Campaign Finance & Elections

Trump Seizes Opportunity for Rising Authoritarianism

Matthew MacWilliams, writing in Politico, argues that “Trump’s electoral strength—and his staying power—have been buoyed, above all, by Americans with authoritarian inclinations. And because of the prevalence of authoritarians in the American electorate, among Democrats as well as Republicans, it’s very possible that Trump’s fan base will continue to grow.”

“My finding is the result of a national poll I conducted … I found that education, income, gender, age, ideology and religiosity had no significant bearing on a Republican voter’s preferred candidate. Only two of the variables I looked at were statistically significant: authoritarianism, followed by fear of terrorism, though the former was far more significant than the latter.”

“So what does this mean for the election? It doesn’t just help us understand what motivates Trump’s backers—it suggests that his support isn’t capped. In a statistical analysis of the polling results, I found that Trump has already captured 43 percent of Republican primary voters who are strong authoritarians, and 37 percent of Republican authoritarians overall.”

“So, those who say a Trump presidency ‘can’t happen here’ should check their conventional wisdom at the door. The candidate has confounded conventional expectations this primary season because those expectations are based on an oversimplified caricature of the electorate in general and his supporters in particular. Conditions are ripe for an authoritarian leader to emerge. Trump is seizing the opportunity.”

GOP Has Perfected Obamacare Repeal, But Replace With What?

Des Moine Register‘s Editorial: “Every remaining Republican presidential candidate supports repealing the Affordable Care Act. Yet their ideas for replacing the law are ‘still works in progress,’ according to a headline last week in the Wall Street Journal.”

“There is a reason a Republican-controlled Congress for years failed to reduce the number of uninsured Americans and it took a Democratic-controlled Congress more than a year to agree on the reform law: This is complicated stuff … Sound bites and half-baked ideas offered by candidates do not even begin to substitute for the existing law.”

“Perhaps this crop of presidential candidates doesn’t understand just how expensive health care is in this country. Those who hold public office enjoy coverage subsidized by taxpayers. Those who are wealthy can pay for health expenses themselves. The majority of Americans are not so fortunate.”

“Dismantling a law that has been implemented in every state would be disastrous for local governments, health providers, insurance companies, businesses and average Americans. Instead of talking more nonsense about abolishing a 6-year-old law, candidates should share their ideas for how they’d improve it.”

Partisanship Divide in Congress is Larger Than Ever

Philip Bump: “There’s an index compiled by academics at which measures the partisanship of each member of the House and Senate in each Congress.”

“That allows us to plot each member of Congress since the beginning of the nation … You can probably see the trend in recent years: The two parties are moving apart — mostly as the Republicans grow more conservative. We can average out the parties’ scores over time and show the patterns of Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate since the dawn of the modern Republican party.”



Democrats Are Moving Left: Will Hillary Be Left Behind?

Jim Tankersley in The Washington Post, observes that while Obama’s State of the Union address was in substance, more liberal, “many other Democrats have moved much farther left.”

“Here’s what he didn’t say: That America needs a second wave of major Wall Street regulations to bring the financial sector to heel. That his signature health care law is just a stepping stone to the broader goal of single-payer healthcare. That the minimum wage should be $15 an hour nationally. That the rich should be paying substantially higher taxes. That Social Security should be made more generous. That his new trade deal is bad for workers. That the rules of the American economy have become so rigged in favor of the rich and the powerful that they must be radically rewritten.”

“These are core proposals of the newly energized populist wing of the Democratic Party, led in the Senate by Elizabeth Warren and in the presidential field by Bernie Sanders. Obama nodded at them, but he mostly stopped short of endorsing them.”

“Hillary Clinton, has moved similarly; the former 2008 rivals have both adopted the language and policy proposals of their onetime opponent John Edwards. Obama has run out of time to move further. The question for Clinton is how far she might keep moving.”

What Would America Look Like Without Gerrymandering?

Christopher Ingraham: “Some state legislatures are more brazen about [gerrymandering] than others. Maryland’s districts, drawn by Democrats, are one particularly egregious example. North Carolina’s, drawn by Republicans, are another.”

“From a technological standpoint it’s fairly straightforward — a software engineer in Massachusetts named Brian Olson wrote an algorithm to do it in his spare time … Olson’s algorithm creates ‘optimally compact’ equal-population congressional districts in each state, based on 2010 census data. It draws districts that respect the boundaries of census blocks, which are the smallest geographic units used by the Census Bureau. This ensures that the district boundaries reflect actual neighborhoods and don’t, say, cut an arbitrary line through somebody’s house.”

“To see what this looks like in practice, compare this map of our current congressional districts (top) with one we stitched together from Olson’s output (bottom).”

GOP Success Hinges on Working-Class Whites

Washington Post:  “The urgent imperative of Republicans — historically the party of business, money and power — [is] to broaden their coalition with many more white working-class voters. As the nation diversifies and the GOP struggles to adapt, the presidential hopefuls see this demographic bloc as the key to taking back the White House.”

“There has been a debate within the party — and the political class — about whether Republicans need to diversify to win or whether it just needs to attract even more of its core constituencies. So far in 2016, led by Cruz and Donald Trump, the election has moved decisively toward the latter. The exceptions, such as Jeb Bush and Lindsey Graham, are either out of the race or on the edges of it.”

“The mission is not limited to the campaign trail, however. Within the GOP’s congressional ranks, some reform-minded lawmakers, including House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), are pushing anti-poverty policies. Ryan co-hosted a presidential candidates forum in South Carolina over the weekend devoted to those issues.”

“As Republicans face difficulties winning over Latino, young and women voters, further maximizing support and turnout among working-class whites is critical.”

The Next SCOTUS Appointments Will Shape Political Power in the U.S.

Lawrence Norden in The Atlantic: “For the last 10 years, the Supreme Court has engaged in a systematic effort to transform American democracy … This year, the Court will decide a voting and redistricting case that could change the lines of virtually every state legislative district in the country. There is no area of the law the Roberts Court has more thoroughly transformed.”

“There are few issues in the last decade on which the Court has been so consistently and bitterly divided as it has over campaign finance law … On the Court, that swing back only requires one new or existing justice to adopt the approach of four current members. A shift in the Court could permit reasonable regulation of big money in politics. To be sure, state and federal legislators would need to pass new laws to regain the ground that has been lost, and mere reversal of campaign-finance decisions of the last decade would not solve all of the problems of excessive influence. Because of older Supreme Court decisions, for example, new laws still could not limit the total amount of spending in any election.”

“Still, it is no exaggeration to say that the next appointments to the Supreme Court will have a profound impact on political power in the United States. The appointment of one or more justices who agree with the five-member majority might solidify the current system for decades to come. By contrast, appointment of one or more justices who share the vision of the Court’s four-member minority could bring substantial power over elections and the political process back to ordinary Americans.”

GOP Obamacare Alternatives: Repeal, Then What?

Wall Street Journal: “Every GOP presidential candidate’s health-policy platform begins with repealing the law, but for most, that’s also where it ends, at least for now.

“Questions about how they would pull back a law that’s largely been implemented—and what, if anything, they would enact in its place—have gone largely unanswered in a primary contest dominated by national-security issues.”

“Among the 12 candidates still in the GOP race, only two, ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, have posted health plans, and both use broad brush-strokes.”

“Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has described his health-policy ideas in a few paragraphs in an op-ed piece that also indicates support for such measures … The current front-runners, businessman Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, have said little concrete.”

“Chris Jacobs, a writer for Conservative Review who had previously helped Mr. Jindal write his plan, said he was worried that delaying the debate over specifics could harm a Republican nominee once elected because voters might revolt over the kind of ‘trade-offs’ that are inevitable in health policy, such as the price-tag that comes with government efforts to extend insurance coverage.”

Party Identification Near Historical Lows

Gallup: “In 2015, for the fifth consecutive year, at least four in 10 U.S. adults identified as political independents. The 42% identifying as independents in 2015 was down slightly from the record 43% in 2014. This elevated percentage of political independents leaves Democratic (29%) and Republican (26%) identification at or near recent low points, with the modest Democratic advantage roughly where it has been over the past five years.”

U.S. Party Identification, Yearly Averages, 1988-2015

“Americans’ attachment to the two major political parties in recent years is arguably the weakest Gallup has recorded since the advent of its polls. The percentage of U.S. adults identifying as political independents has recently reached levels never seen before. As a result, a new low of 29% of Americans identify as Democrats, and the percentage of Republican identifiers is on the low end of what Gallup has measured historically.”

“The lack of strong attachment to the parties could make candidate-specific factors, as opposed to party loyalty, a greater consideration for voters in choosing a president in this year’s election than they have been in past elections.”

The 2016 Campaign Rivals Watergate for ‘Dark Money’ in Politics

Albert Hunt in Bloomberg: “The 2016 presidential campaign not only will feature more money than any since Watergate, but also more secret money than the days when black satchels of illicit cash were passed around.”

“The so-called dark money, or contributions that don’t have to be disclosed, topped more than $300 million in the 2012 presidential race, and some experts believe that the levels may be far higher this time. There also is a risk that foreign money could be surreptitiously funneled into the presidential campaign because it wouldn’t have to be publicly disclosed.”

“This time, presidential candidates, especially Senator Marco Rubio, are getting into the act. Almost one in five television ads has been financed by dark money, according to the Center for Responsive Politics — most of that from the Conservative Solutions Project, a nonprofit that backs Rubio.”

“The biggest dark money practitioners, however, have been the Chamber of Commerce and one of Republican strategist Karl Rove’s political arms.”

“The Federal Election Commission could force these organizations, with their heavy campaign involvement, to register as political committees, requiring them to name their donors. But the FEC, almost from its inception 40 years ago, has been toothless.”


The Voters’ Mood in Election Year: Sour and Dour

Wall Street Journal: “The election year is upon us, and Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway describes the nation’s mood heading into it this way: ‘Sour and dour. Nervous, on edge, a feeling of vulnerability and a lack of control.’”

“Pollster John Zogby thinks voters are setting up for themselves a fundamental choice, the outcome of which isn’t at all certain: ‘Overriding any particular issue will be whether Americans want to tear things down and start over, or believe that government/politicians are trustworthy enough to make required changes.’”

“Finding somebody who can disperse the clouds appears to be more important than any specific issue or set of issues, though Republican pollster David Winston thinks the basic rule of voter priorities still applies: ‘The election will be about jobs, wages and the economy, with foreign affairs and terrorism having emerged now as the clear next issue of concern.’”