• Trump May Be Bad News for Israel
• "Deploraball" Highlights Schism within the Alt-right Movement
• Should the Media Ignore Trump's Tweets?
• Republicans May Target Medicaid Rather than Medicare
• Heller to Run for Reelection to the Senate
• States with the Most, Least Electoral Integrity
• Electoral College Precedent Has Been Set
As President Obama promised, the White House has taken action against Russia for interfering with the U.S. elections. The punishment includes sanctions against several Russian individuals and entities and ejecting 35 Russian spies from the U.S. None of these things will have any effect and Donald Trump could reverse them all within 3 weeks. However, President Obama suggested there might also be covert operations, which could hurt more. Covert operations could, for example, drain bank accounts Vladimir Putin and his close associates have with foreign banks. Or they could involve stealing key Russian defense secrets. The choice no doubt depends on what U.S. intelligence agencies are capable of. It is unlikely that these operations will ever see the light of day, though.
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) called the sanctions "long overdue." He added: "Russia does not share America's interests. In fact, it has consistently sought to undermine them, sowing dangerous instability around the world." Remarks like this mean that if Trump undoes the sanctions as soon as he takes office, he will immediately be in a fight with Ryan, whose cooperation he needs to get any legislation through Congress. (V)
Gregg Carlstrom, writing for Politico, has a very interesting analysis of recent developments on the U.S.-Israel front. He starts by observing that Benjamin Netanyahu is a center-right politician with a fairly modest record of accomplishment, and one who is under constant pressure from the far right elements in Israeli politics. Unable or unwilling to deliver on most other issues, and enmeshed in near-constant scandals, the one sop that Netanyahu has for his right-wing critics is standing strong against the Palestinians. In this way, he parallels circa-2004 George W. Bush, with "rallying anti-Palestinian sentiment" taking the place of "rallying anti-gay sentiment."
Now, Netanyahu appears to have the U.S. president of his dreams, so much so that he's openly counting the days until Donald Trump takes office. But maybe it's not so simple. To start, Trump is unpopular, unproven, and mercurial. This is not the ideal kind of politician to hitch one's wagon to. Further, Barack Obama may have been a headache for Netanyahu, but he was also a convenient excuse that gave the Prime Minister cover for maintaining the status quo, for fear of the Americans' response. Now, that excuse is gone, which almost certainly means that Netanyahu is going to have to tack even further rightward.
At the same time, the international community—outside of the U.S.—has gotten to the point of holding Israel at arm's length, as indicated by the 14-0 vote on the U.N. Security Council resolution condemning West Bank settlements. And in the United States, Democrats in general, and liberal Jews in particular, are becoming disaffected with Israel. Of course, there will eventually come a time that the Democrats are back in control of the White House. And depending on how hard a line Netanyahu takes in the interim, he and his country could find themselves without many friends in the world, and with the U.S.-Israel alliance irreparably damaged. (Z)
Some Trump supporters in the alt-right (a.k.a. white supremacist) movement, have adopted the label of "deplorables," to mock Hillary Clinton's use of term during the campaign. A group of them are planning a gala event on the evening of Jan. 19th, the day before the inauguration, to be called the "deploraball." A thousand tickets (at $99 to $2,500) have already been sold. A featured guest, Mike Cernovich, has condemned one of the organizers, Tim Treadstone, often referred to by his online handle of "Baked Alaska," for his anti-Semitic tweets. Treadstone has since been disinvited from his own party. This split is part of a bigger split within the alt-right movement. A key difference between the groups is that Treadstone's is fundamentally anti-Semitic whereas Cernovich and his supporters are focused on populsim and nationalism. (V)
Donald Trump is about to become President of the United States, and his generally preferred medium of communication comes 140 characters at a time. These two things being the case, the media give his every 5:00 a.m. tweet the same attention that it would devote to a presidential press conference or a state of the union address. It's an understandable choice; after all, other presidents have been afforded the courtesy of embracing a new and emerging form of mass communication (e.g. TR and recorded sound, FDR and radio, Ike and television).
However, in this case, it may not be the right choice. There is now a growing chorus of voices, including CNN's Dean Obeidallah and Don Lemon, calling for the media to ignore Trump's tweets. Their argument is that Twitter not only allows Trump total control over the time, place, and content of his messaging, it also allows him to avoid explaining himself or subjecting himself to any sort of media scrutiny. Put more succinctly, it tips the balance of power too far in his favor, and away from those who are supposed to be keeping an eye on him. It's a strong argument, but whether the media can discipline itself in this way (and can get the Fox Newses of the world to sign on) remains to be seen. (Z)
Although Paul Ryan has repeatedly said he wants to turn Medicare into a voucher program, it now appears that the most likely target will be Medicaid, not Medicare. Medical, moral, and economic issues aside, this makes political sense. Changing Medicare would antagonize many seniors, quite a few of whom are Republicans and who have lots of free time to do things like vote. Medicaid, in contrast, helps poor people, most of whom already vote for the Democrats, if they vote at all. Going after Medicaid is unlikely to cost the GOP many votes.
The idea now circulating is to turn Medicaid into a block grant program. The states would be given lump sums of money and told to spend it on medical care for people who need it. The law could be written extremely vaguely, giving the states a lot of freedom to use the money for purposes other than giving poor people basic care. For example, a state could use some of the money to improve services at a hospital located far from any poor people while simultaneously announcing that the hospital will provide free medical care to any poor person who makes it there. A state could also make a copayment of its own choosing a requirement for poor people to get medical care. In Indiana, Vice President-elect Mike Pence did something like that, requiring Medicaid enrollees to make a monthly deposit into a health savings account. Bascially, this means poor people have to pay for part of their care in Indiana, something not true in other states. (V)
Democrats got some bad news yesterday in the form of an announcement from Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) that he will run for reelection in 2018. They were hoping he was going to run for governor of Nevada, thus creating an easier-to-flip open seat. Nevertheless, Heller is not home free. He is the only Republican senator up in 2018 from a state that Hillary Clinton carried. So, the Democrats will train a tremendous amount of firepower on him, but first they have to find an A-list candidate. (V)
The Electoral Integrity Project, based at Harvard and Sydney Universities, has produced its preliminary analysis of the 2016 presidential election. Among their key findings:
- The states with the least electoral integrity are located primarily in the South and the Midwest, with
Arizona, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and Tennessee at the very bottom of the list.
- The states with the most electoral integrity are located primarily in the West, Mountain West, and New England,
with Idaho, New Mexico, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Iowa at the top of the list.
- Generally speaking, Trump/Republican states have more electoral malfeasance than Clinton/Democratic states.
- Some issues related to electoral integrity got substantive attention in the news media—fake news, for example,
or the influence of money. Others, like gerrymandering, got relatively little attention.
- Among Western democracies, the United States ranks dead last in electoral integrity. Among the 153 countries surveyed worldwide, the U.S. ranks #52.
The study authors conclude with the following observations:
If the federal government remains paralyzed, states can implement reforms on their own, where possible. Such reforms should include strengthening cybersecurity for official records, protecting voting rights, limiting partisan gerrymandering through independent commissions, improving fair and accurate campaign communications, reforming the Electoral College, and cleaning up campaign finance. Whether any of these urgent reforms can be implemented in the current climate of bitter partisanship remains to be seen. But countries that fail to reach a consensus about the legitimacy of the basic electoral rules of the game, especially those with deeply polarized parties and leaders with authoritarian tendencies, are unlikely to persist as stable democratic states.
Unfortunately, academics have been saying much the same about the American electoral system for decades, and little seems to have changed. So, we probably should not hold our breaths. (Z)
Speaking of electoral integrity, The Economist notes something that has largely been overlooked since the Electoral College cast its votes two weeks ago: The seven "faithless" electors were not enough to block Donald Trump, but they probably were enough to permanently undermine the College's status as a "rubber stamp" for election results. Now, electors have effectively been given "permission" to vote their consciences. And while it is unlikely (but not impossible) that dozens of electors might defect in a single year, a very close election could easily devolve into a contest of elector-courting, which could easily include various sorts of cash and other inducements.
That's the bad news. The good news is that the first time faithless electors decide a presidential election would likely be the last time. Popular sentiment certainly seems to be turning against the anachronistic institution, and that could easily be the last straw. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec29 Trump Looking Hard for a Secretary of Agriculture
Dec29 Trump Says He Will Write His Own Inaugural Address
Dec29 Trump Claims Credit for 8,000 More Jobs Saved
Dec29 Democrats Are Calling for Nationwide Rallies on Health Care Jan. 15
Dec29 Virginia May Afford Early Assessment of Trump Presidency
Dec29 Trump-Obama Relationship Deteriorates
Dec29 The Worst Predictions of 2016
Dec29 Whither the White Supremacists?
Dec28 Trump Rewards Donors Big Time
Dec28 Trump's Inexperience Is Going to Cause Him Trouble Settling Disputes
Dec28 There Will Also Be Battles in Several States
Dec28 Graham: 99% of Senators Believe Russians Interfered
Dec28 More States Consider Circumventing Electoral College
Dec28 Trump Fires Back on Foundation
Dec28 The Four Most Undersold Stories of the Year
Dec28 Kim Jong-un Sensing Opportunity
Dec27 Trump To Inherit over 100 Judicial Vacancies
Dec27 Stephen Miller to Pen Trump Inaugural
Dec27 Obama: I Could Have Won a Third Term
Dec27 Four Cabinet Nominations that Could Fail
Dec27 Falwell: Tillerson's Social Views Are Not Relevant
Dec27 Israel Remains Front and Center
Dec27 Tom Arnold Also Remains Front and Center
Dec26 Five Races to Watch in 2017
Dec26 Big Questions for 2017
Dec26 Priebus Compares Trump to Jesus
Dec26 Netanyahu Not Happy; Letting Everyone Know
Dec26 Trump, Obama Tweet Christmas Messages
Dec26 Clinton May Have Attacked Trump the Wrong Way
Dec26 Republicans May Hit the Undo Button on Tech Policy
Dec26 Reid Slams DNC
Dec26 Foreign Visitors Will Be Asked for their Social Media Accounts
Dec25 Trump Needs to Name Five Key Ambassadors
Dec25 Four Middle Eastern Headaches Trump Will Inherit
Dec25 Trump to Shut Down Family Foundation
Dec25 Trump Will Enter Office with Dismal Favorability Ratings
Dec25 Miller Opts Out of Administration Post
Dec25 Why Trump Prefers Merry Christmas
Dec24 Trump Is Writing His Own Rules
Dec24 Putin to Democrats: You Lost, Get over It
Dec24 Putin Pens Christmas Note to Trump
Dec24 UN Votes to Condemns Israel; U.S. Abstains
Dec24 Trump Wants the Biggest Inauguration Crowd Ever
Dec24 Why Do Working-Class Whites Vote against Their Own Economic Interest?
Dec24 Icahn Joins Team Trump, Makes Half a Billion Dollars
Dec24 Trump Ally Wants Obama Dead of Mad Cow Disease in 2017
Dec24 Trump Supporters May Get Coal in Their Stockings
Dec23 Trump Names Communications Team
Dec23 Trump Says He Is Still Draining the Swamp