Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Democratic constituency coalition is cracking

The Democratic Party’s focus on national level politics and its constituency coalition strategy based on identity politics has failed miserably over the past eight years.  Lacking the will to conduct serious introspection of its strategy the Party will exclusively pursue obstruction - at its own peril.

The Republican Party now controls the White House and Congress, and may soon establish an originalist Supreme Court majority that could last a generation.  In the coming 2018 elections as many as eight senate seats could flip from Democratic to Republican providing a 60 vote lock on the chamber.  Their strength is even greater at the state level with 33 of 50 governorships and control of both houses in 32 state legislatures.

The ongoing debate for Chair of the Democratic National Committee reveals a consensus about needed organizational change.  The candidates for that position all recognize that in order to compete at the national level the party must invest itself much more in state party development.

Reorganization of the Party’s resources is one needed shift, but it is not enough.
President Obama and others contend the Party message needs to be conveyed better.  President Obama emphasized this as one of the reasons for the 2016 loss when he said, “are you making sure that your message is reaching everybody and not just those who have already been converted.”

Others, rightfully, argue it is not just the organizational focus or the messaging but the MESSAGE that needs to change to win elections at all levels of government.

Mark Lilla, a humanities professor at ultra-liberal Columbia University opened the debate on message saying, “American liberalism has slipped into a kind of moral panic about racial, gender and sexual identity that has distorted liberalism’s message and prevented it from becoming a unifying force capable of governing.”

In response to Lilla’s piece came a scathing response from Katherine Franke, Director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia University calling Lilla a “white supremacist.” Asked in an NPR interview about Franke’s retort professor Lilla said, “I rest my case.”

The far left base of the Party will resist any debate of the identity strategy.   But a message of exclusive inclusion that allows a limited scope of “approved” constituencies by nature excludes those who are not “approved.”   It is not inclusive.  It is divisive and fails to address issues of broad concern such as economic growth and trade.  In part, the 2016 presidential election was lost because many felt outcast by the divisive strategy and rejected the Democratic message.

It gets worse.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

There is no Muslim ban

On January 27, 2016 US Senator Elizabeth Warren Tweeted, “Let’s be clear: A Muslim ban by any other name is still a Muslim ban.”   There is the hashtag #MuslimBan.  Memes on Facebook “ACLU blocks unconstitutional Muslim ban.”  Protesters at Kennedy Airport with signs reading, “Christians against Muslim Ban.  Linkage to the Holocaust!  CNN banner “Executive Disorder.”  Huffington Post – “Blueprint for mass deportation.”

There are 52 countries in the world that are at least 50% Muslim.  President Trump’s Executive Order PROTECTING THE NATION FROM FOREIGN TERRORIST ENTRY INTO THE UNITED STATES suspends the “Issuance of Visas and Other Immigration Benefits to Nationals of Countries of Particular Concern” for seven countries - not the 52 Muslim countries.  The words Muslim or Islam do not appear within the Executive Order.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Women’s March was politics as usual, but…

The Women’s March in Washington D.C and associated Sister Marches in other cities were the largest protests of President Donald Trump’s inauguration.  If the marches are to be anything more than a onetime spectacle it will require more than rallying committed constituency groups that are disappointed and disgruntled with the election result.

The March organizers partnered with nearly a thousand left leaning constituency groups (e.g. NARAL, Planned Parenthood, NRDC, Moveon.org, Transgender Law Center, AFSCME, AFL-CIO, and Free the Nipple) in an organized effort to disparage and protest Donald Trump’s inauguration.

The “Unity Principles” of the March were the staples of the left’s coalition focusing on abortion rights, LGBTQIA rights, open borders, race and organized labor.

The protests were concentrated in metropolitan areas of Blue dominance where Hillary Clinton won by extreme margins (e.g. Boston 85%, Washington D.C. 90%, NYC 79%, San Francisco 85%, Chicago 84%, Austin, TX 66%).  One should not be surprised that large crowds could be mustered to protest the election result in these heavily Democratic strongholds.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Economic headwind for Trump

The President of the United States has far less power over the economy than most assume.  Blaming or applauding administrations for economic performance during their administrations is largely misplaced.  The Federal Reserve and energy costs have a far greater impact and are largely outside the control of the president.

President Barrack Obama entered office in 2009 at the precipice of an economic collapse.  By a range of measures the economy was declining as banks failed, housing collapsed, stocks tanked, GDP declined and unemployment rose from 4.5% to nearly 10%.   By the end of the Obama Administration stocks are setting records, GDP has risen (though at a slow pace) and unemployment is below 5%.

Drilling into the details, things are not as rosy as those indicators suggest (e.g. national debt at $20 trillion, median incomes sluggish, labor participation sank to 1970 levels, etc.), but things are measurably better economically than they were at the beginning of 2009.  The credit for surviving the crisis and the improved economic state (and the blame for the negatives) can only marginally be ascribed to Obama.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Thank you Russia

According to President Obama and the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) a foreign government penetrated presidential campaign computers and stole files and emails.  The method used was spear phishing in which a harmless appearing email is sent with an attached file that, if opened by a user, installs software that gains access to the network in which the computer is connected.  The foreign government used the information obtained not only to gather information, but to influence U.S. policy.

This didn’t happen in 2016.  It happened in 2008.  Both the Obama and McCain campaigns were penetrated by China in the same manner used by Russia in the 2016 campaigns.

The two events are not fully alike.  In 2016 only one Party was successfully penetrated though attempts were made against both.  The Russians released their take to the world through WikiLeaks and other paths while the Chinese used the information privately – boldly confronting Senator John McCain about a letter he wrote to the president of Taiwan that they stole through the penetration.

The intentions were also likely somewhat different.  The Chinese do not like to be surprised – just like every other government.  So they make attempts to collect information in nearly every sphere to inform leaders as accurately as possible in order to formulate policy.  It is called espionage and we do plenty of it.