Politics, et Cetera

A publication from The Political Forum, LLC

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

They Said It:

One of the less attractive patterns in human behavior is our tendency to stereotype those with whom we disagree, those whose interests conflict with our own, or those who are simply different from ourselves. Such stereotypes create and reinforce prejudice, and they distort our politics, our policy debates, and our constitutional debates. These evils are of course well known; they are an important part of racism, sexism, and discrimination against lesbians and gays. But we do not appear to have generalized the lessons.

Among the educated classes that have been most sensitized to the dangers of the most widely condemned stereotypes, other stereotypes and prejudices flourish. Respected academics and journalists, and respected journals who pride themselves on their tolerance, publish extraordinary statements about groups that have generally failed to engage the sympathies of intellectuals….

[T]hese stereotypes also poison our public discourse, distort our understanding of the real differences among us, and reduce the chances for resolving those differences even in part. These stereotypes corrode the bonds of mutual concern and respect that hold a pluralistic society together. These bonds are stretched enough by honest disagreement and simple demands for change. Once in our history they broke entirely, and some minority groups have been placed outside their protection for long periods. But generally these bonds have held. They make it unsurprising when Americans from “opposite ends of the political and cultural universe” help one another.

To corrode these bonds unnecessarily is a dangerous thing.

Doug Laycock, “Vicious Stereotypes in Polite Society,” Constitutional Commentary (The University of Minnesota Law School), Summer, 1991. (Hat tip:  Instapundit)

 

DOMESTIC POLITICS 2017:  HOW CAN WE MISS YOU IF YOU WON’T GO AWAY?

Long-time readers may know that we generally struggle with our domestic politics forecasts in so-called “off years.”  Election years are easy:  who is going to win and why?  Off years, though, require some thought, some reflection, and often some creativity.  The actual day-to-day plod of a Congressional session is pretty mundane, even when it is really exciting.  Likewise, federal bureaucratic rule-making and implementation is, more or less, a perpetual-motion snorefest.  There really is no way to make the rule-writing-comment-rewriting-final release-implementation process appealing.  There just isn’t.  The only time that anyone other than the relevant bureaucratic drones cares is when the rule is controversial or is in response to a new and anticipated law or directly affects the interested parties in some personal or professional way.  In short, government is boring.

Or at least it is most years.  But this year it will be different.  Indeed, this year, everything will be different.

Forecast #1:  In his first 100 days in office, President Donald Trump will do far better than most “analysts” currently assume.

President Trump enters office with the country divided – not that we’re breaking any news here.  Everyone knows that the country is wildly and passionately split, and most of the political experts assume that the division will be too large an obstacle for Trump to overcome.  It will spell his doom.  Finally.

These “experts” will be wrong.  Again.

Whether or not his critics ever admit it, Donald Trump is a very talented politician.  Not only did he beat the Clinton Machine, he also beat Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, John Kasich, and a handful of other very talented Republicans.

More to the point, Donald Trump is a very lucky politician.  Yes, he did beat the Clinton Machine, but he was fortunate enough to face its weakest component and to do so long after its strongest component had passed his prime.  In his first 100 days – and possibly quite longer – Trump’s luck will prove decisive again.  He will find himself blessed by fate, both in his friends and his enemies.

In terms of his friends, nearly the entirety of the Republican establishment will rally to Trump’s side over the next few months.  The predictions of a GOP split – which are both ancient and contemporary – will prove dramatically mistaken, yet again.  Every Republican, every conservative, and a great many who are neither, will cheer as Trump both adopts and enacts a very conservative agenda.  The Never-Trumpers on the Right will either join the accolades, conceding that they still regret his nomination but are thrilled by his early actions, or they will look foolish:  “Principled” but bitter.

As for his enemies, we will discuss them at length in further along in this piece.  For now, it should suffice to say that they appear to have learned absolutely nothing, either from the election or from the eight years that preceded it.  The Democratic Party, its unofficial spokespeople in the mainstream press, and the indignant multi-millionaires in the entertainment industry will stomp their feet and carry on loudly and often enough to remind most average Americans why Trump won.

As we’ve noted countless times in these pages, the Ruling Class hates the Country Class with all its heart.  Over the past eight years, of course, the feeling has become mutual.  And for the first time in contemporary history, the Country Class now has an advocate who will both expose and respond to the Ruling Class’s calumny.  This is not your father’s GOP, as they say.  And neither Trump nor his talented surrogates will have any problem responding to prejudicial attacks from hare-brained performers who think that their celebrity gives them the wit or the wisdom to belittle the Country Class and its political preferences.

Forecast #2:  Trump and the Congressional Republicans will focus their legislative efforts on improving the business climate in the country.  The early Trump agenda will be heavy on cutting and rescinding regulations promulgated by the Obama administration.  Additionally, the President-Elect will begin work with Congress on a long-overdue and much needed reform of the nation’s business/corporate tax code.

Perhaps the most impressive part of the “Obama economic expansion” is the fact that it exists at all, that the Obama himself didn’t kill it.  The American economy is resilient.  It is diversified.  It is unique in world history.  All of this and more we have always known.  But we have just been reminded of it by the Obama expansion, which occurred not because of the administration’s economic policy, but in spite of it.  The fact that the current expansion – the fourth longest on record – is still chugging along is remarkable, especially given the economic burdens the Obama administration created over its eight long years.  Consider, for example, just what Obama has done lately, which the Washington Examiner’s Paul Bedard recently cataloged.

President Obama’s lame duck administration poured on thousands more new regulations in 2016 at a rate of 18 for every new law passed, according to a Friday analysis of his team’s expansion of federal authority.  While Congress passed just 211 laws, Obama’s team issued an accompanying 3,852 new federal regulations, some costing billions of dollars.  The 2016 total was the highest annual number of regulations under Obama . . .

The proof that it was an overwhelming year for rules and regulations is in the Federal Register, which ended the year Friday by printing a record-setting 97,110 pages, according to the analysis from the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Fortunately for everyone, but especially for those who run businesses, work for businesses, or rely on businesses, both Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress intend to undo much of the damage that Obama did.  This is good news.  The better news is that much of what Obama did can be undone quickly, quietly, and with the stroke of a pen.  The best news is that Trump intends to undo a great deal.  In fact, Trump plans to undo twice as much regulation as he proposes, as The Hill reported just before Christmas:

President-elect Donald Trump is setting out to gut the Obama administration’s regulations, starting with a mandate that would slowly chip away at the number of rules on the books.  In a video message mapping out his first 100 days, Trump said he would issue an executive order stating that for every new rule issued, two must be eliminated.

The president-elect has decried the regulations that he says have hurt businesses and the economy, particularly those aimed at the environment.  And Republicans in Congress are eager to help him roll back many of President Obama’s regulations.

“One of the keys to unlocking growth is scaling back years of disastrous regulations unilaterally imposed by out-of-control bureaucrats,” Trump said during a September speech at the Economic Club of New York.  “Regulations have grown into a massive, job-killing industry – and the regulation industry is one business I will absolutely put to an end on day one.”

It’s unclear how such a two-for-one arrangement would be carried out, but the proposal is raising hopes among those who are calling for deregulation.

Sounds fun.  As for taxes, just this week, Trump began discussions with the House Republicans on tax reform, which the House would like to take the form of its “A Better Way” proposal made last summer.  In October, the American Enterprise Institute’s Alex Brill described the plan as follows:

Earlier this year, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady released a tax reform framework titled, “A Better Way: A Pro-Growth Tax Plan for All Americans.”  The plan outlines House Republicans’ priorities for reforming the Internal Revenue Code.  Unlike the legislation introduced by Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp in 2014, the Ryan/Brady proposal is framed as a concept rather than a bill.  Nevertheless, most components of the plan are described in sufficient detail to be analyzed and discussed.  The new plan is a clear departure from the budget-busting proposals advanced by  Republican presidential candidates over the past year and reflects a coherent approach to lowering statutory tax rates; maintaining a progressive income tax; and dramatically reducing the marginal tax rate on new investment, a reform likely to spur a substantial increase in new investment.

The plan will simplify compliance with the tax code by increasing the number of filers choosing not to itemize their deductions.  The individual income tax reforms approach revenue neutrality at the end of the budget window.

Lower corporate tax rates.  Full expensing and lower marginal rates on new business investment.  Less complication.  Less opportunity for IRS malfeasance.  Simplified personal income tax brackets.  What’s not to like?

Now, we don’t know if Trump and the GOP will get everything that they want, but they will get business tax reform, and they will get that fairly quickly.  So again . . . what’s not to like?

As for the Democrats, they’ll huff and they’ll puff and they’ll accuse Trump, Ryan, and the rest of stealing from the poor to give to the rich.  And they will lose that argument.  Corporate tax reform was long a bipartisan priority, until Barack Obama decided that he couldn’t be seen making things easier for Big Business fat cats.  With Obama gone, the Democrats will either have to figure out a way to oppose reform that they used to support and that will likely create tens of thousands of jobs, or they will have to bargain with Trump and the GOP.  Our expectation is that they’ll try the former and then settle on the latter.

And this brings us to . . .

Forecast #3:  The Democrats, the mainstream media; the entertainment industry; academia – all the usual suspects, in short – will spend the next year  trying to delegitimize Trump by attempting to recreate the magic of the Tea Party opposition to Obama.  And they will fail spectacularly.

Like many people in the political commentary business, we spent much of the last year talking about what a uniquely terrible politician Hillary Clinton is.  We were wrong.  She is, in fact, a terrible politician – tone deaf, smug, corrupt, out-of-touch, phony, unlikable, etc. – but she is hardly unique.  Indeed, we’d say that she was, in many ways, the ideal Democratic nominee, perfectly reflecting the ideals and characteristics of her party’s leaders.

We will admit that some Democratic/Left-leaning commentators have recognized that their party’s political and cultural leaders are woefully out of touch, not just with the people of the country, but with the political developments of the age.  Several years ago, we suggested that the Democrats were the “new reactionaries,” which is to say the frightened remnant of an old political order, holding on desperately to a past that is no longer relevant.  Never has this been more obvious than now.  Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Barack Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton – ALL of the leaders of the Democratic Party are fossils.  They are no more relevant to the current political climate than Herbert Hoover or Harry Truman.  Worse still, they embrace ideas that are out of touch and out of date, plans that have been tried and that have failed, over and over and over…and over.

In the past few weeks, we’ve seen literally dozens of stories that have baffled, infuriated, and entertained us, all at the same time.  The Leftists’ inability to grasp how anyone could think differently from them, how anyone could want to be different from them has been an eye-opener to say the least.  For our money, two recent stories summarize the Left’s utter disconnect from the people who populate this country and don’t spend their entire waking lives obsessing about politics.

One of these stories involves pickup trucks and the people who drive them.  It turns out that the leftwing media types who told us all that Trump had no chance and that anyone who voted for him is a racist don’t know anyone who drives a truck.  And that makes them self-conscious . . . or angry . . . or happy . . . or something.  The Federalist’s Sean Davis provides the details:

For those who might not be aware, trucks are really popular in America and have been for decades.  The Ford F-series, for example, has been the most popular line of vehicles in America for 34 years in a row.  Ford F-150’s are basically the jeans of vehicles: it’s nearly impossible to find a person in America who either doesn’t own one or doesn’t know someone who owns one.  The top three best-selling vehicles in America are not cars, but trucks: the Ford F-series, Chevy Silverado, and Dodge Ram.  The top-selling sedan is but a distant fourth . . . .

Which brings us to the simple question about truck ownership from John Ekdahl that drove Acela corridor progressive political journalists into a frenzy on Tuesday night: “The top 3 best selling vehicles in America are pick-ups. Question to reporters: do you personally know someone that owns one?”

Rather than answer with a simple “no,” the esteemed members of the most cloistered and provincial class in America – political journalists who live in New York City or Washington, D.C. – reacted by doing their best impersonation of a vampire who had just been dragged into the sunshine and presented with a garlic-adorned crucifix.

There were basically three types of hysterical response to a simple question about truck owners: 1) shut up, 2) you’re stupid and/or sexist and/or racist, and 3) whatever, liar, trucks aren’t popular (far and away my favorite delusional response to a simple question from a group of people who want you to believe they’re extremely concerned about “fake news”).  It turns out that people who are paid large sums of money to opine on what Americans outside the Acela province think get very upset if you demonstrate that they don’t actually know any of the people about whom they pretend to be experts.

Pickup trucks make our betters unhappy.  The people who drive those trucks make our betters uncomfortable.  But then, so do people who work for a living.  This time, Bret Scher of the Washington Free Beacon has the scoop:

A visit from a plumber left ThinkProgress senior editor Ned Resnikoff “rattled” due to fear that the plumber may have voted for Donald Trump.  Resnikoff stated his fears in a November Facebook post, a screenshot of which is now making the rounds on the Internet.

The plumbing visit, which came four days after the 2016 election, became a harrowing experience for Resnikoff even though the plumber was “a perfectly nice guy and a consummate professional.”  “He was a perfectly nice guy and a consummate professional,” Resnikoff shared.  “But he was also a middle-aged white man with a southern accent who seemed unperturbed by this week’s news.”

Resnikoff said his fear was rooted in the chance that the plumber knew he was Jewish.  “While I had him in the apartment, I couldn’t stop thinking about whether he had voted for Trump, whether he knew my last name is Jewish, and how that knowledge might change the interaction we were having inside my own home,” he said.  The “uncertainty” of the situation left Resnikoff “rattled for some time.”

“I have no real reason to believe he was a Trump supporter or an anti-Semite, but in my uncertainty I couldn’t shake the sense of potential danger,” he wrote. “I was rattled for some time after he left.”

To the best of our recollection, we have never before used this space to make personal confessions, but we feel that there are some things you should know about us.  We only hope that you won’t stop reading in disgust.  First, every single person who works at the Political Forum owns a pickup truck.  Second, one of us is married to the daughter of a plumber, while the other of us is himself the son of a carpenter.  In short, we’re the kind of people the boogeyman checks under his bed for before he goes to sleep.

A second, related problem from which the Left currently suffers is a deep and abiding confusion about the source and the nature of Americans’ dislike for Barack Obama’s policies.  For example, the Left in all its incarnation has always thought that the Tea Party was completely malicious and likely racist.  The Democrats and their allies didn’t believe for a second that this country was rife with populist sentiment, with people who were pissed off at the corporatist racket that both parties created and perpetuated.  They assumed that the opposition to Obama was contrived, that it wasn’t based on the fact that he continued the bailouts of the big banks, that he spent the “stimulus” aiding favored constituencies, and that he foisted healthcare reform on an unwilling public.  The opposition to Obama was, to them, illegitimate, its manifest success notwithstanding.

Now that the proverbial tables are turned, the Democrats believe that they should and, more to the point, that they CAN similarly oppose Trump’s policies while endearing themselves to the electorate.  They are wrong.

Chuck Schumer – the new Senate Minority Leader – intends to delay or deny President Trump’s appointments, starting with his cabinet.  He will fail and will look foolish in the process.  Al Sharpton intends to lead a protest in Washington during Trump’s inauguration.  He will forever be seen as a sore loser and a self-absorbed hack.  Senator Cory Booker thinks that he can raise his own political profile enough to run for president by testifying against his fellow Senator (and the Attorney General-designate) Jeff Sessions.  He will do little but embarrass himself.

What the Left simply cannot wrap its head around is the fact that the opposition to Barack Obama – and especially the Tea Party opposition to the Obama’s economic policies – was a grassroots movement and had nothing to do with race.  It was, eventually, aided by like-minded power brokers, but its genesis was with the people.  And that kind of grass-roots opposition simply cannot be imitated; it cannot be contrived and produced by Washington elites who are unhappy with the choices that the electorate has made.

The Democrats, the media, the entertainment industry, and academia will never quite grasp that THEY are the problem, that their behavior, their condescension, their ignorance and detachment are responsible for Donald Trump.  Therefore, they do not grasp that doubling down on the same condescension, ignorance, and detachment will only exacerbate their problems and further empower Trump.

When the greatest actress who ever lived ever attacks Trump, she merely reinforces the public’s support for him.  When universities ban pro-Trump speakers or encourage anti-Trump protests by students and faculty, they merely reinforce the public’s support for him.  When Chuck Schumer pledges to oppose anything and everything Trump proposes and liberal journalists declare their desire to see Trump fail miserably, they merely reinforce the public’s support for him.  When Barack Obama attacks Trump and promises that he will always serve as the moral conscience of an America opposed to everything Trump stands for, he merely reinforces the public’s support for him.  And on and on it will go.

Which brings us to…

Forecast #4:  Barack Obama will embarrass himself, erode what remains of his legacy, and bolster support for his opponent by conducting the most egregiously unconventional post-presidency in recent memory.

Barack Obama is, perhaps, the most narcissistic president we’ve had in decades – if not ever.  He has always believed that he is right, that his opposition is flat wrong, and that all he needs to do to correct the imbalance is to explain things more slowly and more carefully to the dumdums who populate the country.  If he can just make them understand, they will both change their minds and be eternally grateful to him for correcting their ignorance.  Consider, for example, what he told the German newspaper Der Spiegel in the days after the election:

If you look at the new generation of Americans, they reflect the vision that I spoke about.  They’re diverse.  They believe in tolerance.  They’re accepting of things like same-sex marriage.  They believe in integration.  The problem, though, is that young people are less likely to vote than older people.  What results is a situation in which sometimes the elections don’t fully reflect the views of the American population.  Essentially, the president-elect was supported by about 27 percent of the American population.  One of our challenges, historically, is that we have very low voting rates, even during presidential elections.

Trump isn’t the President of the United States, you see.  He’s the President of the old and the ignorant.  And we can fix that, just by convincing more of the less ignorant to get involved.  And to that end, Obama expects to take on the task himself, since no one else can possibly do it.  Or as McClatchy columnist Anita Kumar put it just yesterday:

With an unpredictable foe in the White House, the national party in disarray and even more congressional losses looming in 2018, Democrats are begging Barack Obama to keep himself in the headlines after he leaves office.

He’s eager to deliver.

According to a dozen prominent Democrats, Obama is planning a more politically active post-presidency than perhaps any other previous U.S. leader in modern times.  He will work to rebuild the beleaguered party, mentor and train young people and plan strategy with Democratic lawmakers, possibly campaigning and raising money.

“The reality of a Trump administration has sunk in,” said Gilda Cobb-Hunter, a member of the Democratic National Committee from South Carolina and a state legislator there.  “You have someone trying to erase your legacy.  You have to do all that you can to make sure that doesn’t happen.” . . .

“Obama is not going away,” said Lee Hamilton, a Democrat who served in Congress for more than three decades.  “For the time being, he is still the most prominent Democrat.  They are going to look to him.  He is the leader of the party.” . . .

Obama has repeatedly said he plans to honor a tradition of former presidents not criticizing their successors.  But with a president in the White House trying to erase his achievements and questioning American institutions, even Obama’s spokesman acknowledged a more vocal Obama is now a possibility.

“If there are basic, fundamental American values that are undermined by a specific policy proposal, then he may feel the need to speak out,” said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest.

Thank God for small favors.  This pleases us to no end.  Neither Obama nor anyone close to him has apparently ever considered the fact that he and his policies were largely responsible for the Trump phenomenon – not to mention the Tea Party before it.  He’s convinced that all the country needs to get back on track is more Obama.  Good on him, we say.  The higher his public profile, the better.  He couln’t stop Trump from winning the election, but he’ll sure as heck stop him now.  And you don’t have to take our word for it.  Just ask him.

Forecast #5:  Our out of Left Field Prediction:  Hillary Clinton will run for mayor of New York.  She will win, and she will do a terrific job.

We’re not sure if you’ve heard, but according to various sources, Hillary Clinton is being pressured to get into the race for Mayor of New York.  The city’s current Mayor, Bill DeBlasio, is a dud.  He’s a good, solid liberal who embraces both the economic and the cultural priorities of the Left.  But he’s not quite smart enough to sound liberal while keeping the city’s streets safe.  Instead, he has been hard at work trying to undo the progress made over the two decades of Giuliani and Bloomberg.  And that makes many of his constituents a little nervous.  Enter Hillary Clinton.  She needs a job.  Her most ardent supporters want a new mayor.  It’s a perfect fit.

To be honest with you, our forecast says that she’ll run, but we have our doubts.  We think that it’s possible she is too fragile, too unhappy, too unwilling to “settle.”  If we’re right about that, it stinks.  This may come as a shock to you, but we actually think that Hillary would be a fine mayor.  Indeed, we think that Bill, Hillary, and their Democratic successor Barack Obama spent most of their time in power trying to be the Mayor of the United States, to micromanage the local affairs of the nation’s cities and towns.  We think she is practiced and ready and up to the task.  And no, we’re not joking.

Hillary is a hawk, and she would fight terrorism and crime with much the same tenacity as Giuliani.  She is a liberal, so she would enjoy doling out the funds, working to improve the conditions of the inner city, and trying to bring relief to the downtrodden.  She is connected to and is well liked by the city’s major industry (finance).  She knows everybody and knows how to handle the big wheelers and dealers.

What about her corruption, you ask?  What about the dishonesty that kept her out of the White House and caused even many Democrats to question her fitness for office?  Did we mention that we’re talking about New York?  Any state that can tolerate Andrew Cuomo; any city that can elect and reelect Sheldon Silver, Anthony Weiner, Charlie Rangel, etc., etc., isn’t going to blink an eye at Hillary Clinton.  She’ll fit right in.  Or better yet, she’ll clean the place up – relatively speaking.

We have always argued that Washington is not where the big decisions are made.  It is merely where the score is kept.  If we’re right about that, then New York needs Hillary, and Hillary needs New York.  We’d like to see her stick around for a while too.  She’s been good to/for us over the years, and we’ll miss her when she’s gone.

Heck, we’ll miss Barack Obama when he’s gone too – not that we’re expecting that to happen anytime soon.  He and those who think like him will hang around as long as they can, chirp, chirp, chirping away at the presidency they helped create.  We may get tired of them at times, but we have no doubt that they’re good for the republic.  The more they talk, the louder they shout, the more conspicuous they are, the more likely it becomes that the Republicans will do what the people elected them to do.  And we won’t argue with that.

 

Copyright 2017. The Political Forum. 3350 Longview Ct., Lincoln NE  68506, tel. 402-261-3175, fax 402-261-3175. All rights reserved. Information contained herein is based on data obtained from recognized services, issuer reports or communications, or other sources believed to be reliable. However, such information has not been verified by us, and we do not make any representations as to its accuracy or completeness, and we are not responsible for typographical errors. Any statements nonfactual in nature constitute only current opinions which are subject to change without notice.