Kamala Harris and the "imperial presidency"

Andrew Egger, in an ill-titled but otherwise straight-up conservative take on Senator Kamala Harris’ threat to override gun laws, in The Bulwark:

“Of course for most things we’ll keep following the Constitution,” the partisan suggests, “but this thing is important enough to make an exception.” The trouble is that this twinge grows fainter with each subsequent abuse. By now it has nearly faded entirely. How long before candidates stop bothering to offer Congress a window in which to be good and do as they’re told at all?

Congress has done nothing about gun violence for at least the two decades since the Columbine HS massacre despite thousands of gun-related deaths in the US. A counter-question to Egger’s: Would this not qualify as a national emergency?

With Trump’s end-run to fund his wall project, both parties have gone on record with this strategy. A better conservative question would be, “how soon will a president overriding signed legislation be slapped down by the US Supreme Court?”

#separationOfPowers #trump #president #congress

Verret:The tipping point

J. W. Verret, The Atlantic:

Republicans who stand up to Trump today may face some friendly fire. Today’s Republican electorate seems spellbound by the sound bites of Twitter and cable news, for which Trump is a born wizard. Yet, in time, we can help rebuild the Republican Party, enabling it to rise from the ashes of the post-Trump apocalypse into a party with renewed commitment to principles of liberty, opportunity, and the rule of law.

I’m seeing a trickle of rank-and-file Republican intellects succumb to the Mueller report’s findings. Verret is a law professor at George Mason University and was a member of the Trump transition team. He writes,

Depending on how you count, roughly a dozen separate instances of obstruction of justice are contained in the Mueller report. The president dangled pardons in front of witnesses to encourage them to lie to the special counsel, and directly ordered people to lie to throw the special counsel off the scent.

That’s particularly damning news. It’s difficult for an honest intellect to disregard evident wrong-doing in the absence of over-arching humanitarian need. Trump’s actions, all self-serving, don’t meet that bar. This trickle will grow, because a political party cannot long survive under the leadership of an evident criminal.

The GOP has been in puppy-dog mode since Trump won their nomination, supporting the candidate and the elected president as their only vehicle to power. Standing for re-election next year means Trump will be more vulnerable to Congressional findings. I suspect the GOP will follow him over the cliff, but who knows, there’s always Bill Weld’s candidacy in need of support, and the nagging conscience of otherwise decent people.

#election #investigation #trump #congress 

Waldman: What AOC gets about coal that the GOP does not

After a brief, amusing back-and-forth between AOC and Kentucky Representative Andy Barr this week, it emerged that she has a better grasp of how best to help workers meet the future of energy production (Paul Waldman, The Washington Post):

There are a few ways to deal with the reality of the people affected by coal’s decline. You can give them phony promises that if we just cut environmental regulations, all the coal jobs will come back. You can just say their problems are all caused by a bunch of hippies or elitists. 

Or you can try to create a modern economy that will offer jobs for people in those communities and give them things like health care and child care that will make their economic lives less harsh. Republicans have chosen the first and second; Democrats have chosen the third.

With only 53,000 or so coal miners left in the US, green energy rhetoric needs to include how to protect those in that dying industry, not about how to revive the dinosaur. America’s future is in clean energy production.

(The benefit of having a maverick like AOC in Congress is the ideas she pulls into public discussion. Politicians pay lip service to this stuff on the campaign trail. She champions the causes she fronted two years ago.)

#greenNewDeal #AOC #energy

The Bulwark: What obstruction looks like

Charles Sykes, The Bulwark:

While the Mueller report does not find evidence of a criminal conspiracy between the Russians and the Trump campaign, the picture it paints is, frankly, devastating: its narrative exposes a cascade of lies, coverups, and corruption, while providing a clear road map to the president’s attempts to obstruct the investigation. At times it reads like an open invitation to Congress to launch impeachment proceedings. 

It’s that bad.

The (redacted) Mueller report is out, and it’s apparently quite a read. Sykes is a well-regarded conservative writer, not of the knee-jerk variety. None of what he discusses is the least bit surprising. An example:

But the evidence does indicate that a thorough FBI investigation would uncover facts about the campaign and the President personally that the President could have understood to be crimes or that would give rise to personal and political concerns. [Mueller, p.76]

This has always been Donald Trump’s modus operandi, hung out by Mueller’s team like so much filthy laundry.

#trump #mueller #corruption

The Bulwark: A warning, and an appeal

Sarah Longwell, The Bulwark:

Remember 2015? It was an exciting year for Republicans. There were 16 candidates running for president and a slight majority of them looked (at the time) like pretty good options. I remember spending a lot of time trying to decide which candidate in that distinguished pack would earn my vote. It was the rare election where Republicans weren’t going to have to choose between lesser evils. Whoever I voted for was going to be pretty solid. Maybe even great! 


And then there was this clown Donald Trump who has that NBC show I’d never watched and was once married to that woman with the accent who does the cameo in First Wives Club. What a joke. Ignore.


You know how this story ends. But in retrospect you can see where everything went wrong. And therein lies the cautionary tale for you, my Democratic friends.

Sometimes too much choice can lead to unpleasant results. Trump took me by surprise, just as he did Sarah Longwell. I dismissed him for good reasons, yet here we are.

I’m hopeful that by the time we hear Christmas music in stores we’re also down to three or four strong contenders for the Democratic nomination. Bernie Sanders will have enough of a war chest to stay in it until the Democratic convention. The same will be true for Joe Biden if he runs. I imagine Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris can, as well, given the breadth of their small-donor support. I’m unsure about the rest. I’m also unsure egos won’t prolong otherwise non-viable candidacies.

(Like Longwell, I’d like to see a Republican primary challenge to Trump, though I suspect he’d squeak through. Not enough conservatives will abandon the incumbent president.)

#trump #democrats #choice #candidates #convention #bernie #kamala #warren #biden

On Joe Biden, by way of The Bulwark

There’s an insightful piece by Liz Mair up on The Bulwark that’s worth a read if you find yourself between our contemporary political extremes. She makes a concise case for Joe Biden’s candidacy from her perspective on the political right. A couple of interesting tidbits that jibe with my thinking follow.

It’s also worth remembering that regardless of how conservatives and pundits may see them, not that many Democratic voters actually think of themselves as great big lefties. According to CNN data, about a quarter of 2016 Democratic primary voters were Independents or Republicans. Two in five call themselves “moderate” or “conservative.” And only a quarter call themselves “very liberal.” Biden’s perceived centrism probably helps more than it hurts.

Biden has been long hailed as a Democratic legislator with whom Republicans could and would work. He’s well-regarded by his remaining colleagues in the Senate and by policy-makers and pundits in the non-Trump GOP. His centrism is more real than “perceived.” That’s a clear advantage for any Democrat succeeding in winning the campaign for president.

At the same time, the CNN data Mair quotes neatly lassos the label-refusers among the electorate. I’ve long denied the labels “liberal” and “Democrat.” I’ve never belonged to a party longer than the time required to vote in a primary. Even then, it was as often Republican as Democrat, and quickly reverted to Independent a week or so after. Among the current crop of Democrats vying for the 2020 nomination, I’m most closely aligned with Amy Klobuchar, who is neither a wild-eyed liberal nor a darling of the woke Left.

In short, Biden is home territory for me and, I suspect, quite a few not-Republicans.

But of course, there’s this bottom line fact: As much as everyone who is a political activist or an ideologically driven political opiner wants to deny it, the truth is, voters do not actually vote on policy. As documented by Christian Lenz in Follow The Leader, voters actually rarely support candidates whose issue positions accord with their own. They are actually quite likely to pick a politician-avatar, and then—you guessed it—follow the leader. If you don’t believe me, or Lenz, go look at polling of self-described Republicans on topics like trade or foreign policy over recent years.

This is a critical point for anyone seeking higher office. Mair is saying that voters don’t pick a candidate for their policy takes, but rather as an aspirational choice for what they want America to become. In short, we select our candidates as a better version of ourselves. This strikes home for the thoughtful crowd.

The entire piece is well-reasoned, and critically there’s not a hint of inflammatory rhetoric within. That last bit delights me, coming as it does from a conservative publication. Have a look.


An aside: I’ve been pleasantly surprised by The Bulwark lately. A new publication edited by Charlie Sykes and boasting writers with a decidedly conservative bent, it’s become a home for the intelligent remnant of what was once a functional conservative movement. From among their writers, you’ll also find an occasional left-of-center piece, like the recent CPAC-focused writing of Molly Jong-Fast that skewered the rabid, Trump-leaning “Republicans” at their annual conference. The Bulwark isn’t afraid to poke a little fun at the excess within and without their fellow travelers and provides the sort of thoughtful insight opposing the Left’s policy intentions that’s always handy to an informed opinion. At the risk of appearing the fool for it down the road, I endorse a close read of its offerings.

Abrams: Identity politics strengthens democracy

Stacey Abrams, writing in Foreign Affairs magazine:

The marginalized did not create identity politics: their identities have been forced on them by dominant groups, and politics is the most effective method of revolt.

Abrams’ cogent essay goes to the heart of contemporary progressive politics. People long relegated to lesser-class status in American culture, employment, and economics have, at last, reached critical political mass. Witness their diverse representation among 2019’s incoming Democratic House majority and in statehouses across the country.

The hypocrisy, now, of criticizing these community’s embrace of the identities long held against them represents a last gasp as the wave of minority status laps over the old guard’s heads. We are witnessing their fearful recognition of the rising brown wave in American politics, a movement backed by inexorable demographic shift.

Abrams’ essay counters popular conservative contentions point by point. It’s worth a read.

#identityPolitics #StaceyAbrams #progressive

The hidden automation agenda of the Davos elite

Kevin Roose—The New York Times:

in private settings, including meetings with the leaders of the many consulting and technology firms whose pop-up storefronts line the Davos Promenade, these executives tell a different story: They are racing to automate their own work forces to stay ahead of the competition, with little regard for the impact on workers.

There-in lies the fatal flaw in conservative labor policy: its embrace of unfettered capitalism ignores the human cost of unimpeded operation of the engine of wealth creation. Capitalism converts to value-added commodity every resource it encounters, including human resources.

(It’s telling that the people most directly connected to labor recruitment and benefits within an organization, the personnel office, was rebranded human resources at around the time real wage growth flattened—the era of Ronald Reagan and the rise of contemporary movement conservatism.)

Capitalism bridled by an overwhelming respect for and nurturing of the people exchanging their labor for pay and benefits is the progressive way forward. The executives meeting at Davos reject that, seeking replacement of (most) workers by artificial intelligence and automation. They are not friends of humanity. They are, at best, an adversary.


Automating work is a choice, of course, one made harder by the demands of shareholders, but it is still a choice. And even if some degree of unemployment caused by automation is inevitable, these executives can choose how the gains from automation and A.I. are distributed, and whether to give the excess profits they reap as a result to workers, or hoard it for themselves and their shareholders.

The choices made by the Davos elite — and the pressure applied on them to act in workers’ interests rather than their own — will determine whether A.I. is used as a tool for increasing productivity or for inflicting pain.

A clearly defined line is drawn. People or profit. Lean too hard into profit, as the congregants at the capitalist church of Davos self-confessedly will, and there will be few left to exchange hard-won income for the goods and services rendered by advancing automation.

There’s little concern about leaning too far in the other direction. The plight of workers and their families over the last four decades is evidence that their well-being in the off-hours is irrelevant to business interests.

#automation #Davos #capitalism #labor