Weekly Musing 5-31-15
What if the Republican Party Can’t Decide?
This is the most interesting possibility in the Republican primary – and one that too many analysts gloss over. Sometimes the factions within a party are simply too different or too obstinate in their demands and thus fail to close ranks around a candidate before Iowa. This happened in the 1988 Democratic Primary, the 2004 Democratic Primary and the 2008 Republican Primary.
.. In the run-up to the 1988 Democratic caucus, the party failed to coalesce around a candidate. Colorado Sen. Gary Hart led in the polls, but an extramarital affair knocked him out of contention. New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, a party favorite, declined to run. This left the party elites with a lackluster field, and they failed to come to a consensus before Iowa. The party eventually got behind Massachusetts Gov. Mike Dukakis, but that was only after he won a number of primaries. This is important because the electorate shaped the party’s choices. If the party elites had wanted support another candidate – say, Illinois Sen. Paul Simon – they would have a tough time promoting their candidate over Dukakis, Dick Gephardt or some other candidate with greater momentum.
In 2004, the Democrats were again in disarray. Even though the Democratic establishment believed Vermont Gov. Howard Dean – the frontrunner for a large swath of the pre-Iowa period – was too politically liberal and personally aggressive to win the general election, it was unable to unite behind a more mainstream candidate before Iowa. Dean eventually faltered and Kerry gained momentum, but the story is similar to 1988 – the party was unable to unite behind a candidate early and thus exercised less influence over the party rank-and-file.
The most recent party failure was Arizona Sen. John McCain’s ascent to the Republican nomination in 2008. While McCain won some early endorsements, he certainly did not win the invisible primary. McCain – a self-described maverick – made enemies within his party by breaking from conservative orthodoxy on campaign finance reform, immigration and other issues. McCain’s enemies had a real incentive to find a broadly appealing McCain alternative, but they didn’t. Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson momentarily appeared to be a conservative consensus candidate, but Thompson proved to be a lackluster campaigner. So the party, unable to settle on a consensus choice, ended up being stuck with a nominee that some factions strongly disliked.
So in 2016, it is entirely conceivable that the Republican Party elite will simply fail to come to a consensus. That could turn out fine for Republicans – the eventual nominee might be a decent candidate who would have been a plausible party favorite in a less crowded field (e.g. Walker, Rubio, Bush or John Kasich).
Five Leaders In 2016 Republican White House Race, Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds
|There are five leaders – or no leaders – as Republican voters look at likely GOP candidates in the 2016 White House race, with no candidate above 10 percent and 20 percent undecided, according to a Quinnipiac University National poll released today.|
|Leading the pack with 10 percent each are former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University Poll finds.|
|Rounding out the top 10 for televised debates are U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky at 7 percent, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas at 6 percent, Donald Trump at 5 percent, New Jersey Gov. Christopher Christie at 4 percent and Carly Fiorina and Ohio Gov. John Kasich at 2 percent each.|
|Trump tops the “no way” list as 21 percent of Republican voters say they would definitely not support him. Bush is next with 17 percent, with Christie at 15 percent.|
|Hillary Clinton dominates among Democratic voters nationwide, with 57 percent, compared to 60 percent April 23. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has 15 percent with Vice President Joseph Biden at 9 percent. No other candidate tops 1 percent with 14 percent undecided.|
How to Fix an Unfair Presidential Debate System
Clearly, any effort to limit the field will generate complaints and criticism. But any approach that limits the field so early in the race, at least five months before the first contest involving voters, seems inherently unfair. And using national polls to select participants in early debates seems odd when the first few actual tests of strength involve small, retail politics states such as Iowa and New Hampshire.
After all, we are talking about the first debate or the first couple of debates, not the fifth. Each candidate can rightly argue he or she deserves to be in the first few debates, since those televised events will be the first time many Republican voters will have the opportunity to evaluate and compare the candidates.
The obvious answer is to divide the field in half, randomly assigning individual hopefuls to one of the two debates. Of course, not everyone will like the group he or she is in, and the makeup of each group would determine the particular dynamic of that debate.
After a couple of debates, the hosts of additional debates will have just cause to limit the number of debaters. But doing so in the first couple of debates is inherently unfair and could end up damaging the party’s image. You’d think that that would be something the RNC would want to avoid.
Have Democrats Pulled Too Far Left?
The Democratic Party is now a pre-Bill Clinton party, the result of Mr. Obama’s own ideological predilections and the coalition he has built. Liberals will argue that the Democratic Party has benefited from this movement to the left and cite the election victories of Mr. Obama as evidence of it. The nation has become more liberal, they say, and the Democratic Party has wisely moved with it.
In some respects, like gay rights, the nation is more liberal than it was two decades ago. On the other hand, it is more conservative today than it was in the mid-1990s. A recent Pew Research Center poll found that Republicans have opened substantial leads over Democrats on dealing with terrorism, foreign policy and taxes. They’re competitive on the economy, and a good deal more competitive than in the past on traditional liberal issues like immigration and health care. Self-identified conservatives significantly outnumber self-identified liberals.
One can also plausibly argue that the Republican Party is the governing party in America. After two enormous losses by Democrats in the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections, Republicans control the Senate and the House of Representatives. There are currently 31 Republican governors compared with 18 for Democrats. Republicans control 68 of 98 state legislative chambers and the most state legislative seats since the 1920s. Nearly half of Americans now live in states under total Republican control. The Obama years have been politically good for Mr. Obama; they have been disastrous for his party. That is a problematic legacy for a man who envisioned himself as a Franklin Delano Roosevelt-like transformational political figure.
Those who insist that the Democratic Party’s march to the left carries no political risks might consider the fate of the British Labour Party earlier this month. Ed Miliband, its leader, ran hard to the left. The result? The Conservative Party under David Cameron won its first outright majority in Parliament since 1992. Before the election, the former Labour prime minister Tony Blair warned his party against letting the election become one in which “a traditional left-wing party competes with a traditional right-wing party, with the traditional result.”
Mr. Clinton acted on a lesson Democrats learned the hard way, and moved his party more to the center on fiscal policy, welfare, crime, the culture and foreign policy. Progressive figures like Senator Elizabeth Warren and Mayor Bill de Blasio are the politicians who electrify the Democratic base.
For demographic reasons, many Democrats believe that they are riding a tide of presidential inevitability. They may want to rethink that. They are placing a very risky bet that there are virtually no limits to how far left they can go.
An economist calculated it would take the average adult 3 years to read all the federal government’s regulations
In a video posted to YouTube last fall, Patrick McLaughlin almost gets buried in federal regulations, physically. McLaughlin is a young economist at the Mercatus Center, a free-market think tank at George Mason University, and he begins his video by piling up all the volumes of the Code of Federal Regulations issued in 1950. They make a short stack, barely a foot tall. As McLaughlin moves ahead in time—to 1970, 1990, 2013—regulations mount, and the stack of volumes grows into a tower that comes close to toppling on him.
“Too many regulations” is a familiar complaint, especially from the free-market right, but once you see them all in once place it’s hard to imagine anyone really wants it this way. As of mid-2013, there were 235 volumes in the Code of Federal regulations, each of which is around 750 pages long. McLaughlin calculated it would take the average adult three years to read the whole thing, or 58 times longer than it would take to read all five books in the sprawling “Game of Thrones” saga.
The reading load may take a real toll on the economy. Not long ago researchers estimated that mounting regulations have slowed economic growth by an average of 2 percent per year over the past half-century. And even if you’re a believer in a strong federal hand, there’s something scary about a government that runs by rules too dense for one individual ever to understand.
The Costs of a $15 Minimum Wage
Their intentions are good. Full-time employment at the current federal minimum of $7.25 an hour provides an income of just $14,500 a year. For an adult supporting one child, that’s well below the poverty line of $15,930.
The problem is that a higher legal minimum wage is at odds with the prevailing supply of and demand for labor. If you set the minimum too high, you will get a shortage of jobs. Forbidding employers from paying $9 or $12 an hour means that many of their workers won’t get $13 or $15 an hour. They will get zero per hour, because those jobs will disappear.
Some businesses will reduce staffing or hours. Some will scrub expansions they had planned. Some will install machines to handle tasks previously assigned to humans. Some will shut down.
Not all employers will take steps that will curb employment, but many will. Raising the minimum wage collides with one of the basic laws of economics: the higher the cost of something the lower the demand. In the employment realm, the effects may not be immediate, but they are inexorable.
An editorial in The New York Times wished away unwanted responses. It promised that the change will yield “savings from lower labor turnover and higher labor productivity.” Higher pay can “be offset by modestly higher prices” and by “paying executives and shareholders less.”
But if giving raises paid for itself, companies wouldn’t need to be forced to do it. Raising prices means fewer customers will buy what these companies are selling, which reduces the number of employees they need. Executives and shareholders who get paid less can turn to companies that can pay more because they don’t rely on low-wage labor.
Some of these consequences have already occurred in Seattle. One pizzeria owner, employing 12 people, told NPR her choice was to go back to working 60 to 80 hours a week or close. She’s closing.
“Even Seattle’s best-known chef, Tom Douglas, says he may have to close some of his 15 restaurants,” it reported. If a famous restaurateur can’t make it work, how will obscure ones fare?
Why China Just Spent $2.3 Billion On America’s Hottest Startups
Many of the investments are bizarre on the surface, smacking of dumb money rushing in late in the cycle and driving up valuations for everyone. Why would an e-commerce giant spend tens of millions of dollars on a startup like Peel that’s outside of its core business, not to mention its core country?
In a word: smartphones. The three BAT companies each monopolize a sphere of China’s desktop-style online behavior, but they risk falling behind in mobile. This is a problem in a country where tens of millions of people skip PCs entirely. Hence the landgrab–the Big Three don’t much care where the innovations on this new intertwined platform come from or, it seems, how much they have to shell out to secure them.
“In the online world, everybody has their own domain, but in mobile, everyone’s competing on everyone else’s turf,” says Jay Eum, cofounder of TransLink Capital, the venture capital firm that introduced Alibaba to Peel and has invested in two other Alibaba-backed startups, Quixey and Tango.
Remembering 1941: how the Baltic states are confronting their deportation trauma on film
Baltic states have been eager to shake off their Soviet bloc past as they rush for European Union integration. But this legacy has become impossible to ignore as fears around Russia’s territorial ambitions are reignited. With independence fragile, the urgency of memory is underpinning a spate of films from the region that bear witness to some of the worst traumas of the former Soviet occupation and the 1941 deportations under Stalin which saw some 90,000 Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians sent in cattle-cars to Siberia.
In the Crosswind is the feature debut of 27-year-old Tallinn-born director Martti Helde. It tells the story of deportee Erna Tamm. Separated from her husband, her undelivered letters to him form a poetic voice-over narration. Frozen tableaux capture moments so traumatic — from the aftermath of a rape by a kolkhoz chairman in a grubby toilet stall to prisoners before a firing squad — that they are seared on to time’s fabric, marking a life that has lost continuity and sense.
“When we started to make the film we couldn’t have imagined, or wished, that it would be released in the time of the Ukrainian crisis,” Helde told us. As well as the escalating political tensions heightening its contemporary bite, the film’s fresh approach of experimental innovation has enabled it to achieve festival award recognition and a commercial release in France. It’s wider attention than is often afforded the small Baltic film industries, and constitutes a higher profile than Audrius Juzenas’s The Excursionist, Lithuania’s ably crafted but more conventional 2013 drama on the deportations. “This unusual form has allowed the film to be noticed, travel and reach so many audiences who have become aware of our history,” said Helde.
Stay In Touch…Feel Free to Share
My goal is for this to be a weekly political update…sharing political news and analysis that should be of interest to most activists.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter and/or Facebook.
On Facebook at:
On Twitter at:
My blog “That’s Saul Folks” with Weekly Musings & more:
Thanks again for all you do!