are actually quite relaxed. Here is an actual horse’s ass on the way to a voting place.
are actually quite relaxed. Here is an actual horse’s ass on the way to a voting place.
In one of the most dramatic moments in the Senate in years, 80-year-old John McCain rallied from surgery and a diagnosis of brain cancer to cast a 1 am vote that torpedoed Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare — for now. The vote had been put on hold once already, to give him time to recuperate.
For all the drama, we shouldn’t be surprised that a medical emergency interfered with Senate business. The highest levels of American politics bear an uncomfortable resemblance to a gerontocracy. From the Senate to the presidency to — perhaps most strikingly — the Supreme Court, top positions are held more and more by people in their 70s or above.
Disruptive medical tragedies are an unavoidable statistical consequence of this trend, as is the risk that key political actors will develop cognitive impairment. There’s no easy solution to the problem, but it demands a frank conversation.
Reforms such as term appointments for justices could help with the problem, but it’s just as important to try to shift societal norms to take more seriously some elemental realities of human aging.
One paragraph that didn’t make it into the piece for space is also pertinent:
Where policies affecting same-sex marriage, student loans, immigration, climate change, and net neutrality are being debated, we need more young voices at the table. Particularly in safe districts with low partisan turnover, senior politicians accumulate privileges of seniority while they consolidate their personal power. Veteran politicians like Charles Rangel become difficult to dislodge, even when it’s past time for them to pass the baton.
What’s more, young adults who don’t see their issues prioritized, and who see elite politics dominated by their parents’ and grandparents’ generations can easily tune out, ceding the process to others.
Prediction: There will be some AHCA mini-drama with a key moderate who hesitates or refuses to sign on. The purpose of the mini-drama is to elevate that person to a key role. That moderate will extract some shiny-object concession such as a showy opioid treatment fund or ornamental consideration for medically-fragile children that don’t address the core difficulties of AHCA.
The strategic function of the mini-drama is threefold: (1) to make AHCA look slightly less hideous–ideally with a maximum of conservative grumbling–without actually fixing its deeper problems, which will remain in the final Senate version; (2) to help McConnell and the moderates quickly coordinate their bargaining, and (3) to provide a dignified political path for moderates to sign onto a bill they publicly criticized when the House passed something very similar barely a month ago.
Since an unsustainable situation won’t go on forever, it seems that something will have to put an end to the Trump (mal)Administration. But what?
He could be removed from office by impeachment and conviction, and that’s obviously the right course of action. But – for the moment – it’s equally obviously infeasible politically.
He could also – once Mueller has done his job – be indicted for and convicted of a variety of crimes, but there’s some doubt as to whether a sitting President can be indicted. (I think he can, since the Constitution does not protect him as it protects Members of Congress, but there’s no precedent and therefore no authoritative statement of the law.)
On the other hand, he could clearly be indicted for state crimes by state prosecutors, and the New York AG might have the nerve to do it and the skill to obtain a conviction. That little-discussed option might be the actual outcome, but it’s not on the horizon right now.
President Trump signed an executive order establishing a commission on “Election integrity” under the leadership of Vice President Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, two figures active in voter suppression efforts .
So what does Donald Trump mean when he says he wants to “get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment”?
Trump always talks about “churches,” but the proviso, inserted in the tax code in 1954, forbids all tax exempt non-profits (organized under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)3, and therefore referred to generically as 501(c)3 organizations) from contributing to political campaigns.
If the law were changed to exempt churches only, the courts would have to decide whether than created an unconstitutional “establishment of religion,” but it doesn’t require a law degree to see that allowing tax-exempt churches to attack tax-exempt Planned Parenthood by running campaigns against politicians who take positions favorable to reproductive rights, but forbidding Planned Parenthood from defending itself, would be grossly unfair.
Moreover, churches – unlike most other non-profits – aren’t required to disclose their donors. So allowing them to serve as campaign vehicles would not only convert them into tax-deductible super-PACs, it would allow unlimited amounts of hidden money to come into politics. (Citizens United and its progeny have already severely weakened disclosure rules.) Disclosure has been, until now, regarded as an invaluable protection against corruption. If Trump gets his way, any individual, privately-held corporation, partnership, or LLC could purchase influence with unlimited, undisclosed, tax-deductible campaign contributions simply by laundering them through a church, or even a fake “church” organized solely as a pass-through for bribes. (Again, for religious-freedom reasons, the IRS is very wary of deciding that a group calling itself a church isn’t really a church: the New Testament rule “wherever two or three are gathered” about covers it.)
But wait! It gets worse. If churches can gather money without disclosing their donors – and obviously that degree of privacy protection is required for the free exercise of religion – and spend that money to run political campaigns, then the market is open for foreign as well as domestic corruption. The Russian, Chinese, Saudi, and Iranian governments would all, predictably, either find congregations already recognized by the IRS to use as front groups or incorporate new ones. Of course a group organized as a mosque might not be able to wield much influence without stirring up opposition, but nothing bars the Saudis or the Iranians from paying some stooges to set up a fake Baptist church. Nor is an outfit organized as a church for IRS purposes have the word “church” (synagogue, mosque, temple, whatever) in its name; many people would spot “Society of Friends” as meaning Quakers, but you and I could start a group tomorrow called “Truth Tellers,” incorporate it as a church, and then run political ads with the trailer “This message brought to you by the Truth Tellers.”
So, like most of Trump’s ideas, this one reduces mostly to corruption and the sacrifice of American sovereignty to foreign – especially Russian – influence. And of course that won’t keep the tame preachers of the Christian Right from backing him all the way.
The revelations in the past few days about Russian interference in the election actually gave me great relief–because, of course, everything that happens is about me! Now those who’ve been rolling their eyes at my paranoid fantasies of Putin-inspired hacking and leaking and disabling the voter protection hotline will have to concede that paranoia is, in this case, completely justified.
More important–and more seriously–the revelations crystallized my view that the outcome of this Presidential election reflects not a simple disagreement about policy but an actual threat to our system of government. And, again, if that sounds alarmist, you haven’t been paying enough attention.
But I know you all have been paying attention; SO! What to do? A group of us who worked together on Hillary’s campaign are contacting every Republican elector in the country, asking all of them to withhold their votes from Donald Trump. We’re calling, we’re emailing, we’re snail-mailing–and we’re doing it all RIGHT NOW, because the Electoral College meets in 5 days, on Monday, December 19, and it’s our last line of defense against having a Russian puppet in the White House.
If you can spare time in the next day or so, I urge you to do the same. You will find a list of GOP electors, with all their e-mail contact information, here. My letter, which you’re welcome to crib if you find it useful, is here. The essential thing is to write now, and to treat these people with whom we disagree so strongly as fellow and sister patriots with whom we hope to ally in defense of the Constitution. What a concept: speaking civilly and rationally to our opponents!
You may well think this is a futile endeavor; but I can only quote Father Daniel Berrigan: “Start with the impossible. Proceed calmly towards the improbable. No worry, there are at least five exits.” And, as he also said, “Faith is rarely where your head is at. Nor is it where your heart is at. Faith is where your ass is at!”
Mine’s in front of my computer.
As of today, no one quite knows what will happen to ACA. Republicans control the required levers to massively repeal or replace ACA. They also have the power to massively over-reach and do themselves profound political damage through over-reach that damages millions of people’s lives or that damages the overall health care delivery system. Trump’s unexpected victory provides a remarkable natural experiment that illuminates bedrock issues: The power and accuracy of media messages in public policy, path dependence as a barrier to radical policy change, tensions between interest-group and partisan politics, fiscal federalism and the relationship between states and the federal government, the politics of race and class in redistributive programs. It’s all there in the politics of health reform.
Post-November 8 is a great time to explore these questions and to look back on what some of the best health policy scholars, political scientists, and sociologists have had to say about the enactment, implementation, and political reception facing health reform. The Journal of Health Politics, Policy, and Law has therefore opened some of its best pieces on ACA for public access. I recommend this to anyone serious about understanding the rise and potential fall of the Affordable Care Act, on which rides the health and well-being of many millions of people. (FYI: I am JHPPL’s social media editor.)
We are watching history in action. It isn’t pretty to watch. We can at least witness the process with analytic rigor informed by a sound understanding of what has come before.
Over Twitter, Kevin Drum asked me to identify the Democrats’ three biggest mistakes.
@haroldpollack What were the 3 biggest Dem errors?
— Kevin Drum (@kdrum) November 25, 2016
I have mixed feelings about answering that question. When a comprehensively dishonorable and unfit demagogue ascends to the presidency, all the traditional gatekeepers of our political system have failed: Both parties, the media, the electorate itself. Of course with an election this close, any number of things might have turned the outcome. FBI director Comey’s intercession was probably the decisive endgame factor. He’s not a Democrat.
And whatever mistakes Democrats made, the main responsibility resides with the Republican primary electorate who selected the worst nominee in generations, and with the Republican political professionals who enabled that nominee. They knew exactly who and what Trump was. They supported him anyway, often quietly hoping someone else would bring him down. Had Paul Ryan and George W Bush bluntly announced in late October that Trump is unfit to be president, America would have been spared what we are about to endure.
And Hillary Clinton did a lot right, a fact reflected in her clear popular vote victory. She clobbered Trump in three debates. Her policy shop was maybe the best assembled by any candidate ever. Many of her campaign commercials were outstanding. That should have been enough. It wasn’t.
Still, Democrats must be clear-eyed in assessing how this could have happened—and how we can ensure it doesn’t happen again. In no firm order, here are several mistakes we made*:
Twice in the past five elections, the person who won is not the person who moved into the White House.
Hillary Clinton received 1.5 million more votes than Donald Trump, yet it’s Trump who is picking Cabinet members and will pick Supreme Court justices.
If this strikes you as unacceptable, please join the League of Women Voters of the United States in advocating passage of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Each state adopting the Compact pledges to instruct its electors to vote for the winner of the national popular vote–which is to say, the winner. (We don’t say “popular vote” in any other context as if it were a lesser thing. A vote is a vote, and under our system voting is how we choose our leaders.)
Ten states and the District of Columbia, accounting for 61% of an Electoral College majority, have already adopted the Compact. But if you don’t live in California, D.C., Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont or Washington State, ask your state representative to introduce the Compact in the next session of the legislature, and then ask every person running for a seat whether s/he supports it.
Come on Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia!–all blue states whose votes could get us to 219. And come on Michigan and Pennsylvania, which both had the Compact under consideration in last year’s legislative session: those two would make 255. Capture Florida, and lo and behold, we get to inaugurate the person we elected.
But. As long as the Electoral College is there, it should perform the function the Framers had in mind: preventing the election of a demagogue. We have just under a month to find 38 Republican electors willing to admit either that their standard-bearer is unfit for the office or that he just plain lost.
Who among them is willing to speak up? We’re all ears.