• Ross, Carson May Soon Join Cabinet
• Obama May Prefer Perez as DNC Chairman
• Clinton's Lead in the Popular Vote Passes the Two-Million Vote Mark
• Jill Stein Wants a Recount in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania
• Trump Delivers Thanksgiving Message
• Trump to Accept Corporate Donations for Inauguration
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
President-elect Donald Trump has chosen GOP megadonor Betsy DeVos to be Secretary of Education. DeVos is sure to be extremely controversial, since she is a strong advocate of using government money to pay charter and religious schools. Defenders of public schools are afraid that charter and private schools will cherry pick the best students and then get excellent test results, leaving everyone else struggling in the underfunded public schools. Sure enough, minutes after the announcement, Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.6-million-member American Federation of Teachers, released this statement:
The sum total of her involvement has been spending her family's wealth in an effort to dismantle public education in Michigan. Every American should be concerned that she would impose her reckless and extreme ideology on the nation.
Her family's wealth came from her father-in-law, who founded the Amway Corporation. DeVos is also against Common Core, calling it a federalized boondoggle. Actually, it is not federal at all. The states got together and decided that children in Mississippi ought to learn the same things as children in California, so the states (not the feds) came up with a common curriculum, which the right hates. Part of the problem is a fear that some day schools won't be free to teach creationism as an alternative to evolution, but also there is a fear of local school districts losing control to state authorities bound by national agreements among the states. (V)
It's not official yet, but Donald Trump has reportedly picked Wilbur Ross for Secretary of Commerce. Ross, an early supporter of Trump, is a billionaire who made his money through leveraged buyouts and "restructuring" of failed companies. In other words, when it comes to business, he's a wealthier version of Mitt Romney. Meanwhile, Ben Carson has hinted that he is going to accept appointment as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. The Carson pick, if it comes to pass, will be among the most egregious we've seen so far. He may be a successful doctor, but he has absolutely no experience as a bureaucrat, and no experience in governance. His qualifications for HUD appear to be "he once lived in a big city," and that's about it. But, like Ross, he was an early Trump supporter and he remained loyal throughout the process.
Trump's approach to building a cabinet is the realization of an idea that has been bandied about by (some) Americans for decades: That "expertise" is something to be suspicious of, and is a liability rather than an asset. Richard Hofstadter was winning Pulitzer Prizes for writing about this tendency 50 years ago, and it's only grown in magnitude since. That said, when past presidents that tried to tap into this sentiment, it was mostly just lip service. Eisenhower, Carter, Reagan, and Bush II all came to Washington as "outsiders" with limited political experience (or, at least, limited experience at the federal level), but they promptly surrounded themselves with pros. Trump, by contrast, is primarily surrounding himself with loyalists. The three most important jobs in the White House will be filled by Trump, Reince Priebus, and Steve Bannon, who have a grand total of zero years of experience governing among them. Adding Betsy DeVos, Ben Carson, and Wilbur Ross to the team will increase that total to...zero years. Indeed, thus far, the only Trump administration members with experience in office are Vice-President Mike Pence, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Some of the world's most important scientific discoveries were made by people who had no formal scientific background or training; people who rewrote the "rules" because they never knew the rules in the first place. These include Charles Darwin, Michael Faraday, Benjamin Franklin, and Antonie van Leeuwenhoek. For them, ignorance proved to be a virtue. They were amateurs who learned about their fields by trying things themselves, to see what made sense. But can the same hold true in politics, particularly with a machine as big and complex as the U.S. federal government? It looks like we're about to find out. (Z)
The fight for the future of the Democratic Party is heating up. So far, three people have announced that they are interested in becoming chair of the DNC, but the vote isn't until February, so there is plenty of time for other candidates to throw their hats in the ring. According to some sources, President Obama is not happy with any of the current candidates—Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), Howard Dean, and South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison—and would like to see Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez run for the job. Perez is a Latino with close ties to organized labor. As such, he could appeal to two major groups the Democrats need in order to win elections.
What Obama wants to avoid at all costs is a replay of the primaries, with Ellison playing the role of Sanders and Dean playing the role of Clinton. It would be divisive and leave a lot of bad blood behind. Also, each of the major candidates (Dean and Ellison) has some baggage. After running the DNC during Bill Clinton's administration, Dean became a lobbyist, which rubs the Sanders crowd the wrong way. Ellison, meanwhile, was once a defender of Louis Farrakhan, who has said various antisemitic things in the past. By finding a new progressive compromise candidate with no baggage, like Perez, Obama hopes to heal the party. (V)
Political guru Charlie Cook is tracking the popular vote as the results come dribbling in. Hillary Clinton is now at 64,226,121 votes to Donald Trump's 62,213,790 votes, giving Clinton a lead of 2,012,331 votes. This is the first time she has expanded her lead in the popular vote to over 2 million, with the counting still continuing in some states. Looking at percentages, Clinton is at 48.1% and Trump is at 46.6%, a lead of 1.5%. (V)
As we reported yesterday, computer scientists have found a discrepancy in the voting in some key states, in which Hillary Clinton did 7% better in areas with paper ballots than in areas with electronic voting machines. They urged the Clinton campaign to demand a recount. Nate Silver has attempted to explain the difference through demographics. Poor, low-education rural areas used old electronic voting machines and richer, better-educated areas used optical scanners.
However, Green Party candidate Jill Stein wants a recount and is planning to request one in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Generally, losing candidates requesting a recount have to pay for it, so Stein is already fundraising on her website to pay for the process. According to the most recent counts Trump leads in Michigan by 10,700 votes, in Wisconsin by 22,500, and in Pennsylvania by 70,000 votes. It is ironic that Stein is the one asking for a recount, because if her voters had gone for Hillary Clinton instead of her, Clinton would have won Michigan and Wisconsin, although she would have still barely lost the White House. In Pennsylvania, Trump's margin of victory was larger than Stein's total vote. Needless to say, no amount of recounting is going to make Stein a winner; presumably this maneuver tells us that when she said Clinton and Trump were exactly the same, she didn't actually mean it.
Thus far, the Clinton campaign seems uninterested in a recount. However, that could just be for appearances. If Stein is the one pushing the issue, it could provide cover for the Democrats, who would have their cake ("We respected the process and didn't challenge the results!") and eat it, too ("And yet, there was a recount anyhow!"). Stein's fundraising goal is $2.5 million, which is adequate to pay the costs of the recounts. She was more than 90% of the way there as of Wednesday night, and is on track to reach 100% sometime early Thursday morning. (V)
Donald Trump took to YouTube on Thursday to deliver a brief message in honor of the Thanksgiving holiday. He name-checked Abraham Lincoln, called for national unity, and promised to get to work making America great again. All in all, it was fairly standard for these sorts of things.
The most interesting thing about the video is that it continues (and affirms) a trend that is becoming well-established: When Trump has something to say to the American people, he says it directly, through YouTube or Twitter or Facebook or some other medium. He avoids the press like the plague (except for the recent NYT interview), and has yet to hold a press conference since being elected. This kind of inaccessibility to the press is unusual, to say the least.
Trump's reasoning here is obvious: The press is likely to ask him the kinds of uncomfortable questions that he doesn't want to answer, or possibly can't answer (does anyone doubt that Trump is more than capable of a Gary Johnson-style "Aleppo" moment?). Using direct means of communication allows The Donald to control the message and the messenger. The real question is: Can he keep it up? Will the voting public accept a president who walls himself off from critical scrutiny in this way? And the answer is: Probably.
Here's a quick trivia question: Name the only two presidents since the advent of radio (the 1920s) to average fewer than 10 press conferences a year. One might be tempted to guess "Silent" Calvin Coolidge or the wheelchair-bound Franklin D. Roosevelt, perhaps, but both of those men actually averaged more than one press conference per week (72/year) during their presidencies. In fact, they lead the pack; only one other modern president (Hoover) has averaged as many as 50 a year. Barack Obama, meanwhile, has been middle-of-the-road, averaging about 25 per year. And the two presidents who bring up the rear, each of them averaging about one press conference every two months? Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. That pair faced concerns similar to the ones The Donald has, namely uncomfortable questions (Nixon) and questions where I don't actually know the answer (Reagan). So, they did an end run around the press, whether by appearing on "Laugh-In," or having their speeches televised, or through whatever other means might present themselves. And they didn't even have social media at their disposal, which makes the strategy all the easier. Now, Nixon was eventually run out of Washington on a rail, of course, but Reagan rode the "no press" approach to status as a beloved icon of the right. So, the Gipper's footsteps are there, should The Donald choose to follow in them. (Z)
Barring unexpected developments, Donald Trump will get to work "draining the swamp" in Washington on January 21. And he has decided that to get off on the right foot, he needs a gala celebration on January 20, funded substantially by corporate donations.
When Barack Obama became president, he was concerned about the appearance of being "for sale," so he placed fairly strict limits on inauguration-related donations: $50,000 maximum for individuals, and no contributions from lobbyists or corporations. He still raised $43 million; after slightly relaxing the rules in 2012, he pulled in $53 million. Now, Trump has blown the doors open: Corporations can donate up to $1 million and super PACs will be allowed to chip in as well. Lobbyists are still banned, but this is a fairly meaningless distinction, since they can easily funnel their money through either a corporation or a super PAC. You don't get to be a lobbyist if you're not really good at finding loopholes.
Politicians are known for talking out of both sides of their mouth, but Trump is already taking that tendency to unprecedented heights. What remains to be seen is if his base will punish him for it. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Nov23 Court Strikes Back Against Gerrymandering
Nov23 Democratic Electors Might Sabotage the Electoral College
Nov23 Clinton Pushed to Challenge Election Results
Nov23 Democrats Are Not the Minority
Nov23 Trump Drops Idea of Prosecuting Clinton
Nov23 Trump Foundation Admitted to Illegal Self Dealing
Nov23 Haley to Be U.N. Ambassador
Nov23 Carson Says Trump Has Offered Him Jobs
Nov23 Trump Rally Drives Stock Market to New High
Nov22 Can the Democrats Become a National Party Again?
Nov22 Why Clinton Lost Wisconsin
Nov22 Trump Lays Out Day One Plan
Nov22 Trump Apparently Warming to Ryan's Medicare Plan
Nov22 Trump's Grandfather Was Deported--to the United States
Nov22 Tulsi Gabbard Vows to Work with Trump
Nov22 Dean Calls Bannon a Nazi
Nov21 Why Are We Surprised about the Presidential Race?
Nov21 Ellison's Opponents for DNC Chairman Start Fighting Back
Nov21 Warning to Democrats: Focus on Issues
Nov21 Trump's Infrastructure Plan Meets Congress
Nov21 How Trump's Tax Plan Worked in Kansas
Nov21 Trump Apparently No Fan of the First Amendment
Nov21 Pence Has His Own E-mail Problem
Nov21 Not Everyone Disapproves of Bannon
Nov21 Marine Le Pen Takes Huge Lead in France
Nov21 Programming Note
Nov20 Tom Price is the Favorite for Secretary of HHS
Nov20 Reid Claims FBI Has Explosive Information About Trump-Russia Ties
Nov20 Trump and Romney Meet
Nov20 Vilsack: Democrats Can't Ignore Rural Voters and Win
Nov20 Clinton's Lead is Now 1.68 Million Votes
Nov20 Trump Opponents Trying Hard to Flip Electoral College
Nov20 Zuckerberg Changes His Tune
Nov20 Pence Attends Hamilton, Controversy Ensues
Nov19 Trump's First Picks Thrill Hard-line Conservatives
Nov19 Report: Mike Huckabee Will Be Ambassador to Israel
Nov19 Bannon: We're Really Going to Spend a Trillion Dollars on Infrastructure
Nov19 Trump Agrees to Pay $25 Million to Settle Trump University Lawsuits
Nov19 WSJ to Trump: Liquidate
Nov19 Muslim Database Coming into Focus
Nov19 Whither Ted Cruz?
Nov19 Was Russia to Blame for Fake News?
Nov19 Democrats Hit New Low in State Legislatures
Nov18 Ryan Doesn't Like Pelosi
Nov18 Democrats Brace for 2018
Nov18 Kaine Will Not Run for President in 2020
Nov18 Trump Stops Ford from Relocating Plant...Or Maybe Not
Nov18 Proposal: DNC Chair Candidates Should Debate
Nov18 Did Paul Horner Hand the Election to Donald Trump?