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Happy Thanksgiving! We hope you have a lovely day with friends and family and can set aside politics for one day and have a good time with everyone, even your curmudgeonly Trump-loving or Trump-hating uncle.

People's Exhibit 3054 Is Bad News for Trump

Tuesday, Donald Trump had a bad day in court, even though he wasn't even in court. Blame it on those pesky perjury laws. In the civil trial underway in New York, Trump's lawyers called the former comptroller of the Trump Organization, Jeffrey McConney, as a witness. He made nice to Trump. Well, until AG Letitia James' lawyer, Andrew Amer, got to ask a few questions. He showed McConney People's Exhibit 3054, concerning Trump's net worth in 2014, shown below:

Memo from Mazars to Trump

Read the second paragraph carefully. Quick quiz: Who is responsible for the statement? Answer at the bottom on the page. Then Amer asked McConney about the hand-written note in the upper right corner that reads: "DJT To Get Final Review." Amer asked: "Donald Trump would get the final review?" McConney, seeing the exhibit (possibly for the first time) and surely having been warned by his lawyers about the perjury laws, said: "That was my understanding, yes." Then Amer asked if Trump would get the final review of every net worth statement until Jan. 20, 2017 (after which time Eric Trump had approval authority). Again McConney answered: "That was my understanding, yes." When asked if the annotation in the upper right corner of the exhibit was made by him, McConney admitted it was.

All this matters. A lot. Even to McConney. On Monday, McConney testified that the chain of command for financial statements was McConney > Allen Weiselberg > Mazars (Trump's accountant). Note the absence of Donald J. Trump in the loop. Now faced with his own handwriting on a document and his own testimony under cross-examination a day later, McConney changed his story to include Trump in the loop. In fact, he included Trump as the final and crucial step. So McConney could now be charged with perjury, although it seems unlikely James will do that. He's not the real target.

But the combination of Tuesday's testimony and People's Exhibit 3054 show that Trump's defense of "I didn't know what was in my net worth statements because the accountants handled that alone" is a complete lie. Judge Arthur Engoron is not stupid and has been around the track a couple of times. He knows that people lie under oath sometimes and that it is his job to make a best estimate whether a witness is telling the truth or lying. And when a witness says something on Monday and the exact opposite on Tuesday, Engoron has to use his judgment. But when one of the statements is backed by a written document and the other is not, it becomes a lot easier. James has asserted that Trump (illegally) inflated his net worth by $3.5 billion in 2014.

But there is more. On the 2015 edition of Trump's net worth statement, McConney made a handwritten note reading: "This computation also includes forecasted deals that have not signed yet with a value of $151 mil. Do you want to delete these deals?" So McConney knew the statement was fake since you can't include the profits from a deal you haven't made (yet) in a statement of your net worth. He was alerting Trump to the "mistake" of $151 million in fictional assets. Here is that document:

Trump's 2015 net worth statement with comment by Jeffrey McConney

So what did Trump do? He ignored McConney's unambiguous warning and signed the document as prepared. This kills the defense of "I didn't know there was a 'mistake' there." His own comptroller pointed it out explicitly in writing and Trump signed it anyway, unmodified. If that doesn't show intent to defraud, we don't know what does. Trump could have told McConney or Mazars to delete it or double-check it or something. But no, warning or no warning, he signed it anyway. Unless Engoron happened to doze off at the moment this came up, we imagine he will take it into account when deciding how much Trump's fine should be. Remember, he already ruled that Trump committed fraud. This is the penalty trial. This is why "intent" matters. The fine for intentional fraud Trump perpetrated might just be a wee bit more than for a typing error some junior accountant trainee at Mazars made.

Oh, one more thing (please read that sentence in the voice of Columbo). James' office got these documents from Mazars, not from Trump in response to the subpoena sent to him to turn over all relevant documents. So Trump also ignored Engoron's order to turn over all the relevant documents. Judges tend to understand the concept of "intent" when someone who has been subpoenaed somehow "forgets" to turn over incriminating documents and he gets them anyway from a different source.

Clearly Trump's lawyers made a mistake putting McConney on the stand, knowing that one of James' lawyers would cross examine him. Of course, if they hadn't put him on their witness list, James would have put him on hers. The trial will resume post-turkey with the testimony of the chief accounting officer of Trump Hotels, Mark Hawthorn. Maybe he will testify that Trump counted hotel rooms that were still empty at 11:00 p.m. as occupied and paid for since 80 guests could still show up spontaneously at 11:55 p.m. All in all, the trial is not going well for Trump. He's lucky it is a civil trial, not a criminal trial. Damn the people and their exhibits. (V)

Wisconsin Supreme Court Hears Gerrymandering Case

Based on multiple recent elections, Wisconsin is the most closely balanced state in the country. For example, Joe Biden beat Donald Trump by 0.63% in 2020 and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) beat Mandela Barnes (D) by 1.00% in the 2022 Senate race. Nevertheless, six of the eight U.S. representatives (75%) are Republicans, 22 of the 33 state senators (67%) are Republicans, and 64 of the 99 state assemblymembers (65%) are Republicans. Something is rotten in the state of Wisconsin. Bad cheese? Probably not. More likely, bad district maps.

On Tuesday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a lawsuit in which the plaintiffs claim the federal and state maps are unconstitutionally gerrymandered. The state Constitution requires districts to be "contiguous." The site gives two definitions of contiguous:

  1. touching; in contact
  2. in close proximity without actually touching; near

According to the staff mathematician in consultation with the staff topologist, a set of points is contiguous if every point in the set can be connected to every other point in the set by a path that never exits the set. About half the state districts do not have this property. In other words, they consist of two blobs separated by one or more other districts. The plaintiffs claim this is unconstitutional and the Court should throw out the maps and hire a special master to draw new ones.

Since the bitterly contested election of Justice Janet Protasiewicz (D) in April, the Democrats have a 4-3 majority on the Court and Republicans are scared witless that the Court will invalidate the maps and hire someone to draw fair ones, which will cost the Republicans dozens of seats. Much of the discussion Tuesday wasn't about the maps or the law or the state Constitution, but about whether Protasiewicz should get to vote on the case. Her view is "yes," and ultimately, that's what counts. Only she can recuse herself and she sees no reason to do that. She was elected in a landslide in a fair (partisan) election and she had every right to campaign on a platform of "the state Constitution requires fair maps." The nature of partisan elections for judges and justices basically requires them to campaign. Maybe electing judges and justices in partisan elections is truly stupid, but it is the law in Wisconsin (and many other places).

The defense threw out every possible excuse to see if anything sticks, but it seems unlikely to work. If the Court votes 4-3 to get rid of the maps, the Republicans will probably appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Generally, SCOTUS leaves interpretations of state Constitutions up to the state Supreme Courts unless the case involves some provision of the U.S. Constitution. In the Harper v. Moore ruling in June, the Supreme Court shot down the "independent state legislature theory" and declared that the state courts most definitely have a role to play handling election-related cases. Will Chief Justice John Roberts refer to that case when the Wisconsin one is dumped in his lap? We don't know. (V)

Biden Loves Football

The Detroit Lions will play the Green Bay Packers today. In case you missed it, the Lions are from Michigan and the Packers are from Wisconsin, two key swing states. Joe Biden's campaign manager noticed and is going to run ads throughout the game in both states. It is expected that 850,000 households in Detroit alone will be watching as well as a somewhat smaller number in Wisconsin. These ads are part of a $25 million ad blitz the Biden campaign announced in August.

The ads are positive and talk about Biden's working-class upbringing in scrappy Scranton and what he has done as president to help working people. The first ad talks about drug pricing, health care premiums, and how clean energy will lower power costs. The second ad is focused on what Biden has done to lower the cost of prescription drugs. They are all about kitchen table issues with nary a word about bathrooms, and who should use which one.

These ads are not Biden's first foray into football. He has run ads during a Chicago Bears-Carolina Panthers game, a Packers-Pittsburgh Steelers game, and a Miami Dolphins-New England Patriots game earlier this month. The idea is that football games draw a diverse audience that cuts across many demographics. Democrats, Republicans, and independents all watch football, as do whites, Blacks, Latinos, and other groups. We don't have data on it, but our guess is that more men than women watch pro football. And that's a demographic where Biden needs help. (V)

Why Do People Say the Economy Sucks?

It is a good time to be a worker and bad time to be a consumer. However, many people are both. They say that everything is terrible. But people's perceptions of the economy are often wrong. This is the problem Joe Biden has to deal with. That's what the football ads are all about.

To start with, unemployment is at a near-historic low. Anyone who wants a job can find one fairly easily, even young people and people with no experience. "Help wanted" signs are everywhere. People with a job are confident that they won't be laid off and know that even if they are, they can find a new one easily. So why the gloom?

One reason is inflation. It shot up in 2021-22, but is way down now. Of course, prices have not gone back to their 2019 levels. On the other hand, wages are way up but people remember what eggs used to cost and what they cost now. They don't remember what they were earning in 2019 back when eggs were "cheap." In recent months, wage gains have been more than inflation, but only government labor statisticians know this. It is a closely held state secret.

Businesses don't like the full employment we have now. They have to compete hard for workers and pay them more. Turnover is also higher since workers can often find another job that pays more. Businesspeople tend to complain loudly about the economy and that affects the public perception.

Full employment also affects consumers. Since companies are having trouble finding staff, stores, restaurants, hotels, banks, and other companies are often operating with fewer employees than they want. That leads to slower and worse service and, sometimes, shorter hours. People notice that but don't understand it is a consequence of full employment and not enough workers to fill the available open positions.

Another issue is interest rates. They are way up as a result of the Fed's program for trying to curb inflation. This affects different people differently. Borrowers don't like it. Savers and seniors living on the interest from their bank accounts do. But there are more borrowers than savers, so high interest rates are not popular.

Partisanship plays a huge role in perception of the economy. When a Democrat is president, virtually all Republicans say the economy is terrible, and say it loudly. When a Republican is president, the reverse happens. The media tend to amplify this noise. It's easier to write stories about workers on strike or CEOs grumbling than about "everything is running smoothly," so reporters tend to seek out trouble spots and publicize them.

The current economy has been especially good to low-wage workers. The shortage of available workers has forced companies to pay more to attract and keep them, so the gap between low-wage and middle-wage workers has decreased substantially. Some middle-wage workers don't like this new development so much.

People's actual spending habits belie what they are telling pollsters about the economy. When people are actually pessimistic about the future, they spend less and save more. Data show that people are spending like crazy, not saving. This says that they are largely optimistic in their outlook about the future, despite what they say. (V)

Democrats Need to Prioritize Black Men

Probably the Democrats' most stalwart supporters are Black women. Joe Biden understands this and has selected many Black women for high positions, starting with his veep, Kamala Harris. Then there are Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson and 32 lower-court Black female judges, OMB Director Shalanda Young, Secretary of HUD Marcia Fudge, Council of Economic Advisors Chair Cecilia Rouse, U.N. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, and others as deputy and assistant secretaries.

Where Biden is increasingly having a problem, though, is Black men. Many of them don't see what he has done for them (although he has also appointed many Black men to high positions) and some of them like Donald Trump's macho style (which rarely impresses Black women).

Issues that concern them include a higher unemployment rate among Black men than among white men, lower pay than white men get, and racism generally. Inflation/feeding their families is also a top issue. They feel the Democrats are focused only on abortion, LGBTQ+ issues, and who uses which bathroom, issues that most of them don't care too much about. Many see the Republicans as the party that cares primarily about the economic issues they care about. Others don't trust either party and don't vote.

These voters are potentially winnable for the Democrats, but Biden has to put in more effort and specifically address the issues Black men care about. Appointing a Black man, Lloyd Austin, as secretary of defense, was nice, but not nearly enough. Running ads on the economy during football games is a start, though. (V)

Some of Trump's Former Aides Are Dismayed That No One Listens to Them

Many of the top people who worked in the administration of Donald Trump have come out strongly against him. John Kelly, Trump's longest-serving chief of staff, recently said: "What's going on in the country that a single person thinks this guy would still be a good president when he said the things he's said and done the things he's done? It's beyond my comprehension he has the support he has."

Trump's former White House Counsel Ty Cobb said: "He has never cared about America, its citizens, its future or anything but himself. In fact, as history well shows from his divisive lies, as well as from his unrestrained contempt for the rule of law and his related crimes, his conduct and mere existence have hastened the demise of democracy and of the nation."

John Bolton, Trump's former NSA, said: "So many things that I thought would be telling arguments about Trump—his character, you name it—have proven ineffective. The only thing that's left is Trump's not fit to be president."

Stephanie Grisham, Trump's former press secretary, said that some of his former insiders are worried about speaking out against Trump. She said: "It's actual threats for your safety and your family. As we get closer to the election, it's only going to get more intense. Why am I putting my family and my friends through this if we're now going to get threats?" This is probably the reason that even more members of Trump's cabinet haven't attacked him openly this election cycle. Jim Mattis, Mark Esper, Betsy DeVos, Elaine Chao and others don't want to get involved, even though their past words and actions show that they have no respect for him at all. (V)

Cornel West Is Targeting Michigan

Michigan will be a battleground next year for so many reasons. One of them is that Cornel West is targeting Michigan and could take enough votes away from Joe Biden to hand the state to Donald Trump.

West needs to focus on just one or two states because he doesn't have any money. A big ad blitz is out of the question. Early next year, he is planning to go to Dearborn and make a pitch to Arab Americans who are unhappy with Joe Biden's support of Israel. That may or may not work because if West succeeds in handing Donald Trump the keys to the White House, the U.S. will become much more heavily pro-Israel than it is now. However, Arab-American voters may not realize this and may just vote to punish Biden, without concerning themselves over the consequences.

West will also go to the majority-Black city of Flint to blame the Democrats for the city's notorious water-supply problems. He also plans to address student groups.

But without any money or much name recognition, it will be a steep hill to climb. Also, West recently fired his campaign manager and replaced him with four co-managers. Such a structure does not lend itself to good and consistent decision making. Remember, a camel is a horse designed by a committee. Another problem is getting on the ballot in many states. In a number of states, the entire ticket has to be known for independents to get on the ballot. That means West will need a running mate very soon. Everywhere he tries, Democrats will sue and he'll have to hire lawyers to defend himself.

Another problem is that Jill Stein is trying to get the Green Party nomination. She is far better known than West is and will be on the ballot in more states. Most of the left-wing protest votes will probably go to her. Past experience shows that protest votes are more common in states that are so lopsided that using your vote that way doesn't matter. In swing states, like Michigan, that is less common.

However, another factor could counter West's attempt to hand Michigan to Trump. The state legislature has just passed a bill that will probably help the Democrats. One aspect of HB 4983 is that it will require the state to register all ex-felons to vote as soon as they are released unless they explicitly refuse registration. Many people just released in Michigan don't know that every resident who is a citizen over 18 and who is not incarcerated has the right to vote. Even those who know this may not know how to register. This law will make it much easier and simpler as the state will now do the work. About 8,000 people a year are released from state prisons in Michigan. Prisoners skew Black and Black people skew Democratic, so this is a win for the Democrats.

In addition, the bill expands the number of opportunities for people to register. Currently, people getting a driver's license or otherwise going to the DMV can also register to vote there. These people are sometimes referred to as "motor voters." The bill now requires most state agencies to offer voter registration when people interact with them; for example, when applying for Medicaid. The bill also changes the opt-out procedure. Everyone interacting with state agencies would be automatically registered by law. They would not be asked if they want to register. Instead they would be mailed an "opt-out form" that they could fill in and return to de-register. Experience in other states shows that this procedure greatly increases registrations because it takes extra work to de-register, and for many people it is not worth the effort just to get off the voting rolls. (V)

Republicans Are Promoting Sinema to Democrats in Arizona

It is relatively unusual when a party tries to win a general election by spending money to support someone other than its own candidate. But the Arizona Senate election is special (although it is not a special election) and Arizona Republicans are planning to do precisely that.

Specifically, they are already running an ad that praises Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) as a liberal and trashes Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ). The idea is to convince Democrats that Gallego is bad news and they should vote for Sinema instead. Here is the ad:

The ad lies about a number of important things. The most important one is that it says Sinema voted with Joe Biden 100% of the time. Anyone who has paid any attention to politics in the past 3 years knows that Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) have blocked Biden's agenda over and over and over. And Manchin at least had a nominal reason for doing so—it's what his constituents wanted. Sinema had no valid reason for doing it. She ran as a Democrat and then stabbed the party in the back.

The ad also goes after Gallego, but not on his voting record. It says (truthfully) that he divorced Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego while she was pregnant and married a lobbyist several years later. It also calls him a deadbeat dad, without any evidence to support that claim. The ad doesn't mention Kari Lake, the likely Republican candidate. It merely suggests that Arizonans deserve a better choice.

The ad indicates that Republicans are worried that Sinema will pull more votes from Republicans who consider Lake to be a loony than from Democrats who despise Sinema. Saying that she voted with Biden 100% of the time is likely to backfire with many Democrats who know how much she blocked him. And for those Democrats who don't know, Gallego is probably going to mention it a couple of times. He is also going to mention that he fought in the Iraq War as a Marine, how he struggled with PTSD afterwards, and how his struggle resulted in the failure of his first marriage. Arizona is home to a lot of veterans and the story of his military service is likely to resonate with many of them. Gallego and his ex are good friends and share custody of their now-6-year-old son. Republicans aren't going to get her to dump on the congressman. The ad may well backfire.

One Republican strategist said that their goal is to make the three-way race (assuming that Sinema actually runs) into a contest of one Republican vs. two Democrats. Democrats are going to make it into a race between one Democrat and two Republicans. Of course, Sinema is likely to say that she is neither, rather she is an independent. But are there enough true independents to win an election where an actual Democrat and an actual Republican are in the race? It is also possible that Sinema sees the handwriting on the wall and it says: "You will lose, so don't run." (V)

Democrats Are Actively Trying to Flip State Legislative Chambers

In 2022, Democrats flipped the state legislature in Michigan, which, along with the earlier election of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI), gave them the trifecta. In 2023, Democrats flipped the Virginia House of Delegates, giving them full control of the Virginia General Assembly, although the governor, Glenn Youngkin, is a Republican. These victories have inspired the Democrats to actively attempt to flip more state legislative chambers in 2024. Republicans have focused on winning state legislatures for years, but for Democrats, this is something fairly new.

The DLCC (Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee), which is like the DCCC, except for state legislatures, wrote a memo outlining its plans. Here is a map showing its targets.

Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee's targets for 2024

Arizona is one of the DLCC's biggest targets. Republicans control the Senate 16-14 and the House 31-29. That means flipping two seats in either chamber flips the chamber. All seats in both chambers are up in 2024. If both chambers flip, the Democrats would get the trifecta, since the governor is Democrat Katie Hobbs. The presidential race and Senate race will also be hotly contested. Efforts to increase turnout for the top of the ticket could also pay benefits for the legislative races.

In Minnesota, Democrats have the trifecta, but only by a thread. The DFL has 34 seats in the Senate to 33 for the Republicans. The DFL margin in the House is 70-64. The DLCC wants to increase the DFL margin in the House as no state senators are up in 2024.

Democrats control the legislature in Michigan, but the margins are small. In the Senate, it is 20-18 and in the House it is currently 54-54 with two vacancies in blue districts. No senators are up in 2024 but all House members are up for reelection.

Republicans control the Pennsylvania Senate 28-22, but Democrats control the House 102-101. Half the Senate and the entire House are up in 2024.

The New Hampshire House is the largest state legislative chamber in the country, with 400 members, barely smaller than the 435-seat U.S. House of Representatives. There are 198 Republicans, 195 Democrats, 3 independents, and 4 vacancies. The Republicans control the chamber. All 400 seats are up in 2024. Republicans have a better hold on the state Senate, 14-10, but the entire Senate is also up in 2024.

The second tier of races are in Kansas, Wisconsin, Georgia, and North Carolina. We don't exactly understand the interest in Kansas, Georgia, and North Carolina. Republicans have huge majorities in all six chambers there. In Kansas the supermajority is legitimate because the state is so red. In Georgia and North Carolina, it is due to massive gerrymandering.

Republicans also have huge majorities in Wisconsin, 22-11 in the Senate and 64-35 in the Assembly. However, the state Supreme Court is considering a case (see above) that might throw the highly gerrymandered maps out, giving the Democrats a shot at taking over either chamber (or both) if the Court hires a special master to draw new maps.

In summary, the main targets are both chambers in Arizona and New Hampshire and the Pennsylvania Senate. (V)

Welcome to 2028

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) might end up facing Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) in 2028, but Newsom is wasting no time. He is already running an ad attacking DeSantis mercilessly. Here it is:

The ad attacks DeSantis for signing a 6-week abortion ban earlier this year, ending Florida's status as the last abortion refuge in the South. It is narrated by Newsom himself and shows "Wanted" posters for women and doctors. It says that women who have abortions after 6 weeks or doctors who perform them are now guilty of a felony in Florida, punishable by 5 years in prison. The ad specifically blames DeSantis for signing the law.

Nominally, there is another reason for the ad. Newsom and DeSantis are going to have the first 2028 debate next week, roughly 5 years before the 2028 election. It will be moderated by Sean Hannity and is sure to be full of fireworks. Needless to say, it is far from certain that either Newsom or DeSantis will be their parties' candidates in 2028. Newsom will face competition from many others, possibly including Kamala Harris, Gretchen Whitmer, Gov. Andy Beshear (D-KY), and probably others. If DeSantis runs in 2028, he will face tons of competition from Republicans who are hugely unimpressed by his feeble campaign this year.

Nevertheless, each governor has a reason to debate the other one. DeSantis is flailing badly and he thinks that taking on a popular liberal governor will help him with conservatives. It might, but only if he bests Newsom in the debate, which may not be so easy. Newsom is an excellent public speaker and DeSantis is kind of wooden, especially when he can't read his text from a teleprompter. Newsom is term-limited and has nowhere to go next other than the White House, a location he is clearly interested in. The debate is likely to give him nationwide publicity and possibly raise some campaign cash. He will also use the debate to mock DeSantis as a poor imitation of Donald Trump and champion Joe Biden, increasing his popularity with ordinary Democrats. The topic of the Walt Disney Company might just come up, what with it having large parks in both states. Generally speaking, Disney is a popular company and DeSantis will be forced to trash it, not a popular position. It is hard to see how debating DeSantis could hurt Newsom in the 2028 Democratic primary, especially if he crushes DeSantis. (V)

Biden vs. LBJ

George Santayana once wrote: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." We may be getting a real-time demo now. In the late 1960s, millions of young people marched against the Vietnam War chanting: "Hey, hey, LBJ. how many kids did you kill today?" This despite Lyndon Johnson being the most progressive and successful president since FDR, what with the Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act, Medicare, Medicaid, the War on Poverty, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, consumer protection, and many Great Society programs. All the protests ultimately caused Johnson to drop out of the 1968 election, resulting in Richard Nixon becoming president, the Southern Strategy, and 50 years of predominantly Republican rule (Nixon, Ronald Reagan, the Bushes, and Donald Trump). They carried out policies the protesters abhorred. But they got rid of pointless wars—except for Iraq and Afghanistan.

Salon, a left-wing political website, asks people to fast forward to November 2024 and imagine November 2025. Many young people are now loudly protesting Joe Biden's support for Israel and opposing the war in the Middle East, despite Biden's record of getting out of Afghanistan, ending the pandemic, rescuing the economy, taming inflation, rebuilding the infrastructure, fighting climate change, and bringing chip manufacturing back to America. To quote Yogi Berra, "It's déjà vu all over again."

Will 2024 be 1968 redux, with young people not voting on account of the war and Donald Trump getting another term and ending democracy for good? Like it or not, either Biden or Trump is going to be president in 2025 and we suspect that many of the people attacking Biden now will not like Trump v2.0 very much. You think more choices would be better? Keep reading below.

The bottom line of the article is that getting rid of leaders to get rid of wars doesn't have a great track record. Sometimes looking at the big picture is even more important than some issue that seems monumental at the time, but later proves to be less important than the change in leadership it resulted in. (V)

There was a Dutch Parliamentary Election Yesterday

We often get comments to the effect of: "I don't like either the Democrats or the Republicans." Pollsters talk about "double haters," people who despise both Donald Trump and Joe Biden. These folks want more choice. But be careful what you wish for. Sometimes that doesn't work out so well. Case in point: the Netherlands. There was an election yesterday. The number of parties was probably upwards of 30. It's a bit hard to get the exact number since some of them are not on the ballot in every province (similar to the GP, LP, and No Labels in the U.S.). In the Amsterdam area, there are 25 parties on the ballot. Here is a billboard with each party's poster:

Billboard with Dutch political parties' signs

Campaigns last about 2 months, not 4 years. They consist of passing out the posters like the ones above for people to put in their windows as well as televised debates between the parties leading in the polls. The system is pure proportional representation in the 150-seat parliament. So if your party can get 0.7% of the vote, it gets one seat.

It is rare for any party to get even 25% of the vote, so coalitions are needed. Now here's the rub: While it is relatively easy to find a party that matches your views closely, after the election, the task of putting together a coalition that has 76 seats in the parliament is gigantic, as each party wants to enact the program it promised its voters. This is especially true of the smaller parties that are narrowly focused on a single issue and which won't join the government unless they get what they want.

Unfortunately, many of the parties' programs are in conflict. Consequently, it often takes close to a year to form a new government after an election. During that period, the country is basically paralyzed, with the old government staying in place to keep the lights on, but doing little else. And if the new coalition is narrow, it can fall apart easily if a few members balk at something the government wants to do.

Additionally, the leaders of some parties dislike the leaders of other parties and refuse to work with them. For example, the leader of the PVV (Party for Freedom), Geert Wilders, is persona non grata with some of the other party leaders because his party wants to stop all immigration from Muslim countries. He is also anti-Islam and anti-EU. He's not a Donald Trump clone, though. On economic issues he is center-left—for example, he wants to lower health-care costs, build more affordable housing, and hire more teachers. On the Middle East, he supports a two-state solution, with Israel and Jordan being the two states. The Palestinians should kindly just move to Jordan and then shut up, in his view. He also doesn't want to help Ukraine as it is "not my problem."

The current Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, is the leader of the VVD (People's Party for Freedom and Democracy), the biggest "conservative" party (but somewhat to the left of Joe Biden). He has served four terms as P.M. and is bored with the job. He is gunning for becoming secretary general of NATO. The new leader of his party is a Turkish immigrant woman, Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegerius, the current minister of justice (AG). Just before the election she said that she would be prepared to talk with the PVV, something no other party was prepared to do. This might have made the PVV more acceptable to some people and may have helped them. It is hard to say at this point.

Here are the results, with the last three columns given in number of seats in the 150-seat parliament. The coloring is only approximate since some parties are lefty on some issues and righty on others. The LP, for example, is like the U.S. LP. It wants low taxes and no government regulation of anything, but that also means no government interference on things like abortion, same-sex marriage, drug usage, etc. Do whatever you want; it's none of the government's business. According to the staff mathematician, it takes 76 seats to get a majority:

Abbreviation Translated Party Name Focus Position Last poll Results Error
PVV Party for Freedom Anti-immigrant Racist center 27 37 +10
PvdA/GL Labour + Green-left Social democracy Left 25 25 0
VVD People's Pty. for Freedom & Democracy Conservative Center-right 28 24 -4
NSC New Social Contract Better life for the people Center 21 20 -1
D66 Democrats 66 Social liberalism Center-left 10 9 -1
BBB Farmer-Citizen Movement Agrarianism Right-wing 6 7 +1
CDA Christian Democratic Appeal Christian democracy Center-right 4 5 +1
SP Socialist Party Democratic socialism Left-wing 5 5 0
PvdD Party for the Animals Animal rights Left-wing 5 3 -2
CU Christian Union Christian democracy Center 4 3 -1
FvD Forum for Democracy Fascism Ultra far-right 4 3 -1
SGP Reformed Christian Party Christian right Right-wing 3 3 0
DENK DENK Immigrant's rights Center-left 4 3 -1
Volt Volt Netherlands Pro-European Union Center 3 2 -1
JA21 Right Answer 2021 Liberal conservatism Right-wing 1 1 0
50+ 50 PLUS Like AARP Center 0 0 0
BVNL Interest of the Netherlands Classical liberalism Right-wing 0 0 0
BIJ1 BIJ1 Anti-capitalism Left-wing 0 0 0
LEF The New Generation Young people Left-wing 0 0 0
LP Libertarian Party Individual rights Mixed left+right 0 0 0
PPNL Pirate Party Transparent government Mixed left+right 0 0 0
SPL Splinter Party Social liberalism Center-left 0 0 0
PvdS Party for Sports Health promotion N.A. 0 0 0
NLPLAN List 24 small business, minorities Center-left 0 0 0
SvN Together for the Netherlands Holland-first Right-wing 0 0 0

Some observations now. First, 16 parties will be represented in the parliament. That is about par for the course. Second, the PVV, which might be described as a racist center party, is the biggest. Third, the polls hugely underestimated the PVV. This could be due to one of two things. Either a lot of people changed their minds at the last minute or there was a shy-Wilders effect (like the shy-Trump effect). In other words, people didn't want to admit to the pollster that they were voting for the racist.

Now comes the fun part: putting together a coalition that can get to 76. The top three parties together have 86 seats, but they disagree on everything. The PVV cares mostly about not allowing any more immigrants, especially Muslims, into the country. In fact, it would like to deport the ones already present. Also, it would like to ban the Q'uran and ban mosques. The Labour Party (with its little brother, the Green Party) wants to raise taxes on the rich and be nice to immigrants. The VVD wants to lower taxes on the rich, and doesn't like immigrants especially (even though the leader is an immigrant from Turkey), but that is not its main focus. These guys could never work together. Impossible.

So now what? Traditionally the leader of the biggest party gets to try to put the puzzle together. However, most of the parties refuse to deal with Wilders. Maybe he could talk the VVD and NSC into joining him, but that would be tough and lead to an extreme (for the Netherlands) right-wing government. There would be street demonstrations by everyone else every day until a few members of the VVD and/or NSC bolted and called for a motion of no confidence to force a new election.

The PvdA/GL, D66, CDA, SP, CU, DENK, and Volt might be able to work together, but they have only 50 seats together for a center-left coalition. Maybe they could get the NSC to join them. That party was formed in August 2023 and it's not clear what it stands for, if anything. Then there would be 70 seats and nine parties (PvdA and GL are actually separate parties). It's not enough and very unwieldy.

Another possibility is PvdA/GL, VVD, NSC, and D66. That would be a grand left-center-right coalition. It might work, with 78 seats, but they don't actually agree on much except the EU is good and something needs to be done about climate change. They definitely don't agree on the economic stuff. Conceivably, they could agree to work together and focus on climate and leave tax and related matters the way they are now and not change anything. In this arrangement, the biggest party (by far) is left out. All its voters would not be happy campers. This would be something like the House Democrats banding with the non-Trumpy Republicans to work together and tell the Trumpists to go to hell. It would be unstable since some individual members of the parliament, especially the Green Party members, might bolt at having to work with the conservative VVD. If the PvdA leader, Frans Timmermans, became prime minister, they might very grudgingly accept it.

Everyone expects the formation of the government to take months. An arrangement including the biggest (and racist) party would infuriate many people, but leaving it out would, too. There is no workable solution.

Oh, and the election was for the lower chamber of parliament, the "Tweede Kamer," literally the "Second Chamber." There is also an "Eerste Kamer," literally the "First Chamber." It is sometimes colloquially called the "Senaat" (Senate). Currently a coalition of the VVD, CDA, D66, and CU has the majority there. Legislation has to pass it as well and if the lower chamber began passing racist laws, the Senate would probably balk. A complete stalemate is possible.

Next time you wish the U.S. had more parties, think: Is the above situation what you think is ideal? Thirty parties and choice galore? (V)

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