washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Ed Kilgore

Trump Will Betray His White Working-Class Base

What Democrats should keep in mind, however, is that whichever way he goes he is very likely going to betray his white working-class base — the people who put him into office — sooner or later. The “later” part is the most certain. Donald Trump does not have the power to bring back the Industrial Era economy he has so avidly embraced. He will not be able to reopen the coal mines, rebuild the manufacturing sector, or repeal the international economic trends that would exist with or without NAFTA or TPP. And for that matter, he has little ability to reverse the demographic and cultural trends most of his voters dislike.
–Ed Kilgore

The Optimistic Leftist

The Optimistic Leftist

“…The case he makes cogent and persuasive. If you’re anywhere on the left side of the political spectrum, you’re feeling pretty glum these days. Well, read this book.”
 —Michael Tomasky
E. J. Dionne Jr

E.J. Dionne Speaks Out

Donald Trump cast himself as the champion of a besieged American working class and a defender of its interests. His early decisions tell us something very different: This could be the most anti-worker, anti-union crowd to run our government since the Gilded Age.
–E.J. Dionne Jr.

The Optimistic Leftist

Ruy Teixeira’s, “The Optimistic Leftist”

“…a powerful, provocative and persuasive case that progressives are in a better position than they realize to make our world better.”
—E.J. Dionne

The Daily Strategist

April 26, 2017

Political Strategy Notes

Sen. Bernie Sanders, quoted in Lisa Rathke’s AP article, “Sanders says he’ll introduce ‘Medicare for all’ bill,” offers this perceptive observation about the Republican health care melt-down: “It wasn’t just we defeated them,” Sanders, an independent, said. “It was how we defeated them,” with rallies around the country, town meetings and people standing up and fighting back.” Many political commentators slighted the nation-wide protests leading up to and continuing after the inauguration, arguing that they meant little, unless they mobilized voters. But the protests did matter, because they educated millions of Americans about the huge rip-off embedded in the Republican ‘repeal and replace’ bill. But, yes it would be even better if the protest campaigns also registered voters.

In his PowerPost article, “Left out of AHCA fight, Democrats let their grass roots lead — and win,” Dave Weigel concurrs, and notes, “Democrats watched as a roiling, well-organized “resistance” bombarded Republicans with calls and filled their town hall meetings with skeptics. The Indivisible coalition, founded after the 2016 election by former congressional aides who knew how to lobby their old bosses, was the newest and flashiest. But it was joined by MoveOn, which reported 40,000 calls to congressional offices from its members; by Planned Parenthood, directly under the AHCA’s gun; by the Democratic National Committee, fresh off a divisive leadership race; and by the AARP, which branded the bill as an “age tax” before Democrats had come up with a counterattack…And what was incredible about this process was the phone calls,” said Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.)…We had 1,959 phone calls in opposition to the American Health Care Act. We had 30 for it.””

But Democrats should not be content merely to defend Obamacare. Rather they should energetically reframe the Debate into expanding access to Medicare and Medicaid. As Daniel Marans writes at HuffPo, “Single-payer health insurance still lacks support from many, if not most, Democrats, let alone from the Republican lawmakers who control both chambers. But the proactive strategy speaks to increasing confidence among progressives that if they stick to their ideals and build a grassroots movement around them, they will ultimately move the political spectrum in their direction…In the meantime, a potential benefit of this ambitious approach is what’s known as shifting the “Overton Window,” a political science term for the narrow range of acceptable political views at a given moment in time…By adopting a position that is considered extreme by contemporary standards, politicians and activists can make more attainable policy goals start to seem reasonable by comparison. That phenomenon already seems to be working in progressives’ favor…Lowering the Medicare eligibility age from its current level of 65 is a “very interesting” idea, because of the positive financial effect it would have on the Obamacare insurance exchanges, said Austin Frakt, a health economist for the Department of Veterans Affairs…By allowing the oldest exchange participants to enroll in Medicare, lowering the Medicare age would relieve the health insurance marketplaces of some of their costliest customers, said Frakt, who also has academic posts at Boston University and Harvard…“It would reduce the premiums in those markets,” he predicted. (Frakt noted, however, that absent measures to offset the cost of the additional beneficiaries, the change would increase Medicare’s financial burden.)..Social Security Works’ Lawson praised the idea as an incremental step toward Medicare for all…“Start by lowering the age to 62 and get it down to zero,” he said.”

In another Dave Weigel article, “With AHCA defeat, some Democrats see chance to push for universal coverage,” he shares a quote from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse that should become a talking point for all Democratic candidates: “The very best market-based solution is to have a public option,” Whitehouse said. Paraphrasing Benjamin Franklin, he said that a government-managed insurer would reveal what games private insurers had been playing. “The best way to show that a stick is crooked is to put a straight stick next to it. If you do that, the private sector can’t manipulate the market by withdrawing.”

Robert H. Frank, an economics professor at the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University looks beyond the public option in “What Comes Next for Obamacare? The Case for Medicare for All” at The Upshot. As Frank writes, “American health care outlays per capita in 2015 were more than twice the average of those in the 35 advanced countries that make up the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Yet despite that spending difference, the system in the United States delivers significantly less favorable outcomes on measures like longevity and the incidence of chronic illness…But advertising expenses and administrative costs are not the most important reason the United States spends so much more. The main difference is that prices for medical services are so much lower in other countries. In France, for example, a magnetic resonance imaging exam costs $363, on average, compared with $1,121 in the United States; an appendectomy is $4,463 in France, versus $13,851 in America. These differences stem largely from the fact that single payers — which is to say, governments — are typically able to negotiate more favorable terms with service providers…In short, Medicare for all could deliver quality care at much lower cost than private insurers do now. People would of course be free to supplement their public coverage with private insurance, as they now doin most other countries with single-payer systems, and as many older Americans do with Medicare.”

Rep. Keith Ellison has a statistic that Democratic candidates and campaigns need to ponder. As Jeff McMenemy writes at seacoastonline.com, “Ellison, deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told a crowd of several hundred people that packed a fundraiser at the Portsmouth Gas Light Co. restaurant, that 63 percent of Americans “do not have $500 bucks in the bank. Think about that…A little crisis comes up and it can throw your family budget all out of whack. It means you get to the end of the week and you ran out of money,” Ellison said Saturday afternoon. “People are living paycheck to paycheck. Those Americans need a party that will fight for them.””

At The New York Times Jonathan Martin observes that Democratic leaders are not about to be hustled by another tax break for the wealthy scam masquerading as an infrastructure initiative. “An infrastructure plan may be a safer harbor for Mr. Trump — a measure many in Washington are mystified that he did not try to pursue at the outset of his administration,” writes Martin. “But Mr. Schumer suggested that the president would find Democratic votes only if he defied his party and embraced a huge spending bill, rather than just offering tax incentives for companies to build roads, bridges and railways…“If he’s only for tax breaks, it will just be a repeat of the health care debate,” Mr. Schumer said.”

The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin has a warning for Democrats who may be softening up toward the Gorsuch nomination: “To the extent that Gorsuch said anything of substance at his hearing, he put himself across as a mainstream figure. He said that he had participated in some twenty-seven hundred cases on the appeals court, and had voted with the majority in ninety-nine per cent of them. This proves only that most cases are routine. (Even the Supreme Court issues unanimous rulings more than half the time.) The hard cases are the ones that matter, and it’s reasonable to project how Gorsuch would vote in them. He would oppose abortion rights. (Trump promised to appoint a “pro-life” Justice.) His predilection for employers over employees is such that it yielded a circuit-court opinion of almost Gothic cruelty. When subzero temperatures caused a truck driver’s trailer brakes to freeze, he pulled over to the side of the road. After waiting three hours for help to arrive, he began to lose feeling in his extremities, so he unhitched the cab from the trailer and drove to safety. His employer fired him for abandoning company property. The majority in the case called the dismissal unjustified, but Gorsuch said that the driver was in the wrong…As a Justice, Gorsuch would embrace the deregulation of campaign finance symbolized by the Citizens United decision. (He argued in an opinion that judges should evaluate limits on political contributions using the same tough standards that they apply to racial discrimination.) His most famous Tenth Circuit decision had him taking a side in the culture wars. In Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. v. Sebelius, he ruled that a multibillion-dollar corporation could withhold federally guaranteed rights to birth control from thousands of female employees because of the religious beliefs of the corporation’s owners. (His position was upheld, 5–4, by the Supreme Court.) In an embarrassing coincidence, on the second day of Gorsuch’s testimony, the Court unanimously rejected one of his holdings in the Tenth Circuit, ruling that it denied adequate educational opportunities to students with disabilities. Every sign suggests that Gorsuch would be at least as conservative a judicial activist as Samuel Alito…It’s also clear what Neil Gorsuch is not: Merrick Garland. Gorsuch’s nomination is inextricable from its shameful political context. When Scalia died, more than eleven months remained in Barack Obama’s Presidency, but Senate Republicans refused to give his nominee even a hearing. This departure from norms was all the more outrageous because the tactic was used to block a moderate; the Republicans denied Obama his constitutional right in order to trade a Justice who might have been less liberal than Stephen Breyer for one who might be as radical as Clarence Thomas. Such a turnabout seems especially disturbing given that the F.B.I. and other agencies are now investigating the very legitimacy of the Trump Presidency. Indeed, Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, has called for a delay in the Gorsuch vote until there is some clarity about the Trump camp’s ties to Russia. Last week, he also promised to lead a filibuster against Gorsuch’s confirmation, but Republicans, in response, vowed to change the Senate rules to allow them to confirm the nominee by a simple majority.”

“Sitting judges are expected to stay out of electoral politics. But this is not about attending a caucus or writing a campaign check. This is about respect—or disrespect—for the process by which judges are nominated, how those nominations are reviewed and the standards by which they are confirmed or rejected…Gorsuch’s refusal to acknowledge that corruption diminished him. And it further disqualified a man who—if he truly respected the constitution and the court—would have refused Trump’s offer of a tainted nomination…“Judge Gorsuch himself should understand the precedent his nomination risks setting and not hide behind statements about the need to avoid politics,” explains former US Senator Russ Feingold, a three-term veteran of the Senate Judiciary Committee who weighed the nominations of six Supreme Court Justices during his 18 years in the Senate. Of Gorsuch, Feingold says, “He should have refused the nomination. He reportedly called Judge Garland after he was nominated. If he had truly understood what is at stake, he would have called Judge Garland to say he had turned down the nomination in solidarity—not with Judge Garland personally, but with the Supreme Court and the US Constitution that he says he holds in such high regard…By refusing to acknowledge and condemn the chicanery, and the lies, that made him a nominee made himself a part of the lies and corruption…By putting his own political ambition ahead of a duty to the republic, Gorsuch extended the damage done by Republican partisans in 2016. And created a new danger. “If Republicans get away with the judicial coup they launched last year when they refused to grant Judge Merrick Garland a hearing, such a cynical political ploy could become commonplace,” says Feingold. “The GOP will apply it to lower courts. They will refuse to grant a hearing in the year before a midterm, or during the two years of a presidential race. The Supreme Court will become a permanent pawn of the GOP.” — from “Neil Gorsuch’s Own Testimony Clearly Disqualifies Him: The nominee failed to outline even minimal concerns about the GOP’s judicial coup” by John Nichols in The Nation.

And the Next GOP Health Plan Will Be: How About Never? Does Never Work For You?

In the wake of the rapid and total collapse of the American Health Care Act today, I sat down to write at New York about the GOP’s health care policy options going forward, before realizing there might not be any. Here were my thoughts:

The good news for Republicans that nobody much appreciates right now is that there was nothing mandatory about this whole messy enterprise. Yes, if they just give up on enacting a budget-reconciliation bill for fiscal year 2017 (that’s technically what the American Health Care Act is), they will defy the “instructions” they gave themselves back on January 13 when they enacted the budget resolution that put this runaway train in motion. Yes, there are both political and fiscal consequences for just bagging it. But there’s no judge who will fine them for it. So technically, the president is right: They can “move on,” and they can “punish” the American people by letting the Affordable Care Act stay in place.

And there was certainly nothing in Speaker Paul Ryan’s press conference after the bill was pulled to suggest any present intention to go back to the drawing board and come up with another bill. He admitted repeatedly that Obamacare would be in place “for the foreseeable future.” And then Donald Trump put the lid on the coffin by repeatedly saying nothing would happen on health care until Democrats joined in after Obamacare “explodes.”

Barring some second wind for a repeal/replace effort, or the unquenchable possibility that Donald Trump will change his mind, it will probably become an agenda item that slips into the future, or at least until 2018. The possible exception, particularly if the current system of individual health insurance continues to struggle with higher premiums and the withdrawal of insurers from purchasing exchanges, would be for Republicans to ask Democrats to cooperate in some sort of “fix” that they could market as sort of repeal-and-replace on the cheap.

Is it possible Democrats would be interested in this sort of deal once they finish celebrating the implosion of Trumpcare? Probably not anytime soon. The only vehicle for a bipartisan compromise at the moment is the Cassidy-Collins proposal that lets states decide whether to stick with Obamacare (including the Medicaid expansion) or move in a more conservative direction. This might have been enticing to some blue-state governors and Members of Congress back when it looked like Republicans had the means to enact something far more draconian. But at the moment it would look like a betrayal of Democratic constituencies in red states.

What might happen instead is that Republicans, freed from the responsibility of actually enacting anything, which their trifecta and the budget reconciliation made possible, will retreat to proposing impracticable health-care legislation they know Democrats won’t support and can easily filibuster. It will be just like Obama is still president and Republicans could demagogue on health care to their hearts’ desire!

In the short term, Republicans will have to deal with some immediate challenges exacerbated by this fiasco, like the need to satisfy their anti-abortion constituents by “defunding” Planned Parenthood, pursuing a tax-cut package without the improved revenue “baseline” that AHCA would have provided, and finding a new vehicle for “reforming” Medicaid (i.e., capping federal expenditures).

From a longer perspective, Republicans now understand how Democrats felt when the Clinton Health Plan went down to defeat in 1994. If it takes them half as long as it took Democrats to take another swing for the fences on health-care policy, we won’t soon see any vindication of the doomed effort that died today.

Only 17 Percent of Public Supports Republican ACA Repeal Bill As House Votes Today

Republicans are bracing for a major defeat of their ‘repeal and replace’ health care bill today, and their loss is more likely to be greeted with public cheers than expressions of regret.  In their New York Times article, “Trump Tells G.O.P. It’s Now or Never, Demanding House Vote on Health Bill,” Julie Hirschfield Davis, Robert Pear and Thomas Kaplan note,

Quinnipiac University national poll found that voters disapproved of the Republican plan by lopsided margins, with 56 percent opposed, 17 percent supportive and 26 percent undecided. The measure did not even draw support among a majority of Republicans; 41 percent approved, while 24 percent were opposed.

That is an absolutely pathetic number, considering all of the time Republicans have had to fashion a ‘repeal and replace’ bill. It is a number that calls into question, not only the political skills of Trump, Ryan and other GOP leaders, but also their common sense, for having manuevered themselves into such an embarrassing spotlight. Really, guys, that’s the best you can do with with GOP control of the White House, U.S. Senate and House?

Trump’s threat to move away from supporting Obamacare repeal is not likely to be all that much of a concern since his approval rating is at 37 percent in the Quinnipiac poll. As Elliot Hannon writes at Slate.com,

If it feels, to you, like Donald Trump is doing a terrible job as president—you’re not alone. Recent polls have shown the president’s support cratering to historic lows, and a new Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday confirmed Trump’s unpopularity. Trump’s job approval rating stands at 37 percent with a whopping 56 percent of Americans disapproving of the job Trump’s doing. By comparison, nearly two-thirds of Americans approved of Barack Obama at a similar stage, and George W. Bush had an approval rating nearing 60 percent, while roughly 1-in-4 Americans disapproved of the former presidents two months into their first terms.

Then there is the issue of Trump’s credibilty, his pattern of saying anything, often to reverse himself in days, if not hours. For that same reason, Democrats should not expect that he will necessarily abandon the ‘repeal and replace’ effort just because he said so.

It is possible that Speaker Ryan will secure a narrow majority at the last minute, but it is increasingly unlikely. Even if he does pass it in the House, however, the bill faces even stronger opposition in the U.S. Senate. As Heather Caygle and Elana Schor note at Politico, “House Democrats think GOP leaders in the Senate will have a much harder time changing the bill to appease tepid Republican senators.” The authors quote House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer, who observes, “I am as positive as I can be … that Speaker Ryan does not believe this bill will pass the Senate.”

At The Fix Amber Phillips writes in her post, “There are still enough House Republicans opposed to the health-care bill to kill it,” that “Assuming no Democrats support the measure, Republicans can lose two votes in the Senate and 22 votes in the House. As of Thursday night, here’s how many Republicans have said that they’ll vote against it: 34 House members; 6 senators. Other GOP lawmakers still have serious concerns about the legislation or said they are leaning against it. We count 15 House members, 16 senators.”

All in all, it looks like today could be a disaster for Republicans, as they marinate in an unholy stew of threats, insults, whining, excuses, finger-pointing, lies and betrayals, and that’s before the vote count that reveals their party as politically bankrupt. Of course the irony is that Obamacare was their best hope for delaying the public option all along. The GOP’s showcasing the intellectual, moral and political bankruptcy of their health care policy may end up hastening the day when the public option becomes a reality.

TrumpCare Hits Dead End, Or At Least Cul-De-Sac

Near the end of a crazy week in Washington, Republicans just postponed a House vote on their “must-pass” health care plan. I offered a quick explanation at New York.

[I]t was not terribly surprising given the news from a White House meeting earlier today between Donald Trump and members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, wherein Trump made a “final offer” and very few HFC folk bought it.

It had appeared Wednesday night that Trump and Paul Ryan might have found a way to blow this flawed bill out of the House by promising to include the repeal of Obamacare’s list of “essential benefits” heath plans needed to provide to qualify for federal subsidies (the list includes ten key categories, such as hospitalization, emergency services, and pregnancy care). That had previously been thought to be an unavailable concession thanks to Senate rules limiting budget reconciliation bills to budget-germane provisions. But those backing TrumpCare were now offering assurances (backed up by Sen. Mike Lee, a key Senate conservative who had opposed the original AHCA) the Senate parliamentarian would play ball with this broader bill. So presumably conservatives who wanted more of a complete repeal of Obamacare could, in theory, vote for the bill in the House and then vote against the final House-Senate conference report in case the reports about the parliamentarian’s flexibility were in error or just a ruse.

But the gambit backfired when HFC members meeting with Trump pocketed the “essential benefits” concession and demanded more. According to one account, they wanted even highly popular provisions like protections for people with pre-existing provisions and allowing dependents up to age 26 going on their parents’ policies to be repealed. Regardless of the exact demands, it’s clear conservatives called Trump’s and Ryan’s bluff: if all Obamacare regulations are now on the table, why stop with one or two?

Indeed, even before the vote cancellation, influential conservative commentator Ramesh Ponnuru was arguing that the new information about the parliamentarian meant Republicans should rethink the whole bill, not rush it out of the House. And if nothing shakes loose in the next few days, that may be the new GOP excuse for additional delay.

The trouble is this: even if these reports are right and Republicans don’t have to wait for some improbable second or third “prong” of regulatory or legislative action to get rid of Obamacare, GOP conservatives and “moderates” don’t agree at all on which provisions to trash and which to keep. And the search for a compromise won’t be improved by a fight over features of the bill that could easily be understood and “scored” as making life worse for real-live categories of people now benefiting from the Affordable Care Act.

For now Republicans at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue have reached a cul-de-sac on health care and need either to turn around and try a different path or pull off some sort of politically dangerous minor miracle. This very bad week for Donald Trump has gotten a lot worse, and for once Paul Ryan is his full partner in misery.

Stay tuned for more GOP health care madness.

Political Strategy Notes

It doesn’t sound like Trump is making much progress in cobbling together enough House Republicans to pass Obamacare repeal. As Sam Frizell and Zeke J. Miller write at Time Magazine, “President Trump invited 15 moderate lawmakers to the White House on Tuesday to persuade them to vote for the Republican bill to replace Obamacare…Some members wanted to remove the provision in the Republican bill that would defund Planned Parenthood. Others had concerns about the cuts in Medicaid spending. Another asked what would happen to the hospitals in his district. Trump nodded and listened, but made no firm promises. He reminded them of the importance of getting the bill passed…By the time the meeting ended, no one had changed their vote.”

But Amber Phillips reports at The Washington Post that “Thursday’s vote on the GOP Obamacare replacement bill is going to be veeeery close,” and provides a summary of the views of the House and Senate members who are opposed or leaning against the bill.

Here’s a Marketwatch article by Emma Court, which illustrates the inhumanity of America’s privatized  health care system and why the pharmaceutical industry needs a choke collar leash; “Bernie Sanders thinks this $89,000-a-year drug should be $1,000 a year.” The drug in question, Emflaza, is a corticosteroid that improve the muscle strength of patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. As Sen. Sanders and and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) wrote in a letter to PTC Therapeutics, “We urge you to keep the price of this relatively common steroid at its current importation cost,” or about $1,000 to $1,200 a year, the letter said. “Doing so will allow patients to use deflazacort in combination therapies without going into bankruptcy.”

A little nugget from the Washington Post’s coverage of the Gorsuch hearings, as reported by Ed O’Keefe, Elise Viebeck and Robert Barnes: “The politics of the nomination again were at center stage. When Gorsuch said he did not think of judges as Democrats or Republicans, Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) responded if that were true, the committee would be considering the man President Barack Obama nominated, Judge Merrick Garland. Senate Republicans denied Garland a hearing and a vote on his nomination.” Gorsuch’s concern for an independent judiciary, such as it was, did not permit him to criticize the denial of hearings for his widely-respected colleague, and he is clearly all too willing to quietly support the Republican obstruction as their ‘replacement’ nominee, a sort of judicial scab.

It’s pretty bad for Republicans when their most widely-respected member, a former presidential nominee no less, states that he doesn’t believe his party has the cred to handle a serious investigation of Russian manipulation of a U.S. presidential election. Or, as Max Greenwood reports at The Hill, quoting Sen. John McCain, “the reason why I’m calling for this select committee or a special committee, is I think that this back-and-forth and what the American people have found out so far that no longer does the Congress have credibility to handle this alone,” McCain told MSNBC’s Greta Van Susteren. “And I don’t say that lightly.”

GOP denial that their party is more anti-worker than pro-working-class just got harder, because the “Senate voted on Wednesday to roll back an Obama-era safety regulation,” reports Jordain Carney at The Hill. “Senators voted 50-48 to nix the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rule extending the amount of time a company can be penalized for failing to report workplace injuries and illnesses to five years…Republicans are using the Congressional Review Act to take a hammer to rules instituted under the Obama White House. The law allows them to overturn recently published regulations with a simple majority…With the House passing legislation overturning the regulation earlier this month, it will now head to President Trump’s desk, where it is expected to be signed.” Carney quotes Sen. Elizabeth Warren who said, “”The pattern that is emerging is pretty clear. Republicans have no plans to improve the lives of American workers. Quite the opposite. Republicans are increasing the odds that workers will be injured or even killed.”

According to a new Quinnipiac University national poll, “President Trump is losing support among key elements of his base,” including Men, who now disapprove 43 – 52 percent, compared to a 49 – 45 percent approval March 7; Republicans who approve 81 – 14 percent, compared to 91 – 5 percent two weeks ago; and White voters, who disapprove 44 – 50 percent, compared to a narrow 49 – 45 percent approval March 7…”Disapproval is 60 – 31 percent among women, 90 – 6 percent among Democrats, 60 – 31 percent among independent voters and 75 – 16 percent among non-white voters.” Further, “”Most alarming for President Donald Trump, the demographic underpinnings of his support, Republicans, white voters, especially men and those without a college degree, are starting to have doubts.”

At Sabato’s Crystal Ball Geoffrey Skelley compares data from exit polls and the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES), and notes that 66 percent of whites with no college degree voted for Trump, according to exit poll data, while CCES data indicated that 61 percent of non-college whites voted for Trump. Exit poll data indicated that 61 percent of white noncollege women voted for Trump (compared to 71 percent for non college men), while CCES data pegged that figure at 60 percent (compared to 63 percent for non college men). The gender gap between college-educated women and men was significantly larger in both polls.

I used to like the idea of a fine for citizens who don’t vote, such as has just been proposed for the state of New York by Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, D-Manhattan.  It would likely play out, however, as a regressive tax on lower income people who are less likely to vote. It might be better for states to study and emulate the example of Minnesota, where “nearly 3 in 4 voters in Minnesota turned out to vote in November’s elections, a rate higher than in any other state. Last year marked the eighth time in the past nine elections that Minnesota notched the highest turnout in the nation.” Other states that supassed a 70 percent turnout in November included ME, NH, CO and WI.

Gorsuch’s Media Persona Hides Partisan Tilt

The P.R. campaign to sell Judge Neil M. Gorsuch to the public is well-underway, with a strong emphasis on portraying him as a moderate/centrist who wouldn’t be so bad for Democrats. It’s a strategy rooted in deception because Gorsuch holds right-wing views on worker rights and has an unsavory history of partisan activity, despite his lofty affirmations about the importance of the independent judiciary.

Gorsuch, who artfully dodged questions about Citizens United and Bush v. Gore, is a fairly slick manipulator of media, which helps to project an image of moderation. As Adam Liptak notes in The New York Times:

The nation’s first extended look at Judge Gorsuch in an unscripted setting revealed a smooth performer who shared some qualities with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who handled his 2005 confirmations hearings with such deep reserves of poise and wit that he was said to have retired the trophy.

Judge Gorsuch’s testimony was folksier, a little more combative and a little more canned. But he shared the chief justice’s ability to describe complex legal doctrines without taking a position on how they applied to actual controversies.

“I care deeply about the independence of the judiciary,” Gorsuch said on Tuesday. “When anyone criticizes the honesty or integrity or motives of a federal judge, I find that disheartening and demoralizing.”

Apparently Gorsuch didn’t “care deeply” enough about his fellow jurist Merrick Garland, a moderate, who is held in high esteem for his personal integrity, being denied a hearing by Republicans, nor even a meeting with any Republicans. This Mike Luckovitch cartoon captures the limits of Gorsuch’s principles regarding “the independence of the judiciary.”

Any Democrat who votes for Gorsuch is, in a sense, giving the Republicans a free ride on the total obstruction of a moderate nominee, Judge Merrick Garland.

Another indication that Gorsuch harbors hyperpartisan convictions underneath his practiced media persona has been noted by Ari Berman at The Nation. As J.P. Green recently noted,

Ari Berman cuts to the chase in his article in The Nation, “In E-mails, Neil Gorsuch Praised a Leading Republican Activist Behind Voter Suppression Efforts. Gorsuch’s ties to Hans von Spakovksy suggest a hostility to voting rights.” As Berman writes: “Few people in the Republican Party have done more to limit voting rights than Hans von Spakovsky. He’s been instrumental in spreading the myth of widespread voter fraud and backing new restrictions to make it harder to vote. But it appears that von Spakovsky had an admirer in Neil Gorsuch, Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, according to e-mails released to the Senate Judiciary Committee covering Gorsuch’s time working in the George W. Bush Administration. When President Bush nominated von Spakovksy to the Federal Election Commission in late 2005, Gorsuch wrote, “Good for Hans!””…At very least, the e-mails suggest Gorsuch was friendly with von Spakovksy. But it’s far more disturbing if Gorsuch shares Von Spakovsky’s views on voting rights. Given that we know almost nothing about Gorsuch’s views on the subject, this is something the Senate needs to press him on during confirmation hearings next week.

Gorsuch has already cited Justice Antonin Scalia as a role model, who said the Voting Rights Act had led to a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.” Gorsuch, if confirmed, could be the deciding vote on whether to weaken the remaining sections of the VRA and whether to uphold discriminatory voter-ID laws and redistricting plans from states like North Carolina and Texas. In many ways, the fate of voting rights in the United States hangs on this nomination.

There is also Gorsuch’s very problematic record regarding worker rights and protection. In her Roll Call article, “Senate Democrats Preview Their Case Against Gorsuch: Supreme Court nominee cast as foe of workers.” Bridget Bowman writes, “Judge Gorsuch may act like a neutral, calm judge,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer. “But his record and his career clearly show he harbors a right wing, pro-corporate, special interest agenda.”

Democrats have often opposed recent Republican nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court on the basis of  the nominee’s views on “social issues,” especially reproductive rights. And there is more than enough to be concerned about concerning Gorsuch’s rulings and views on a range of such issues. But it is especially  encouraging that Democrats are now focusing on Gorsuch’s positions on worker rights, which would concern an even larger constituency — all working people.

Whether Gorsuch gets nominated or not, Democrats can use this opportunity to strengthen their image by taking a high profile, front and center, as the real champions of worker rights. If they can stop the Gorsuch appointment or further delay the agenda of Trump and the Republicans, so much the better. The Republicans certainly deserve no better than all-out obstruction, since that has been their policy for over 8 years.

Creamer: Why Protests vs. Trump Could Be a Turning Point In U.S. History

The following article, by Democratic strategist Robert Creamer, author of Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, is cross-posted from HuffPo:

It is entirely possible that Donald Trump’s election may indeed mark a significant inflection point in American political history – but not because it spawns a rebirth of white supremacy or the authoritarian right; quite the contrary.

I have been involved in progressive political organizing for 50 years – beginning in the late 1960s. There was an enormous amount of progressive energy, enthusiasm and passion generated during the Civil Rights movement and the mobilizations aimed at stopping the Viet Nam War. But the level of progressive mobilization generated by Donald Trump’s victory surpasses the 1960s and ‘70s or any other time in the last half-century.

Millions of ordinary Americans – many of whom have never been engaged in political activity of any kind – have joined the “resistance.” They have begun to attend town hall meetings, or participated in the amazing Women’s March following the Trump Inauguration, or they were part of the explosive response to Trump’s immigration policies and his refugee ban.
In fact, as far as I know, the Women’s March was the largest one-day series of nation-wide protests in American history.

The emergence of new grassroots-led organizations like Indivisible, the Town Hall Project, and the Women’s March have already transformed the political landscape. And the memberships of grassroots progressive organizations like MoveOn, Planned Parenthood, Organizing for Action (OFA), People For the American Way, and many others have all exploded.

When you attend town meetings or progressive political events – or just talk to your neighbors – the universal question is: “What can I do – how can I become involved to stop Trump and his policies?”
And already, we’ve seen evidence that the new level of political mobilization washes over very directly into electoral politics. In the Delaware special legislative election where the GOP and Democrats were fighting over a swing seat to determine control of the legislature, the Democrat won going away because turnout far surpassed expectation.

Political observers are watching the Georgia special election to replace former Congressman – now Trump Health and Human Services Secretary – Tom Price. Donald Trump won the election in the district by only 1 percent ― a seat that Price won handily last fall. It is entirely possible that a massive special election turnout generated by the new level of progressive mobilization may carry Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff to victory. That would send shivers down the Republican Party’s collective spine and could presage a Democratic takeover of the House next year.

Some people think that the current level of energy and engagement may fade with time – and they may be right.

But as anyone who has done political organizing knows, it’s much easier to get people fired up about things someone is trying to take away from them than about things to which they aspire. Once people have something, they don’t want to give it up.

At the same time, if you give newly energized people a taste of success, they are much more prone to deepen their engagement.
Ironically then, on the one hand the more successful Trump and his forces are at taking away our health care insurance, public television, school lunches or the rights of the immigrant community, the more angry and fired up people will be. On the other hand, the more progressives are successful at stopping Trump from achieving his declared goals of taking these and other things away, the more that success itself will inspire people to fight on.

This is not at all to say that the new level of progressive mobilization will inevitably continue. If progressives were to allow Trump to truly consolidate power, limit the rights of free speech and assembly, further suppress the right to vote, eviscerate the judiciary, pack the Supreme Court with Trump rubber stamps like his nominee Neil Gorsuch – or blunder into a truly devastating war ― that could change the picture.
But unless Trump is truly able to make himself into an American Putin, the Trump victory and the new level of political mobilization it has inspired present progressives with an historic political opportunity to catapult the country into a truly progressive direction that allows us to break through the gridlock ― and political and economic constraints of the last 30 years.

Increased progressive voter turnout massively changes the equation at every level of government. In addition, many voters who supported Obama, and then supported Trump in 2016 have already begun – gradually – to realize they were conned. Many of those most negatively impacted by repeal of the Affordable Care Act, for example, would be the older, rural, white working class voters upon which Trump most heavily depended for his surprise win last November.

And just last week, an iconic article appeared in The Huffington Post quoting a Trump voter saying that she didn’t know he would cut her Meals on Wheels program. “I was under the influence that he was going to help us,” she said.

If in 2018 Democrats take back the House and begin to retake the Governors’ mansions and legislatures upon which redistricting depends in 2020; if in 2020 itself we oust Trump and replace him with an inspiring populist progressive bent on building an economy that works for everyone – not just CEO’s and the wealthiest; and if the new level of progressive engagement allows us to simultaneously take back the Senate and make further inroads at the state and local level: if all of those things happen, America could make more social and economic progress over the next decade than we have made in the last half-century – all compliments of the progressive mobilization precipitated by the election of Donald Trump.

But to realize that possibility, progressives must do everything we can to nurture and encourage that mobilization. Here are some of the rules of engagement:

Do everything we can to provide people with useful, strategically valuable things to do. People will not be “burned out.” They want more to do, not less. We must provide them with the times, dates and places of town hall meetings and demonstrations; engage them in voter registration operations, creating press events, and – next year – the critical task of turning out the vote.

Continue to avoid the kind of sectarian, circular firing squads and hand wringing that often accompany major defeats like the Trump victory. The most inspiring thing about the tone of the new progressive movement is its clear understanding that Benjamin Franklin was right: we must all hang together or we will all hang separately.

Relentlessly take on Trump and the Republicans. Most Americans support progressive values – on economic issues, social issues, and international issues. We need to self-confidently stand up for those progressive values and never give in to those who say we should “compromise” or cut our losses.

In spite of their November election victory, the right wing in America is on the defensive. They’re in the same place as the dog that caught the bus. For eight years they have been free to criticize Democrats at every turn because they did not have responsibility for actually governing. Now they own it all. And they have to show they can govern. But instead they are in disarray.

When you have them on the run, that’s the time to chase them, not the time to settle down and act like we have to negotiate with Trump because he is the “new normal.”Those newly mobilized progressive activists expect us to go to war to defend our values. Progressives will win if we listen to our mothers, who tell us to stand up straight.

Celebrate our victories, but never try to claim that a defeat – or some minor modification in a horrible right wing policy ― is a victory. Victory is stopping them from achieving their agenda. Victory would be stopping them from eliminating the ACA – or making them take months to achieve their goal. Victory is stopping the Gorsuch Supreme Court nomination cold. Victory in the short run is driving Trump and the GOP approval rating through the floor. Victory is living to fight another day and preparing for real game-changing wins in 2018 and 2020.

Don’t be afraid to make it completely clear at all times that any victory that we achieve while the GOP controls the House, Senate, and White House is only a holding action until we can take back the reins of government in 2018 and 2020. One thing many “non-political” Americans learned in no uncertain terms last fall is that elections have consequences. Another is that we can’t count on the conventional wisdom to be right, we can’t count on other people to do it for us – everyone has to take personal responsibility for creating the society we want. No one can ever again sit out an election. We must all get involved in electoral politics.

Once we take back the reins of government, our first priority must be raising the wages of ordinary working people. That means we must end the era of growing income inequality and reduce the share of national income that goes to the top 1%. America’s gross domestic product per capita increased 48% over the last 30 years, but the wages of ordinary people flat-lined. That’s because those increases all went to the top 1%. Our failure to adequately address that fact created the fertile ground in which Trumpism flourished. We must never fail to address this fundamental question again.

Finally, while people are much easier to mobilize to prevent someone from taking something away rather than achieving something to which they aspire – they also most be inspired. They must have hope for the future. Hopelessness and fear are the enemies of empowerment and mobilization. Inspiration and hope are the catalysts that light the fire. Inspiration requires that someone believe that they are part of something larger than themselves – but that they themselves can play a personal, instrumental role in achieving the larger goal. We must remember that in fighting against the forces of darkness, we must always offer the sure belief that a bright, exciting future is possible – that it is sometimes darkest right before the dawn.

Dr. King was right, the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice. But it is our hands that will make it so.

Political Strategy Notes

Ari Berman cuts to the chase in his article in The Nation, “In E-mails, Neil Gorsuch Praised a Leading Republican Activist Behind Voter Suppression Efforts. Gorsuch’s ties to Hans von Spakovksy suggest a hostility to voting rights.” As Berman writes: “Few people in the Republican Party have done more to limit voting rights than Hans von Spakovsky. He’s been instrumental in spreading the myth of widespread voter fraud and backing new restrictions to make it harder to vote. But it appears that von Spakovsky had an admirer in Neil Gorsuch, Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, according to e-mails released to the Senate Judiciary Committee covering Gorsuch’s time working in the George W. Bush Administration. When President Bush nominated von Spakovksy to the Federal Election Commission in late 2005, Gorsuch wrote, “Good for Hans!””…At very least, the e-mails suggest Gorsuch was friendly with von Spakovksy. But it’s far more disturbing if Gorsuch shares Von Spakovsky’s views on voting rights. Given that we know almost nothing about Gorsuch’s views on the subject, this is something the Senate needs to press him on during confirmation hearings next week…Given that von Spakovsky hailed Gorsuch as “the perfect pick for Trump,” it’s safe to assume he believes that the Supreme Court nominee shares his views. The Senate needs to aggressively question Gorsuch to see if that’s the case.” Democrats must understand that voter suppression is the single issue that matters more for their party’s survival than any other, and not get suckered by the meme that Gorsuch is a moderate conservative.

In his New York Times Magazine article, “The New Party of No, How a president and a protest movement transformed the Democrats,” Charles Homans shares a statistic which helps explain why Repubicans have an easier time with party discipline in congress than do Democrats: “In a 2014 Pew survey, 82 percent of people who identified as “consistently liberal” said they liked politicians who were willing to make compromises; just 32 percent of “consistently conservative” respondents agreed.”

“Buckle up:Trump faces his most consequential week yet,” write Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann at NBC News. They pinpoint four key questions that will be addressed this week, which will likely have a decisive impact on Trump’s prospects for finishing his term. The questions include: 1. Does FBI Director Comey publicly repudiate Trump’s wiretapping charge?…2. How far does Comey go on Russia; Does the health-care effort survive — or die? and Is Gorsuch’s confirmation still on track?

At The Daily 202:, James Hohman reports that “Reagan Democrats give Trump a long leash – but deeply distrust GOP,” and makes the case that “The Reagan Democrats who delivered the Rust Belt to Donald Trump last fall will blame congressional Republicans, not him, if Obamacare repeal fails…The president is flying to Detroit later this morning to talk about the future of the auto industry during a roundtable with union workers and CEOs. He is expected to relax fuel economy standards. Trump was the first Republican to carry Michigan since 1988 because of his outsized strength among non-college educated independents and traditional Democrats…Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg coined the term “Reagan Democrats” in the mid-1980s to describe just these sorts of blue-collar whites in Macomb County, Michigan, mostly autoworkers, who had shifted from staunchly backing John F. Kennedy to going gaga for Ronald Reagan. He helped his client Bill Clinton assiduously court this constituency and bring them back into the Democratic fold…Barack Obama easily carried Macomb twice. Then Trump won it with 54 percent…To understand what happened, Greenberg went back last month to conduct four focus groups with 35 non-college educated whites who voted for both Trump and Obama…There was no buyer’s remorse. Despite the drama of the opening weeks, not one of the participants regretted voting for the president. They described Trump as sincere, complained about unfair media coverage and criticized protesters for not giving him a chance to do good things. They love that he remains politically incorrect. They remain confident that he is a strong leader who will shake up Washington, secure the border and bring back manufacturing jobs. Their faith is strong. Their doubts are sparse…At the same time, no one in the focus groups trusted congressional Republicans to do the right thing, particularly on the economy and health care. The Trump/Obama voters were asked to react to pictures of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. Among the responses: “shifty,” “they only look out for themselves,” and “like the CEOs.” They want these guys to support Trump and his agenda, not the other way around. Asked for impressions of Republicans generally, several volunteered that the party cares primarily about the rich…“Nothing has happened that has broken their trust in him and their belief that they cast the right kind of vote,” Greenberg explained in an interview yesterday afternoon. “That doesn’t mean it won’t break at some point, but it gives him a lot of space for now. They also know regular Republicans were not with him. They’re very conscious of this.”…Greenberg was also struck by how much health care dominated the conversation in his focus groups, which was not by design. Nearly everyone told a story about how the Affordable Care Act is not affordable enough for them. They almost all have struggled to afford their insurance plans, co-pays and medications. Some expressed frustration about having to subsidize coverage for the poor and minorities. One man lamented that he cannot retire because he needs to pay for health care. A woman complained about her son having to pay a penalty because of the individual mandate.” It appears that educating persuadable Reagan Democrats about how closely Trump’s policies line up with the Republican Party line could be an effective strategy for Dems.

A new Fox News poll out this week shows Sanders has a +28 net favorability rating among the US population, dwarfing all other elected politicians on both ends of the political spectrum. And he’s even more popular among the vaunted “independents”, where he is at a mind boggling +41…Sanders’ effect on Trump voters can be seen in a gripping town hall this week that MSNBC’s Chris Hayes hosted with him in West Virginia – often referred to as “Trump country” – where the crowd ended up giving him a rousing ovation after he talked about healthcare being a right of all people and that we are the only industrialized nation in the world who doesn’t provide healthcare as a right to all its people.

“What we call populism is really in large degree white identity politics, which can’t be addressed by promising universal benefits. Among other things, these “populist” voters now live in a media bubble, getting their news from sources that play to their identity-politics desires, which means that even if you offer them a better deal, they won’t hear about it or believe it if told. For sure many if not most of those who gained health coverage thanks to Obamacare have no idea that’s what happened. That said, taking the benefits away would probably get their attention, and maybe even open their eyes to the extent to which they are suffering to provide tax cuts to the rich.” — from Paul Krugman’s Consience of a Liberal; blog on Populism and the Politics of Health.

At The New York Times, Carl Hulse explains why the “Gorsuch Confirmation Presents Democrats With 2 Difficult Paths.”: “When it comes to the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, Senate Democrats appear to have two options: Get out of the way or get run over…Senate Republicans’ enthusiastic backing of President Trump’s nominee ensures majority support even before the confirmation hearing begins Monday. But the Republicans also hope that enough Democrats are won over by Judge Gorsuch — or recognize the inevitability of his confirmation — that they join in efforts to head off an explosive showdown over a filibuster…Some Democrats believe that Republicans are posturing in an effort to intimidate the opposition and don’t yet have the votes to end the filibuster. They also worry their party could face a severe political reprisal from its energized liberal backers if they do not do whatever they can to oppose Judge Gorsuch no matter the consequences. Other Democrats privately take a different view. They say the party shouldn’t test the limits on the Gorsuch nomination since his approval won’t change the ideological makeup of the court from when Justice Scalia served. They believe Democrats should hold their fire in the expectation of another vacancy. Then, if Mr. Trump goes with a staunch conservative, dig in against that person and argue that Republicans are instituting a partisan rules change to drastically reshape the court.”

Alex Seitz-Wald reports at nbcnews.com that Blue Dog Democrats in congress can expect primary challenges from several new groups of progressives:” “One called #WeWillReplaceYou has warned specific members of congress it may challenge them. But it promises to use discretion in targeting only those Democrats it feels have strayed from the party…Another new group staffed by ex-Sanders aides, Justice Democrats, has less clear plans. While their audacious talk isn’t backed up at the moment, they have an innovative model that could be used to run a large slate of candidates on the cheap against possibly dozens of incumbents…This week, Justice Democrats merged operations with another anti-incumbent group founded by former Sanders aides, Brand New Congress, which started last year.”

McClatchy’s Alex Roarty reports that “Establishment Democrats aim to adopt the anti-Trump movement“: “A ragtag group of political amateurs has driven the protest movement against President Donald Trump, and now the heavyweights of the Democratic Party are trying to bring these novices into the institutional fold. Next month, the liberal movement’s leading think tank is convening about 50 of the top activists for a daylong convention in Los Angeles. Those protest leaders who plan to attend say it will be their first chance to meet many fellow organizers who have become full-blown activists since Trump’s election. The session, organized and co-hosted by the Center for American Progress’ political arm, is ostensibly meant to share best practices with these volunteer-driven groups, on subjects ranging from fundraising to organizing. But it also reflects the effort underway within the Democratic Party, where operatives who have battled Republicans for years are now trying to cooperate with newcomers who have been more successful capturing the energy of anti-Trump Americans than the professional class was during the 2016 campaign…It’s a process both sides say needs to go well if Democrats want to turn the so-called anti-Trump “resistance” movement into a force that can win elections. “In the very beginning, there was just a lot of energy, a lot of emotion, a lot of frustration, and groups like mind swelled in numbers,” said Andy Kim, founder of Rise Stronger, a group that seeks to connect grass-roots organizers with policy experts. “This next phase is the strategic phase.”

Maybe Trump Can Save Travel Ban, But It Won’t Be Easy

Having watched the legal maneuvering around the Trump administration’s first, poorly written travel ban, I was on notice for challenges to the new, improved executive order. And they did come from several directions, as I noted at New York:

[D]espite a major revision of the order to “fix” problems the courts found in the initial action, not one but two federal district judges, in two widely separated judicial circuits, have put it on hold.

Worse yet, in both cases (Judge Derrick Watson in Hawaii, and Judge Theodore Chuang in Maryland) the problem the judges identified was not something any revision could likely “cure”: It is the claim that the whole process is just a thinly veiled effort to implement a blatantly unconstitutional “Muslim ban,” as evidenced by Donald Trump’s own proposals during the presidential campaign.

So what’s an “America First” president to do?

The most prudent course of action might well be to forget about the temporary travel ban and move on as quickly as possible to the new system for vetting applicants for visas and for refugee status the ban was supposed to give the administration time to develop. Max Zapotsky explains:

“The administration was supposed to have been working on that review the first time around, but with a new order came new deadlines. Although it probably wants to win in court to avoid an authority-curtailing precedent …the administration could simply finish its review and implement new vetting procedures that did not impose an outright ban. That might make the litigation moot.”

This approach, of course, would involve surrender to the “so-called judges” who have stood in Trump’s way, so that is very unlikely, particularly after Trump devoted ten fiery minutes at a rally in Nashville last night attacking the “judicial overreach” and threatening to bring back the original, broader order.

That idea probably occurred to Trump (or someone in TrumpLand) because in something of a coincidence the full Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided yesterday not to vacate the earlier order on the first travel ban (issued by a three-judge panel) denying the administration a go-ahead on national-security grounds. In dissent, five judges said the courts should have deferred to the president’s national-security authority the first time around. So there is some conservative judicial support for that proposition, even on the “liberal” Ninth Circuit.

But again: These were dissenters, and the odds are very low the full Ninth Circuit or any particular three-judge panel of same will reach that conclusion if and when the administration appeals Watson’s ruling. In agreeing to make the revision, the White House was implicitly conceding it did some pretty sloppy work back in January. Though Trump’s ego might want a total vindication, it’s not likely to succeed unless the Supreme Court intervenes on his behalf after some additional judicial setbacks.

The more conventional approach would be to stick with the revision and instead go after the finding that Trump’s (and Rudy Giuliani’s) comments on the campaign trail are relevant to what he is trying to do as president. At Lawfare this morning, Peter Margulies argues the administration will eventually prevail on that point.

But it might take a while, and involve a long and winding road to the Supreme Court. Knocking down Watson’s order will take the government through the obviously not very sympathetic Ninth Circuit. And even if they succeed, there’s Chuang’s order, which applies only to the visa application portions of the travel ban (because that’s all the plaintiffs in the case were challenging). Overturning that order means going through the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Assuming the case does get to the Supreme Court, timing would be a big issue. For one thing, the Court is currently shorthanded. If, however, the administration waits to make its pitch for SCOTUS intervention until Trump’s nominee Neil Gorsuch is confirmed, that could make for additional delay. Since the official position of the White House is that terrorists are likely pouring over the borders and into the airports every moment the travel ban is not in place, a posture of accepting delays doesn’t make a lot of sense.

What we are probably facing, then, is a murky and complicated schedule of legal maneuverings punctuated occasionally by judge-bashing explosions from the president of the United States. It may not be the smartest way for him to get his way, but for a man whose main fear in life seems to be the appearance of looking “weak” (his frequently expressed concern about the travel-ban delays), it may be the only way Donald Trump can handle it.

I feel sorry for his lawyers.

Trump Budget a Throwback

After looking at the outline released today of Donald Trump’s first budget, I kept getting a sense of deja vu. I explained why at New York.

The conservative lobbying group Heritage Action greeted Donald Trump’s first budget (really a budget outline; the full details will come later) with the headline: TRUMP’S BIG LEAGUE CONSERVATIVE BUDGET REQUEST. That’s an appropriate take, and not just because the group’s parent organization, the Heritage Foundation, has left fingerprints all over the proposal, hastily assembled by a less than complete OMB staff. It is, in many respects, a sort of “greatest hits” compilation of conservative prescriptions for paying for a big defense-spending increase with targeted and general cuts in nondefense discretionary programs — domestic spending that is not in one of the big entitlement programs.

The fact that it’s all wrapped up in the bristling “America First” language of nationalist “populism” — with a few distinctive flourishes like a truly neanderthal attack on the State Department that takes one back to the McCarthy era — should not distract from the fact that this is a very conventionally conservative budget prepared by the very conventionally conservative OMB director Mick Mulvaney.

Those who remember the budget wars of the Reagan era will find a lot of blasts from the past in the list of agencies and programs Mulvaney is proposing to shutter entirely: the Appalachian Regional Commission, Community Development Block Grants, the Economic Development Administration, the Legal Services Corporation, Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation — all were surviving targets of Reagan’s first budget in 1981. Other targets are products of the later culture wars: federal funding of the arts and culture would be basically eliminated, with the closure of the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. And still other programs Team Trump seeks to kill involve initiatives associated closely with Democratic presidents, such as the Corporation for National and Community Service (including Bill Clinton’s signature AmeriCorps program) and Barack Obama’s various clean-energy and climate-change initiatives.

Along with the individual constituencies affected, it’s reasonably clear state and local governments will be unhappy with the budget, as they have been unhappy with most Republican presidential budgets over the years. Again and again in Mulvaney’s document you see reductions or eliminations of small grant programs justified as being things states and localities should pay for themselves. And that’s aside from the big-ticket cuts like EPA grants and CDBG (the last significant source of general-purpose funding for local governments).

Another notable and familiar feature of the budget is what you might call cannibalization: Within major agencies Trump priorities are funded by cuts in things his people don’t know or care about. That’s how you wind up with an “America First” budget that hammers a variety of Department of Homeland Defense programs (including the Coast Guard, TSA, and FEMA) in order to shower money on the Wall and border control….

[T]he Trump budget’s fate will mostly fall to the Appropriations committees, those notoriously picky barons who tend to reject executive-branch dictation over “their” programs. It’s appropriators and their staffs who are already out there declaring Mulvaney’s handiwork “dead on arrival.”

And that’s probably okay with Team Trump, which seems to be using the whole budget exercise to send messages rather than to get anything done. Mulvaney in effect took off the green eyeshade of the budget wonk and put on his MAGA hat — maybe a military version in khaki — in describing the budget:

“It is not a soft-power budget. This is a hard-power budget, and that was done intentionally. The president very clearly wants to send a message to our allies and to our potential adversaries that this is a strong-power administration.”

Yep, it’s a Big League Conservative Budget Request, and like many others, it should be taken with a shaker of salt.