• Trump Not Draining the Swamp Any More
• Obamacare Enrollments Reach Record High
• Trump Team Considering Tariff via Executive Order
• Trump Reveals Jobs Plan
• Republicans Will Target Red-state Democrats before Confirmation Hearings
• Corey Lewandowski Starts a Lobbying Firm
• Poll Shows Democrats Don't Want Clinton to Run Again
• Ellison Faces More Problems
• Trump Sons Removed from Nonprofit
• HB2 Lives On
Hillary Clinton, Nate Silver, Sam Wang, and others have said that the Democratic nominee cratered rapidly in the final week before the election, explaining why the polls were off: Public sentiment changed too fast for the polls to track it. Now a new piece of evidence strongly supports that hypothesis. Two professors from the University of Pennsylvania ran a panel and interviewed the same people at different points during the year. This makes it much easier to see whether any of the 1,075 people in the panel changed their minds at some point.
What they observed between a pre-election survey and a post-election survey of the same people is that no one switched from Trump to Clinton, but 0.9% switched from Clinton to Trump. Trump also picked up 0.8% more undecideds. While 0.9% and 0.8% may not seem a lot, keep in mind that Trump won Michigan by 0.2%, and Wisconsin and Pennsylvania by 0.7%. Thus the amount of last-minute switching to Trump was enough to carry him over the finish line first in three states that cost Clinton the White House. The study didn't explain why people shifted so late in the game, but the only plausible explanation is FBI Director Comey's letter, since it was the only real news in the final week. (V)
Former Speaker and Trump spokesman Newt Gingrich was on NPR's "Morning Edition" Wednesday, and he had some news to share about the President-elect: He won't be talking about "draining the swamp" any more. "It was cute," said Gingrich, "but he doesn't want to use it anymore."
Exactly what happened here will probably forever remain a mystery. Did Trump honestly mean what he said at some point, but then realize that it was impractical once he actually started trying to build a government? Or was it always just lip service? Either way, it's become clear that there will be no swamp-draining, as Trump has staffed his administration almost entirely with Washington insiders and Wall Street tycoons. So, it's not a surprise to see him trying to "forget" that part of his platform. Whether the voters will forget so easily remains to be seen. (Z)
"Draining the swamp" is not the only Trump campaign promise that's proving trickier in reality than it was in rhetoric. Although he and his GOP colleagues promised to tear Obamacare up on their first days in office, it's not going to be easy, given how many voters are using the program to gain insurance. In fact, there are still five weeks left in the enrollment period for 2017, and already 6.4 million people have signed up, a record number that exceeds last year's total by 400,000 people. By the time the final deadline arrives on January 1, the total is expected to be roughly 13.8 million.
Already, there is much talk among Republicans about slowly replacing Obamacare piece-by-piece, but there are certain hard truths that they will soon run up against. Those 13.8 million people presumably want to be insured, and will not be happy if their coverage disappears. The GOP has signaled a willingness to keep the Obamacare exchanges, and simply to get rid of federal subsidies and the rule that says everyone must have health insurance. But the problem there is that the bad things (subsidies, mandates) are necessary in order to make the good (everyone has insurance) possible. Ending subsidies will cause citizens' costs to rise in a direct fashion. Ending mandates will have the same effect indirectly, since healthy people will drop out and sick people will remain, driving up costs for insurers, which will then be passed on to the insured. The upshot is that the Republicans are going to be left with the fallout of either (1) not living up to their promises, or (2) causing many people to lose their insurance due to cost or lack of availability. (Z)
Draining the swamp is already dead, and repealing Obamacare is on life support. Donald Trump has to deliver on at least some of his promises, especially given the grandiose manner in which he promised to take care of business on his first day in office. So, he and his team are reportedly considering the implementation of a blanket 5% tariff via an executive order issued on Inauguration Day.
Of course, there are some pretty big problems with this—yet another reminder that promising is easy, but actually governing is hard. To start, such a tariff would likely spark trade wars, which would increase the price of goods in this country while also making it harder for American exporters to compete. It's almost as if Trump does not realize that Boeing, Caterpillar, Johnson & Johnson, Intel, Microsoft, Pfizer, Cargill, and General Motors (all huge exporters) employ people, too.
This leads us to the second problem, which is that Trump may not have a good grasp of the nuances of trade policy, but his colleagues in Washington and Wall Street do. The GOP establishment, led by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), is a huge proponent of free trade. So too are the Wall Street tycoons. Aggravating these allies on day one is not a terribly shrewd political move, particularly if it's accompanied by a high-profile drop in the stock market caused by skittish investors.
Finally, there's also the legality of such a move. Existing laws do allow the president to impose a tariff if (1) he deems that the United States is being subjected to unfair trade practices, or (2) he feels the United States faces an economic or national security threat. Trump would need to be prepared to make one of these two arguments if his tariff ends up in court, as it very well might. And it would be a very difficult argument with a blanket tariff, since Trump would effectively be arguing either that every country is treating America unfairly, or that every country represents an economic or national security threat.
In short, Trump is presumably learning that there are rarely easy solutions. If those existed, they would already have been implemented. (Z)
On Wednesday, President-elect Donald Trump unveiled the centerpiece of his plan to save American jobs: the formation of a new White House National Trade Council, to be led by economist Peter Navarro. Navarro is best known for his book (Crouching Tiger: What China's Militarism Means for the World) and documentary ("Death by China"), both about the evils of Chinese power. So, it's fair to assume much of his time will be spent trying to figure out how to stymie China.
Navarro will work closely with Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and, in addition to being anti-China, both men agree on certain other key points. Among those are (1) cutting government regulations by 10%, (2) eliminating America's trade deficit by re-negotiating trade deals, and (3) expanding U.S. energy production. They both concur with Donald Trump that, through these maneuvers, 4% annual economic growth is possible. Other experts are not so sure, particularly given how few details have been offered (for example, which regulations would be cut?).
Another challenge that Navarro will face in his job-creating capacity is this: The number of job openings in manufacturing is at a nine-year high right now, with somewhere between 350,000 and 400,000 jobs unfilled. There are a number of reasons for this, but a big one is that the skills needed by companies don't align with the skills that applicants have. This problem will become more acute over time, as a modern factory often bears little resemblance to the manufacturing concerns that dominated the Rust Belt for generations. So, if Navarro is to be successful, he cannot spend all of his time outmaneuvering China, and instead must think some about getting American workers the skills that employers demand. (Z)
In an effort to scare Senate Democrats from red states into supporting president-elect Donald Trump's cabinet nominees, a conservative Republican group called American Rising Squared is putting together an ad buy against them. The main targets are Sen Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN), and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), all of whom are from states Trump won, and all of whom are up for reelection in 2018.
The nominees the conservative group hopes to help include Jeff Sessions for attorney general, Betsy DeVos for education, Scott Pruitt for EPA, and Andrew Puzder for labor. All of these individuals are deeply conservative and very offensive to Democrats. The campaign may or may not work, since each Senate committee that will vet nominees has half a dozen or more Democrats, some of whom are from blue states or are not up for reelection in 2018. They can do the heavy lifting if need be and let the endangered Democrats just lob softball questions.
And speaking of Sessions, another skeleton re-emerged from his closet on Wednesday. Namely, a 1997 case overseen by him in his capacity as Alabama's attorney general, which was dismissed due to prosecutorial misconduct. And, according to Judge James S. Garrett, it wasn't just garden-variety misconduct:
The court finds that even having been given every benefit of the doubt, the misconduct of the Attorney General in this case far surpasses in both extensiveness and measure the totality of any prosecutorial misconduct ever previously presented to or witnessed by this court.
One wonders if Team Trump did not bother to vet their nominees, or if they did and they simply did not find this to be disqualifying (in addition to Sessions' history of racially-charged remarks). Undoubtedly, this will come up in Sessions' confirmation hearings, and then we will learn if his past misdeeds are a bridge too far for Senate Republicans. (V)
Donald Trump's first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, didn't get a plum, but low-paying, job in the administration. Instead he decided to make some real money by creating a firm to lobby his old boss. The firm, called Avenue Strategies, is already advertising its close ties to Trump as well as its 1717 Pennsylvania Avenue address, only a block from the White House, where it is well positioned to keep the swamp from draining too quickly. Even after Trump fired Lewandowski, the ex-campaign manager was loyal to Trump through his stint as a CNN commentator and later on. That loyalty may pay off big time now. (V)
A Suffolk University poll shows that 62% of Democrats and independents have no interest in Hillary Clinton's making a third run for the White House in 2020. Only 23% would be excited to see her run again. Other polls have shown that Democrats want an exciting new young face as their next standard bearer. The most popular potential candidates are Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). In 2020, Biden will 78, Sanders will be 79, and Warren will be a mere stripling at 71. (V)
As the race for the chairmanship of the DNC heats up, opponents of Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) are doing some oppo research on him. The issues that have come up include not paying $18,000 in federal income tax, campaign finance violations, and driving without a license. DNC member Bob Mulholland reported that a Republican said to him: "You're going to elect a tax cheat who drives without a license?" These charges may not prove fatal, but they certainly won't help now that he has a serious opponent for the job, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez. Perez grew up in a working-class manufacturing town, Buffalo, NY, as the son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic. Perez is generally regarded as a progressive, although not quite as far to the left as Ellison. With DNC members who are focused on winning elections, rather than on ideology, this may work to his advantage. Most DNC members have not yet expressed a preference between Ellison and Perez, but it is clear that President Obama clearly favors Perez. (V)
America's long national nightmare appears to be over. Earlier this week, it seemed that Donald Trump's adult sons were selling access to their father on Inauguration Day in exchange for million-dollar donations to hazy "conservation" charities. Once the story got some attention, the junior Trumps distanced themselves from the nonprofit in question, and then did so a little more, and then a little more. Now, they have been removed from the organization's board of directors, and have made clear they won't be participating in the fundraiser in any way.
Last week, Eric Trump found himself in a similar pickle when he tried to use a "45-minute coffee date" with his sister Ivanka to raise money for the Eric Trump foundation. The offer was eventually yanked from Trump's website, and now Eric has said he won't solicit any further donations while his father is in office. So, either the Trump sons are learning the hard way that appearances matter, or else they're learning the hard way that graft is a lot harder to get away with than it used to be. (Z)
The soap opera in North Carolina is not over, at least not yet. In February of this year, Charlotte passed a law designed to protect gay and transgender people from discrimination while in the city. Shortly thereafter, the North Carolina legislature passed a statewide law, HB2, declaring that discrimination against gay and transgender people is not illegal, and also that transgender people have to use the bathroom that matches the gender on their birth certificate. There was extensive opposition to this maneuver, and countless businesses and organizations chose to take their money and their jobs elsewhere in response. The controversy allowed Democrat Roy Cooper to unseat Republican governor Pat McCrory in a very close election.
As a result of all of this, it seemed last week that everyone involved had learned their lessons, and that a deal had been worked out to resolve the issue, with Charlotte repealing its pro-gay ordinance and the North Carolina state legislature doing the same with its anti-gay ordinance. Charlotte did its part (provisionally), but on Wednesday the state legislature failed to live up to its part. At the last moment, several North Carolina republicans insisted that the agreement be altered, and that there be a "cooling off" period until the repeal took effect. Hard to understand what the purpose of that might be; maybe they wanted people to be able to get in some last-minute LGBT discrimination before such behavior becomes only questionably legal, as opposed to expressly legal. In any case, North Carolina Democrats refused to vote for the amended version of the repeal, and now both parties are blaming each other for the high-profile, rather embarrassing failure. They'll likely try again in the new year, but for now both the Charlotte and statewide ordinances remain on the books. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec21 Democrats Want Tillerson's Tax Returns
Dec21 Drama Surrounds Trump's Last Few High-Profile Appointments
Dec21 Trump Probably Can't Sell D.C. Hotel Without Losing Money
Dec21 Ross Will Make Trade Policy
Dec21 Republicans' First Defeat Could Be Defunding Planned Parenthood
Dec21 Clinton Beat Trump By 2.864 Million Popular Votes
Dec21 Trump Sons Disclaim Involvement With Fundraiser
Dec21 O'Reilly Shows His True Color
Dec20 Trump Wins the Electoral College
Dec20 North Carolina's HB-2 Bites the Dust
Dec20 Vinnie Viola to be Secretary of the Army
Dec20 More Data on Why Clinton Lost
Dec20 Bill Clinton: Comey and the Russians Did Hillary In
Dec20 An Early Look at the 2020 Democratic Field
Dec20 Why Michelle Obama Won't Run for Office
Dec20 Why Republicans Suddenly Love Putin
Dec20 Are Trump's Sons Already on the Take?
Dec19 It's Election Day Today
Dec19 Trump to China: Keep the Drone
Dec19 Congress Could Demand Sanctions against Russia but Trump Could Refuse
Dec19 Conway Denies that Trump Had Contact with Russia
Dec19 Brazile Contradicts Obama, Says Russia Kept Hacking Until the Very End
Dec19 Fact-Check Trump's Tweets in Real Time
Dec19 Nate Silver: If Comey Had Kept Quiet, Clinton Would Have Won
Dec19 Comedian Says He Has Unreleased Apprentice Footage
Dec19 Trump Taps Mick Mulvaney for Budget Director
Dec19 Ghosts of Administrations Past Coalescing Behind Tillerson
Dec19 Trump May Not Take Action Against Russian Hackers
Dec19 Trump Reveals Some Details of His Plan for His Businesses
Dec19 Trump Grill Gets Fried
Dec19 North Carolina GOP Smacks New Governor
Dec19 Montana House Seat in Temporary Limbo
Dec18 Trump Taps Mick Mulvaney for Budget Director
Dec18 Ghosts of Administrations Past Coalescing Behind Tillerson
Dec18 Trump May Not Take Action Against Russian Hackers
Dec18 Trump Reveals Some Details of His Plan for His Businesses
Dec18 Trump Grill Gets Fried
Dec18 North Carolina GOP Smacks New Governor
Dec18 Montana House Seat in Temporary Limbo
Dec17 Trump Would Have Crushed Sanders
Dec17 Trump Tries to Calm His Supporters
Dec17 Clinton Said that She Was Beaten by Putin and Comey
Dec17 FBI Agrees with CIA that Russia Helped Trump Win
Dec17 No Briefing for Electors
Dec17 Trump Has Assembled a Team of Bosses
Dec17 Perez Throws His Hat into the Ring
Dec17 Americans Have No Idea How Many Muslims Live in the U.S.
Dec16 Democrats and Republicans Differ on How to Investigate the Russian Hacking
Dec16 Trump Thanks Black Voters for Not Voting