Campaign Finance & Elections

The Handbook That Can Help Americans Rig the Government

“In this season of civic ferment, one of the most remarkable phenomena has been the success of the ‘Indivisible’ guide. Crafted by four current and former Democratic congressional staffers after the election, this 26-page manual uses inside knowledge of Congress to teach everyday Americans how to resist the Trump agenda,” Eric Liu reports for Politico.

“Drawing unabashedly on the successful Tea Party strategies of 2009–2010, ‘Indivisible’ methodically describes how citizens can pressure our representatives and their staffs both in open arenas and behind closed doors. (At congressional town halls, ‘sit by yourself or in groups of two, and spread out throughout the room’ goes one bit of advice. ‘This will help reinforce the impression of broad consensus.’) It is a step-by-step guide to making a member of Congress cave.”

“On one level, ‘Indivisible’ is a massive success story of citizen power. But on another level, it’s a tantalizing template for how knowledgeable midlevel staffers can upend the status quo and empower citizens who have been left in the dark.”

Why the First 100 Days Concept Is Bogus

Jeff Greenfield: “The Trump White House is treating April 29 as if an asteroid were headed straight to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Why? Because it marks the 100th day of Donald Trump’s presidency. And, according to one White House official, ‘One hundred days is the marker, and we’ve got essentially 2½ weeks to turn everything around.'”

“Well, maybe you can’t blame the White House for panicking; what they really are responding to is the massive media exercise in premature evaluation that has become as inevitable as it is asinine. Take two steps back from the ritual, and it’s clear that making any solid judgment about a new president based on the first 14 weeks is like … well, you choose the metaphor; predicting a basketball game’s outcome three minutes in? Calling a presidential election 18 months out?”

Republicans Have Their Plot for an Indestructible House Majority to Blame for Trump’s Healthcare Defeat

“Unfortunately for House speaker Paul Ryan and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell—the top two Republican officials who are in the tough position of whipping votes from these ultra-conservatives on a weekly basis—the system of gerrymandering that has dominated how congressional districts are drawn virtually assures that this inter-party war won’t end anytime soon. A tool that Republicans have used to shift the electoral map to their advantage has come back to bite the Republican leadership in the rear,” Daniel DePetris argues on Quartz.

“Gerrymandering has in effect been one of the greatest levers for the House Freedom Caucus, the same group of lawmakers who shut the government down in 2013, almost shut the Department of Homeland Security down in 2015, and torpedoed a top legislative priority of a Republican White House last week. Republican leadership and the dwindling share of moderates in the GOP caucus are left scratching their heads about how to deal with these people, or whether they will take ‘yes’ or an answer. As long as gerrymandering continues to be in the hands of partisan state lawmakers who look out for their colleagues at the national level, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and even President Donald Trump will scratch their heads until they don’t have any hair left.”

2016 Didn’t Just Give Us ‘Fake News.’ It Likely Gave Us False Memories.

Brian Resnick: “Here’s a reasonable fear: 20 years from now, very few people are going to agree on the details of our shared history.”

“Recently, I spoke Henry ‘Roddy’ Roediger, a psychologist at Washington University in St. Louis, one of the world’s leading experts on memory and learning… His research and others’ paint a grim picture for the future. Political polarization, misinformation, the internet, and the human mind are working in lockstep to fracture reality into countless pieces.”

Proposals for a New U.S. Electoral System

“There are several remedies. Perhaps in order of increasing chance of adoption, they are: (1) to elect the president by the national popular vote instead of the Electoral College; (2) to choose the winner in the general election according to the preferences of a majority of voters rather than a mere plurality, either nationally or by state; and, easiest of all, (3) to substitute majority for plurality rule in state primaries,” Harvard professors Eric Maskin and Amartya Sen write for The New York Review of Books.

Democrats Can’t Win Until They Recognize How Bad Obama’s Financial Policies Were

“…the past eight years of policymaking have damaged Democrats at all levels. Recovering Democratic strength will require the party’s leaders to come to terms with what it has become — and the role Obama played in bringing it to this point,” Matt Stoller argues in The Washington Post.

“Two key elements characterized the kind of domestic political economy the administration pursued: The first was the foreclosure crisis and the subsequent bank bailouts. The resulting policy framework of Tim Geithner’s Treasury Department was, in effect, a wholesale attack on the American home (the main store of middle-class wealth) in favor of concentrated financial power. The second was the administration’s pro-monopoly policies, which crushed the rural areas that in 2016 lost voter turnout and swung to Donald Trump.”

Many in U.S. Skeptical Trump Can Handle Presidential Duties 

Gallup: “As Donald Trump prepares to take the presidential oath on Jan. 20, less than half of Americans are confident in his ability to handle an international crisis (46%), to use military force wisely (47%) or to prevent major scandals in his administration (44%). At least seven in 10 Americans were confident in Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton in these areas before they took office.”

Another interesting finding: only 60% believe Trump can “work effectively with Congress to get things done.” 89% foresaw congressional cooperation with President-elect Obama in 2009.

5 Ways of Redrawing the U.S. Electoral Map That Actually Make Sense

Washington Post: “Following the election, an artist and urban planner named Neil Freeman created a fascinating tool he dubbed ‘Random States of America.’ The map randomly generated state boundaries and showed which candidate would win based on the population of those new areas.”

“At the request of Josh Wallaert, senior editor of Places Journal, Freeman then built on the idea to create a new series of five U.S. maps, organized around different systems than our currents states and districts. Part land-use planning and part science fiction, these fascinating maps show how reworkings of U.S. cartography would have resulted in different election outcomes.”

Trump’s Threat to the Constitution

“On July 7, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump, met privately with House Republicans near the Capitol. I was present as chief policy director of the House Republican Conference,” former independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin writes for The New York Times.

“A congresswoman asked him about his plans to protect Article I of the Constitution, which assigns all federal lawmaking power to Congress… Mr. Trump interrupted her to declare his commitment to the Constitution — even to parts of it that do not exist, such as ‘Article XII.’ Shock swept through the room as Mr. Trump confirmed one of our chief concerns about him: He lacked a basic knowledge of the Constitution.”

“In our nation, power is shared, checked and balanced precisely to thwart would-be autocrats. But as we become desensitized to the notion that Mr. Trump is the ultimate authority, we may attribute less importance to the laws, norms and principles that uphold our system of government, which protects our rights. Most dangerously, we devalue our own worth and that of our fellow Americans.”

Americans’ Support for Electoral College Rises Sharply

Gallup: “Americans’ support for keeping the Electoral College system for electing presidents has increased sharply. Weeks after the 2016 election, 47% of Americans say they want to keep the Electoral College, while 49% say they want to amend the Constitution to allow for a popular vote for president. In the past, a clear majority favored amending the U.S. Constitution to replace the Electoral College with a popular vote system.”

Also interesting: 66% of adult Americans accurately identified Clinton as the winner of the popular vote. The answers did diverge along party lines, with 85% of Democrats and only 56% of Republicans naming Clinton as the popular vote winner.

Republican Anti-Union Efforts Made a Difference on Election Day 

Alex Rowell and David Madland: “As election results rolled in the night of November 8, it became clearer and clearer that the Democratic ‘firewall’ in the Midwest might not hold. While the Democratic presidential nominee had consistently won the popular votes in Wisconsin and Michigan since 1988 and 1992, respectively, Republican nominee Donald Trump would finish the night by narrowly winning both states. There are several reasons for these Democratic losses, but one major contributor is clear: successful Republican efforts to damage unions.”

“These attacks on unions do not just lower workers’ wages and help business interests. They also change the way the political process works, especially for people with lower incomes and less education.”

Fake News May Not Be Protected Speech

Noah Feldman: “In the free marketplace of ideas, true ideas are supposed to compete with false ones until the truth wins — at least according to a leading rationale for free speech. But what if the rise of fake news shows that, under current conditions, truth may not defeat falsehood in the market? That would start to make free speech look a whole lot less appealing.”

“But to take the marketplace metaphor seriously means admitting that sometimes, markets fail. Holmes himself gave us the most famous example of market failure when he said, in a different 1919 case, Schenck v. United States, that even ‘the most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.'”

“The question is whether government regulation of fake news would be justified and lawful to fix this market failure. Obviously, it would be better if the market would fix the problem on its own, which is why attention is now focused on Facebook and Google. But if they can’t reliably do it — and that seems possible, since algorithms aren’t (yet) fact-checkers — there might be a need for the state to step in.”