Wednesday, March 27, 2019

14 House Republicans Join Failed Veto Override Attempt

Yesterday the House of Representatives failed to override President Trump’s first veto. Last month, the president vetoed the resolution halting his use of a national emergency to reallocate funds from other programs to construction of the wall.

The House attempt had the support of a majority of congressmen but fell 38 votes short of the two-thirds majority required by the Constitution to override a veto. In all, 248 congressmen, including 14 Republicans, voted to override the veto. The move was opposed by 181 Republicans and no Democrats.

The Republicans who voted to rein in the president’s emergency declaration were Justin Amash (Mich.), Brian Fitzpatrick (Penn.), Mike Gallagher (Wisc.), Jaime Herrera Beutler (Calif.), William Hurd (Texas), David Johnson (S.D.), John Katko (N.Y.), Thomas Massie (W.V.), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), Tom Rooney (Fla.), Jim Sensenbrenner (Wisc.), Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), Fred Upton (Mich.), and Greg Waldon (Ore.). Two other Republicans, Kay Granger (Texas) and Joe Wilson (S.C.), joined Democrat Jackie Speier (Calif.) in not voting on the bill.

The override attempt picked up six votes over the original House bill passed in February. Thirteen House Republicans supported that bill while 12 Senate Republicans voted against the national emergency.

The override attempt occurred on the same day that the Senate Republicans staged a show vote on Alexandra Ocasio Cortez’s proposed Green New Deal. In the upper chamber, Democrats refused to stand for the unpopular measure, which was defeated 57-0 with 43 Democrats voting “present.”

In a day of show votes, it is likely that the Republicans got the worst end of the deal. While Democrats eluded Mitch McConnell’s attempt to put them on record defending the Green New Deal, House Republicans walked into a trap set by Nancy Pelosi.

The override attempt was doomed to fail, but the short-term victory has put Republicans in a tight spot. Even though Republican voters solidly support Trump’s proposed wall, the nation at large is split on the issue. Polling from February found that about a third supported the wall while another third called it “totally unnecessary.” The remaining third supported border security but said that there were “better options” than the proposed wall. Despite, or perhaps because of, President Trump’s hard line on immigration, the number of Americans who want increased immigration has increased by nine points since 2016.

If support for the wall is closely divided, support for the national emergency is not. Polling has consistently shown that Americans oppose the use of the national emergency by double-digit margins with opposition to the wall reaching 60 percent or higher at times.

Morning Consult pointed out the difficulty for Republicans earlier this month. Seventy percent of Republican voters are more likely to back a congressman who supports the president on the national emergency, but 60 percent of other voters say that upholding the national emergency declaration makes them less likely to vote for a candidate. A large majority, 78 percent, said the issue will be a factor in their vote.

President Trump’s emergency declaration placed congressional Republicans into a damned-if-you-do and damned-if-you-don’t situation. Supporting the president looks good to primary voters, but could cause trouble in the general election. The 14 Republicans who crossed the aisle have the opposite situation. Both groups are in trouble with one group of voters or the other.

Unlike the Senate vote on the Green New Deal, the vote to uphold President Trump’s veto and protect his expansion of presidential power at congressional expense is likely to be remembered when voters go to the polls next year. Republican incumbents who protected the president may fare well in primaries, but their failure to hold the president accountable may cost the party dearly in November.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Poll: 54 Percent Would Consider Voting Trump In 2020

A new poll shows that a majority of registered voters would consider a vote to re-elect President Trump. The polling gives hope to the president’s supporters but underscores the obstacles that Trump faces in his quest to win a second term.

The good news for Republicans is that the poll by Hill-HarrisX, which was taken before the release of the Mueller report’s findings, found that 54 percent of registered voters would are open to voting for President Trump in the 2020 elections. The bad news is that 46 percent refused to even consider voting to send Trump back to Washington. The sharply divided electorate with an extremely large anti-Trump faction means that re-election is possible but unlikely unless Trump wins virtually all of the voters are open to supporting him.

People who voted for Trump in 2016 are largely standing by their man. Ninety-five percent of prior Trump voters are open to supporting him again in 2020. In 2016, Trump won 46.1 percent of the popular vote.

Surprisingly, a large minority of Clinton voters say that they would also consider a vote for Trump. Seventy-six percent of former Hillary supporters refuse to consider supporting Trump but 24 percent are open to the possibility.

Respondents who did not vote in 2016 opposed Trump by an almost two-to-one margin. Sixty-five percent said that they would never vote for Trump versus 35 percent who might.

Trump’s largest positive was the economy. Twenty-two percent of respondents said that the good economy was the main reason that they could support the president. More recent polling from Gallup found that the economy and national defense were the only issue areas in which voters ranked President Trump positively.

While the top line of the poll is encouraging for Republicans, the underlying problems should be obvious. If only 54 percent of voters are open to supporting Trump in a good economy, what happens if the economy softens before the election? There are already indications that the economy may be slowing. Economic growth for 2018 missed the Trump Administration’s target, partly due to the ongoing trade war.

Even with a booming economy, a near majority say that they will not even consider voting for Trump. That leaves very few undecided voters and President Trump must win almost all of them. With almost half of registered voters dead set against supporting him, the president cannot afford to write off a single undecided voter.

There is also the possibility that the importance of the economy is overstated. Contrary to Republican claims during the election, President Obama presided over a good albeit sluggish economy and current economic growth is not significantly different from what the country experienced during the Obama years. Likewise, the stock market climbed steadily under Obama after the recovery from the Great Recession started in 2009. During the same period, unemployment steadily declined and continued to do so under Trump. However, the good economic news was not enough to prevent Obama’s Democrat successor from losing in 2016.

The Bill Clinton campaign in 1992 famously repeated the mantra, “It’s the economy, stupid.” That is true in a slow economy but not necessarily in a good one as his wife learned 25 years later. When the economy is bad, people vote with their wallets. When the economy is good and consumer confidence is high, voters may base their choice other issues.

One such issue is immigration. The primary reason that voters refuse to support President Trump is his hard line on immigration. This issue was cited by 18 percent.

Many voters seem willing to consider the Democratic challengers as well as Trump. The poll reports that 20 percent of respondents who were open to supporting Trump said that the Democratic candidates were too liberal, but this group was made up mostly of Republicans. Ten percent of potential Trump supporters said that none of the Democratic candidates were exciting. Looking at this data from the opposite direction, more than half of potential Trump supporters don’t see the Democrats as too liberal and 90 percent think the Democrats have interesting candidates.

President Trump should not be considered a sure loser for 2020 but neither is he a shoo-in. If the president hopes to win re-election, he must focus on winning over almost all of the independent and moderate voters who have not already ruled out supporting him. To do that, his campaign should focus on the economy and steer clear of the divisive immigration issue. However, it is by no means clear that the president will be able to focus on something other than the issue that fires up his base.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Monday, March 25, 2019

Trump's Bump Stock Ban Takes Effect Tomorrow

President Trump’s bump stock ban goes into effect tomorrow. Every owner of a bump stock in the United States is required to have either surrendered or destroyed the accessory by March 26 except for three plaintiffs who, at least temporarily, won court battles to keep their bump stocks. There is no grandfather clause for current owners of the devices.

The three plaintiffs in a consolidated case sued the federal government in December and January, claiming that it was unconstitutional for the government to arbitrarily reclassify the devices to ban them under a law intended to ban fully automatic weapons. As previously reported by The Resurgent, the ATF under President Obama declined to ban bump stocks because they did “not provide an automatic action — requiring instead continuous multiple inputs (trigger pulls) by the user for each successive shot” and were therefore not subject to the Federal Firearms Act.

After the mass shootings in Las Vegas, where the murderer used bump stocks, and Parkland, Fla., where no bump stocks were used, President Trump ordered the Justice Department to act. The result was a decision to reinterpret the law and unilaterally decide that bump stocks were subject to the Federal Firearms Act after all.

After the ban was announced in December, the Firearms Policy Coalition, the Firearms Policy Foundation, and the Madison Society Foundation launched a separate legal challenge. Notably absent from the challenge was the National Rifle Association, which posted a statement online that essentially said that the group was not fighting the ban because it could have been worse.

U.S. District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich, a Trump appointee, turned down the challenge in February, saying in his decision, “That this decision marked a reversal of ATF’s previous interpretation [of the meaning of bump stock] is not a basis for invalidating the rule, because ATF’s current interpretation is lawful and ATF adequately explained the change in interpretation.”

David Codrea, one of the plaintiffs who received a stay from a different judge, described the grounds for the lawsuit in an article in Ammoland. These include at least 10 separate determinations by the ATF that a bump stuck was not an automatic weapon, the FBI’s refusal to comply with FOIA requests for information about the weapons used in the Las Vegas shooting, and questions about whether Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker had the legal authority to sign off on the ban.

In a separate article in Ammoland, Codrea wrote that the stay means, “Named plaintiffs, including this correspondent, will not be subject to enforcement action after the ban goes in effect Tuesday. It also means everyone else will be subject to arrest, prosecution, and punishment.”

Upon implementation of the bump stock ban, President Trump will have become a more successful anti-gun president than Barack Obama. Yet, ironically, Mr. Trump will retain the support of a significant share of the pro-Second Amendment community and the nation’s largest gun-rights organization.

It is also ironic that sales of bump stocks have not decreased since the announcement of the ban last December. As of Tuesday, March 26, bump stocks will be outlawed and only outlaws will have bump stocks. Under the Trump Administration’s new rule, many law-abiding gun owners who have owned bump stocks for years will now be considered outlaws.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Why Mueller’s Exoneration Won’t Guarantee Trump’s Re-Election

Robert Mueller’s long-awaited report is complete and the Cliff Notes version that Mueller found no illegal collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians is now public knowledge. As a longtime critic of Trump, I for one am relieved that no one on Team Trump engaged in an illegal conspiracy with the Russians. On the other hand, Trump’s exoneration on allegations of throwing the election is unlikely to change either my mind or the minds of millions of others about Trump’s fitness for office.

On a personal level, I was never convinced of the accusations of Russian collusion. From the earliest days of the controversy, I considered it plausible that someone in the Trump campaign conspired with the Russians, but considered it a long shot that there would be a smoking gun left behind for investigators to find. Anyone engaging in such a serious crime would take steps to cover their tracks.

Additionally, as someone pointed out long ago, President Trump would be an unlikely person for a foreign intelligence service to engage in a clandestine conspiracy with because his mouth and Twitter feed seem to have no filter. If Trump was dealing with the Russians, the fact probably would have slipped out long ago.

Having said all that, Mueller did not find “nothing.” In fact, over the course of the investigation, Mueller’s team found much more than I ever thought they would. Among other things, the investigation uncovered secret meetings between the president’s son and Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton, secret negotiations for a Moscow Trump Tower that took place during the election despite claims to the contrary by Trump, a beautiful Russian agent who infiltrated the National Rifle Association to influence the group’s policy to benefit Putin, and the fact that Roger Stone was acting as a conduit for information between WikiLeaks, a known Russian front, and the Trump campaign. Of course, none of this implicates the Trump campaign in criminal wrongdoing except for the lies that its members told to the FBI to cover up their actions. As with many other scandals, the coverup was worse than the underlying crime.

And there was a coverup that went all the way to the top. If President Trump has been consistent on anything other than the wall over the past two years it has been that he did not want Robert Mueller to complete his investigation. Mr. Trump stopped short of obstruction of justice but did try to undermine investigators at every turn, including subjecting the man who just exonerated him to two years of character assassination. Again, this is not a crime but does speak to the president’s character.

And that brings up back around to why Mueller’s findings will not put Trump over the top in his 2020 re-election campaign. The short version of this is that whatever bump the president gets from being exonerated by Mueller will probably be erased within a couple of weeks due to Mr. Trump’s own actions. In the past, the president’s need for attention has led to outlandish comments and tweets that quickly push any good news for the Administration off the front page.  

When I recently made my case against supporting Donald Trump for re-election, I didn’t mention Russia or collusion. Instead, my two main concerns were the same as they were in 2016, namely that Donald Trump’s character makes him unfit for office and that his policy agenda, which on some issues is to the left of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, is not a good one for the United States.

The bright spot for President Trump is the economy. Voters have consistently rated the president well for his handling of the economy but poorly for pretty much everything else. Polling shows the president underwater on foreign affairs, trade, immigration, the federal budget, race relations, and corruption, among other things. Trump is even viewed unfavorably on taxes despite the tax reform law passed two years ago. Polling of individual states indicates that Mr. Trump’s widespread unpopularity makes it unlikely that he will repeat the Electoral College fluke that sent him to the White House in 2016.

Further, the favorable findings of the Mueller report don’t mean the end to President Trump’s legal troubles. Federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York are still investigating alleged financial crimes on a number of fronts. While it’s unlikely that these investigations would lead to impeachment, they could negatively affect Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign. There is also the possibility that, even though Mueller exonerated the president on allegations of an illegal conspiracy with Russia, the full report, if it is ever released, could contain information that is damaging or embarrassing to Mr. Trump.

In short, Mueller’s report is good news for President Trump, but it is not a silver bullet. To win re-election, the president cannot rely on claiming vindication over Democratic accusations. He must actively get out and win over the moderate and independent voters that he has alienated over the past two years. That will require making a strong pitch that reaches beyond base supporters at his rallies.

Originally published on The Resurgent

The Graveyard Spiral Election

The election of 2016 was sometimes referred to as the “Flight 93 election.” The metaphor of doomed passengers fighting back to save both themselves and other innocent people was not totally without merit, but it won’t apply to the upcoming 2020 elections. Instead, there is another aviation metaphor that much better suits next year’s presidential election: the graveyard spiral.

I hesitate to use this term because, as a technical aviation term, the phrase is somewhat obscure. Some aviation metaphors, such as “crash and burn” or “auger in,” are more well-known and easily understood, but I cannot escape the thought that the graveyard spiral provides an apt description of where we are as a country.

While the phrase “Flight 93” evokes a sense of impending doom, the graveyard spiral is also deadly but much more insidious. Essentially, a graveyard spiral is circular dive caused by the pilot’s loss of equilibrium. In a graveyard spiral, the pilot thinks that he’s flying the airplane straight and level, but, in reality, he is in a turn. When an airplane is in an established turn, the fluid in the pilot’s inner ear which generates the sensation of turning stabilizes and the feeling that the airplane is in a bank is lost. In a frequent scenario, after rolling out of an established turn in one direction, it can feel as though you enter a turn in the opposite direction. The effect is similar to spinning around in a chair and then trying to walk straight.

Often, the pilot’s response is to turn back in the original direction, which feels to the pilot’s inner ear like straight and level flight. Because some of the airplane’s lift is used in the turn, this can be accompanied by altitude loss. At that point, the pilot pulls back on the controls to raise the nose and maintain altitude. This causes the airplane’s turn to become steeper and steeper as it loses altitude. If the pilot doesn’t realize his mistake and recover, the airplane ultimately crashes into the ground.

Right now, it feels as though America is in a graveyard spiral. What we have seen over the past two years is a Republican attempt to recover from the abuses of power, divisive politics, and out of control spending of the Obama era with abuses of power, divisive politics and out of control spending of their own. Yet, ironically, many Republicans now argue that President Trump’s actions, which are very similar to President Obama’s on many levels, are needed to put the country back into straight and level flight. Executive abuses and flagrant disregard for law and the Constitution have become the new normal for both parties.

What is actually happening is called spatial disorientation. Republicans are so used to the executive abuses and bad leadership of the Obama Administration that they don’t realize that the country is dangerously close to spinning out of control (to use another aviation metaphor). Our national leaders literally don’t seem to understand which way is up.

So, what is the proper way to recover from our self-induced crisis, preferably before the country crashes and burns? The only way to stop a graveyard spiral is to stop flying by the seat of your pants and trust the instruments and standard procedures.

In our case, the recovery technique is found in the Aircraft Operator’s Manual for the country, the Constitution. We should be following the established procedure, i.e. the rule of law, to get the country headed in the right direction. America cannot be returned to safe and stable flight by ignoring and subverting the very guidelines that made us a great nation in the first place. Both Barack Obama and Donald Trump are guilty of abusing their position as president because Congress wouldn’t give them what they wanted. Far from being saviors, both men are contributors to our national crisis of stalemate, division, anger, and mistrust.

Congress is also complicit. A fundamental concept of aviation is that of cockpit resource management (CRM). Gone are the days of aviation when an aircraft captain was the onboard equivalent of God who suppressed any attempt by his crew to question his decisions. Nowadays, crewmembers are expected to speak up and tell the captain when he’s acting foolish. Too many airplanes have crashed and too many people have died because copilots sat quietly by and let their captain make deadly mistakes.

Today, Congress has abdicated its responsibility to speak up when the president is wrong. Partisanship has triumphed over the rule of law in both parties. Democrats protected Obama as he ran roughshod over the Constitution and Republicans are doing the same thing for Donald Trump. As Congress fails to take the controls, the graveyard spiral steepens.

Finally, an airplane needs fuel to recover and our national engines are almost to the point of burning fumes. Aside from the national graveyard spiral toward an autocratic presidency, our most pressing national emergency is the fact that our deficit is at a record high. At more than $22 trillion, our national debt is 20 percent larger than our GDP. The United States is rapidly spiraling toward Greek and Italian levels of debt. As the world superpower and guarantor of the world reserve currency, our extreme levels of debt not only threaten our economy but that of the rest of the world as well.

Both parties are filled with deficit hawks but only when they are out of power. However, when in control of the levers of government, all either party seems to be able to think of is borrowing and spending on the priorities of its base. While compromise is rare in American government these days, the parties can usually find a shared interest in spending increases.

As we gear up to pick a new captain next year, remember the graveyard spiral, a situation in which the people at the controls are literally flying into the ground. Don’t subjectively rate candidates by the seat-of-your-pants feeling that they are steady pilots. Instead, rate them objectively by whether they follow the principles and guidelines laid out in the Constitution, our national operating manual, and whether their policies will leave us out of control and out of fuel. Picking a good pilot who follows the guidelines and who can bring the entire crew of the country together to work toward a common purpose is essential if we are to avoid a catastrophic crash.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Poll: More Democrats Are Pro-Life

One of the few cultural battles on which conservatives have steadily gained ground is abortion. Even though the Supreme Court has yet to overturn Roe v. Wade, pro-life conservatives have been winning the battle of ideas as more Americans favor restrictions on abortion and identify with the pro-life viewpoint. Now a shocking poll shows that pro-lifers have even made significant inroads into the Democratic Party.

The Marist poll conducted in February 2019 shows that respondents are split evenly on the question of whether abortion should be legal, but the most surprising part of the poll is that a third of Democrats, 34 percent, identify as pro-life. Further, 15 percent of Democrats said that abortion should never be allowed under any circumstances and a total of 35 percent said that it should only be allowed in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother.

Sixty-one percent of Democrats identified as pro-choice, but a majority favored restrictions on abortion. Only 22 percent said that abortion should be available at any time while 13 percent said it should be legal within the first six months of the pregnancy.

On the Republican side, the numbers were almost exactly reversed. Sixty-seven percent of Republicans identified as pro-life while 29 percent said that they were pro-choice.

There are some cautions about the poll, however. First, the poll showed a 14-point jump in the share of pro-life Democrats in a one-month span. Any sudden large shift in poll numbers should be regarded with skepticism. Additionally, the poll’s sample size of 1,008 adults is too small to make its findings conclusive. Subsequent polling will need to verify the shift in Democratic attitudes before I am convinced.

Nevertheless, the poll’s findings do offer hope that the pro-life segment of the Democratic Party is growing. While the poll doesn’t offer explanations for the sharp increase in Democratic pro-lifers, there are a couple of interesting possibilities.

First, the poll was conducted between Feb. 12 and 17. This was in the middle of the controversy over New York’s law allowing full-term abortion and the debate over a similar law proposed by Democrats in Virginia. It may be that the publicity generated by the lax New York law has persuaded some Democrats that more restrictions on abortion are needed.

Another possibility is that some pro-life voters may be leaving the Republican Party and identifying as Democrats. In particular, younger voters tend to be more pro-life, but the young are also deserting the GOP in droves. In 2018, young voters went Democrat by a 35-point margin compared to about 20 points for the previous two elections.

A shift in moderate voters toward the Democrats would also have implications for the presidential race. If more moderate voters take part in Democratic primaries next year, it will likely temper the chances of radical leftist candidates.

Whatever the reason, if Democrats are becoming more pro-life, it is a good thing. However, since there is still a litmus test on abortion for Democratic officeholders, any shift in views on abortion by the party’s base is unlikely to be felt in policy changes anytime soon. As President Trump alienates more moderate and independent voters, Democrats would be wise to soften their stance on abortion to make it easier for the millions of pro-life voters who are disenchanted with Trump Republicans to cross over.
Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, March 22, 2019

Trump Order On College Censorship Is A Nothingburger (But That’s A Good Thing)

President Trump recently promised an Executive Order targeting the suppression of free speech on college campuses and yesterday he delivered. The president followed up on his pledge to conservatives at CPAC, but whether the new Executive Order will actually change the situation is doubtful.

Compared with the president’s strong promise that “If a college or university does not allow you to speak, we will not give them money. It's that simple,” the text of the Executive Order is much less strident. In fact, Inside Higher Education calls the actual content of the Order “modest.”

In preparing for this article, I read through the seven-page order, which was reportedly in the works before Mr. Trump’s CPAC speech, and found very little about restricting funds from colleges that abridge the speech of their students. It does say that “it is the policy of the federal government to… promote open, intellectually engaging, and diverse debate,” but the Order then veers into counseling students about choosing a beneficial degree and avoiding default on federal student loans.

With respect to free speech, the president orders the Office of Management and Budget to “take appropriate steps, in a manner consistent with applicable law, including the First Amendment, to ensure institutions that receive Federal research or education grants promote free inquiry, including through compliance with all applicable Federal laws, regulations, and policies.” The Order then establishes new reporting requirements, but these deal more with student loan debt and whether students complete their degrees in a “timely and affordable” fashion.

In other words, the president is telling the OMB to enforce current law. In other words, the Executive Order is a nothingburger.

With President Trump, that’s a good thing. The likely alternative would be that the president would declare a national free speech emergency and use it to seize funds from colleges that are accused of restricting free speech. As an added bonus, the president might even try to divert those funds to the construction of the wall.

The reality is that when Congress appropriated grants to colleges, it placed certain restrictions on the use of those funds. The Executive Order does nothing to place new restrictions on the money that has already been designated by Congress. To do so would most likely be unconstitutional.

Free speech – or the lack of it – is definitely an issue on many college campuses, but the solution is not unilateral action by the president. Presidential action that violates existing law would be a particularly bad idea, but the general idea of getting the federal government involved as the arbiter of free speech is not a small government solution. Having the federal government play the referee is only a good idea as long as the head of the federal government is a free speech proponent. Few conservatives would be comfortable with the idea of Bernie Sanders or Kamala Harris as the defender of their First Amendment rights and with good reason. However, that might be what they get if they seek a larger federal role in policing campus speech.

There is already a remedy for college students whose free speech rights are abridged. Students have successfully sued to force public colleges to uphold their First Amendment rights on a number of occasions. Last December, a student of the Los Angeles Community College District won the right to pass out copies of the US Constitution on campus. As part of the settlement, the school dismantled its designated “free speech zones.” The same month, UC Berkeley settled another lawsuit filed by   Berkeley College Republicans and the Young America’s Foundation. The conservative groups alleged that Ann Coulter and David Horowitz were forced to cancel events because Berkeley restricted when and where they could speak. The plaintiffs also said that Berkeley placed different restrictions on conservative speakers and groups than it did for liberals. The settlement included $70,000 to pay attorney fees for the plaintiffs and prohibits the school from charging security fees based on concerns that the “viewpoints, opinions, or anticipated expression” of the speakers or their sponsors “might provoke disturbances.”

Viewpoint censorship on college campuses is a serious issue and President Trump’s heart seems to be in the right place, but proclaiming the new Executive Order is a solution to the problem is dishonest. There is very little new ground broken in the Order, but that isn’t a bad thing since the president lacks the authority to do much more. At best, the Executive Order shines a light on the problem.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Trump: Tariffs Are Here To Stay

“Trade wars are good and easy to win,” President Trump famously tweeted in March 2018 as he fired the first shots in a tariff war heard round the world. “It’s easy.”

A year later, the president is singing a different tune. While Mr. Trump’s trade strategy has resulted in some minor changes to NAFTA that may actually make the trade agreement worse for American companies, the Trump Administration has been at loggerheads with America’s largest trading partner, China. Although the Chinese did come to the table, a deal has proven elusive. Now President Trump is holding out the possibility that tariffs on Chinese imports may not be removed even if a deal is reached.

“We're not talking about removing them, we're talking about leaving them for a substantial period of time,” Trump told reporters on Wednesday. “Because we have to make sure that if we do the deal with China that China lives by the deal because they've had a lot of problems living by certain deals.”

The president did not specify when the Administration would consider removing tariffs or whether negotiations are being delayed by Trump’s desire to keep the tariffs in place. Some members of the Trump Administration have favored the idea of removing the tariffs in stages and reapplying them if China fails to follow through on the deal. Trump’s original tariffs on steel and aluminum were applied under a law that allows the president to tax imports for national security reasons, but the president also did not address whether these national security concerns were being resolved by the talks.

US trade negotiators are due to meet with the Chinese in Beijing next week and Chinese representatives will come to Washington in April to continue the talks, but keeping tariffs in place will probably be a hard sell for the Chinese. 

In some cases, the Trump Administration’s trade victories are illusory. In December 2018, when President Trump touted China’s reduction in auto tariffs from 40 percent to 15 percent, he failed to note that they had only increased the tariff on US autos to 40 percent after the Trump Administration had increased the tariff on Chinese autos from 2.5 percent to 27.5 percent. The Chinese concession was limited to three months.

Underlying the entire tariff issue is the misunderstanding that the tariffs are being paid by the Chinese. Tariffs, which are just another way of saying “taxes on trade,” are no different than any other tax in that they are shifted from the seller to the end users, who in this case happen to be American consumers and businesses who use Chinese products. The situation is no different than a sales tax or Obamacare’s tax on medical devices.

Even though sales taxes are technically paid by businesses who sell things, in reality, the business merely serves as the government’s tax collector. When the business sells a widget for $1, it collects the cost of the item plus the associated taxes from the customer, who is out of pocket about $1.06, depending on tax rates where the transaction takes place.

The situation is the same with tariffs except the numbers are much larger. Mr. Trump’s tariff rates on Chinese goods from range as high as 50 percent. Depending on the item, for every dollar that Americans spend on Chinese goods, they now must pay up to $1.50. State and local sales taxes still apply also. Items affected include a wide range of products from clothing to beer to washing machines to solar panels to cars.

The negative effects of the tariff war have not been limited to the Chinese. When China placed retaliatory tariffs on US farm exports, the Trump Administration pledged $12 billion in aid to farmers. However, since the US government already spends more than it takes in, the farm bailout contributed to a ballooning deficit and national debt. In effect, the Trump Administration borrowed from China to pay off US farmers who couldn’t sell to China due to the trade war.

In addition to the higher prices on imported goods or American-made goods with imported components, the trade war has also caused many companies to close doors, lay off workers, or delay growth. Harley Davidson’s decision to move some production to Europe is one of the most well-known examples, but there are many other stories that are known only to economists, workers, and their families. For example, Mid Continent Nail Corp. of Missouri has been crippled by Trump’s steel tariffs and may be driven out of business, killing more manufacturing jobs.

Ironically, much of the benefit of President Trump’s tax reform is being offset by his tax increases on trade. The president’s trade war and his crackdown on immigration at a time when the US is experiencing a labor shortage may push many voters toward the Democrats for more business-friendly policies.

Mr. Trump’s recent comments indicate that the pain for American consumers, businesses and workers will not be going away soon. President Trump’s warning may be aimed at the Chinese, but it will also be heard by the Americans who are footing the bill for his trade war.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Open Letter To Democrats

Democrats are understandably excited about the upcoming presidential election. After last year’s midterm rebuke of President Trump and the Republicans, Democratic activists are champing at the bit for a rematch against President Trump, the almost inevitable Republican nominee. Nevertheless, Democratic voters need to carefully consider their primary choices to avoid a repeat of 2016.

There are a lot of former and current-but-dissatisfied Republican voters who would consider voting for a Democrathe t against President Trump. Mr. Trump’s behavior has always been a problem for many conservatives (as opposed to partisan Republicans). His recent attacks on the memory of John McCain, a decorated veteran who is not around to defend himself, and his expansion of presidential emergency powers are especially problematic for many of us.

The assessment from 2016 that Donald Trump was uniquely bad and dangerous for the American republic has been confirmed by the experience of the past two years. Despite promises to the contrary, Republicans have been either unwilling or unable to rein him in and hold him accountable for his excesses. That failure means that those of us concerned about where the country is headed under Trump must consider all available alternatives.

The warning that I must give to Democrats is that opposition to President Trump has not led us to embrace the Democratic platform or veer to the left. In fact, as I recently pointed out, the argument against Trump for conservatives isn’t just his bad behavior, it’s the fact that his policy is far to the left on many issues. If you want dissatisfied conservatives and Republicans to cross over and vote Democrat, you aren’t going to accomplish that with a Democratic socialist. The same is true of country at large which has historically been center-right. Recent polling shows that has not changed.

You may feel that Trump is so unpopular that you don’t need support from disaffected conservatives. That may be true in 2020 but it was a bad assumption in 2016. Without knowing what dirty tricks the Russians will pull (if any) to tip the scales or what skeletons lurk in the closets of political newcomers, are you really willing to take that chance?

Ideological conservatives are not going to vote for Democrats based on domestic policy, but they might consider voting for a Democrat who is moderate on domestic issues and who could stabilize US foreign policy and end the trade war.

The problem is that what has happened so far is that Democratic candidates are proposing such radical ideas that it is scaring conservatives who don’t like President Trump into voting for him in order to protect foundations of the American republic. Many of us don’t want Mr. Trump’s expansion of presidential powers, his trade war, or his isolationism, but we also don’t want to junk the Electoral College, eliminate private health insurance in favor of Medicaid-for-all, or pass slavery reparations, late-term abortions, or the Green New Deal.

What some Democrats fail to understand is the same thing that both the Obama and Trump Administrations failed to understand: Americans don’t drastic change and kicking out one party that abused its power is not a license for the other party to enact the wildest dreams of its base. The Trump Administration will likely be limited to one term because Republicans assumed that an Electoral College victory with a popular vote loss was a carte blanch to force their policies, both popular and unpopular, on the rest of the nation by any means necessary. That’s the sort of thing that tends to anger voters.  

If Democrats want to beat President Trump then their best bet is to nominate a candidate who doesn’t scare moderate and conservative voters. At this point, Joe Biden seems to be the best and most likely candidate to deliver the message, “You’re fired,” from the voters. If Biden doesn’t run, the choice is tougher but Amy Klobuchar and Beto O’Rourke seem to be the best bets for a moderate nominee. Beto, however, seems intent on alienating more moderates every day.

The main goal of the Democrats should be to come across as less threatening and radical than President Trump. This should not be hard, but if it weren’t a problem I wouldn’t have to write this letter. Every day Democrats like Alexandra Ocasio Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris are out there saying things that scare the bejeezus out of moderate voters. This is how you get Trump re-elected.

I’m not saying that I’ll vote Democrat if you nominate a moderate. I’m a conservative I disagree with even moderately liberal ideas, but that’s part of the reason that I don’t plan to vote for President Trump. Add in the president’s erratic personality and behavior unbecoming the commander-in-chief and I might be open to supporting the right Democrat for the good of the country. On the other hand, if the stakes are high enough with a radical leftist as the Democratic nominee, you might just push me to vote Trump.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Poll Shows Surprising Surge For One Democrat But One Consistent Frontrunner

The large Democratic field may be starting to winnow itself out. New polling shows that four candidates stand out above the others with support in the double digits while one candidate in particular is a clear frontrunner.

The new poll by CNN and SSRS asked Democratic-leaning voters about their presidential preferences and found a surprising eight-point surge for Kamala Harris. The California senator polled at eight percent in the last polling during early December but reached 12 percent in the new poll. Despite the improvement, Harris finished in a distant third place.

The frontrunner, as in most polling, was the as-yet-unannounced Joe Biden. The former vice president has consistently led polling amid rampant speculation that he will announce his intent to run soon. Biden has hinted to supporters last week that he is running and holds an eight-point lead over his nearest competitor in the new poll. Biden’s support was virtually unchanged from the 30 percent that he garnered in December.

Bernie Sanders is the second-place finisher with 20 percent. The Democrat-in-name-only gained six percent over his December results to partially close the gap with Biden.

The only other candidate with support in the double-digits was Beto O’Rourke. Fresh from his official campaign announcement and fundraising triumph, the Texan gained two percent from his December results to hold a statistical tie with Harris at 11 percent.

There were few other candidates with significant changes in support. Elizabeth Warren showed marginal improvement, rising from three to six percent, while Corey Booker dropped from five to three percent. Amy Klobuchar was steady at three percent. Former secretary of state and presidential candidate John Kerry was also included in the poll with four percent support in both surveys.

More significant, the number of Democrats who chose “no one” or “undecided” dropped from 17 to seven percent. This indicates that even at this early date, voters are making up their minds. With fewer undecided voters to compete for, candidates will have to start chipping away at the competition in order to improve their own standing in the polls.

The poll also asked Democrats about their second choice. With 17 percent, Bernie Sanders was the top second choice followed by Joe Biden at 14 percent. No other candidates were above 10 percent on this question and the results indicate that Sanders and Biden should rise almost equally as other candidates start to drop out of the race.

Fifty-six percent of Democrats said that the most important factor in selecting a candidate was “a strong chance of beating Donald Trump.” Joe Biden was rated as the candidate most likely to beat Trump at 51 percent to Bernie Sanders’ 33 percent.

The CNN poll also gave bad news for President Donald Trump. The poll found that Donald Trump had a 41 percent approval rating with 54 percent disapproval. In contrast, 46 percent had a favorable opinion of Bernie Sanders, but most other Democratic candidates were largely unknown. The favorability question was not asked of Joe Biden.

On questions that were asked of supporters of both parties and independents, voters held a low opinion of Trump’s character. Only 40 percent thought he “cares about people like you” and 34 percent saw him as “honest and trustworthy.” On job performance, voters saw him as incapable of positively changing the country (53-42 percent), unable to manage the government effectively (56-41 percent), disrespectful of the rule of law (56-40 percent), and divisive (63-32 percent). The only question that the president fared well on was being tough enough to handle a crisis (51-46 percent).

Voters rated the top issue for the upcoming election as “immigration” at 20 percent. Of these voters, 15 percent said “immigration” in general and six percent said “wall” or “border security.” Supporters of both parties are enthusiastic about the upcoming election with 79 percent of both Democrats and Republicans rating themselves as very enthusiastic.

The poll sampled 1,003 adults using both cell phones and landlines. The party breakdown was 32 percent Democrat, 25 percent Republican, and 44 percent independent or other parties. This closely mirrors the national partisan alignment. The margin of error was 3.8 percentage points.

The new poll shows that Democrats are starting to cement their support for particular candidates with Joe Biden as the consistent favorite. It also undercuts the notion that Democratic voters will veer left and nominate a radical candidate instead of the known and proven campaigner in Joe Biden. The nomination of a radical is more likely if Biden decides not to run. For Republicans, low approval and widespread distrust of President Trump make any Democratic candidate a threat.
Originally published on The Resurgent

Joe Biden’s Campaign Is The Worst-Kept Secret In Politics

The worst kept secret in politics is that Joe Biden is running for president. It’s so bad that even Ol’ Scrappy Joe can’t keep the secret himself.

“It can't go on like this, folks. I know I get criticized and told I get criticized by the new left,” Biden told Delaware Democrats on CNN last week. “have the most progressive record of anybody running for the United States.” Biden quickly corrected himself, adding, “Anybody who would run!”

The slip of the tongue may not have been intentional, but then again Biden has been stringing Democrats along for months with his vacillations on whether to mount a 2020 campaign or sit out the election as he did in 2016. With the 2020 Democratic field looking increasingly leftist and inexperienced, many moderates, including quite a few moderate Republicans, are hoping for a Biden candidacy.

However, Biden hit upon the key objection to that many Democrats will have to his nomination, namely that the Democratic Party has moved left in the past few years, leaving many to question whether the aging Delaware politician is too far out of the modern Democratic mainstream. There is also the question of whether an aging white man can edge out competition that includes both women and ethnic minorities in the new Democratic Party.

Perhaps following a strategy that understands that the buzz over whether he will get in the race or not is keeping attention turned away from the other hopefuls, Biden continues to be coy about running even as he secures endorsements and weighs the possibility of an early announcement about a running mate.

Biden met with Stacey Abrams, the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Georgia, last week. The meeting fueled speculation that Abrams was under consideration for the vice-presidential slot as a strategy to help shore up support among black voters. Many black voters did not show up for Hillary Clinton in 2016, which helped Donald Trump to secure a slim victory in the Electoral College. Abrams has not announced a presidential campaign but tweeted on March 11 that “2020 is definitely on the table.”

Hillary also had problems motivating young voters. Polling shows that young Democrats favor Biden over other candidates, but there is also speculation that picking Beto O’Rourke for vice president could help Biden shore up support among millennials as well as put Texas in play. However, since Beto is running his own campaign, choosing him as a running mate would mean that an early announcement would be less likely.

O’Rourke’s fundraising prowess would also benefit the Biden campaign. CNN notes that Biden has said that he would not use Super PACs. There are concerns that the senior citizen is not adept at using social media to drive fundraising.

“I think he in certain ways has been wise to string this out because the shorter the race, the better for him. He doesn't have the same demands that others have except for one that's going to be a challenge perhaps for him and that's raising money,” said David Axelrod, former adviser to President Obama. “Joe Biden's not by generation and nature a social media candidate. So, he can't delay this much longer. He has to get around to the business of raising the resources that he needs.”

With all the speculation and attention focused on the former vice president, expectations are high for Biden’s eventual rollout. His announcement is likely to be closely followed by endorsements from a number of high-profile current and former Democratic officials and a fundraising push. While Biden has consistently led in polling of Democratic preferences, a key metric for his campaign will be whether he can match the $6 million raised by Bernie Sanders and Beto O’Rourke in the first day of their official campaigns. If he cannot match these two rivals, it will not bode well for his campaign.

Joe Biden is currently the Democrat to beat even though he isn’t officially in the race, but if the gaffe-prone political veteran flubs the rollout of his campaign or if interest in his candidacy doesn’t translate into dollars, he could prove to be a shooting star, shining brightly for a few seconds and then disappearing.    

Originally published on the Resurgent

Monday, March 18, 2019

Fox Pulls Plug On Judge Jeanine

In a surprising move, Fox News has pulled the plug on Judge Jeanine. The cancellation of Jeanine Pirro’s popular show appears to be related to the loss of advertisers after the judge made controversial comments about Muslim congresswoman Ilhan Omar on March 9.

Fox did not announce the suspension publicly, but Judge Jeanine’s show did not air in its usual time slot on Saturday night. CNN reported that Fox neither confirmed nor denied that Pirro had been suspended or fired. There was no indication of whether Pirro’s show will return next week. Variety reported a few hours before air time on Saturday afternoon that Pirro’s show would be replaced with a rerun of “Scandalous,” a documentary series.

“We are not commenting on internal scheduling matters,” Fox told USA Today in a statement.

On her March 9 show, Pirro questioned in a scripted monologue whether Rep. Omar’s (D-Minn.) use of a hijab, a traditional Muslim head covering, was “antithetical” to the Constitution. “Think about it: Omar wears a hijab,” Pirro said. “Is her adherence to this Islamic doctrine indicative of her adherence to Sharia law, which in itself is antithetical to the United States Constitution?”

Pirro’s words were remarkably similar to Omar’s own claims that Jewish congressmen “forgot what country they represent” and need a “refresher” on the Constitution. Omar’s tweet drew widespread criticism from both parties.

After the monologue, several companies pulled their advertising from Pirro’s show. The Hollywood Reporter noted that online auction site Letgo, personal finance company Nerdwallet, and pharmaceutical companies Allergan and Novo Nordisk had dropped the judge.

Pirro did not apologize for the monologue, but denied that she had called Omar “un-American.” Pirro said, “My intention was to ask a question and start a debate, but of course because one is Muslim does not mean you don’t support the Constitution. I invite Representative Omar to come on my show any time to discuss all of the important issues facing America today.”

Judge Jeanine’s absence from the Saturday night lineup created a backlash on social media. In particular, one prominent fan who lives in Washington, D.C. tweeted angrily to the network, “Bring back @JudgeJeanine Pirro.” In strong words usually reserved for CNN, President Trump added, “The Radical Left Democrats, working closely with their beloved partner, the Fake News Media, is using every trick in the book to SILENCE a majority of our Country. They have all out campaigns against @FoxNews hosts who are doing too well.”

The anger didn’t stop with the president. Fox stories posted on Facebook were inundated with angry comments from Pirro’s fans who want Judge Jeanine back.

After the controversial monologue, Fox issued a statement that said, “ We strongly condemn Jeanine Pirro’s comments about Rep. Ilhan Omar,” the network said in a statement. “They do not reflect those of the network and we have addressed the matter with her directly.” There was no indication at the time that Pirro’s show was being suspended or canceled.

Pirro was previously rebuked by Fox last year when she appeared onstage with Sean Hannity at a Trump rally in Missouri. Both hosts delivered remarks backing the president prompting Fox to issue a statement saying, “Fox News does not condone any talent participating in campaign events.”

Fox News hosts have repeatedly come under fire for their behavior in recent years. In addition to appearing at the Trump rally, Sean Hannity angered both the network and advertisers when he refused to drop the Seth Rich conspiracy theory, now proven false, in 2017. Tucker Carlson has gotten in trouble for comments made years ago on a shock radio program as well as more recent populist anti-corporate statements that would be more at home on MSNBC than Fox News. Both Hannity and Carlson are still on the air.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Beto Outraises Bernie Despite Missteps

In the four days since Beto O’Rourke announced his candidacy for president, his campaign has become embroiled in several controversies that may doom his chances even before he leaves the starting gate. Nevertheless, the level of donations that the campaign has received in its early hours indicate a high level of interest in the Texas candidate. It would be a mistake to write off the millennial presidential hopeful despite his campaign’s problems.

Beto’s campaign immediately suffered from a series of missteps as well as revelations about his past. One of the most shocking items is news of an article that he wrote as a teenager in which he fantasized about running over children with his car. The article was posted online for the Cult of the Dead Cow, a hacking group to which the candidate belonged.

“I'm mortified to read it now, incredibly embarrassed, but I have to take ownership of my words,” O’Rourke said of his teen writing in the Chicago Tribune. “Whatever my intention was as a teenager doesn't matter, I have to look long and hard at my actions, at the language I have used, and I have to constantly try to do better.”

O’Rourke also had a lesson on the easily-offended nature of modern Democrats with a seemingly innocuous joke in which he said that his wife, Amy, was raising their three children “sometimes with my help.” Politico notes that the joke disappeared from later speeches after it was pointed out that the reference could reinforce gender stereotypes and O’Rourke apologized, saying that he would be “much more thoughtful going forward in the way that I talk about our marriage, and also the way in which I acknowledge the truth of the criticism that I have enjoyed white privilege.”

The new candidate also faced down the media for what he called a misrepresentation of a statement to Vanity Fair. After telling the magazine that he was “just born to be in it,” Beto criticized the headline that quoted him as saying, “I’m just born to do this” and attempted to distance himself from the idea that he thinks he was born to be president.

“I saw the cover with that quote, ‘Born to run,’ or ‘Born to do this,’ and I was like, ‘Man, I hope I didn’t say that,’” O’Rourke told reporters in Wisconsin on Sunday. “I think the context of that, which makes sense, is the way that I feel, is that I’m born to serve, I’m born to try to help bring people together.”

He continued, “I don’t know that anyone is born for an office or a position, and I certainly am not. But I do think that I find my purpose and function in life in doing this kind of work.”

Aside from the gaffes and skeletons in the closet, the Beto campaign seems to rely more on style than substance. Just prior to his presidential announcement, O’Rourke apologized to a prominent Iowa Democrat for his lack of organization in the crucial early state and his campaign website rolled out with a complete inventory of Beto campaign gear but little in the way of policy positions.

“For all the fanfare, the band was playing a pretty flat tune,” Dave Nagle, Iowa state Democratic Party chairman and a former congressman, told Politico. “There’s just no substance to it.”

O’Rourke still does not have a campaign manager, but he does have experienced advisors. Norm Sterzenbach, a former executive director of the Iowa Democratic Party, and Paul Tewes, who ran Barack Obama’s 2008 effort in Iowa, are helping O’Rourke organize in the Hawkeye state.

“So [O’Rourke] made some missteps,” said another Democratic strategist. “What really matters is when are you putting people on the ground and giving Norm some money to go hire them.”

Despite the missteps, the O’Rourke campaign brought in $6.1 million in its first 24 hours. Beto’s haul eclipses the $5.9 million raised by Bernie Sanders after his announcement and dwarfs the contributions received by other Democrats. For example, Kamala Harris received only $1.5 million following her announcement.

Beto is off to a rocky start but don’t count him out yet. The Texan’s rock star image generated more than $80 million in the 2018 election cycle per the FEC. His ability to generate huge contributions almost cost Ted Cruz his Senate seat. With President Trump’s approval in Texas underwater, an O’Rourke candidacy could put the Lone Star State in play for the first time since 1976.

In many ways, O’Rourke is reminiscent of Barack Obama in 2008, a relatively blank slate with rock star popularity. To capitalize on that popularity, however, Beto must get his campaign organized and show backers that he has the depth to mount a serious national campaign. Against Donald Trump, who also has a reputation as a candidate with a shallow understanding of policy and who is not popular with young or minority voters, Beto could be a formidable candidate.

At this point, the greatest threat to Beto is a Joe Biden candidacy. The former vice president, who has consistently led polling, has hinted that he will soon enter the race. Without Biden in the race, the non-Bernie vote will splinter between the numerous other candidates and O’Rourke has a chance to come out on top. If Biden does decide to run, however, he will be the odds-on favorite for the nomination. In that case, Beto, with his Texas roots and youthful charisma, would be a logical vice-presidential pick.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, March 15, 2019

March 14th, 2019 My Two Cents: Should Conservatives Back Trump in 2020?

Over the past few weeks, many Trump-critical conservatives have decided to draw lines in the sand over President Trump and the 2020 election. Some have reluctantly decided to support the president’s re-election while others have become full-fledged passengers on the Trump Train. Still others are restating their belief that Trump does not deserve conservative support. I may as well jump on the bandwagon and put in my two cents.

I didn’t vote for Trump or Hillary in 2016, choosing instead to cast a protest vote with a third-party candidate. I didn’t believe that either of the major party candidates was a viable choice for president. They were both bad candidates, the worst choices in American history, for different but sometimes overlapping reasons.

I laid out my reasons for not supporting Trump in an op-ed in September 2016. At that point, Trump was still somewhat of an unknown quantity. I listed a bevy of reasons that Trump was unworthy of the privilege of being elected president, some based on his past and some based on his potential actions in office. I wasn’t right about everything and didn’t expect to be since some of the possibilities that I saw were mutually exclusive. For example, you can’t exercise authoritarian control and be incompetent at the same time (yet Donald Trump has almost managed to do this). On the other hand, I was far from being wrong about everything.

After his election, I gave President Trump the benefit of the doubt. I supported his policy where it was good and opposed it when it was bad. In particular, I supported tax reform and the Republican attempt to reform Obamacare. By the end of 2017, after a year of quasi-normal Republican policy and quasi-normal presidential behavior, I was questioning whether I should support Trump’s certain attempt at re-election.

Then came 2018. My guess is that Donald Trump became more comfortable in the role of president in his second year and stopped paying attention to his advisors. The results were predictable and 2018 was a disastrous year for anyone who cares about conservative policy.

A popular trope among some conservatives is that they dislike Trump’s behavior but like his policy. To them, I say that his policy ain’t great. 2018 brought the war of words with Kim Jong Un and the subsequent reversal of traditional US policy to allow two summit meetings without preconditions, trade wars with friend and foe alike, the embarrassing summit with Vladimir Putin, the bump stock ban, bailouts for farmers impacted by the trade wars, new restrictions on legal immigration, insults for NATO allies, the Hobson’s choice of a withdrawal from NAFTA or affirming an inferior treaty, a spur-of-the-moment decision to withdraw from Syria, the ill-advised government shutdown, and deficits even larger than those under Barack Obama to name a few.

To cap off 2018, two of Trump’s best senior advisors, Chief of Staff John Kelly and Defense Secretary James Mattis, were shown the door. It seems to me that these men had been a restraining and guiding force for President Trump. I wrote at the time that without their influence, Trump was unchained and “left to his own devices with no one to check his behavior” and said, “In this phase, we can expect the president to pander to his base by embracing policy positions that he has been advised against until now.” That has proven true already with the president’s blatant attempt to bypass Congress by declaring a national emergency.

If everything else that President Trump did was ideal and perfectly enacted, I’d still have problems voting for him because of the national emergency. Trump’s move is much more egregious than any executive overreach by Barack Obama, which I also opposed, and sets a horrible precedent for future administrations. If Republicans and conservatives (and the two are not the same although there is some overlap) are to have any credibility on the issue of abuse of executive authority, Trump’s power grab must be opposed.

To those conservatives who are rushing to pledge support for Trump 2020, I ask, “What’s your hurry?” The first primary is almost a year away and we don’t even know who is running yet. Given Trump’s recent escapades, a year gives him plenty of time self-destruct and lose support, even among Republicans. It may seem unlikely at this point, but it is not impossible. It is ironic, however, that given Mr. Trump’s left-of-center record on many issues many conservatives will reject other Republican candidates as too liberal.

The idea that conservatives must support Trump to avoid a radical Democrat in another “Flight 93 election” also does not bear up under scrutiny. At least not yet. With almost 20 Democrat candidates, there is no way of knowing who the Democratic nominee will be. It definitely won’t be the new favorite whipping “persons,” Alexandria Ocasio Cortez or Ilhan Omar. Neither will Nancy Pelosi. It is also unlikely to be Kamala Harris or Elizabeth Warren. There are moderate Democrats in the running who stand a decent chance of being nominated.

For me, the unworthiness of Democrats does not override President Trump’s own unfitness to lead the country. A race between Trump and a radical Democrat would leave me exactly where I was in 2016, especially given the fact that President Trump will, by then, have spent four years proving to me that he shouldn’t be near the levers of power. This is especially true since the Republicans who said that they would hold Trump accountable in 2016 have failed to follow through on their promise.

In one area, Trump’s own success works against his re-election. In 2016, the Supreme Court loomed large and the possibility that Hillary Clinton would tip the balance of the Court to the left swayed many voters toward Trump. That is no longer true in 2020. The confirmations of Neal Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh have secured the centrist (if not conservative thanks to John Roberts and Kavanaugh himself) balance of the Court. A Democratic president appointing a successor to Ruth Bader Ginsburg would not shift the balance.

Finally, for those who desperately want to avoid a Democratic victory, the answer is not to go all-in for Trump. The 2018 midterms were an all-hands-on-deck election in which Republicans were highly (although belatedly) motivated to get-out-the-vote. They still lost and lost big, due in no small part to President Trump. If the 2020 election is a referendum on Trump, and it probably will be, Republicans will be in trouble. By hitching the party to a sinking ship (to mix a metaphor) and shutting out challengers, Republicans are doing their part to ensure that the next president will be Bernie Sanders.

So, what are my plans for 2020? I’m keeping my options open, just as everyone should. There is always the chance that the Democrats will nominate a good candidate or that Donald Trump will experience a sudden outbreak of common sense. I’m not holding my breath for either outcome.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Senate To Block Trump’s National Emergency, Veto Expected

In a rare rebuke of President Trump, Senate Republicans are expected to join with Democrats today to pass a House resolution blocking the president’s emergency declaration and redirection of other funds toward construction of the wall. President Trump has said that he plans to veto the measure if it passes.

Republicans currently hold 53 seats in the Senate and at least five Republican senators are expected to vote against Trump on the resolution, which has already passed the House. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who originally said that Trump had the authority to declare an emergency, is the most recent Republican to line up against the president. On Wednesday, Lee told Reuters, “ For decades, Congress has been giving far too much legislative power to the executive branch. I will be voting to terminate the latest emergency declaration.”

Other Republicans voting against the measure include Rand Paul of Kentucky, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine and Thom Tillis of North Carolina. Still others, such as Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Mitt Romney of Utah, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Johnny Isakson of Georgia,  Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Ben Sasse Nebraska, and Jerry Moran of Kansas are among the Republicans who could join them.

In an ironic claim, President Trump has announced that he plans to use his constitutional veto power to block the resolution that rolls back his abuse of executive authority. In a Thursday morning tweet, the president said, “I am prepared to veto, if necessary. The Southern Border is a National Security and Humanitarian Nightmare, but it can be easily fixed!”

Even though a number of Republicans are crossing the aisle to rein the president’s attempt to bypass Congress’s constitutional authority to appropriate funds, it does not appear that enough Republicans are willing to stand up to Mr. Trump to override a veto.

While President Trump can win the immediate battle with a veto, he is still likely to lose the larger battles of public opinion and getting the wall built. Most polling shows that although voters are split on the wall, they overwhelmingly oppose the use of a national emergency to fund it. A Politico/Morning Consult poll released yesterday found that 52 percent of voters oppose the national emergency, up one percent from a month ago. Ominously for Republicans, independents oppose the declaration by a two-to-one margin.

Even if his veto is upheld, the wall is unlikely to be built anytime soon. The emergency declaration is a transparent attempt to avoid compromising with congressional Democrats that almost certainly violates the letter of the law, as well as its spirit. Sixteen states, including several in the Southwest and along the border, have filed a lawsuit to block Trump’s redirection of federal funds. Courts are likely to block Trump’s executive move and halt construction of the wall for years until the legal questions can be resolved.

As with the government shutdown, President Trump has painted himself into a corner with no good options. The president is doubling down on an unpopular strategy in an attempt to force through a policy that is unpopular outside his own party and that is unlikely to be effective at solving the illegal immigration and smuggling problems on the southern border. The fact that the wall costs billions of dollars at a time when the federal deficit is skyrocketing is icing on the cake.

The president is putting other Republicans in a bad position as well. Congressional Republicans are being forced to go on record either for an unpopular policy or against a president that is popular with the Republican base. The first option will harm them in the next year’s general election while the second will hinder them in their primaries.

In the end, the principled choice for Republicans should be to stand up against the president and for the rule of law. After eight years of criticizing President Obama’s executive abuses and rampant spending, it will be very difficult for Trump Republicans to sign off on the president’s end-run around Congress and debt-fueled spending binge without looking like hypocrites in the eyes of voters around the country.

Originally published on The Resurgent