition to an increasingly activist role of the executive and or legislative branches is called New Federalism.

New Federalism is a political philosophy of devolution, or the transfer of certain powers from the United States federal government back to the states. The primary objective of New Federalism, unlike that of the eighteenth-century political philosophy of Federalism, is the restoration to the states of some of the autonomy and power which they lost to the federal government as a consequence of President Franklin Roosevelt‘s New Deal.

As a policy theme, New Federalism typically involves the federal government providing block grants to the states to resolve a social issue. The federal government then monitors outcomes but provides broad discretion to the states for how the programs are implemented. Advocates of this approach sometimes cite a quotation from a dissent by Louis Brandeis in New State Ice Co. v. Liebmann:

It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.

Conservative Justice Rehnquist limited the expanding powers of the federal government,

The broad language in these opinions has suggested the possibility of additional expansion, but we decline here to proceed any further. To do so would require us to conclude that the Constitution’s enumeration of powers does not presuppose something not enumerated, and that there never will be a distinction between what is truly national and what is truly local. This we are unwilling to do.

In the modern era Obama, faced with an obstructionist Republican Congress used his executive authority to issue regulations to create policy without Congress.   Regulations issued by governmental departments and executive orders evade the necessity of Congressional approval.  The President reshaped the national education landscape through his power of the purse, Race to the Top; and, aggressively utilizing the assumed powers of the Secretary of Education, a presidential appointee.

The passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was a resounding defeat for the president. The law undermines his entire eight year education policy initiatives. The law devolves education policy to the states. Does the bipartisan passage of ESSA presage additional erosion of the powers of the executive?

This evening I was listening to former general and head of the CIA David Petraeus being interviewed at the New York Historical Society; the interviewer, Max Boot, a highly regarded military historian and frequent contributor to Foreign Affairs and other prestigious journals. Petraeus is widely reported as candidate for Secretary of State in the Trump cabinet. Boot began by listing a number of outrageous Trump assertions regarding foreign policy. Petraeus immediately differentiated “political rhetoric” and governing.

Will Trump continue the erosion of the power of the states or will the Congress succeed in restoring authority to the states?

Will a huge infrastructure bill, crafted by the executive enrich the billionaires, as NY Times columnist Paul Krugman fears, or, provide block grants to the states to determine priorities and projects?

Will Trump cave to the right wing of the Republican Party and reduce taxes and pay for the reduction through slashes to Social Security and Medicare/Mediacid?

Will we get the “Build the Wall,” “Internment Camps,”  “Fiscally Reckless” Trump  or the president who sheds “political rhetoric” for pragmatism?

We await the direction of the nation over the first hundred days of the new administration.

Trump Lite or the Dark Donald: A Reagan Impersonator or a Proto-Fascist?

Will the president-elect govern as Trump lite, a blustering demeanor outside; following a Reagan agenda, or, will candidate Trump, the dark, retributive Donald be the dark, retributive President Trump?

At the Wednesday regularly scheduled Delegate Meeting the expected victory lap became a wake. UFT President Mulgrew scraped the agenda and asked the delegates: what happened in your school today? How should the union respond?

Students were frightened and angry:  Would their parents be deported? What would happen to them? Would high school students be barred from attending college? Read the Mulgrew letter here.

AFT President Weingarten, an undefeatable campaigner for Hillary wrote in a letter to her membership,

Throughout this campaign, Donald Trump promised to fix the rigged economy. He promised to restore America’s middle class, to bring back the country’s manufacturing and industrial base, and to restore dignity and opportunity for Americans—values that we as trade unionists understand intimately…. as Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday, we owe President-elect Trump the chance to lead. We will also hold him accountable for the promises he made to restore the sense of greatness and opportunity that too many Americans feel they have lost, while at the same time we will continue the fight for everyone’s liberties.

Rumors abound: Gingrich as Secretary of State, Giuliani as Attorney General, Ben Carson as Secretary of Education. During the campaign Trump did lay out his plans for his first hundred day in the White House; however Senate Majority Leader Mitch Mc Connell “… mostly made nice with Trump but also shot down or expressed little enthusiasm in some of his plans.”

What follows is my 100-day action plan to Make America Great Again. It is a contract between myself and the American voter — and begins with restoring honesty, accountability and change to Washington

Therefore, on the first day of my term of office, my administration will immediately pursue the following six measures to clean up the corruption and special interest collusion in Washington, DC:

* FIRST, propose a Constitutional Amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress;

2/3 of Congress, the requirement for a constitutional amendment are going to vote themselves out of office? – not likely!!!

* SECOND, a hiring freeze on all federal employees to reduce federal workforce through attrition (exempting military, public safety, and public health);

Hiring freezes at the federal level are commonplace, and fade away in time as the agencies whine they can’t impose the agenda with reduced staffs

* THIRD, a requirement that for every new federal regulation, two existing regulations must be eliminated;

Not sure what this means, there is a lengthy process to amend federal regulations; others are solely at the whim of the President.

* FOURTH, a 5 year-ban on White House and Congressional officials becoming lobbyists after they leave government service;

Okay with me, I’m not sure his senior Republican colleagues will be happy, ending the possibility of lucrative jobs after elected office.

* FIFTH, a lifetime ban on White House officials lobbying on behalf of a foreign government;


* SIXTH, a complete ban on foreign lobbyists raising money for American elections.

Thought it was illegal, if not, agreed,

Trump goes on to what he calls “restore security and constitutional rule of law.”

Additionally, on the first day, I will take the following five actions to restore security and the constitutional rule of law:

* FIRST, cancel every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum and order issued by President Obama

I guess he means cancel every one he doesn’t like, I think there is only one “executive actions, memorandum and orders” in place that a court has ruled unconstitutional, a few are currently being litigated.

* SECOND, begin the process of selecting a replacement for Justice Scalia from one of the 20 judges on my list, who will uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States

Scalia was the most conservative justice on the court; he will be replaced by another conservative nominee who has to pass senatorial scrutiny. In other words we will return to the court before the death of Scalia.

* THIRD, cancel all federal funding to Sanctuary Cities

There are cities that have refused to cooperate with federal law enforcement in immigration matters; I don’t know if “canceling federal funding” is permissible under current statute.

* FOURTH, begin removing the more than 2 million criminal illegal immigrants from the country and cancel visas to foreign countries that won’t take them back.

The “2 million criminal illegal immigrants” range from misdemeanors to serious felonies; some are currently incarcerated, others completed prison/jail, or paid fines, or, have disappeared. Many of these “illegal immigrants” under current law are entitled to legal due process. A hugely complex and expensive initiative, and, the serious felons should be deported.

* FIFTH, suspend immigration from terror-prone regions where vetting cannot safely occur. All vetting of people coming into our country will be considered extreme vetting.

It currently takes 18 – 24 months to vet immigrants from “terror-prone” parts of the world – we currently do “extreme vetting.”

Next, I will work with Congress to introduce the following broader legislative measures and fight for their passage within the first 90 days of my administration.

“Work with Congress” means working with the Democratic Minority Leader in the Senate. The Senate cloture rule requires 60 members to move to close debate; Republicans will have a slim two vote majority, far below the cloture requirement. With the retirement of Harry Reid it appears that Chuck Schumer (NY) will become the Democratic leader (A proud graduate of James Madison High School, Brooklyn). Schumer is a tough negotiator with tentacles across the political and economic spectrum; from Wall Street to Black churches. Trump needs Schumer to pass any legislation, and, Schumer has many years of experience and is highly regarded in the Senate on both sides of the aisle.

Middle Class Tax Relief And Simplification Act. An economic plan designed to grow the economy 4% per year and create at least 25 million new jobs through massive tax reduction and simplification,

“Grow the economy 4%” without runaway inflation has eluded the best economic minds in the nation. We have returned to the pre-2008 recession levels, unemployment rates are low; however, the demand side is lagging and companies are hoarding cash. No one is opposed to tax simplification as long as it is fair. and, how do you define fair? Many of our so-called tax loopholes benefit specific segments of our population. Should you not make charitable donations deductable? How about excluding real estate taxes? By the way, what is a loophole?  “Massive tax deductions:” How do you sharply curtail federal revenue and expect a balanced budget? The Laffer Curve, the theory that tax cuts for the rich will trickle down has been proved incorrect over and over again.

End The Offshoring Act. Establishes tariffs to discourage companies from laying off their workers in order to relocate in other countries and ship their products back to the U.S. tax-free.

“Ending Offshoring: is borrowing from the Democratic play book – will the Republicans in Congress ever agree to this? Will a tariff war benefit American workers?  Moving jobs overseas reduces the workforce and lowers prices on goods, and, if we made TV sets in the US we would pay 3x as much for the TV.

American Energy & Infrastructure Act. Leverages public-private partnerships, and private investments through tax incentives, to spur $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over 10 years. It is revenue neutral.

Infrastructure was also at the top of the Democratic agenda and has already been shot down by Senate Majority Leader Mc Connell. Oil comapnies are not investing because of regulations, they’re not investing due to low oil prices.

School Choice And Education Opportunity Act. Redirects education dollars to give parents the right to send their kid to the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school of their choice. Ends common core, brings education supervision to local communities. It expands vocational and technical education, and makes 2 and 4-year college more affordable.

The feds only control Title 1 dollars, less than 10% of the funds spent on education; rules governing education are in the domain of the states.  Remember the feds have no control over standards, namely, the common core. Everyone favors expanding vocational education, currently partially funded through the Perkins Act; and. how do you make 2 and 4-college more affordable without the infusion of federal dollars? Drastic cuts in federal education dollars will be opposed by all segments of the population; targeting cities will make the angry angrier and the poor poorer.

Repeal and Replace Obamacare Act. Fully repeals Obamacare and replaces it with Health Savings Accounts, the ability to purchase health insurance across state lines, and lets states manage Medicaid funds.

Will Health Savings Accounts provide sufficient dollars to protect all Americans, or, only the healthy ones? Will these accounts include all pre-existing conditions? It sounds a little like the “ice floes for the elderly?”

Affordable Childcare and Eldercare Act. Allows Americans to deduct childcare and elder care from their taxes, incentivizes employers to provide on-site childcare services, and creates tax-free Dependent Care Savings Accounts for both young and elderly dependents, with matching contributions for low-income families.

Where do I sign?

End Illegal Immigration Act Fully-funds the construction of a wall on our southern border with the full understanding that the country Mexico will be reimbursing the United States for the full cost of such wall; establishes a 2-year mandatory minimum federal prison sentence for illegally re-entering the U.S. after a previous deportation, and a 5-year mandatory minimum for illegally re-entering for those with felony convictions, multiple misdemeanor convictions or two or more prior deportations; also reforms visa rules to enhance penalties for overstaying and to ensure open jobs are offered to American workers first.

Buy stock in prisons!!  Currently if you’re caught crossing the border you’re immediately sent back unless you claim you are fleeing dangerous situations defined in law – almost all asylum claims are denied. Obama has returned over 400,000 illegal border crossers. We can incarcerate instead, we’ll need a lot more prisons, or, maybe we can use the prisoners to build the wall.

Restoring Community Safety Act. Reduces surging crime, drugs and violence by creating a Task Force on Violent Crime and increasing funding for programs that train and assist local police.

Donald, I hate to tell you this, nationally crime statistics continue to drop. Yes, in a few cities crime has been increasing.

“Four urban areas — Baltimore, Chicago, Milwaukee and Washington — accounted for about a fifth of the increase in homicides in 2015. Those cities, however, make up only about 1 percent of the nation’s population.

The F.B.I. data showed that violent crime rose about 4 percent last year from 2014, and homicides increased 10.8 percent. Yet crime over all fell in 2015 for the 14th consecutive year.

And the total number of homicides last year was fewer than 20 years ago even as the country’s population increased, criminologists said. There were 19,645 homicides in 1996 in a nation of 265 million; in 2015, there were 15,696 in a population of 321 million”

Restoring National Security Act. Rebuild our military by eliminating the defense sequester and expanding military investment; provides Veterans with the ability to receive public VA treatment or attend the private doctor of their choice;

Does Trump mean we’re going to aggressively intervene overseas? We’re currently fighting wars at arm’s length using drones and military “advisers,” We have been downsizing “boots on the ground,” training more highly specialized units who primarily train foreign allies; will we see a far more adventuresome military or a more isolationist military? No one opposes the VA treatment proposal – how is it paid for?

Clean up Corruption in Washington.  Enact new ethics reforms to Drain the Swamp and reduce the corrupting influence of special interests on our politics.

Sounds like Bernie and Elizabeth Warren … does it include repealing Citizen’s United?


A coalition of pro-Trump organizations met in Washington and called on Trump to “Defund Planned Parenthood, outlaw abortions after 20 weeks and codify the Hyde Amendment;” additionally, nominate a pro-life justice to replace Scalia (who was pro-life). How much influence will the pro-lifers have?

Will Trump convince Condoleezza Rice or the “usual suspects” to return to the administration or stick with the blustery and obnoxious  team that he had during the campaign? Running for office and managing a nation require different skill sets.

Ultimately the economy and the international stage will determine the success or failure of a Trump presidency. The stock market will be the first thermometer. The stock market seeks certainty and quakes at uncertainty. The wisdom of crowds, the nervousness of investors, and the confidence in a Trump presidency will be reflected in stock prices. If investors are nervous and flee the market for bonds and gold, if the market tumbles it drags down the president-elect. On the night of the election and it became evident that Trump would be victorious the market dipped 800 points, recovered the next day and soared to new highs, The market is fickle, Trump’s support of a half trillion dollar infrastructure program buoyed investors; however, that was just one day. If Trump ignores the debt ceiling will markets crash?  A 1933 Germany scenario?

On the international scene Trump will be tested and goaded. If he backs away from NATO, backs away from Asian allies and demands monetary concessions will our former partners comply, or, call his bluff? If Trump calls China a rogue nation and accuses them of currency manipulation how will China react?  Will they dump billions of US notes that they hold?  Become more aggressive with their neighbors?  Are we going to see a president more or less engaged on the international scene? Will he commit American foot soldiers in the fight against ISIL in Iraq and Syria?  Will the Shia fundamentalists who may replace ISIL be better, or worse?  The international stage is fraught with danger and shifting alliances. Iran and Saudi Arabia are bitter enemies; Saudi Arabia is a ruled by a few thousand princes in a repressive plutocracy, as well as funding terrorist organizations around the Middle East: do we take sides? Butting heads with China or the EU, or committing to US military involvement in faraway places could satisfy American hawks, cost billions, antagonize the Trump base as well as the majority of our nation, or, the unthinkable, result in a nuclear catastrophe.

A majority of American voters did not support Trump; will he make attempts to win over a rightfully suspicious, angry public? Or, play to his base constituency, or, simply be Donald, the dark, brooding real estate tycoon who has always managed to bully and coerce his way through his next project.

Dangerous times.

The Election: Musing on the Future of Politics – Is There a Path to Bipartisan Politics?

Early Tuesday morning, at 6 am in New York City, polls will open across the nation and tens of millions of Americans will choose a president; millions will have already cast ballots in thirty-four early voting states voting. Unfortunately about a third of eligible Americans will not bother voting.
The polling is all over the place, I tried to parse the polling a few days ago (Read here), and, it was nice to see a Washington Monthly agreeing; it’s all about the low and haphazard polling response rates.
As the sun dips early on Tuesday, daylight savings time ended on Saturday, crowds will back up at polling locations as voters return from work. As the polls close, 9 pm in New York City, we’ll be glued to our media of choice. If the map is blue, if Hillary takes New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North /Carolina and Florida, the sweep will be on. If not, a long, long night.


A quick lesson: the candidate with the most votes doesn’t necessarily win – each state has a number of electoral votes equal to the members of Congress, fifty-one separate elections.

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

a total of 535 electoral votes plus three for the District of Columbia – 538 electoral votes – a majority, 270, required for victory.

The District constituting the seat of government of the United States shall appoint in such manner as the Congress may direct: A number of electors of President and Vice President equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives in Congress to which the District would be entitled if it were a state, but in no event more than the least populous state.

Whoever is elected, hopefully Hillary, will face a sharply divided partisan Congress. Politics in this nation is broken, and we broke it.

Electoral politics has always been nasty. Opponents of George Washington called him “King George,” convinced he would rule as a monarch.Jefferson did everything he could to denigrate and damage Hamilton, his bitter enemy (Read The Hamilton Affair: A Novel, Elizabeth Cobbs – 2016). Lincoln was portrayed as a gorilla. Republican candidate James Blaine accused opponent Grover Cleveland of fathering an illegitimate child and marched through the streets chanting, ” Ma. Ma, where’s my pa?” After Cleveland won his admirers marched through the streets chanting, “Went to the White House, ha ha ha.”

Politics in the nation was party politics; we pulled the lever for our party without too much concern over the candidate. Party politics began to unravel in the 60’s; the sharp divisions over the war in Vietnam and civil rights legislation moved the parties in different directions. Tom Hayden and others led a revolt at the 1968 Democratic National Convention that shattered the party and resulted in two terms of Richard Nixon and a party that has never fully recovered. (Sol Stern reminds us of the impact of Hayden here) The traditional Democratic Party: labor unions, the progressive left, minorities, women, the young has been battling internally for the soul of the party. Jimmy Carter won as a reaction to the Nixon impeachment, Clinton and Obama actually ran outside the party, neither was the choice of the party fathers.

The Republicans put together a Southern Strategy, appealing to covert and overt racist sentiments prevalent among whites in the South. Add the gun crowd, the Evangelicals, disaffected white males; a voter base that elected white Republicans throughout the South, and, elected Donald Trump as their candidate, a candidate far outside the Republican camp. The Republican strategy was usurped by a reality star.

In spite of the wails of progressives about the nature of elections today we get the elections we deserve; constant, unrelenting personal attacks erode support for the opposition. If your goal is to lower taxes on the wealthy, outlaw abortion, convert Medicare to a voucher program, recreate segregated schools by supporting vouchers, you can only accomplish it by destroying your opponents. To the public issues are boring, sex, violence and scandal mean eyes on the screen. For eight years the Republicans attacked Bill and Hillary, personal attacks weakened Bill’s ability to pass legislation. Republicans would lose national debates over issues; they have succeeded, to some extent, in impairing Bill Clinton and Obama’s ability to govern. Paul Krugman says it much better than I can here.

Progressive democrats abjure “dirty politics,” and lose elections.

Effective teachers know they have to meet the students where the students are before they can raise them to where we want them to be. Democrats who proudly remained “above the fray,” disconnected from the sans-culotte; politics, from time to time, means rolling in the mud, it is not an intellectual pursuit.

Donald Trump may become president because he tapped in to the dark side of Americans, The harder the hit at a football game the louder we cheer, concussion protocols are booed; smashing an opponent into the boards at a hockey game, or better, a fight, wild cheers. Obnoxious (to me, obnoxious) lyrics in rap are commonplace, TV shows and movies trivialize the most violent acts, and we choose to click on newspaper articles that involve sex, violence and corruption.

Social media provides a platform for the vilest exchange of insults.

Southern strategys within the Republican Party made Donald Trump possible. The Grand Old Party isn’t so grand; Tea Party versus Evangelical versus mainstream (i. e., Paul Ryan) may not be able to dance. On the Democratic side the left, or progressive or Bernie wing, whatever you want to call it, is in combat with the “electeds” wing, the Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid party leaders. Too many Democrats are sitting on the sidelines during this election cycle, in my view like the angry child crying because s/he didn’t get his way.

A freshman House member met with Speaker Sam Rayburn, “Mr. Speaker, I noticed that in the Rivers and Harbors Bill cities without either a river or a harbor are receiving funding,” Rayburn (perhaps apocryphally) “Young man, you’re messing with the testicles of the universe.”

Lyndon Johnson, with Rayburn as Speaker of the House, passed the most significant civil rights legislation since the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. Johnson was able to “wheel and deal,” to offer this thing for that vote, the ebb and flow that had characterized the legislative process.  The progressives ended:”ear marks,” (Read progressive view attacking the process here) that created the space for the deal-making).  Lincoln probably offered jobs in exchange for votes to pass the 13th Amendment in Congress.

All of the above brings me back to Federalist # 51,

Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.

 Madison’s simple words, But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?  is prescient. Anyone can sit at a computer and anonymously spew the most vicious hate.

If we turned off the TV set, refused to buy newspapers that spew hate, conducted civil discourse on social media sites, “unfriended” the haters, maybe, just maybe, the political strategists would change their ways.

Will the Republicans continue playing the attack dog?  Continue to obfuscate, to pursue a path of politics by destruction? Will the Democrats choose party leaders with the ability to negotiate and fight?

The best path for the parties, both Democrat and Republican, to rebuild, to recreate themselves, is to produce meaningful bipartisan legislation:

* A massive infrastructure law: tens of billions to reconstruct highways, bridges and rails.

* Full participation in environmental initiatives: global warming, alternative fuels, energy independence

* Continue to build a coast to coast cyber highway.

  • Figure out ways to fund higher education – graduates without deep debt

Can you imagine President Clinton, Democratic and Republican leaders standing on the same stage, rebuilding their parties and the nation?

Or, another round of self-destructive hyperpolitics.


The Lysistrata Effect: Misogyny, Women and the Presidential Election

If you live in an apartment house you have laundry room and elevator friends. I chat in the laundry room waiting for the spin cycle to end, my neighbor describes himself as a “Reagan-Romney Republican” and he calls me a “Paul Krugman Democrat.”

“I can’t wait for this election to be over – I can’t vote for Trump, I’ve always voted for the Republican candidate, I can’t this time, plus, my wife would kill me – she’s working for Hillary.”

“It’s a secret ballot, how would she ever know?”

“Oh she’d know, my first wife found about my girlfriend and my girlfriend found out about my wife – they always find out.”

This election reminds me of a 5th century play Lysistrata by the Greek playwright Aristophanes.

Lysistrata is an account of one woman’s extraordinary mission to end the Peloponnesian War by persuading the women of Greece to withhold sexual privileges from their husbands and lovers as a means of forcing the men to negotiate peace.

The Lysistrata Effect: the impact of women in this election is unparalleled. The NY Times Chances of Winning metric has Hillary at 92% – the highest percentage since the candidates were nominated. The fivethirtyeight blog predicts Hillary with 343 electoral votes (270 required for a win) and Hillary leads in the popular vote 49 – 42 percent.

My neighbor said, “I can’t wait for this election to be over and we can get back to politics as usual.”

We’re not going back to “politics as usual,” Trump may very well be trashed in this election, he is not going away. The Democrats may very well close the gap in the House of Representatives; however, they will win seats in contested districts and defeat the more liberal Republicans, I know liberal Republican is an oxymoron, they are liberal when compared to the Tea Party Republicans, the Freedom Caucus.  If the Freedom Caucus withholds votes they will be able to prevent Paul Ryan from being elected as speaker and prevent any bill from coming to the floor. Will the mainstream Republicans forgo the “Hastert Rule” and seek Democratic votes to elect a speaker and pass legislation?

Will Trump support Tea Party candidates in Republican primaries to attempt to defeat Republicans who did not support him?

We are entering into a chaordic age, “… the behavior of any self-governing organism, organization, or system which harmoniously blends characteristics of order and chaos.” Perhaps we are moving to a realignment of parties, maybe similar to the Independent Democratic Coalition (IDC) in the Albany Senate.

“You can’t go home again,” you can only look forward, and there is no question that the future is murky. The voting public is alienated from the political system; only 57.2% of eligibles voted in the 2012 election, Of the 35 OECD nations the US is in 26th place in percent of eligibles who vote. There is little question that negative campaigning tears down candidates, too many Americans have no faith in our political system.

James Madison, in Federalist # 51 framed the necessary conflicts between governors and the governed.

 … what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions. This policy of supplying, by opposite and rival interests, the defect of better motives, might be traced through the whole system of human affairs, private as well as public.

A Vote for Gary Johnson (or, Jill Stein) is a Vote for Trump

Face the Nation and the other Sunday Talking Heads news commentary shows talked about the softening of the Obama coalition, the daily NY Times “percentage” in August had Hillary ahead 90-10, now the “poll” gives Hillary a 75-25 lead; whatever that means.

The Nate Silver fivethirtyeight blog,”Chance of Winning,” has Hillary: 61.1% and Trump 38.8% and Gary Johnson at 8% with Hillary winning the electoral votes narrowly.

The next big moment will be the September 26th presidential debate; it will grab the attention of the American public. The Hillary erosion is among the millennials, the younger voters, young Afro-American males and the left leaning Bernie voters are all lukewarm on Hillary.

The third party candidates are Gary Johnson . and Jill Stein.

I was chatting with a nineteen year old – he had taken a leave from his college and worked for Bernie full time, and, told me he was voting for Gary Johnson.

“Oh, you’re voting for Trump.”

“No, I’m voting for Gary Johnson.”

“No, you’re voting for Trump.”

I was “parent-like” and a little harsh. “Your candidate lost, you’re angry and you’re letting your ego drive your vote – you want to ‘get even’ with Hillary so you’re voting for Trump.” He insisted he was voting for Johnson. “You’re pulling the Johnson lever (probably should have said bubbling in the Johnson box), you’re actually voting for Trump – be honest – vote for Trump.” He told me he could never vote for Trump, I insisted he was voting for Trump. Hopefully I planted a seed of doubt.

Diane Ravitch has written a number of blogs explaining why she is voting for Hillary and why it is so important. Her loyalist supporters immediately commented, they voting for Johnson or Stein.

“You can’t trust Hillary” (Can you trust Trump?)

Anthony Cody, a leader of the Network for Public Education wrote a superb essay on the importance of philosophical allies working together, “Don’t Attack your Allies When You’re Fighting Goliath.”

I appeal on a more pragmatic line – what will happen if Trump wins …

If, heavens forbid, the networks declare Trump a winner early on the morning of November 9th stock market numbers will tumble. The stock market operates 24/7 and even before the opening bell the Dow-Jones will dive and continue to dive – 1,000, 2,000, who knows, probably a dive never seen before. Stock markets fear uncertainty, fear instability, and in times of uncertainty and instability investors move their assets in the safest class of investments. A stock market spiraling downward drags down all boats.  Trump would blame Obama, who, as a lame-duck president would have limited options. The 2008 economic recession could easily be child’s play compared to what awaits us. Pensions, Medicare, all in jeopardy.

Are these scare tactics or is this scenario a possibility?

This is a once in a lifetime election – we’ve never had a candidate “endorsed” by the Klu Klux Klan and Nazi organizations who accepts their support. We’ve never had a candidate who threatens to incarcerate a religious group. Trump supporters, and, yes, I speak with Trump voters, brush aside Trump’s bizarre pronouncements.

Back in 1972, after a bitterly contested primary election McGovern won the Democratic nomination. Many mainstream Democrats did not vote for McGovern, many crossed over and voted for Nixon. Nixon won 48 states. They weren’t Republicans, they were Hubert Humphrey supporters; the heart of the Democratic Party opposed the war in Vietnam and flocked to the polls across the nation to express their displeasure in the war by voting for McGovern. The mainstream Democrats were overwhelmed by the passion of the anti-war voters, and, expressed their frustration and anger by refusing to vote for the McGovern, the Democratic candidate.

Traditional Democratic voters felt the party had been hijacked by the anti-war faction, and, couldn’t bring themselves to go to the polls and support the anti-war McGovern.

We are facing a similar situation – Bernie voters cannot bring themselves to vote for Hillary. There is no issue similar to 1972. The positions of both Hillary and Bernie are quite similar. Bernie voters argue the election was stolen due to the inappropriate support of Hillary by the Democratic National Committee (DNC), as well as the impossible to define issue of “trust.”

Back in the days of school board elections I supported slates of candidates. Elections are about winning, and winning in the proportional representation style election required putting together slates. We didn’t always agree on all issues, we agreed on enough issues to paste together coalitions that assured we would win enough seats for a majority on the Board.

There is an opportunity to not only win the White House but to take over the Senate and erode the Republican majority in the House; an opportunity to actually pass progressive legislation.

It might be unkind; too many anti-Hillary voters are simply selfish and blind. Yes, your candidate might not prevail in a primary; we move on and work for the winner of the primary within our party. To sulk, to stay on the sidelines simply boosts the other side – in this election the “other side” could drag our nation into a catastrophic depression or worse.

Is There a Brexit Election Parallel? Are Millions of Trump Voters Hiding in the Weeds?

The June vote on whether or not the United Kingdom would leave the Common Market was a straightforward yes or no vote. For weeks the talking heads, the sages, the experts, the pollsters offered opinions, read the polling tea leaves; and, although the vote would be close predicted the vote: 52-48 to stay in the Common Market – whoops!! The Brits voted 52-48 to leave the Common Market. Prime Minister Cameron resigned and the economic future of the UK hangs in the balance.

The US presidential election is 63 days away and our election is far more complex.

Does the candidate with the most votes win?

If you were in my Social Studies class you know the answer is: not necessarily. Other nations either have a “most votes win” presidential system or a parliamentary system in which the party (or coalition of parties) with the most members in the parliament elect the prime minister. Although we vote for candidates we are actually choosing electors that “formally” elect the president in early December.

In the Electoral College system each state has electors equal to the number of representatives plus the two senators; the House of Representatives have 435 members, plus 100 for the Senate and three for the District of Columbia. The winner needs 270 electoral votes. Except for Maine and Nebraska states have winner take all elections – the winner receives all of state’s electoral votes no matter the closeness of the election within the state; Maine and Nebraska divide the votes proportionally.

California has 55 electoral votes, Texas 38, New York and Florida 29 and Alaska, Delaware and others have the minimum of 3.

In which elections did the winner not win the majority of the popular vote?

In 1824 in a four-way race no candidate received a majority of the electoral votes, pursuant to the Constitution the election was decided by the House of Representatives and Andrew Jackson, although he received the most votes lost to John Quincy Adams. (Jackson won in 1828 and 1832)

The 1876 election was extremely close, in the most corrupt election in our history a commission declared the winner in three states electing Hayes although Tilden won the popular votes.

Harrison, in 1888 easily won the electoral votes however Cleveland narrowly won the popular votes.

Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000 by half a million votes, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that disputed votes should be recounted however the US Supreme Court by a 5-4 vote overturned the Florida court effectively declaring Bush President by the narrowest of margins.

On November 8th there will be 51 elections – the fifty states plus the District of Columbia.

Each camp has a map – the road to 270 electoral votes, the Democratic states, the Republican states and the states that will decide the election. Campaigns allocate resources, dollars for TV ads, dollars for Get Out the Vote (GOTV) on-the-ground foot soldiers, and each state campaign is tailored to the local issues in each state. The Clinton camp tailoring their messages to women, younger voters, Afro-Americans and Latinos and union members while the Trump camp to white males, older voters, evangelicals and disaffected voters.

While the pollsters give Clinton the lead the question haunting pollsters is whether there are Trump voters hiding in the weeds. Less than 10% of polling phone calls receive a reply and are the respondors answering honestly?  Then there is the land line versus cell phone issue:  older voters still have land lines, younger voters do not.

As I wrote a few days ago the pollsters were wrong in the Brexit vote and the reasons can be just as applicable in the presidential. The intense scrutiny of the media during the spring campaigns have waned, the media is no longer carrying the election 24/7, they are allocating far fewer resources, and, the general populace is tiring of the seemingly endless campaign.

The first debate on September 26th will place the race in the foreground – three debates, three opportunities to face the American public. The contrasting styles will be fascinating. The first and third debates will be the traditional moderator debates and the second a town hall format.

The pollsters, the talking heads, give Clinton a lead, whether expressed as a percent changes of winning (currently 86-14 Clinton) or the more common percent comparing candidate to candidate (Clinton leads in the high single digits).

Are there voters who are still undecided?

Will the Bernie voters come to the polls for Clinton?

Will the younger voters flock to the polls as they did in 08 and 12?

Will women and minority voters vote for Clinton in unparalleled numbers?

Will white males and older voters come to the polls in large numbers for Trump?

In the Brexit election “leave” voters were under the radar, the pollsters simply missed the leave voters or perhaps the leave voters avoided participating in the polling process.

Is the same phenomenon possible in our presidential election?

What is both fascinating and deeply disturbing is the lack of issues – the Clinton campaign has tried to make the campaign issue oriented, the Trump campaign has avoided engaging in the traditional issue debates.

Voters may very well decide on who they dislike least.

Probably since the day of the Obama victory the Republican strategy has been to denigrate Obama, some attacks on policy (Affordable Care Act), others just plain racist (he’s a Muslim born outside of the USA). Whether we abhor it or not, negatively campaigning resonates with the public.

The motto of the New York Post, if it bleeds it leads!!

I was listening to someone disgusted at the headlines in the Post, as they were buying the paper. A Post employee told me the most outrageous stories receive the highest number of “clicks,” online reads.

Are we getting the type of election and news coverage we desire?

Tomorrow: I promise, back to discussing education.