Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Judge Garland Visits the Senate

Mitch McConnell moved quickly to suspend the Constitution moments after Justice Scalia died. Republican strategists are much better than Democrats at framing issues for public discussion as well as the terms of engagement. The Republican strategists devise the tactics they will employ and then come up with arguments in their favor. Somehow the normal functioning of our federal government -the President nominates a Supreme Court Justice who is considered for confirmation by the Senate - becomes debatable.

We see the tactical advantages of McConnell's first move strategy playing out now in moderate GOP Senators granting interview meetings to the President's nominee. Think of how extraordinary this is. These meetings accomplish absolutely nothing, but the optics of being willing to meet affords Senators Ayotte, Kirk, and the few others whose terms in office may be threatened the appearance of being "bipartisan". If, on the other hand, the Senate had considered the Garland nomination in the usual manner, these so-called moderates would have necessarily joined the majority in approving the nomination. We have come to accept obstruction in the Congress as something that somehow just happens due to a few stubborn leaders rather than as a key element of an ongoing strategy that succeeds because the moderates with the power to oppose that strategy are unwilling to stand up to their leader as a voting bloc. Due to the 60 votes required to break a filibuster, the half dozen moderate Senators would need to break with their own party control of Congress, which is just not going to happen.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Down the Road

In response to Douthat's Trumpism after Trump:
The best case scenario to end Republican obstructionism in the Congress is a split in the Republican party between those willing to compromise and those not.The most stable outcome for the country that could emerge following a Republican party split into two parties would be a Democratic party split of the current Sanders supporters following four years of the Hillary Clinton administration. Without a counterbalance of a leftist 4th party, we will continue to experience the debilitating instability of the various Republican party coalitions jockeying for position. Those coalitions will continue to seek to exert more power by morphing into two separate groups such as Tea Party/Establishment, but third parties are doomed to failure in our system without a counterbalancing effect of a fourth party on the other side. If this 4-party system does not evolve, we will continue to experience a stalemated Congress, and possibly a Democratic President stymied by a do-nothing Congress. We could have an 8 member Supreme Court or even a 7 member Supreme Court down the road with appointees blocked indefinitely, along with substantially Republican control of governorships and state legislatures for years to come.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Trump's Secret Weakness

Donald Trump has one weakness that threatens the success of his candidacy. If he has no one on the stage with him to attack he runs out of things to say and quickly becomes an incredibly boring speaker. This was evident the night he skipped the Republican debate televised by Fox News just before the Iowa caucuses. He held his own rally and the monologue was painful.  Jeb Bush proved to be the perfect foil for him throughout the span of televised debates, but when Jeb! dropped out of the race, the Donald was stretching for things to say in his speeches. How many times in one appearance can you say you are going to build a wall? And oh what a wall it"s going to be. When you have only simple answers for complex problems, there is not a lot to say. So, in a way, the spotlight on the potential for violence at the Trump rallies deflects attention from just how boring they are and that maybe, just maybe, he does not have many ideas about just what he would do as president.

Friday, March 4, 2016

What is Trump

Having core beliefs is detrimental to a winning strategy in Republican presidential politics. That helps make Trump the strongest candidate - willing to say anything, to employ any tactics to win. He has all the necessary qualities - truly an outsider, with a simple solution to every problem. His experience with elimination politics as the judge on The Apprentice taught him everything he needs to know to win the nomination. Donald is the ultimate Celebrity Apprentice, preparing to be a celebrity apprentice president.
The success of  a Trump could not happen in the Democratic party where debates focus on issues, not personalities. Trump's popularity among the Republican base combined with his ambiguous political leanings exposes the reality that the Republican Party is now defined primarily as a loose coalition that is the Notthedemocrat Party.  If the existing alignment of the coalitions that make up the two party system was heading toward collapse, it would look like it does now. The one-upsmanship of the standoff in the Senate on the Scalia succession and failure to hold hearings on the President's budget proposal mean that all three branches are now in crisis over political party differences, which will only worsen.  Our current situation resembles the Civil War era fragmentation and realignment of the parties more than it looks like any other time in history. A party realignment is necessary for a functioning government to be restored, but the transition may be painful. We could see 3 parties or even 4 parties forming before we get back to an equilibrium of two major parties.